The Development of Army Equipment
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Jan 1943, p. 318-330
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Hahn, Major James E., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description
An examination of how the enemy planned his development programme and what has been accomplished. A brief summary of some of the equipment used by the enemy in order to shed light upon the policy he has adopted. Topics covered include: small arms equipment; rifle; standard and sub-machine guns; trench mortars with a rocket system of propulsion; projectors; bombs; field guns; mounted guns on self-propelled vehicles; anti-aircraft equipment; design characteristics of German equipment; anti-tank weapons; tanks; the policy of the German Army General Staff to keep the variety of weapons to the smallest possible number in order to give the necessary operational strength; advantages of such a programme; engineering standards; field trials. The strategic plan of attack by the enemy. Problems of procurement of weapons and equipment by the Allies. Weapon design and engineering that had to be introduced into Canada. The creation of the Army Technical Development Board in the spring of 1942. Function and responsibilities of the Board. Projects for development and how they originate. Completing and co-ordinating our liaison with the United Nations. Liaising with the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Russia, and China. Research development. Contributions from Canadian engineers, scientists, technicians, and universities. The need for practical long-range planning and the vision to see ahead as part and parcel of any programme that is designed to ensure permanent success.
Date of Original
28 Jan 1943
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARMY EQUIPMENT
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR JAMES E. HAHN, D.S.O., M.C.
Chairman The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, January 28, 1943.

MR. JOHN C. M. MAcBETH: Gentlemen of The Empire Club: We have the honour to welcome today as guest one of our own citizens, one who, though trained in our own philosophy of life-peace and freedom of individual thought and action-yet had the foresight, through the late thirties, to sense another blow-up in Europe, and the courage, in spite of much opposition, to prepare for it in the most practical way possible-the manufacture of guns.

Having been through the 1914-1918 phase of the age-old German struggle to conquer and dominate Europe and the world, and being of a practical disposition, he started to do something about it by effecting an arrangement whereby the old John Inglis plant was taken over and equipped for the manufacture of Bren guns-an undertaking which, need I remind ourselves, did not, at its inception, stand high in public favour. Need I remind ourselves also that this same plant is now the largest manufacturer of Bren guns in the world and that we are just a little proud that it is one of our local industries.

I have been told the approximate number of women and men employed by the company, but I assume that this information was for my own consumption.

A short while back a Board was set up at Ottawa for the development of improvements and of new designs in weapons, and our guest, being recognized as an authority on firearms and ordnance, was asked to assume the chairmanship of the Board. He took on the task, and now, besides being President of John Inglis Company Limited at Toronto, he is also Director-General of the Army Technical Development Board at Ottawa.

Both of these jobs are man-sized jobs and require not only organizing ability but also a fair amount of intelligence. .

Gentlemen: I have the honour to present to you a man-sized man in the person of Major James E. Hahn, D.S.O., M.C., who will address us on the subject, "The Development of Army Equipment".

MAJOR HAHN: Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Guests and Members of The Empire Club of Canada. I can only state, in view of your most generous introduction, that I consider it an honour and a privilege to in any way be of service to our Overseas forces.

I am addressing you today on the subject of "The Development of Army Equipment", the work with which I am occupied in Canada.

In order to better understand the task with which we are confronted, it is necessary to know how the enemy planned his development programme and what has been accomplished. I will, therefore, first present a brief summary of some of the equipment used by the enemy, which I believe will shed considerable light upon the policy he has adopted.

At the beginning of this war the small arms equipment of the enemy consisted in the main of a rifle, a standard machine gun of various types, and a sub-machine gun. The rifle is an improved model of their 1918 7.9 mm. Mauser, a calibre approximating our .303. It is a single shot bolt action rifle. The action has been improved so that the bolt remains open when the last shot has been fired out of the magazine. In this manner the soldier can tell when his magazine is empty, as he cannot push the bolt home for reloading.

He still has the same machine gun with which he commenced the war in 1939. The one machine gun mechanism is used to fill various roles. The gun is supported by a small bipod when used as a light machine gun, and it is mounted on a heavier bipod when used in the role of a medium machine gun for more sustained fire. This same gun is mounted for anti-aircraft use, as well as on their armoured cars, troop carriers and tanks.

The sub-machine gun which now has a wide application by all armies in one form or another, appeared on the battlefront of the last war just a few months before the Armistice. I well remember picking up one of these weapons in the field during one of the engagements in the summer of 1918 and carrying it back with me to our Divisional Headquarters. I fired it that afternoon and was impressed with the great possibilities that this type of weapon offered for close range work. Their present model is an improved version of the 1918 model. It appears in several forms, one of which utilizes a folding butt which makes it a more compact weapon for the use of Parachute Troops.

He has increased the range of his trench-mortars, and within the past twenty-four months has decided to use a rocket system of propulsion. These rockets consist of bombs of various sizes, which are aimed with a frame or projector, and are propelled through the air in the same manner as a sky rocket.

They also have projectors which are capable of delivering heavy high explosives or oil-filled incendiary bombs covering a large area, and these are employed when accuracy of fire is not one of the main requisites. The calibre of the bombs propelled range from 5.9" to 12.6". Some of the rocket equipment is mounted on wheels, others on semi-tracked armoured vehicles.

In most cases, the equipment consists of multiple barrels or multiple projectors. A representative piece of this type of equipment mounts six projectors, which can fire six-180 pound bombs in twelve seconds, each bomb containing over one hundred pounds of high explosive.

Let us now briefly examine his artillery programme.

His number of field guns has been standardized mainly on five weapons, which range from a 4.1" gunhowitzer to an 8.2' howitzer. They have designed the carriage for their cannon so that a gun of one calibre wand a howitzer of the next calibre above it, can employ the same interchangeable carriage.

Generally speaking these equipments are still standard with the exception of a few additional calibres, which they have added to both higher and lower categories.

They have also developed their artillery equipment a long the lines of mounting guns on self-propelled vehicles for various tactical roles.

From the very beginning the enemy has designed his antiaircraft equipment to fill a triple role. In addition to being used against aircraft, the design of the 'mount permitted its use for antitank purposes, as well s the additional ground role for antipersonnel use.

Their anti-aircraft weapons at the beginning of the war consisted of two basic equipments. One is a .8" magazine fed automatic weapon, which was mounted on two types of mounts, the one mount carrying a single gun, the other, a multiple mount carrying four guns.

Both these mounts were designed to be used against aircraft, armoured cars, light tanks, machine gun nests, pill boxes and troops on the move.

When in England recently, I examined one of these weapons. Three of us, never having previously handled one of these guns, were able to take it, dismount it from its trailer, and have it ready for action in ten seconds. I was told that a trained gun crew could bring this gun into action in five seconds. I am pointing this out as it illustrates one of the main design characteristics of German equipment-that is the ability to bring their weapons into action in the shortest possible period of time. Their other main design feature-the highest possible rate of fire.

The second piece of basic anti-aircraft equipment which I have referred to, consisted of 8.8 cm. or 3.5" "flak", commonly known as the German "88", to which so much publicity has been given. This gun was designed in 1934. The carriage enables the gun to be brought into action in less than a minute, and it also has a very high rate of fire.

They have since introduced two new anti-aircraft weapons, one which is slightly larger than our Bofors, and 4.1 "flak", which may come into more general use on mobile mountings.

The enemy has extended his range of anti-tank weapons more than in any other field. He started the war mainly with three anti-tank weapons-the 7.92 mm. or 30 calibre anti-tank rifle which had an effective range of only one hundred yards-the 3.7 cm. or 1.5" "Pak", which was used for penetrating light armour only, and the 8.8 cm. or 3.5 "Flak"-the 88 which I have previously referred to, which he used in the ground role, for penetrating medium to heavy armour.

He has since developed his anti-tank power mainly along four lines. His first development has been the tapered-bore gun. I will not attempt to go into the technicality of tapered-bore, or its advantages or disadvantages when compared with the ordinary gun which has a parallel bore. The gun that we are all familiar with, having a parallel bore, simply means that the hole through the barrel of the gun, through which the projectile passes, is the same diameter at the chamber end, as at the muzzle. The tapered-bore gun is simply what the name implies-that the diameter of the bore of the gun is larger at the chamber end and decreased to a smaller diameter at the muzzle end.

The taper bore system is one of the methods that can be employed to give a projectile a high muzzle velocity. The armour piercing projectile that is fired through a tapered-bore gun has a false jacket, or rings around the armour piercing core, that correspond to the diameter of the bore of the gun at the chamber end. As the projectile proceeds along the barrel, these rings or false jacket, are folded against the core until the armour piercing core emerges from the muzzle and is now the same diameter as the muzzle end of the gun.

They have two tapered-bore guns, one a 28-20 mm. that is 28 mm. or slightly over 1" diameter at the chamber end and 20 mm. or .8" diameter at the muzzle end, which has an effective range up to 300 yards; the other is a 50-42 mm. gun which has an effective range up to 500 yards.

The second addition to their anti-tank range was a 5 cm. or 1.9" anti-tank gun which was first used in the Balkans and which has an effective range of from 800 to 1,000 yards.

Their third method of giving their guns additional anti-tank effectiveness has consisted of increasing the power of the charges of their standard gun ammunition. This has enabled the enemy to obtain a higher perforation of armour, and has increased the effectiveness of nearly all of their tank and anti-tank guns with ranges approximating 400 yards.

In addition to increasing the velocity of the projectiles, they have also increased the armour penetrating qualities of the projectiles, by employing special types of ammunition. This applies particularly to their howitzers and low velocity guns and conforms to their policy of developing every avenue which would increase the effectiveness of both their weapons and projectiles for every type of anti-tank use.

Their fourth method of increasing their offensive power against mobile armour, is to mount their guns on gun carriages or vehicles which have been specially designed to enable them to bring each weapon into action in the shortest possible period of time. They have combined their standard guns with standard vehicles or mounts, this combination being called a self-propelled mount. They are using anti-tank guns in this manner mounted both on light and heavy armoured carriages.

They have also continuously increased the allotment of all types of anti-tank equipment to their armies in the field.

The German defensive measures against tanks are still anti-tank guns, and not the tank.

The enemy development of tanks is a story of farsighted planning.

The Germans ran their tanks during the war in Spain to test their existing tank models and they settled on their basis of design. As a result of these tests they settled upon four types which had the following main characteristics.

In the first place their tanks were roomy. This enabled the tank crew to. carry out their duties with the greatest possible degree of efficiency. Secondly, they were designed to provide a good over-all speed. This enabled the tanks to carry out the various tactical roles which they might be called upon to perform. Thirdly, they had a moderately stressed suspension. In other words, the spring or suspension of the chassis provided a very large reserve over and above the requirement of the tank as initially designed. They anticipated, however, that as the war developed, they would most likely require additional armour thickness and increased fire power. Therefore, the chassis and suspension as originally designed, had sufficient reserves to take care of these additions in weight which have been added as the war progressed, and did not require a re-design of the chassis structure. Finally the engines incorporating the original design had a large margin of reserve power. This also provided for the increased weight of armour and equipment which it was anticipated might be required, and which actually was required as the war progressed.

The original designs of these tanks provided for quantity production. After the battle of France, they added additional armour to their existing tanks, and in Some cases guns with increased fire power, which were used in the Libya operations in 1941. Since then additional armour has again been added, and in some cases heavier guns, but today we are still fighting the Mark II, III and IV which was used by them at the beginning of the war.

While these tanks are improved almost beyond recognition from a fighting aspect, they are still basically the same tanks which went through Poland in 1939. They have put the lessons of each campaign into immediate and practical use and each successive campaign has seen the original tank further improved and in action.

The enemy's engineering equipment had been developed to a high degree of efficiency before the outbreak of the war. This enabled the very rapid movement of the German armies through all obstacles to the French Coast. They have two standard types of bridging equipment and a heavy and light flame thrower.

From the preceding it is apparent that the policy of the German Army General Staff has been to keep the variety of weapons to the smallest possible number, in order to give the necessary operational strength. They have designed these required types for quantity production, with emphasis on the highest degree of fighting efficiency.

There were obviously great advantages to this type of programme, both when applied to a mass production plan and to the training of troops.

As the war and fronts extended, they improved their existing weapons and increased the variety of their equipment. Captured equipment that has been examined does not show the slightest relaxation of engineering standards. The weapons were well made, employed good materials, and elaborate equipment has been incorporated where it might contribute to greater fighting efficiency. There seems to have been little delay between a lesson learned and the production of a counter improvement. In general, the planning during the time the enemy had available to him, resulted in the creation of good anal efficient equipment with a minimum variety of types.

This is a brief picture of the equipment which has been the result of an organized development programme. The enemy for years has planned the war, and his development programme constituted an important part of that organized plan. The enemy too, had the opportunity of testing his equipment in a field of war, and of correcting or adjusting his weapons as a result of the lessons provided by that experience.

We know that for more than five years prior to the outbreak of the war a strategic plan of attack was being formulated by the enemy. This plan included a well-laid, well-planned development programme, designed to provide the equipment the enemy envisaged would be required to successfully carry out his field operations. His development programme concentrated upon his proposed field activities, and made full provision for such additional requirements as might arise from the changing art of warfare. The entire technical and research facilities of the enemy were focused in an organized manner upon the design of the weapons and equipment required for these planned operations.

What a contrast is presented during this same period by the restrictions placed upon our Armies which prevented an even moderate development programme for army equipment so necessary in the interest of fundamental national security! You will remember that during this period, most of the United Nations saw fit to provide only inconsequential amounts for the total maintenance of their small armies. The share or portion of this total amount that could be allotted to the development of new equipment was so small that very little could be accomplished.

In 1939 we were struck with the full impact of war. The enemy had the advantage of having carried to completion an equipment development programme of a scale that compared with the magnitude of the war he envisaged, and was prepared to undertake. Coupled with this was the advantage of the experience gained from the field trials of this equipment.

With the war finally a reality, it is obvious that our first problem became mainly one of the procurement of such equipment as then existed, and its manufacture and distribution to our expanding armies. The problem of organized equipment development had to be undertaken by us at that time as best it could; concurrently with the problem of gearing the nations for production. The harnessing of national industrial resources for production of the weapons of war threw an almost insurmountable task upon the technical resources and facilities available, at that time, in this country. The actual art of weapon-design and engineering had not yet been introduced into Canada. This gigantic task had to be undertaken by Canadians, while they were confronted with the problem of organizing national production on an unprecedented scale.

The creation of the Army Technical Development Board was announced by the Hon. J. L. Ralston, our Minister of National Defence, in the spring of 1942. It was formed to deal with the development of army equipment in an organized manner, while the peak of industrial production was still to be reached.

The Directorate of the Board as originally constituted consisted of representatives of two Ministries; The Ministry of National Defence, represented by the Master-General of Ordnance as Chairman of the Board, and the Deputy Master-General of Ordnance as one of the Directors; The Ministry of Munitions and Supply represented by the Co-ordinator of Production, and the Director-General of the Army Engineering Design Branch; and the National Research Council, represented by the Acting President. Since its original inception, the post of Director-General has been created. He is also a member of the Board and responsible to it. Representatives of the General Staff and Quartermaster-General's Branch attend our Board meetings, and our development projects are made available to the Navy and Air Services.

The function of this Board is to assume full responsibility for the allotment and carrying out of all development projects for new or improved equipment required for our Army. This also includes the responsibility of the development of such projects, as we may undertake as part of the co-ordinated plan of the United Nations. We are responsible for co-ordinating all the necessary agencies to drive through these developments with the greatest possible dispatch.

It is obvious that the practical benefit of a development programme has only been obtained when we have placed new or improved equipment into the hands of our troops.

Projects for development originate in the main from two sources; first, the armies in the field provide us with their requirements, which are ascertained from them in an organized manner. Secondly, we receive suggestions for development from many other sources which we submit to the Army, to be appraised. The Army then informs us whether or not they are interested in the proposed development, and if they are, the Board proceeds with it as a development project.

We are fortunate to have as our Army Commander, General McNaughton, a soldier-scientist, who is keenly and aggressively development-conscious, and whose mind is constantly ranging ahead of existing equipment.

The Army Directorates of the Department of National Defense are charged with the full responsibility of carrying out each project that comes within range of its particular type of equipment. Each Army Directorate is shouldering the heavy added burden of development and is making a distinct contribution to the cause of the United Nations by so doing.

One of the most important tasks has been to complete and coordinate our liaison with the United Nations to ensure that there is no over-lapping of development. It has been arranged that the heads of our Directorates have a seat on their corresponding Technical Committees in Washington. Australia and New Zealand tie in with Canadian development through our Canadian Army Staff in Washington. In London we conduct our liaison through our Canadian Military Headquarters, and have representatives on the various British Technical Committees. In London we also exchange technical information with other members of the United Nations. Our Liaison with Moscow and Chungking has been arranged.

This comprehensive liaison provides the information which enables us to consider any weapon, or development of the United Nations as a possibility for our own armies. It also enables us to analyze a prospective development, after having focused upon it all the information obtainable through the technical liaison we have established.

It is, of course, impossible to discuss any of the many projects that we have under development in Canada. Through the Board, the Army Directorates, the National Research Council, and their development agencies, we have organized and harnessed our engineering, industrial, research and technical facilities from coast to coast. They are actively engaged in a most constructive manner upon the great task of providing our troops with the new weapons of war. Furthermore, research development has been organized to range far ahead of requirements for immediate field use; to ensure that we will consistently confront the enemy with new and superior equipment.

Canadian engineers, scientists and technicians, as well as our universities and research institutions, have already made great contributions. Canada and Canadians are playing a vital part in the development of equipment required not only for our Armies but for other United Nations. The disparity that existed in equipment at the outbreak of war no longer exists.

The experience of life has taught us that practical long-range planning, and the vision to see ahead must be part and parcel of any programme that is designed to ensure permanent success. I am sure, that by this time, we have all realized that permanent and enduring peace must be the main objective of a long-range plan of all nations. Let us be sure, in the future, that when we think of development, it will be in the broadest possible terms and envisage every phase of our great heritage, as a constructive, contributing member of the Commonwealth of Nations. (Applause.)

Mr. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Gentlemen of The Empire Club and Guests: I was amused somewhat by the announcement that was made with reference to Major Hahn's coming to us today. He was said to be a member of The Hunt Club, Gun Section. He has demonstrated that to us today.

I was thinking, too, while listening to Major Hahn's address, how fortunate we are to have a man of mathematics, a man of physics, a man of other such basic studies, including law-Major Hahn is also a graduate of Osgoode Hall--who could step in at the critical moment and do in one, two, and three years what our enemies have been doing, shall I say, since 1918, which I think is a fact. These comments are all the more unusual to me, because matters of this kind are so foreign to my training and my present activities. I did not sit here "openmouthed", but that is the way I felt, listening to this marvellous address which you, Sir, have given such enlightenment on the development of the Bren Gun, in particular, such information on the development of German equipment in the way of uniformity of parts, in general.

We thank you, Sir, for coming to us today and giving us a great deal more information than heretofore we have had, and we hope that you soon will be able to scrap this equipment and that we shall have peace.

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The Development of Army Equipment


An examination of how the enemy planned his development programme and what has been accomplished. A brief summary of some of the equipment used by the enemy in order to shed light upon the policy he has adopted. Topics covered include: small arms equipment; rifle; standard and sub-machine guns; trench mortars with a rocket system of propulsion; projectors; bombs; field guns; mounted guns on self-propelled vehicles; anti-aircraft equipment; design characteristics of German equipment; anti-tank weapons; tanks; the policy of the German Army General Staff to keep the variety of weapons to the smallest possible number in order to give the necessary operational strength; advantages of such a programme; engineering standards; field trials. The strategic plan of attack by the enemy. Problems of procurement of weapons and equipment by the Allies. Weapon design and engineering that had to be introduced into Canada. The creation of the Army Technical Development Board in the spring of 1942. Function and responsibilities of the Board. Projects for development and how they originate. Completing and co-ordinating our liaison with the United Nations. Liaising with the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Russia, and China. Research development. Contributions from Canadian engineers, scientists, technicians, and universities. The need for practical long-range planning and the vision to see ahead as part and parcel of any programme that is designed to ensure permanent success.