Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my design notes. In part 4 I’ll go through our design methodology for vehicles and answer a question. were British vehicles in the desert really worse than the German counterparts? lets not beat around the bush and jump right into the designs.
In the early years of the desert campaign, there were really 4 different tanks that were used as battle tanks. Matilda II, Cruiser A13 MkII for Great Britain. On the German side we have the Panzer IIIf/g and the Panzer IVd/e.
Matilda II had a maximum road speed of 16mph. The main armament was the QF 2-pounder anti-tank gun. It also had a BESA machine gun mounted coaxially with the gun. It has effectively 8cm of armor in the front for both turret and hull and about 6cm on the average for the side and rear. In short, it was a rolling brick. For game purposes, it has an 8″ move cross country. The frontal armor is 15 which the side armor is 13. The 2-pounder has the following strike values. 7/7/6/5 for 100/500/1000/1500 yards respectively.
The Cruiser A13 MkII has a road speed of 35mph. Yeah. That’s right. This thing can almost fly! Frontal armor is about 3cm in most places while side/rear armor is only 2cm and yes. I am being generous here. So the frontal armor is only 10 and the side/rear armor is 9. It also has a QF 2-pounder and a coaxially mounted MG, either a BESA or Vickers. You can use the stats for the Matilda for firepower. The speed of this tank off road is an impressive 17″.
And now for the German tanks.
The Panzer IIIf/g was the work horse of the desert campaign right up to the end. The ‘f’ models were up-armored and up-gunned so they were essentially ‘g’ models. They had 2 machine guns and a 5cm L/42 cannon for a main armament. There was 6cm of armor on the front and about half that on the side and rear. The turret had 3 to 3.7 mm of armor all around. This brings the frontal defense values to 12 and the side defense to 10. The tank had a road speed of 25mph. That gives it roughly a 12″ move. The 5cm gun has strike values of 6/5/4/3/2 at the various ranges.
The Panzer IVd/e had just 5 cm of armor on the front hull and 3cm on the turret. There was 2cm of armor on the side and rear. So the frontal defense will be a 11 while the side/rear defense will be a 9. The short 75mm gun was not designed for anti-tank purposes. These models were built when the concept of infantry tanks was still part of the German doctrine. 5/5/4/3 is the strike values. The road speed is similar to that of the Panzer III. So 12″ off road movement for this tank as well.
When engaging at normal range of 1000 yards, the 2-pounder can be effective against the frontal armor of the German tanks. The 6 strike value means that it can defeat a Panzer III with a roll of 7 and a Panzer IV with a roll of 6. Conversely, the Matilda with its massive 15 defense would be tough to destroy with either German tank. The A13, on the other hand with its paltry 10 defense would have to rely on its speed to not get hit. Any direct hit would likely prove fatal.
So with the tanks so close in value head to head, how did the German army dominate? The answer is the tactics they employed. German did not view its armor as an anti-tank weapon only. Often they would engage at long range, bait the enemy into a charge and then fall back behind a line of anti-tank line. The line would have a variety of weapons including 5cm Pak 38s and the mighty Flak 36 88mm gun. Once the enemy was fully engaged, the German armor would make a wide flanking maneuver and attack the helpless British armor from the flank and rear.
I do believe that the armor matchup was relatively even and I’d even give a slight edge to the British at this point in the war but the superior German tactics coupled with the the mechanical difficulties of some of the British tanks, gave the edge on the battlefield to the Germans.