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Examining French anti-tank guns and mortars

A British anti-tank gun demonstrated by BEF troops, France 1940

Further extracts from the diary of Captain Twomey from 58 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, on attachment to the French Artillery for a week, in which he describes French guns as used by their infantry:

Just before tea we went and had a look round a sort of mixed position just behind the village run by the French Infantry. There was one Anti-Tank Gun (three others of the same battery being scattered about the surrounding hills) two anti-aircraft machine guns some ordinary machine guns and a Mortar.

The anti-tank Gun had rubber tyres, a split trail, a telescope sight, and very light and quick gears, and it seemed that you couldn’t miss with it. I thought it much better than the one we saw in the Maginot which you aim from the shoulder, It was 25mm calibre. They said that you could fire 17 r.p.m. The rounds are solid steel for armour-piercing. It was sighted to fire down the FLASTROFF road with an open U-shaped valley on either side of the road. The little brook in the valley had been dammed every 100yds and the bridge mined.

The Mortar was most interesting, it was no bigger with it’s legs folded in to itself, than a couple of dozen maps rolled up together. It’s calibre was 60mm. It fired a 5lb bomb with a vane at the base to keep it straight, as there was no rifling. A charge very like a 12 bore cartridge fitted into the tail of the vane and all you had to do was to drop it own the spout and the cap of the charge hit a striker fixed at the bottom and off she went. It can shoot up to a kilometre and I forget how many rounds per minute but at that range you can get 7 rounds in the air at the same time. It had a very fine compact little sight something like a miniature no.6 director to look at and you stick your own aiming post in a few yards away.

The Infantry had a great idea for tonight: Apparently the Bosche patrol round all out posts in the HARTBUSCH every night, the idea is to withdraw all our soldiers to the hill behind BIZING and leave only one small patrol there to watch; when this patrol hears or sees the Germans in the HARTBUSCH they are to come running out of it to tell the Company Commander who will fire a red Very light and the French Gunners will put down a concentration of the 75mm battery in WALDWIESSTROFF and the 165mm battery all on the HARTBUSCH. But the Bosche isn’t such a fool as that, the Gunners sat up all night but there was no Very light signal. The Bosche probably sneaked up and all around the posts very quietly and instead of hearing the usual buzz of conversation and swearing heard nothing, smelt a rat and went home.

See TNA WO 217/7

Wargunner has much more on the 58 Medium Regiment and a full transcript of Captain Twomey’s Diary, together with images of the area described as it is today.