I am searching for a tactic that would be in service in the British and/or French army during WW2. It would consist in placing the tank on forward position of other elements, especially in front of artillery position and fixed anti-tank position.

I know there was at the time the idea, in Allied forces, to use tanks as small groups alongside infantry. Still, this did not oblige them to put them so close to the ennemy: they could be there to help infantry in its counterattack (like during WW1).

Two examples for this tactic:

  • During the battle of Hattun, the French tank division was in front of Belgian's antitank position (mainly guns and mines). The fight with German panzerdivision resulted in heavy losses on both sides, but apparently French had the possibility at the end of the fight to fall back behind Belgian positions. Not sure if it was an advantage or not.
  • During operation "Battleaxe", British tanks always acted as spearheads, during assault as well as during the night: they were guarding the line. This resulted in heavy losses at the beginnin of the operation, and later British infantry and artillery were pushed back by German weapon cooperation.
  • 1
    A tank unit being in front of another unit does not imply that tanks advance alone - tank units include non-tank sub-units. Even soviet tank divisions had a mechanized infantry brigade. And various tank units are cited as 'the first to enter place X'. A Sherman unit was among the first soviets in Berlin; or, the famous jumbo 'cobra king' painted with 'first in Bastogne'. Moreover, heavy tanks (e.g. jumbo) went first in their column - presumably to absorb fire from ambushing enemies. But a tank being 'the first' is not incompatible with being closely accompanied by infantry. – Luiz Mar 16 at 15:45
  • How about WWII cavalry/ cruiser tanks from UK? – Greg Mar 18 at 5:19
  • I always put a heavy tank battalion in my infantry divisions in HOI4. – Rohit Mar 18 at 13:45

An American WWII field manual, FM 17, explained the options of attacking with leading tanks, attacking with leading infantry, or attacking with a mix. An attack with leading tanks would e.g. be made when enemy tanks are encountered.

In the defense, infantry would typically be forward along with recon, with tanks for the counterattack force. However, tanks would be used to attack enemy recon elements.

Finally, the recon battalion had a tank company.

| improve this answer | |
  • Could you give maybe an extract of this field manual, or provide a link? Maybe there are french or british similar manuals? – totalMongot Mar 18 at 9:33
  • @totalMongot, I have a PDF of a scanned document. Link added. My French is rudimentary and for the Brits I've read only older stuff. – o.m. Mar 18 at 11:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.