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The 2-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun in Canadian Service

The 2-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review March 2008 Title The 2-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun in Canadian Service
Author Doug Knight Publisher Service Publications
Published 2008 ISBN 1-894581-36-3
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95


Between the wars all of the major powers saw tanks as a coming threat, and as a result developed new antitank guns firing solid shot to knock out the threat. But due to an inability to foresee the problems of tank versus antitank combat, and taking their own tank developments as a baseline, nobody produced very useful antitank guns. The US produced the 37mm, the Germans another 37mm, the French a 25mm, the British the 2-pounder (40mm), and the Soviets an upgraded German 37mm in 45mm caliber. By the end of the first two years of the war, all but the Soviet gun were found wanting, and that gun’s days were also numbered.

The British underwent a number of trials and errors but settled on the 2-pounder in 1936, and at that time it was superior to any of the other world efforts. But production was difficult, and as a result the British approached Canada in 1939 to use her industry to augment domestic British production of the weapon. Dominion Engineering Works eventually took over production of barrels and General Electric Canada made the carriages.

The 2-pounder used a plethora of barrel designs, of which eight were naval designs and at least four were ground based. Most common was the Mark 9 barrel that was used on the standard ground mount for the 2-pounder, the Mark 2. This was a tripod with two legs to the front and one to the rear, and in which in order to get 360 degree traverse the wheels were removed and the gun cranked down flat. Still, the 2-pounder was tall (about 40" or 1 meter to the top of the shield) and heavy at 1,852 pounds combat ready; this was its major drawback as an antitank weapon.

But it was obsolete as an effective weapon very quickly. Considering that in 1939 every major tank design used the 2-pounder – the A9, A10, A13, Covenanter, Crusader and Churchill, as well as the semi-commercial Valentine – by the time they were involved in major combat the Germans had uparmored and upgunned nearly all of their in-production tanks which minimized the value of the 2-pounder. Paper values rarely count, and Doug provides a primer on why a paper value of penetration of x mm of rolled homogenous armor at y meters may not give the entire truth of the use or effectiveness of a specific type of gun. On paper the 2-pounder could defeat most of the German tanks under perfect conditions; under actual conditions, the Germans would simply stand off out of effective range and pound the hapless 2-pounder and its crew with HE-FRAG ammunition to suppress or destroy them.

Still, as it was the only AT gun in production the British decided to increase production rather than look for something better. This probably kept the much more powerful 6-pounder (57mm) out of production for another 18 months as a course, but as noted here the final production models of the 2-pounder used the 6-pounder carriage, and that at least simplified the changeover to the more powerful gun.

A prototype of an improved 2-pounded dubbed David was produced which used a 2-pounder shot in a necked down 6-pounder casing. While the performance was nearly as good as the 6-pounder, the gun was bigger, heavier and as a result no major improvement over either the 2-pounder or 6-pounder.

The one improvement which did work was the late-war “Littlejohn” adapter using the “squeeze-bore” effect. This used a 40mm projectile with a tungsten carbide core penetrator (a very heavy and solid item, still the composition of many penetrators today) with heavy brass driving bands that folded down when the round passed through the adapter and compressed it to 30mm. The result was a 1600 fps increase in velocity and the ability to penetrate up to 75mm of armor at useful combat ranges. The 2-pounder received the Mark 10B barrel with an adapter 17 5/8" long added to it. Ironically, the Germans had used a very similar concept with their 28/20mm Gehrlich tapered bore guns but dropped it when they ran out of tungsten early in the war.

There are some notes provided on organization and operational use of the gun in service, and it is interesting to note that originally the guns were under the purview of the Artillery and not infantry units. Later a platoon of twelve 2-pounders or 6-pounders were assigned permanently to infantry regiments. Ironically the Canadian Army did not use the 2-pounder in combat overseas!

The book as with all new Service Publications provides a large number of 1/35 scale drawings of the most common gun, the 2-pounder Mark 9 on Carriage Mark 2 as well as the Mark 10 with Littlejohn adapter, Mark 4 carriage and even the 2-pounder David prototype.

Overall this is a very handy book but for modelers, alas, for so far there are only resin 2-pounder kits to choose from.

Thanks to Service Publications for the review copy.