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47 mm AT gun [PAG]

Introduction

In 1933 the Dutch army concluded that modern warfare would require accurate counter-measures against enemy armour. Up to that point the obsolete 5,7 cm infantry guns [6-veld Krupp] - assigned to every infantry regiment - were the basic means of armour fighting. Also the standard 7,5 cm Krupp field artillery gun was provided with armour penetrating rounds. But the latter wouldn't be a first line weapon. Therefore dedicated AT guns had to be acquired.

Purchase and description

A number of types were tested, amongst which the German PAK 35/36 and the Austrian Böhler. The latter was chosen for its better price and the fact that it slightly outperformed the PAK 35. The first guns arrived in 1937 and up to May 1940 about 380 would follow, partially from licensed fabrication in the Netherlands.

The Böhler was an effective anti-tank gun with quite a punch. It could be deployed in a very expeditious manner. It was able to be applied on its wheel mounting or without. The wheel mounting could be taken off in a matter of seconds and the legs of the gun-carriage could be spread in such an angle that the gun was able to traverse in an angle of 36° to both sides without the necessity of displacement. The gun profile was very low, thus creating a minimum frontal exposure to opposing forces.

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Boehler 47 mm AT gun (may 1940)

The ammunition used was either a HE round [against soft targets] or a solid AP round. The AP round was able to penetrate 45-50 mm of armoured steel at 200 m, and 35 mm armoured steel at 500 m. In those days it was enough penetrating power to destroy any German tank or armoured car available. The AP round would penetrate the armour and the fragments would disperse in the interior of the object. The HE round was fitted with a highly sensitive percussion-fuse that detonated on first contact. It had the expected shrapnel effect on detonation. The normal ammo ration for each gun was 80 AP and 20 HE shells.

The weapon had a simple and quick operation and was able to fire up to 15 rounds a minute by a well trained crew. The weapon platform on fixed mounting [without its wheel carriage] was so stable that the depth straddle [at 2,000 m] was less than 20 meter after three shots and the latitude straddle was even neglectable. Those were inpressive performances. On the other hand, Dutch crews were hardly trained with live firing rounds for obvious reasons of low ammo stocks. Pushing up against the best performance of any weapon does require experience, an element that was omitted in the Dutch army.

AT units were all equipped with modern traction, usually a Van Doorne (DAF) truck that was able to both pull the gun and carry the crew and an ammo ration. Since the gun was quite easy to handle [395 kg with armoured shield, 345 kg without], it was easy to deploy it in the field. The armoured shield that had been designed for the gun was not very practical though. It had an extremely steep angle [45°], which - combined with the low profile of the gun - made the gun operation quite unpleasant. The guns would therefore hardly ever be seen with the armoured shield in use.

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Boehler AT gun in the field

During the winter of 1940 the Dutch realised that they had too few AT weapons available. As such the new Commander-in-Chief Winkelman gave orders to concentrate all modern AT guns within the Fortress Holland. The outer defences would be equipped with the old and obsolete infantry guns of 5,7 cm [6-veld] or the even more obsolete 8,4 cm [8-staal] and a few of the already available Solothurn 2 cm AT rifles. These guns were only able to fire HE shells and outdated [ordinary steel] AP rounds that lacked true penetration power. As such both weapons were unfit to fight tanks of the types Pz.III en Pz.IV or any armoured vehicle at longer distance. Furthermore the slow operation, high profile and fixed mounting made these guns totally unsuitable for any dynamic warfare. Since the exchange of the Böhler AT guns was still in progress in May 1940, some were still dislocated at several points along the outer defences where German troops would appear. They would proof welcome devices!

May war

The Böhler guns would proof effective during the intensive fights, particularly at the Islands of Dordrecht and Rotterdam. The 9th Panzer Division lost about 25 tanks at Rotterdam and Dordrecht as well as an unknown number of armoured cars due to Dutch anti-tank guns. Amongst those German losses quite some Pz.III and Pz.IV medium tanks.

The experience with the Böhler guns was generally positive, but the lack of a HEAT type grenade demanded that armoured targets had to be hit twice or three times before they were finally put out of action. Lack of training caused crews to feel the challenges of hitting moving targets, particularly over longer distances. Nevertheless, the guns proved accurate and reliable and hard to hit by countering fire.

The shortage of HE shells was also felt at many locations where armour wouldn't appear and infantry had to be fought. Although guns with a flat trajectory are usually less effective against soft targets in open area's, the lacking or small HE rations were hard felt in urban street fighting, where HE rounds could have counted considerable more, when they would have been available in larger supplies.

The Böhler AT gun was also used by the Russian and Italian armies. The Germans would capture quite a number of these guns and distribute them amongst their own forces and their allies. These guns were designated 4.7 cm PAK 177 [ex-Italian], PAK 188 [ex-Dutch] and PAK 196 [ex-Russian]. As off 1942 the role of the light AT guns was significantly reduced by the thick armour of opposing tanks and the massive introduction of shaped charges in AT-measures.

Specifications

Manufacturer: Böhler, Austria
Weight without wheel carriage: 310 kg
Weight on wheel carriage: 345 kg
Weight with armoured shield: 395 kg
Gun length: 3210 mm
Barrel length: 1850 mm [39 calibres]
Barrel height from ground: 603 mm
Calibre: 47 mm
Max elevation: 52
Max declination: 10
Max traverse: 76
Ammo: AP round [1,45 net]
HE round [2,45 net]
Fire rate: 15 rounds a minute max
V0 AP: 660 m/sec
V0 HE: 350 m/sec
Max effective range HE: 6,000 m
Ammo ration gun: 80 AP; 20 HE
Armour penetration: 42-45 mm at 200 m
30 mm at 500 m