But no I King in history saved up and then said “who shall I have a ware with?” They went to war first, issued the money and then taxed it back

Actually, Henry VII saved up and Henry VIII spent it all on war and then taxed the monasteries to fill the coffers. Very taxed the monasteries in fact.


67 thoughts on “Sigh”

  1. > But no I King in history saved up and then said “who shall I have a ware with?”

    That’s right, because international trade is done by the individual and not the state.

  2. “But no I King in history saved up and then said “who shall I have a ware with?””

    Why ask the question? We already know the answer: France!

  3. That’s right, because international trade is done by the individual and not the state.

    I believe that back in the day one needed a Royal Charter to engage in large scale international trade. British East India Co., P&O, etc. Individuals couldn’t engage large scale international trade without the approval of the King, who was The State. And wasn’t the price of that Charter a cut of the profits? In any event, duties would have fattened the royal coffers irrespective.

    Good to know Murphy’s expertise reaches out to cover British history as well. A polymath if ever there was one.

  4. Unless the reason for the war was to pinch someone else’s money or resources because you were a bit short of cash, not that this has ever happened.

  5. Or Edward I, who borrowed money from both the Riccardi and the Frescobaldis, refused to pay it back and drove them both into bankruptcy.

  6. “Or Edward I, who borrowed money from both the Riccardi and the Frescobaldis, refused to pay it back and drove them both into bankruptcy.”

    Ah, the Courageous State in action!

  7. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Welp, guess we can add history to the vast list of things about which Murphy is entirely ignorant. As if that were a surprise. His Dunning-Krueger is pegging the dial lately.

  8. “Why ask the question? We already know the answer: France!”

    Jokes aside, the French governmental elite see the UK as an enemy.

    Hence, reports that City of London envoy Jeremy Browne* has said that the French see the British as “adversaries” in the forthcoming withdrawal negotiations. And that the French are “seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary”.

    Gallic pride is still deeply offended by Agincourt, by Marlborough’s thwarting of Louis XIV’s desire for European dominance, by defeat in India and north America, by the defeat of Napoleon, the Fashoda incident (1898) and the sinking of tbe French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir in 1940. Particularly the last – which epitomises Perfidious Albion for all ENA graduates.

    The UK is dealing with a country with a cosmic chip on its shoulder, and its resentment encompasses the entire anglosphere.

    *as a former limp dick MP, I wonder how he reconciles this with his party’s euro-philiac federalism…

  9. @ self-styled Jesus Christ
    Tou forgot your claim to omniscience
    Henry VII saved up, Henry VIII spent it and more

  10. @ Tim
    I would bet 100-1 that some king sometime in history did save up and *later* thought about going to war – but not that any of them saved up in order to go to war years later.

  11. Theo – the main reason the French hate us is because we didn’t bend over for the Germans in WWII, and eventually (with a little help from the Septics and the Russians) kicked Hitler’s arse. La Manche helped but let’s not talk about that. We’re a permanent reminder of their own embarrassment. Not that IMO they should have been embarrassed, shit happens and blitzkrieg was something else, but you know the French. Amour propre and all that.

  12. Interested:

    “the main reason the French hate us is because we didn’t bend over for the Germans in WWII…”

    Not quite. If we’d lost and France had won all the other conflicts I mention above, I think the French could cope with the humiliation of WW2. That the anglophony has triumphed in the last 300 years gives them a massive inferiority complex – and WW2 was only the most recent and significant humiliation. And that Britain has functioning daughter states — US, NZ, Canada and Australia — annoys the French elite enormously.

    Hence, in part, the EU. Given that Britain had twice defeated Germany’s and twice defeated France’s attempts to dominate the continent, France and Germany decided to create a Franco-German Empire…And the rest is history.

  13. — “They went to war first, issued the money and then taxed it back”

    What exactly does he mean they “issued the money”?

  14. The French revolutionaries went to war. Issued scrip to pay for it. Worked for a while. We could call it Waterloo paper.

  15. If we had helped the French when they invaded Germany after war was declared by us in 1939 then maybe they’d like us better.
    Instead France invaded Germany when the German army was away which gave the Germans every right to invade France in return.
    And look at how that turned out for us. There’s even a film about Dunkirk out now…

  16. Given that, up until recently, “money” was precious metal struck as coin, if the the king minted the coin then he had the value of the coin saved up.
    Does Spud’s knowledge of history not stretch back before the ’70s?

  17. King taxed his subjects, or later parliament did the taxes.
    King wanted more money he did more taxes / borrowed from the moneylenders / had gifts as part of treaties / charged the nobility death taxes.

  18. Americans are fond of saying that Britain needed America’s help in 1941.

    No we didn’t.

    We needed it in 1939.

  19. But, no, seriously. Thanks America.

    Your tanks were just as rubbish as ours but you had so many of them. Couldn’t have done it without you.

    Interesting thought though. When did WWII begin?

  20. @ AndrewC
    Mid-thirties. But Lansbury was a pacifist so Baldwin didn’t rearm because he was afraid that if he did he might lose the election. Everyone in the media blames Chamberlain who actually launched a massive re-armament programme, just not early enough to enable him to face down Hitler at Munich.
    So we had Hitler walking into the Rhineland and then into Czechoslovakia before he and Stalin walked into Poland. Yeah, the war started in 1933, but Britain didn’t start fighting until 1939.

  21. “Let me guess, you studied History in Ely.”

    Dennis, you need an irony transplant. Interested was surely making a j.o.k.e.

  22. dearieme said:”
    For Henry VII: Morton’s Fork”

    Local boy; born just up the road from me. Paid for the roof in the village church.

  23. As for saving up to have a war, one of Parkinson’s Laws is about the victor in wars being the one that has the most spare tax capacity, i.e. the ability to raise extra money to finance the war without breaking the economy. Roughly (but not exactly) equivalent to having the lowest pre-war government spending levels.

  24. “When did WWII begin?”

    1937 wasn’t it, Japan attacks China?

    “Your tanks were just as rubbish as ours but you had so many of them.”

    Its odd really, the US managed to come up with so many other top line weapons in fairly short order, for example by 1944 their aircraft were comparable or better than what the Axis had, yet they were unable to come up with anything better than the Lee/Grant and then the Sherman even 4 years after they joined in. Hell they could have taken a Panzer IV and just copied it, or a T34, both were available in 1941/42. I fail to understand how a military can look at the best the enemy has right now, and think ‘I know, lets design something worse than that, and by the time we get it into production and to the troops the enemy will have something even better!’ The German 88mm had been knocking tanks out for fun since the Spanish Civil War, had no-one considered they would come up against it?

  25. “I believe that back in the day one needed a Royal Charter to engage in large scale international trade. British East India Co., P&O, etc. Individuals couldn’t engage large scale international trade without the approval of the King, who was The State. And wasn’t the price of that Charter a cut of the profits? In any event, duties would have fattened the royal coffers irrespective.”

    Funny you didn’t mention Richard Cobden and the British promotion of free trade….

    Why was that?

  26. Jim,

    Serious urban myth alert…

    The Sherman was as good or better than either the T-34 or the PzKW IV: too many folk fall into the trap of comparing the first 1942 Sherman with the 1945 T-34/85 or PzKW IV Ausf J. The Sherman dominated in 1942 when it first appeared in North Africa, able to defeat any enemy tank and resist any tank or anti-tank gun other than a handful of long 75mms (either towed, or on the first few ‘Panzer 4 Specials’, a few dozen of which faced 250+ Shermans): most PzKW IVs in 1942 still had the stumpy L/24 75mm, good for HE and smoke but at best indifferent against tanks, while the best Pz III had a 50mm gun that the Sherman’s armour outclassed (later versions got the stumpy 75mm for infantry support instead).

    In fact, even the Soviets gave their Lend-Lease Shermans to elite Guards divisions (the M3 Lee, nicknamed ‘a grave for seven brothers’ went to second-line and auxiliary units, but the ’emcha’ was valued – see https://www.amazon.co.uk/Commanding-Red-Armys-Sherman-Tanks/dp/0803229208 for a memoir)

    The dreaded ’88’ was likewise a red herring, being a mahoosive beast. It’s worth a visit to either Fort Nelson or Duxford, where it and the similarly-sized 3.7″ AA gun can be seen in their majestic size and bulk compared to purpose-built anti-tank guns. They were very lethal if you were able to take a couple of days to dig them into defensive positions where you were sure the enemy would attack, or (especially for over-keen British cavalry officers commanding tanks in North Africa) could be lured into their fields of fire: but even the dedicated, weight-shaved, low-angle-only version the Germans built for anti-tank use was contemptuously nicknamed “Barn Door” for its size, and its weight meant it couldn’t be moved or repositioned in action.

    The British Army did (contrary to popular myth) make occasional use of the 3.7″ AA for anti-tank use, but it was rather rarer for German tanks to have broken through to the British divisional AA guns than the reverse (our AT guns did rather better against German tanks for most of the war, than theirs did against us, making it much less critical to use scarce, huge and heavy AA guns on the front line) and it was completely unsuited to taking on the offensive. A dedicated anti-tank version, the 32pdr AT, made it to prototype stage, but the sheer size and bulk of it was recognised as utterly impractical and it never made it past a few prototypes, despite its eye-watering performance.

    A really, really important feature of the Sherman – often overlooked – was that it was light enough to be handled by typical dockside cranes, in an era before RO-RO cargo ships. Since they were produced in the US and transported by sea, being able to unload them without needing specialised facilities, was extremely helpful in turning “large numbers produced” into “large numbers reaching the front line”. Similarly, their reliability and mechanical robustness meant that if you disembarked a hundred Shermans in Cherbourg, you’d get eighty making it to the front line with most of the rest catching up quickly: while German tanks, by war’s end, were all overweight and overstressed, prone to serious problems with drivetrain and suspension, and a road march of any distance meant a long, sad trail of breakdowns (which they were less able to fix for a combination of design issues, crew training and spare part availability)

    And, contrary to populist myth again, Shermans were one of the safer tanks to crew even if they were seriously hit: on average, a Sherman hit by something big enough to get through the armour and put the tank out of the fight suffered one crewman killed, one injured, and three escaping unhurt (though life outside the tank could still be exciting and short) while German and Soviet tanks – more compact, more densely packed inside – were rather more prone to ammunition fires, which killed or maimed everyone inside. The German Panther was particularly poor in that regard, being able to immolate itself simply from fuel and oil leaks without even needing enemy fire as an excuse…

    Indeed, when Shermans actually met superior German heavy tanks, like the big cats, they did remarkably well (Michael Wittman rolled around the Russian steppe destroying T-34s for years, but was dead within weeks when he took on Allied tanks in Normandy: in one of the rather few major tank-versus-tank barneys the US found themselves in at Arracourt, the Shermans comprehensively outpointed their opponents.

    An interesting point is that when Shermans actually fought T-34s (Korea) or PzKW IVs (Middle East), they won handily… and the Israelis, who demonstrated a certain aptitude for armoured warfare and no enthusiasm for losing, kept Shermans in front-line service as gun tanks until the end of the 1960s.

  27. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Jason Lynch is of course correct. And let’s not forget the upgunned versions that were in widespread use by the end of the war. The 76mm and 17 pounder that were used on the later US Shermans and on the Firefly respectively could defeat the frontal armour of almost all German tanks. It’s one of the many* inaccuracies in that Brad Pitt movie Fury where he manoeuvres to the rear of a Tiger to knock it out. It might make for a thrilling scene but his tank has the M1 gun and could have just put an AP round through its glacis.

    What would have been interesting is if the British Army had been able to field significant numbers of Centurions in Normandy in 1944. It outclassed anything else but it took until the war was over for it to be deployed in the field.

    * oh, so many

  28. Does the opinions of American G.I.’s count for nothing re 88s and Sherman tanks and tiger tanks. After all they were actually there.

  29. The reported opinion of squaddies can be fairly worthless,

    It’s human nature: you see the problems you have, you don’t see the problems the other chap has. One of your tanks brewing up is a tragedy that would never have happened if it had been designed as well as the enemy’s; knocking out half a dozen of the enemy is par for the course – but you’d have had a full dozen if it weren’t for the bloody sights not zeroing properly because they’re made by the lowest bidder.

    I do notice that the memoirs of British soldiers tend to focus on their problems and shortcomings – understrength, rations are a bit late, could do with more training, we’re not combat-fit because we’re not up to establishment in all respects.

    The German ones, by contrast, seem to be a bit more pragmatic and optimistic: we’ve only got a couple of AT guns a hundred men, the remains of a couple of battalions, and half an issue of petrol – never mind, we can make a battlegroup out of that. Oi, Lieutenant, you’re now a battlegroup commander – go and shoot something.

  30. “The Sherman dominated in 1942 when it first appeared in North Africa, able to defeat any enemy tank”

    Yes, that was 1942. Why was exactly the same tank the only thing the US was producing in large numbers 2 years later for the invasion of Europe? With exactly the same gun, apart from the 17 pounder equipped one that the British had cobbled together? By the 1944/45 the Russian had upgunned the T34 and moved on the IS tanks as well. The Germans had Tigers I and II, Panthers, upgunned IVs, Stugs etc etc. The Americans still had 75mm gunned Shermans. What were they doing for the intervening period? Heck even the British had managed to get the Comet out into the front line by that time.

    And its all very well to say the Allied tanks did OK in Western Europe, they had overwhelming air superiority behind them. Take that away and it would be a different kettle of fish.

  31. BiCR,

    I had an interesting exchange with David Rae, the ex-donkey walloper who was one of the military advisors in Fury (he appears, very briefly, popping up in the Tiger’s commander hatch with a pistol before being brassed off by a clerk-typist…) on the many things that an ex-soldier says “in real life they’d do it like this” and the director says “fine, but to make it look good we need to do it like that…”

    While he didn’t have to trade live fire in them, after a fair amount of time in and around several Shermans and Tiger 131, his opinion was that other than the specific task of digging in for a static, “fight to the last round and die in place” defence, he’d pick the later-model Sherman every time: it was designed and built to be lived in, maintained, and fought from over extended periods, while the Tiger was an ergonomic nightmare (if the gunner wanted to use the power traverse for the turret, the control was… under his seat? Seriously?)

  32. @DtP

    Good to know Murphy’s expertise reaches out to cover British history as well. A polymath if ever there was one.”


    Also- I think Tim Newman may have some insight as to why the French hate us. Or maybe be a contributing factor.

  33. Anyway, guess who’s original point is fallacious (amazed!) – just because someone in the past splurged borrowed money on something stupid is no reason to do it now.

  34. Rob – France invaded Germany on its own in 1939. Look it up.
    Major chance to end the war in weeks and the messed up.
    Disadvantage of having propaganda about the Maginot Line.

  35. My father was delighted that after training in a variety of tanks, including Shermans, he actually went to war in Normandy in Churchills. Better armoured, better over rough ground, capable of knocking out Tigers and Panthers at close range using sabot ammunition, and getting a lot of rounds away in a short time from a short-barelled six-pounder. In the bocage country those were precisely the merits you needed.

    Once they were out into open ground these advantages counted for less but then in open ground air supremacy gave him the advantage. The Germans were so frightened of rocket-launching Typhoons that they would often scuttle for cover, or even abandon ship and run for it.

    I gather that the “Firefly” British Shermans were good, but that’s based on reading, not on my father’s hard-to-extract stories.

    It’s hard to find a rational explanation sometimes for weaponry. Why did the Americans not have a working torpedo in 1941?

  36. To the credit of the French, they did honour their treaty obligations to Poland by launching Operation Saar with a limited invasion of Saarland on 7th September 1939. The reality was, however, that they were not ready for a full scale invasion and by the time they would have been, Poland had already been defeated and German troops were being transferred to the western front. There is no way that the French and UK armies were ready to take on the Wehrmacht in 1939, both in terms of equipment and tactics, as proven by their inability to take them on in 1940.

  37. The hesitation caused by the defences of the Maginot Line was the French undoing. We were nowhere near ready to support the French at the time, it takes weeks at a minimum to move the men and material to the right area. Months if you want to support the French on a large scale.

    Even the Germans had problems in 1939 with moving troops and supplies quickly. Films often show trucks carrying troops. Think walking and trains for most.

  38. Well if Wikipedia is anything to go by, you can blame US General Lesley McNair for the fact that the M26 Pershing heavy tank wasn’t available for the invasion of Europe – as head of the US Army Ground Forces he purposely stalled its development and production for most of 1943/44, arguing that the Sherman was perfectly OK for the US Army’s needs, and tank destroyers (lightly armoured but more heavily armed) should be used to take care of the heavy Axis tanks. And it was only down to him eventually being overruled by Marshall & Eisenhower that it went into production in late ’44. And proved pretty effective against all the German tanks of the time.


    I bet there are few tank crew who would have like to have a word with Gen. McNair, if they hadn’t ended up in the graveyard…….

  39. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Well, so did he, in 1944, when he got blown up by his own side after deciding he wanted to take a shufti at the attack on Saint-Lô.

  40. Jim,

    The 1942 Sherman was not the 1944 Sherman by a long shot; the gun was significantly uprated (the US 76mm would poke through a lot more armour than the original M3 75mm, but was less effective firing HE and smoke for infantry work – hence why the UK requested all 75mm, and upgunned some to Firefly) and the armour was thickened up and the slope improved. It’s worth remembering that there were more Sherman Firefly conversions, than there were Tigers produced (all types, all variants) plus the UK was fielding hundreds of Archers (17pdr SP gun on the reliable Valentine chassis) and Achilles (M10 tank destroyers upgunned with the 17pdr) – one reason why German armoured counterattacks on British positions ended in failure.

    What’s oddly overlooked is that the M4 Sherman was as well armed, better armoured, more reliable, more survivable and much more fightable, than the T-34: yet the T-34 is lauded as “the best tank of the war” while the Sherman is mocked. (And the T-34 didn’t get a three-man turret with an 85mm gun until February 1944, after the US had switched to the 76mm M1 for the Sherman)

  41. Well I wish someone would find these WW2 tank crews who just loved the Sherman and thought it was the best tank ever, as they seem to be somewhat lacking in any documentaries one can find. I mean one can find all manner of other Allied servicemen who were very happy with their weapon systems, particularly the aircraft, and indeed other tanks, yet the tank crews queuing up to praise the Sherman are conspicuously absent. Why can this be if it was such a world beater?

  42. It might be worth pointing out that tank on tank engagements are not the point of tanks. That’s for specialist anti-tank weapons. The purpose of a tank is to provide mobile artillery support for infantry on the battlefield. And where there were tank on tank exchanges, the defending tank would usually be dug in or concealed in cover. So comparing the Sherman – which in most instances were advancing in clear view – with German tanks waiting in ambush positions. doesn’t give a particularly fair assessment of the Sherman’s capabilities. That the Shermans were fast, reliable & had a good march capability put a lot of Shermans on the battlefield when they were needed, to perform their main role. The Germans lost a lot of their tank capability, not due to enemy action, but simply to mechanical problems.

  43. I normally skip the tedious Ragging on Ritchie stuff, but this thread has turned out to be one of the most interesting ever.

  44. “The Germans lost a lot of their tank capability, not due to enemy action, but simply to mechanical problems.”

    In the Normandy campaign a lot of that was due to bombing (and sabotage) of the railways. The tanks had to drive to war, wearing them out (and their crews too, I dare say).

  45. I should add that the Germans were famously good at retrieving damaged tanks from the battlefield and patching them up.

  46. Bit of a pause while I checked iif the Sherman service manuals were amongst my father’s paperwork I scanned. Alas not. But I do remember he said they were a good tank to work on. Apart from the bottom plug changes on radial engined versions & the pig the two bus engines bolted together were on another. He reckoned on doing an engine swap, in the field, in a day. Drop the lump. Pull the tank off of it with a truck. Reverse the procedure with the replacement. And that track link replacements were simple. The later big British tanks needed full workshop facilities to keep mobile.

  47. Jim,

    Perhaps the passage of time is an important point? The “Shermans are incendiary death traps” myth appeared in the late 1960s, as far as I can tell – the alleged nickname of “Ronson” because they “lit every time” came from a 1950s campaign slogan. It would tie in with a Vietnam-era anti-militarism, which would also make accounts of “actually, the Sherman was a really good tank, and you should have seen the way we trashed those Panthers at Arracourt” unfashionable.

    The most cited “Shermans are rubbish” work is “Death Traps”, by Belton Cooper – who was a junior ordnance officer fixing tanks, and who has been extensively criticised for some rather questionable assertions and histories (in amongst explaining how he knew better than anyone else what tanks the armoured forces needed, he took the time to find and analyse a ‘top secret’ map of British invasion defences he found lying around a training camp he was posted to, from which he was able to conclude that Britain would have lost the war in July 1940 if only the Germans had landed a dozen fully-equipped and fully-supplied panzer divisions on the coast between Southampton and Poole; fortunately, the German High Command were less militarily astute than Lt Cooper and missed this open goal…).

    An interesting data point is that, after VE-Day, the Free French had formed units of Shermans, but also acquired significant numbers of Panthers which had been abandoned by their previous owners. The Shermans served on for over a decade, including combat service in Indo-China; the Panthers were disposed of to scrap or museums with almost indecent haste, their inability to cover more than a hundred miles without major mechanical failures or self-combusting proving ineradicable.

    For an entertainingly partisan read, have a look at http://www.theshermantank.com/sherman/how-the-sherman-compare-to-its-contemporaries/ and in particular the Panther (that said, David Rae confirmed the issues with German power traverse design – you had to be revving the engine hard if you wanted to use power traverse in the Tiger, and the engine didn’t like that one little bit…)

  48. Look if all the ‘Shermans were death traps’ stuff was the work of one unhinged former tank mender, then it would hardly have any legs would it? I mean if someone wrote a book saying the Spitfire was a terrible aircraft, the pilots all hated it, and it was dangerously out performed by its enemies, then you soon have an entire Wing of former pilots going on the record to counter such accusations. None of the people who were actually expected to fight in Shermans seem to have a good word to say for it, and for me that speaks volumes. Yes they may have been easy to fix, and quick to produce and available in huge numbers, but thats not much a solace to the poor bugger trying to engage an enemy that can take him out hundreds of yards before he has even a chance to do return the favour.

    Its blatantly obvious that more heavily armoured and armed tanks (and indeed better ammunition for the Sherman) could have been available from the US for the invasion of Europe in 1944 but they were not made available for strategic/doctrinal reasons, rather than reasons of practicability. Which to my way of thinking is indeed a scandal.

  49. Jim,

    How many actual accounts have you got of tank crews (not post-war writers, but men who actually rode them to war) saying “the Sherman was a hopeless death trap, we all hated it”? I already pointed you at Dmitry Loza, who served in both T-34s and Shermans and very definitely preferred the Shermans both to live in and to fight from.

    Myths spring up, the Discovery Channel runs a one-hour special about them, it becomes accepted truth, and arguing against it becomes an uphill struggle because “everyone knows” a Sherman had tinfoil armour, it exploded in flames if you even near-missed it, and its gun couldn’t even knock out a Panzer II from the back. It was on TV so it must be true…

    (For that matter, there’s still a rearguard action being fought by aviation historians to point out that no matter how elegant and graceful the Spitfire might be, the backbone of Fighter Command until and during the Battle of Britain was the unglamorous, unsexy, overlooked Hurricane, despite many accounts – from ‘Reach for the Sky’ onwards – by Hurricane pilots).

    It’s ‘blatantly obvious’ that the US could have had a heavier tank by June 1944… which (among other issues) would have been too heavy for dockyard cranes, hugely slowing their shipment, meaning you’d have had handfuls of them at the front line instead of hundreds of Shermans. Given how rarely Shermans actually got into face-to-face duels with German heavies, that’s not a winning trade.

    The key complaint seems to be that a long 75mm (a PaK 40 or KwK 42) could knock out a Sherman, particularly from the side: but then, a Panther’s side armour was so flimsy that even man-portable anti-tank rifles could poke holes in it, and when they did so the ammunition went up with explosive results. (Demonstrated with enthusiasm by the Soviets, one reason why they were so late to develop a Bazooka or PIAT. If you wanted a tank that could stand up to that punishment, you were talking 50-60 tons minimum, twice the Sherman’s weight and hitting the same operational problems that beset the Gerrman heavies.

    Where was the battle where inferior Shermans were exterminated by the enemy’s invincible uberpanzers? There were a few where German tanks were roughly handled and defeated (Arracourt the biggest, curiously ignored by the ‘Shermans were dead meat to German panzers” brigade); yet since the Sherman was so poor, surely there must be a few actions where German tanks smashed past the hopeless M4s? Because if not, and if the Sherman kept succeeding on the battlefield… that does suggest that it was a better answer than its German opponents.

  50. “Where was the battle where inferior Shermans were exterminated by the enemy’s invincible uberpanzers?”

    There were loads of them, locally, time and time again! Just that there were never that many Panzers and lots of Shermans, so whenever the Allies were rebuffed locally they were able to still replace the losses and keep going. If a couple of Tigers knock out a dozen Shermans but eventually get destroyed themselves, and the Allied advance rolls on its not that good strategically for the Germans is it?

    But equally not very good for the poor Sherman crews. There were 50,000 Shermans remember? And less than 10,000 Panthers and Tigers, of which most were probably on the Eastern front. And still the Sherman losses were massive.

    Are you denying that Belton Coopers figures for the losses sustained by the US 3rd Armoured Brigade are correct? That out of an operational strength of 230 tanks on D Day they have over 600 destroyed entirely, and a further 700 damaged but repaired, over the 11 months of the European campaign? Thats 4 per day, 120/month, entirely from enemy tanks and anti-tank guns, none from aircraft.

    Do you really think thats an acceptable attrition rate, that its a suitable machine to send men to fight in?

  51. Jim,

    Saying “there were loads!” is easy – when and where? Times, places, dates, numbers? I ask because, personally and professionally, I take an interest in historical analysis and what was then called Operational Research, and the way that the things “everyone knows…” sometimes turned out to be wrong, even dangerous.

    For some actual evidence, the US Army’s Ballistic Research Lab studied 98 WW2 ETO tank vs tank engagements and found the following: the most deciding factor of who wins a tank engagement was who engages first, with the first to fire having a large advantage. Crew training, predictably, played a large role. The average distance at which a US tank killed a Panzer(late IV, V, & VI) was 893 yards(816 m) (beware of spurious precision on averaged estimates, of course). Comparatively the average distance Panzers killed US vehicles as 943 yards(862 m).

    During Panther v. M4 engagements the Panther had a 1.1:1 advantage while on the defensive, however the M4 had an 8.4:1 advantage while on the offensive. Overall the M4 was 3.6 times as effective in combat versus the Panther.

    (Hence, perhaps, why the Sherman served on with the US as a frontline tank well into the 1950s, doing very well in Korea against T-34/85s…)

    The actual, boring facts were that when Shermans went up against German armour, they did very well. Again, there were not that many tank-on-tank battles, and those that were went the Sherman’s way. In one of the few major armoured encounters, of the 262 tanks and assault guns deployed by the German units in the week of fighting near Arracourt, 86 were destroyed, 114 were damaged or broken down, and only 62 were operational at the end of the month. By comparison 4th Armored Division’s Combat Command A lost only 25 tanks and 7 tank destroyers (Zaloga, ‘Armored Thunderbolt’)

    Earlier, at Mortain, the Germans lost 120 tanks for almost no Shermans destroyed (but, again, little tank versus tank combat – the US infantry divisions defended with their tank destroyers, towed guns and man-portable weapons).

    There were very few Tigers, and few encounters between Tigers and Shermans: twice for the US, more often for the UK, but – for example – the infamous ‘Tiger ace’ Michael Wittman, who had racked up hundreds of T-34s in the East, was dead within weeks of being sent to Normandy. Killed by… wait for it… Shermans.

    The Sherman’s attrition rate was excellent, especially compared to its opponents: the Sherman was good at keeping its crews alive compared to other tanks, and its loss rate was hardly high at under 10% of the force per month (German units lost virtually all the tanks they committed in their ill-fated counterattack at Mortain, lost or abandoned 90% of their armour at Falaise, lost 75% of their tanks at Arracourt…) The US lost about 250 Shermans in combat in September 1944 – but the Germans lost over 800 tanks in the same period. Someone was doing something right, and it wasn’t the Germans.

    And yes, I think the Sherman was an excellent machine to send men to fight in. Waving a number that sounds impressive in peacetime, seventy years later, is utterly pointless: tanks could be repaired or replaced, but manpower couldn’t, and the British infantry units fighting in Normandy had been taking losses worse than at the Somme thirty years before (all our fatal losses over our recent involvement in Afghanistan, added up to one day’s fighting in Normandy in June and July). Tank support in strength kept more of the infantry alive, and Shermans were good at keeping their crews alive even when hit – an extremely effective combination.

  52. @ Jim
    The guys who sending men out to fight in Sherman tanks were Yanks who hadn’t actually been fighting at the Somme but spent all their strategic planning in a room with guys who had. Armour that will stop a machine gun bullet was better than khaki which could not.

    If you want attrition rate look at “wonderful victory” of Stalingrad where the Germany 6th Army ran out of bullets after killing vastly more (probably 2 million) Russian soldiers

  53. “During Panther v. M4 engagements the Panther had a 1.1:1 advantage while on the defensive, however the M4 had an 8.4:1 advantage while on the offensive. Overall the M4 was 3.6 times as effective in combat versus the Panther.”

    Strange then that everyone considers the Panther to be the best tank of WW2…….if the Sherman was so good, and outnumbered the German tanks by a massive ratio, why did it take so long to defeat the Wehrmacht in the West? They should have had it all sown up by Christmas if they were that good, and we had so many of them.

    And its not true to say that the ‘myth’ of the vulnerability of the Sherman (and Allied tanks in general) is a post war re-evaluation – tank losses were a political scandal at the time – Montgomery was forced to make public statements as to his ‘full confidence’ that his armour was capable of matching the enemy’s – you don’t have to do that if you’ve got world beating weapons in your arsenal.

  54. Jim,

    We landed in Normandy in June 1944, we were across the Rhine and well into Germany by the following May, and we had do it all cross-Channel with horrendous logistics issues (it was months before we got a proper port operational, for instance). I’m not seeing much delay or foot-dragging: we kicked the Wehrmacht out of France in not much more time than they’d needed to Blitzkrieg it in 1940, and they could do it overland.

    The Panther was “the best tank of WW2”? Really? For rivet-counters comparing front plate thickness and the gun’s armour penetration in “World of Tanks”, maybe: others note its mechanical fragility (the final drive was lifed for 150 kilometres if you drove it really carefully), its habit of self-immolating, the tinfoil side armour, the unprotected ammunition stowage, the horrendous human factors, and its other crippling flaws…) Compare its service and popularity post-1945 with its “inferior” rivals.

    And politics and propaganda are a really poor way to judge effectiveness. In the UK, a free press and moderately clueless politicians were able to pester Montgomery about tank losses (when a key factor behind Op GOODWOOD was to expend tanks and ammunition, instead of manpower): in Germany they were executing a hundred people a week for “defeatism”, and proudly showing propaganda films about the invincible German uberpanzers. Yet despite their Tigers, and their Panthers, and their Hugo Boss uniforms, and their really shiny jackboots, the “world beating” Panzer crews ended up dead or POWs, while their womenfolk played “Frau! Komm!” with the Red Army in the bombed-out ruins of Berlin.

  55. Worth a look at this, perhaps, for how hopelessly outclassed and helpless the Sherman was against German armour…

    “Sgt Dring started out south from Fontenay le Pesnil with his 75mm (Sherman) and fell in with a Mk IV, which he shot through the driver’s visor. It brewed up and the crew baled out… Next he fell in with a Tiger at 1000 yards. The Tiger fired while Dring was traversing, but missed. Dring then pumped five shots in without further retaliation. The last one hit the driver’s periscope and the crew baled out… Next he came on a Panther at the crossroads. This he got with one shot of APC… Next he took on a Tiger at 1400 yards just outside Rauray. He fired six shots, of which four hit and the last one brewed it up.”


    Far from “you needed five Shermans to kill one Tiger”, the good Sergeant accounted for a PzKW IV, a Panther and two Tigers in the space of one morning.

  56. This is one of the best comment sections we’ve had in a while.

    Jason Lynch, is there somewhere you write regularly?

  57. The Tiger fired while Dring was traversing, but missed. Dring then pumped five shots in without further retaliation.

    Was it usual for the Sherman to have a rate of fire more than five times faster than that of the Tiger?

  58. BiW,

    Five times is pretty good going, but the Sherman could definitely get rounds downrange a lot faster than the Tiger. The M3 gun’s shells might not have been mighty, but they were lighter, shorter and handier than the 88mm rounds the Tiger fired (and had a better HE shell, white phosphorous smoke, and canister available too).


    is a good example of the Sherman’s 75mm (left), compared to the 88mm (right) – these had to be hauled out of the ammunition rack and manhandled into the breech by the loader, who then had to get the breech closed and make sure he was out of the way of the gun’s recoil. The longer the shell, the harder that was to do quickly, and the Tiger was very cramped in the turret due to the size of the gun and the desire to armour it very heavily (so, a very tight fit to minimise the volume needing protection) while the Sherman was rather more roomy.

    One of the several reasons why the US didn’t follow us in putting the 17pdr AT into the Sherman, was that it was slower to load and fire: the figure claimed by the US was that their 76mm Sherman could sustain twice the rate of fire, due to a combination of the 17pdr’s longer gun, longer and heavier ammunition, and the more cramped layout and less ergonomic ammo stowage (the Firefly had to have a radio bin welded onto the back of the turret, to make room for the gun, and lost the assistant driver/bow gunner to allow enough of the much larger, longer 17pdr rounds to be stored)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *