- Contributed by
- Julian Shales - WW2 Site Helper
- People in story:
- Tank and Anti-Tank Gun Crews
- Location of story:
- Normandy and North West Europe
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 January 2004
A new radically different ammunition was given to the crews of Churchill tanks, Sherman Fireflies and Infantry and Royal Artillery Anti-tank units.
Unlike any previous anti-tank ammuntion this type comprised of 1) the Sabot, a light metal "holder" with of same diameter as the gun calibre, and 2) the much smaller diameter tungsten Armour Piercing round held within the Sabot. On being fired the air resistance on the Sabot detached it from the Armour Piercing round which then travelled on to the target.
Strangely, only two calibres of APDS were ever issued, 57mm for the 6 Pounder and 76.2mm for the 17 Pounder. However, the most numerous main gun in most British, Canadian or Polish tanks was 75mm, and the crews of these lacked any reliable way of knocking out the German Panther (except for the side and rear if close and lucky) or the Tiger Mk 1 and Tiger Mk2 because their armour was of significantly better quality and design. APDS was not isssued to American units which were in a worse situation because their new 76mm gun had a very dissappointing performance compared to the 17 Pounder.
APDS was introduced in June 1944 for 6 Pounder 57mm guns and had a significantly higher penetration performance over any previous types of AP ammunition, in fact its performance was about twice as good/deep (140mm compared to 84mm at 500 yards) although it lost accuracy over long ranges (1000 yards plus) because of slight variations in the way that each Sabot detached from the Armour Piercing round about 100 yards after leaving the muzzle of the gun barrel.
The earliest account for 17 Pounder (76.2mm) APDS that I have found seems to be in October 1944 and possibly not for the Firefly but only for Royal Artillery Anti-Tank Regiments.
I also understand that just before Normandy Churchill tanks with 6 Pounder Guns were converted to the new British 75mm Ordnance Quick Firing gun and thus were unable to make use of APDS's potentially firefight winning properties. However, some Churchill units may have retained or converted back some of their tanks to 6 Pounders to specifically use this ammunition.
The infantry were luckier in that they kept their 6 Pounder Anti-tank guns and by mid June 1944 I understand that they may have recieved some APDS rounds to use.
Today's tank crews make use of an updated version of this round, APDSFS, the FS stands for Fin Stabilised.
Can any veterans recall their use of APDS?
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