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"Attack by a combined arms battle-group" by Leslie Ashwell Wood. Ink & gouache on board.


"Attack by a combined arms battle-group" by Leslie Ashwell Wood

Catalogue ref: INF 3/1580Links to the Catalogue

A black and white illustration demonstrating an attack by a combined arms battle-group through enemy positions in the latter half of WWII. The attention to detail in this piece is excellent as with all of Ashwell Wood's work.

The piece was probably commissioned for an information pamphlet or book and would have been captioned to correspond with the numbers on the illustration.

The Breakthrough

  1. British infantry armed with sub machine guns and .303 Enfield rifles advance supported by Churchill Mk 6 infantry tanks with 75mm guns.
  2. Enemy trenches are scorched by flame-throwing Churchill Mk 7 Crocodiles. This fearsome weapon was the standard 75mm armed Mk 6 (above) with a flame gun in the bow and towing a trailer of flame fuel.
  3. Churchill tanks carrying fascines (bundles of wood) allow the advance to continue by dropping the fascines into the ditches to form a temporary bridge over which men and vehicles can pass.
  4. Churchill AVREs (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) destroy enemy blockhouses. The Churchill AVRE was armed with a 290mm spigot mortar, which could fire a 40lb bomb approximately 80 yards and was used to reduce enemy fortifications and concrete bunkers.
  5. An M4 Sherman tank with attached dozer blade clears enemy mines and assists the battle group in overcoming obstacles and fortifications.
  6. Sherman "flail" tanks, also known as ‘Crabs', clear minefields for the infantry. The Sherman flail tank, designed by Major General Percy Hobart, was fitted with a 10-foot long spinning cylinder to which 3-foot-long heavy chains were attached. The ends of the chains had fist-sized steel balls. As the tank crept forward, the chains were whipped around and slammed into the ground at a depth of several inches, detonating buried mines.

The Advance

  1. M4 Sherman tanks.
  2. Cromwell tanks. First used in the D-Day landings, the British-designed Cromwell 'heavy cruiser' tank replaced the more vulnerable Crusader. Fast, manoeuvrable and easy to maintain, it partnered the Sherman as the major battle armour of the Allied armies.
  3. Aircraft from an Army Co-operation squadron of the RAF act as the eyes of the advancing armoured force, giving advance warning of further units of the enemy and spotting for the artillery.
  4. The armoured battle group advances into open country and exploits the breakthrough.
  5. Universal Carriers or ‘Bren Gun' carriers advance immediately behind the tanks to provide close infantry support. The Universal carrier was a small open topped tracked armoured vehicle, which could transport a section of infantry or stores, weapons or ammunition.
  6. Lorry-borne infantry move forward behind the armoured vehicles over ground, which has been cleared of the enemy.
  7. Quad artillery tractors bring up 25lb artillery guns to suppress depth enemy positions and to support the advance.

Ashwell-Wood's technical and explanatory drawings were incorporated into various magazines and official publications, which endeavoured to explain to the British public just how the fighting forces and their equipment functioned and operated.

He went on to achieve greater fame in the post-war era as the illustrator of the technical drawings that appeared each week in the centre pages of the Eagle comic.