Military Organization > United Kingdom > ​British Airborne Light Tank Squadron (1943-1944)

British Airborne Light Tank Squadron (1943-1944) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Airborne Light Tank Squadron of the British Army from March 1943 to October 1944. This was a gliderborne light tank outfit part of a British Army 6th Airborne Division's Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment. This is the organization that would have been effective for the 6th Airborne Division's action on D-Day. This organization would become obsolete around October to November 1944 when the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment's allotment of light tanks was reduced to 8 and the Tetrarchs were replaced by the M22 Locust in the airborne light tank role. 

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Squadron HQ

    • 5 Troops

    • 1 Administrative Troop (Airborne)

    • 1 Administrative Troop (Non-Airborne)

    • 1 Intercommunication Troop

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

Like our content? Consider supporting us on Patreon!

british airborne armour-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Gliderborne Light Tank Company

  • Origin: British Army (United Kingdom)

  • Time Frame: Normandy

  • Personnel: 6 Officers and 128 Enlisted

Squadron Headquarters (4 Officers and 7 Enlisted)

→ Tank 1 (Mk VII Tetrarch)

  • 1× Squadron Commander, Major (OF-3), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Gunner-Operator, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

 

→ Tank 2 (Mk VII Tetrarch)

  • 1× Squadron Second-in-Command, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Squadron Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class 2 (OR-8), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

 

→ Tank 3 (Mk VII Tetrarch)

  • 1× Signals Officer, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Signals Operator (Attached), Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

 

→ Tank 4 (Mk VII Tetrarch)

  • 1× Subaltern, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Gunner-Operator, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

5× Troops (1 Officer and 8 Enlisted each)

→ Tank 1 (Mk VII Tetrarch)*

  • 1× Troop Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Gunner-Operator, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

→ Tank 2 (Mk VII Tetrarch)*

  • 1× Troop Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Gunner-Operator, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

→ Tank 3 (Mk VII Tetrarch)*

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Gunner-Operator, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

* Tetrarchs in the Troops (excluding Squadron HQ) partially replaced with Cromwells on 6 August. At this time, 2 troops would have been converted to Cromwells.

1× Intercommunication Troop (1 Officer and 8 Enlisted)

  • 1× Troop Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Troop Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Driver I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 6× Motorcyclists, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine each

→ Additional Equipment

  • 1× 5-cwt Car (Jeep), driven by Driver I.C. carrying Troop Commander

  • 6× 125cc Motorcycles, driven by Troop Sergeant and Motorcyclists

1× Administration Troop, Airborne (49 Enlisted)

  • 1× Medical Officer (Attached), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Medical Officer Orderly, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  •  Mechanist Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 5× Motor-Mechanics, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 5× Fitters, 1 Corporal, 2 Lance Corporals and 3 Privates, armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Electrician, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Technical Storeman, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver I.C., Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 6× Drivers I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle (4 Jeep Drivers get Stens)

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 Sten Machine Carbine

→ Spare Crews

  • 1× Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 9× Gunner-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 6× Driver-Mechanics, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 7× Drivers I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

→ Additional Equipment

  • 11× 5-cwt Cars (Jeep), 2 equipped with 1 Bren Machine Gun each and 1 equipped with 1 Boys Anti-Tank Rifle 

  • 9× Rota Trailers, drawn by Jeeps

  • 1× 10-cwt Airborne Trailer, drawn by a Jeep

1× Administration Troop, Non-Airborne (18 Enlisted)

  • 1× Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, Warrant Officer Class 2 (OR-8), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Technical Storeman, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Storeman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 Enfield/Webley .38 Revolver

  • 1× Clerk, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 2× Clerks, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 6× Batmen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 6× Drivers I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

→ Attached

  • 1× Cook, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 4× Cooks, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

→ Additional Equipment

  • 1× Austin Tilly Car, driven by a Driver I.C. carrying an attached RAF Squadron Leader

  • 2× 15-cwt 4×2 Trucks, driven by Drivers I.C. One carries the cooks, clerks and mess equipment. The other carries 2 Batmen and medical stores. 

  • 2× 3-ton 4×2 Lorries, driven by Drivers I.C. One carries quartermaster stores, Regimental Quartermaster, Sergeant Technical Storeman, and Batman. The other carries 1 Bren Machine Gun, Corporal Clerk, Storeman, and Batman.

  • 1× 3-ton 6×4 Lorry with Breakdown Gantry, driven by Driver I.C. and carries 2 Batmen and fitters and technical stores

 

Discussion

The Airborne Light Tank Squadron was the light tank company in the British 6th Airborne Division's Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment. With 19 light tanks, the Light Tank Squadron was intended to support the division's paratroopers and air landing troops in airborne operations and act as the division's spearhead in offensives. Just to air-deploy the tanks in the squadron, it'd require at least 19 GAL. 49 Hamilcar gliders (with 1 tank fitting in 1 glider) not including what it'd take to airlift the jeeps, motorcycles, trailers and all of the airborne personnel.

 

During their existence, the Light Tank Squadrons were outfitted with the Tetrarch Mk. VII—an obsolete light tank that could be deployed via GAL. 49 Hamilcar heavy gliders—and during the Normandy breakout (August 1944) the Cromwell cruiser tank—not airborne. By 6 August, 2 of the squadron's 5 troops were fielding Cromwells. When the Regiment went into Belgium to counter the German offensive in the Ardennes, they were still deployed in Cromwells. By early Operation Varsity, the Tetrarchs had been replaced by the M22 Locust. However, by this time (after October 1944), the Light Tank Squadron was replaced by an 8-cruiser tank "Seaborne Party" contained within the regiment's Headquarters Troop and 2 Squadrons of 4 troops each (only one being outfitted with tanks, the others with Universal carriers). Thus, the regiment had a total of 4 cruiser tanks and 8 light tanks on paper after October 1944.

The Squadron consisted of a Squadron Headquarters, Intercommunication Troop, Administrative Troop and 5 Troops of light tanks.

The Squadron Headquarters contained the command personnel of the company and was outfitted with 4 Tetrarchs. One of the tanks, considered the "rear link", was commanded by a Captain and would have a Royal Signals attachment to man a radio. When the Squadron's Tetrarchs were replacing with Cromwells in the month following D-Day, the Tetrarchs of the Squadron HQ were retained. Meanwhile, the Intercommunication Troop was outfitted with 7 motorcycle runners—enough to theoretically allow the Squadron Commander to send runners to all of its subunits and the regimental headquarters simultaneously. 

The Administration Troop contained support personnel and spare reinforcements, and was split into airborne and non-airborne personnel. The balance of the quartermaster section, clerks and cooks was contained within the non-airborne section of the Troop and fielded 1x Austin Tilly Car (for an RAF Squadron Leader attached), 2x 15-cwt 4x2 trucks (e.g. Bedford MW), 2x 3-ton 4x2 lorries (e.g. Thornycroft W2-YC4), and 1x 3-ton 6x4 lorry (e.g. Austin K.6A) with a breakdown gantry. Meanwhile, the airborne section of the Administration Troop had maintenance and medical personnel, as well as replacement tank crews and drivers for the squadron. Unlike the non-airborne section, it only fielded Jeeps with trailers, which could be delivered via glider. The Rota trailers each carried the following according to an article by Roger Lucy:

  • 120 gallons of fuel (in the hollow wheels; each Tetrarch had a 45 gallon fuel capacity)

  • 900 rounds of 7.92mm Besa ammo (the machine gun on the Tetrarch)

  • 106 2-pounder (40mm) shells (each tank had a combat load of 50 shells)

  • 30 liters of lubricating oil

  • 50 liters of water

  • 7 Ration Boxes

Meanwhile, the Squadron's 5 Troops were its close-combat units, with each consisted of 3 light tanks. Each tank had a 3 man crew: 1 Commander, 1 Gunner-Operator and 1 Driver-Mechanic. The Troop Commander and Troop Sergeant commanded 2 of the tanks, while the third was commanded by a Corporal Driver-Operator.

Sources

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

Social

© 2019 Battle Order