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QF-17 Pounder: This British Tank Destroyer Ate Hitler’s Tanks for Lunch

17 Pounder Example
First tank destroyer type 17pdr SP Achilles of the Yeomanry Regiment entered the town of La Roche-en-Ardenne in December 1944.

It was virtually everything one could ask for in a tank destroyer: a long, powerful main gun, a steeply sloped hull, and it packed potent armor-piercing ammunition.

The Problem

During the Second World War, the British Army’s standard-issue antitank gun was the Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder, also known simply as the 6 pounder. Though the gun was sufficient to take on most German armored vehicles during the early years of the war, the gun quickly became obsolete thanks to the ever better-protected tanks fielded by Nazi Germany.

The Answer: QF-17-Pounder

Addressing this penetration shortfall, the British designed and fielded the QF 17-pounder, a high-velocity 3-inch gun that greatly outclassed the 6-pounder — and could defeat virtually all German tanks it went up against. It was this mighty main gun that the British outfitted to their 17pdr self-propelled anti-tank gun — arguably one of the most capable Allied tank destroyers of the war.

The British 17pdr self-propelled anti-tank gun was in effect a modified M10, a powerful American tank destroyer, itself based on the venerable M4 Sherman medium tank chassis with a highly modified turret design and slightly larger diameter, more powerful main gun. As a secondary armament, the 17pdr tank destroyer sported a .50 caliber heavy machine gun.

Whereas the American M10 was designed for speed and had a lighter armor protection package, the British opted for additional armor and welded additional armor plating to the 17pdr’s sides and front.

A Real Threat

The 17pdr’s battlefield effectiveness was quickly realized by the Germans, who began to target the tank destroyer before other tanks in an effort to knock the powerful platform out of action.

One of the 17pdr’s few downsides was its unique main gun, which was not only longer than that of most other tanks and tank destroyers but also featured a distinctive barrel counterweight placed just behind the gun’s bulbous muzzle brake. In order to disguise the gun, parts of the barrel were counter-shaded with the hope of confusing German anti-tank crews.

In practice, the 17pdr was used as a rapidly deployable anti-tank gun that could respond quickly to reinforce positions that engaged German armor. In this role more as a defensive gun, the 17pdr excelled, as it could take up protected positions that helped to mitigate the tank’s somewhat vulnerable armor package.

Though not the best-armored tank of the war, the 17pdr excelled, especially when in defensive positions, at blunting Nazi Germany’s armored Blitzkrieg tactics of rapid massed armor and infantry movements. Thin armor packaging aside, the tank’s powerful main gun easily punched through most tanks it went up against and was in effect an excellent amalgamation of American armor and British guns.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

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