The 6-pounder Anti-Tank Gun in Canadian Service
by Doug Knight.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW006
A5 size softback, 24 pages
“Review by Peter Brown
The 6 pounder was widely used in British and Commonwealth service, firstly in artillery anti-tank regiments when first introduced in 1942 and later, when the 17 pounder took over as the main anti-tank gun, in infantry units as their own integral artillery. It was a capable gun, even capable of taking on the Tiger which it did in Tunisia and later even taking out the well-known German tank commander Michael Wittmann. While it was designed and built in the UK, many were also produced in Canada and it is the story of the gun from a Canadian viewpoint which is covered here. That said, much of the content is relevant for British-made guns and other users.
Although designed before the Second World War, the loss of large quantities of equipment in the 1940 French campaign meant that the earlier 2 pounder gun remained in production and service before factories were able to change over to the bigger, better gun. Thus it was to be November 1941 before British production began and Canadian factories produced them at the same time.
The book lists the main variants of the gun, the original shorter 43 calibre and later 50 calibre barrels in towed and tank forms with some capable of being fitted to both, and the carriages which were broadly similar apart from the airborne pattern. Canadian guns and carriages followed the same designs, with an extra “C” denoting Canadian build.
As well as describing the production versions, there are interesting sections on prototype squeeze-bore “Littlejohn” and one with a far longer barrel, the self-propelled version based on the Fox armoured car and even the autoloader used on motor torpedo boats and Mosquito aircraft. Details are given of the various types of ammunition, including performance figures but unfortunately comparison shots of them are not included.
Photos are well chosen, with a wartime colour shot on the cover and black and white ones inside showing the guns in record shots, in service and in action. Apart from brief mentions, coverage of tank guns is limited to a brief list and one shot of a Churchill at Dieppe. Towing vehicles are well covered, including Canadian trials with various types including turretless Fox armoured cars, various trucks and Carriers which lead to T16 being selected though the Canadian-built Windsor was the preferred type though Universals were widely used.
Add to this selected accounts of these guns in use, we have a lot included in this small package. If you are interested in Canadian use this is a good choice, and there is plenty for those who want more British or other use.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”
“Last year I began research on a special project (which, alas, I did not complete) on the US version of the legendary “Six Pounder” antitank gun – the US M1 – and found out there was a lot about the little beast that I did not know, and even more about the parent versions of the gun. Needless to say, when I received this slim volume in the mail for review I was delighted, as it presents a good deal of clarity on the subject.
I reviewed the previous publication by Doug Knight – a former Canadian artilleryman – which covered the “Land Mattress” rocket launcher and found it fascinating. The same is true here of his treatment of this subject.
Both the US and the Commonwealth settled early on in the war upon the British 6-lb antintank gun as their standard light weapon. The British 2-lb gun and US M3 37mm were both found wanting for all but basic light infantry support. The Commonwealth used the guns from 1941 onwards, the US from 1942 until the end of the war, and the US still used some of their M1s in Korea as did the South Koreans.
Doug notes that over the course of the Commonwealth development of the weapon it went through five versions: Mark I (prototype), Mark II (initial production models), Mark III (Mark II barrel for mounting in tanks), Mark IV (late models with a longer barrel and muzzle brake); and Mark V (Mark IV barrel for mounting in tanks). The US M1 was very similar to the Mark IV except for the muzzle brake and wheels used on the carriage. Canadian built models had a C preface in their designations.
Due to the amount of area available for trials firing and development, as well as the fact that Canada was not under attack, a good deal of development on the 6-pounder took place in Canada.
Three carriages were developed for the 6-pounder; a Mark I copy of the British design, a Mark II with improved suspension components, and a Mark III which collapsed for air drop. Surprisingly, none of them seem to have used the swiveling towing lunette used by the US Army with the later versions of the M1 to prevent the barrel or trails from “digging in” when crossing berms or ditches.
Nevertheless, the Dominion of Canada produced 8,000 6-pounder guns and 8,000 replacement barrels, or about 10% of the entire Commonwealth total production.
Armor penetration capability nearly doubled by the end of the war, after Commonwealth metallurgists had developed a discarding sabot round for the 6-pounder (from 74mm RHA at 1000 yards to 146mm at 1000 yards.) The gun had good results, notching the first German Tiger I knocked out in North Africa (but I digress!)
While the US quickly settled on either the M2 halftrack or the WC-62 Dodge 1 1⁄2 Ton Truck as a prime mover, apparently the Canadians were not so fortunate, and a bit of squabbling took place in the effort to select a proper prime mover. Some wanted the T16 Windsor carrier, others the 6 x 6 3-ton Low Silhouette truck, and others still either the CMP 60-cwt or Loyd carriers. After five months of testing and arguments, the government selected the T16 as the winner in April 1944.
Most new guns went to the RCA regiments, infantry units getting “hand-me-downs” as the others got newer or more powerful weapons like the mighty 17-pounder.
Doug also covers the use of the 6-pounder on shipboard or as the powerful automatic Molins installation in anti-shipping Mosquito XVI fighter-bombers.
Overall, this is a good little reference work and again sadly points up the fact for those of us in the modeling community of a lack of a decent 6-pounder. The 35-year-old Tamiya feeble effort at a Mark IV needs to be retired, and the 25-year-old Peerless/ITaleri/Zvezda Mark II is better but has seen better days; ditto its M1 clone. But we can hope!
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.”