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"Infantry weapons" by Leslie Ashwell-Wood, 1943. Ink & gouache on board.

Infantry weapons

"Infantry weapons" by Leslie Ashwell-Wood, 1942

Catalogue ref: INF 3/1583Links to the Catalogue

Four interesting illustrations entitled infantry weapons for page 17 of an unknown publication. The illustrations are numbered in red in the margin 20 to 23.

Illustration 20 shows the two-man crew of a PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti Tank).

The PIAT fired a Hollow-charge anti-tank grenade out to a distance of about 100 yards, but because it worked on a spigot principle it could also toss HE (High Explosive) or smoke grenades to a far greater range.

PIAT was amongst the most effective infantry anti-tank weapons of its day, with a performance equal to that of the visually more sophisticated American bazooka. Although it was a cumbersome device, it possessed a number of advantages over such rocket weapons. There was no back-blast from firing, and so not only could it be safely fired from an enclosed space, but it would also not give away its handler's position to the enemy.

The range of the PIAT was, however, very short. It was effective against large targets, such as buildings, at 350 yards, but it was only truly effective against armour at a range of 100 yards, although many operators preferred their target to be closer still. The PIAT bomb could penetrate 75mm of armour plate and so was ideally suited to dealing with light or medium armoured targets, however given the right conditions it was capable of dispatching any tank in service.

Image 21 shows a British 3 inch mortar and crew in action.

Image 22 shows a soldier throwing a sticky grenade at an advancing German tank. The Nº 74 Grenade (Sticky Bomb) was designed as an anti-tank grenade and was disliked by everybody who ever came across it.

The grenade consisted of a glass ball on the end of a bakelite (plastic) handle. Inside the glass ball was an explosive filling whilst on the outside was a very sticky adhesive covering. Until used, this adhesive covering was encased in a metal outer casing.

Due to the use of glass in these grenades, they were fragile and travelled badly. Quite often the glass would crack in transit, causing the explosive to start leaking out. This explosive, which leaked out, was not very sensitive to friction but was very sensitive to impact and detonation could occur if the exposed explosive received a blow due to careless handling.

To use the grenade, you removed the case release pin (not the pin marked 'DANGER'). This allowed the metal protective casing to fall free, exposing the adhesive coating. You then gripped the handle and safety lever and removed the safety pin (marked 'DANGER'). The grenade was now ready to either throw or attach to the target.

Image 23 shows a British 6 pounder anti tank gun and crew. The 6 pounder had an effective range of approximately 900 yards and could penetrate up to 70mm of armour. The 6 pounder anti-tank gun first appeared in the latter part of 1941 and replaced the earlier 2 pounder anti-tank gun which was by now obsolete. The 6 pounder was used to good effect in the North African campaign and proved effective against the medium German tanks, the mark 3s and 4s

With the arrival of the Panther and Tiger tanks in 1943 the 6 pounder in turn became obsolete and was eventually superseded by the 17 pounder.

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.

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