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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Little Tank that Couldn’t

In March of 1945 when the British 6th Airborne Division dropped in to Germany to support Operation Plunder and the capture of the bridges over the Rhine, they brought with them eight of their relatively new airborne light tanks. The M22 Locust was developed by the Americans as a replacement for the British’s already oxymoronic Tetrarch airborne tank. And as you might think a tank designed to be loaded in to a Hamilcar glider, and dropped into enemy territory would be too lightly armored and lightly armed, to be a real “tank.”

M22 British Front

The M22 sported a standard M2 .50 cal. machine gun, as well as a needlessly underpowered 37mm main gun. At the time it was known that the main gun was near useless against the German tanks of the late war, but it’s was thought that the Locusts’ main duty would be infantry support. Helping to remove machine gun nests, and other dug in ground forces. Despite that some were fitted with a device called a Littlejohn Adaptor which converted the main gun to a 37m squeeze bore. While this device allowed fro higher energy rounds to be fired, it would wear out after only a few rounds, and have to be discarded, forcing the gunners to revert to the standard 37mm ammo (it’s unknown how many M22s were issued this device, or if any actually saw action).

However there were other issues, despite extensive testing throughout 1944, the M22’s engine and transmission were never really up to the job, and necessary changes were too expensive and time consuming to make. By the time they dropped in to Germany they already had a reputation as unreliable.

Sadly the Locust would really never get to prove themselves, of the 260 M22 purchased by the British, only eight would ever see service, and only six would ever fire their weapons at the enemy. On the day of the landings only six of the M22s ever reached Germany, two were lost in transit. Of those six only two survived the landings in full fighting condition. Two more were serviceable, and were able to support infantry during several German counter attacks. The infantry and the four M22s were able to hold out until 10:30 when the real tanks of the 44th Royal Tanks would arrive, forcing the Germans to retreat, and allowing the 6th to take their objectives. The M22 would never fight again, being considered obsolete almost as soon as it rolled of the assembly line.

Who knows how many lives could have been saved had all eight of the Locusts been able to reach the rendezvous. What if their engines ran as expected?

Well now you can find out for yourself with a full squadron of M22s for Heroes of Normandie.

Check out the PDF below… (Note there is an issue with the back of the recruitment template being inverted, but this is one of the files that was damaged in last year’s HDD crash, so I’m not able to fix it anytime soon. Sorry.)

M22 Squadron PDF

That is all.