And welcome back to part two of our tour of the 17 pounder M10 Achilles. Right, so I mentioned at the beginning of the first part that the mantlet showed a significant difference between the original 17 pounder M10 and this particular example. Well, the reason is, because that this is an ex-Israeli vehicle and the Israelis, never happy with anything they get, modified it a little bit. So, imagine if you will, please, the gunner was originally located in a frankly quite cramped position, on the left hand side of the turret. Well the Israelis moved him over to the right. Instead of the gunner’s sight, they replaced it with a co-axial machine gun. Well, again, remember, the original vehicle was, at least the British considered it a self-propelled anti-tank gun. There is no need for a machine gun, and the US Army didn’t have any great need for a machine gun either. The only machine gun they needed was ‘Ma Deuce’ the caliber 50. This was a purely hand cranked turret. There was a large wheel here which was a simple cog system that you simply cranked very quickly to get the gun to point whatever way you wanted it to point. Well of course, now on the other side, the Israelis changed that as well, however, we’ll get to that in a minute. This position is simple enough as befits the rest of this very simple vehicle. He has no turret platform. He also doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of room. The 17 pounder is a very big gun. This is part of the reason why the Americans did not like Firefly. If you can imagine, this big breech inside of a Sherman turret, didn’t work out too well for them. He has six ready rounds available to him in the turret. Three on the left turret wall and three on the rear. Also on the turret rear, we have the mounting point for the caliber .50 machine gun. Additional stowage for the 17 pounder ammunition is found in the hull sponsons, stored horizontally on both sides. So I’ve now come over to the gunner’s position and there is a couple of points here. First is my seating position is angled inwards a little bit. There’s a little bucket for my feet to make sure they don’t get caught when the gun is traversed around. We can see that one of the oil gear traverse systems looks just like that out of an M4 Sherman. So this is obviously power traverse. Now with that said, there is no power traverse controller here. What there is, is a cable that runs back to the commander’s position. It looks like the commander does the power traverse to slew onto a target and then the gunner takes over with the hand cranks. Now, again, the original vehicle is going to be fairly simplistic. Both the M10 and the 17 pounder version have a simple screw for elevating the gun. Large hand wheel on the side here. Now the original M10 had a gun depression of about 10 degrees. The 17 pounder; five. And, I’ve measured it. I’ve taken this vehicle, put the gun all the way to the bottom and taken a quadrant. This is 5 degrees. Now, with that said, there are people who have seen some photographs and if you measure the photograph it looks like 10 degrees for the 17 pounder. What’s going on? Now the best I’ve been able to find is there is a removable stop on the elevation system that stops the gun from depressing more than five degrees. Now I haven’t found it myself, but it is possible that it is behind the canvas bag that sheaths the system from debris and dirt. Now as for why the British did this, I’m not entirely sure. My suspicion, however, is that the recoil of the 17 pounder was so much greater that you didn’t want to have the additional upward impulse caused by the greater depression. So, my guess is, that for safety or mechanical reasons, the gun depression has been limited in this vehicle. Now some of the lads, particularly the Brits on the EU forums, seem to think I have this issue against the 17 pounder. I don’t. I have an issue against Firefly, because of the huge gun in the small turret, and the accompanying problems. I also have an issue with the SVDS ammo, which everyone says ‘Hey this is a great ammunition’, and true on paper. If you hit something at point blank range it will go through a very remarkable 9 inches of armor. The problem was, it pretty much had to be at point blank range. Repeated tests, a couple of years apart, by the US proved that it was very inaccurate at any range. Even British documentation from late ’44 indicated the same thing. At this time of writing, although we all agree that the British did fix the accuracy problems with the 17 pounder sabot, eventually, there is some dispute as to when exactly they did it. Anything I can find indicates that this was some time after the war. The first actual solution was the Canadians with their ‘Pot Sabot’ in about 1946. Now, that said, this gun fired more than just sabot. Obviously, by the end of the war, there was a very useful HE round, reduced charge, so it was nice and slow. You could see the tracer on that very easily. The other ammunition was your standard APCBC round which could pierce a very respectable 7 and a half inches of metal at 30 degrees, and was reasonably accurate. As a result, it is probably fair to say that the Achilles 17 pounder was probably the best self-propelled anti-tank gun of the war, at least until the M36 Jackson came along. Of the various types of ammunition the gunner had available to him, there are about 50 rounds stowed around the vehicle for him to choose from. Back to the operation of the gun itself. To his from there would normally be a No.43 telescope. It’s a x3 optic. It was also possible to find a panoramic telescope that at least the commander could use as well. There is an azimuth indicator on his right. As mentioned there are the elevation and traverse controls. They are extremely close together, not ideal. But, if you have the power traverse from the commander’s override working, he’s only going to be doing fine lay. So I guess he’s going to be able to live with it. Moving to the gun itself, we’ve got the travel lock for the 17 pounder. Fits into here. They never removed the travel lock for the three inch. It’s further forward inside the turret, but I guess it’s not in anyone’s way. Firing system, simplicity itself. It’s a lanyard. Dangles down from here, connects through this, pull down, this level comes up, this moves, this bar over here sets off the firing pin. The safety is ingenious. It is a push rod, that is currently in the safe position. The rod connects to here and prevents the rod from moving. All you do to fire is pull it out, and rotate it to the side and now the lever is free to move up or down. Or basically it would be if it weren’t rusted into position. The breech; vertically sliding, and the recoil guard is huge. Basically to get from one side of the vehicle to the other, you have to climb over it. It does also kind of cramp the loader and commander a little bit as well. So this is pretty much the engagement position for the gunner, and my head is at an angle, My left elbow is hard in, to clear the gun, and my right hand is kind of interfering with my knees, as I rotate the traverse handle. So this shows how cramped I am if I have my head down in position to look through the sight. And you can actually see that the elevation wheel does not provide clearance against the traverse hand wheel. Which is a little bit of a nuisance. Get it out of the way, and, I’m still a little tight, but I guess the trick is that you better hope that the correct elevation for hitting your target does not require any more traverse. It’s not a great position on the Israeli modification, now if I sort of come back a little bit and think about what it was like with an original hand crank traverse with the big wheel, there’s not much room for that either. Crew efficiency; not ideal on this vehicle. One last thing while I’m here about the counterweights and traversing. The original gun was of a certain length, much shorter than the 17 pounder. Now because of the way the 17 pounder is mounted on the trunnions, they needed to add a counterweight on the far end of the gun, right behind the muzzle break to make it easier for the gunner to elevate and depress the gun. The catch is, this has made the turret even more front heavy than it would have been, without the counterweight at the end. I mean, the gun is heavy enough as it is. So, this does not bode well, I think, for the concept of traversing while the vehicle is not on relatively level ground. Unfortunately, I do not have unlevel ground to put this on to test it for myself, and I haven’t seen any reports specifically on it one way or another, so this is entirely speculation on my part. The commander’s position on this vehicle is located right rear. He’s got the typical round seat. Although I do note that it is located perfectly placed together with the rim of the turret. That I can simply relax and rest my leg upon the seat. It’s actually kind of comfortable up here. Bearing in mind also that this is an open topped vehicle. The whole point of the tank destroyers being, you’re going to see the enemy first and shoot them first. And historically, whoever shot first tended to win, probably for a couple of reasons. But, that’s the bottom line. If you see the enemy first, shoot the enemy first, you’re probably going to come out better for the deal. So you would have, in the Israeli modification the Commander’s override here. He has the caliber .50 to his rear. In the American version at least, there would be 300 rounds of caliber .50 ammunition available to him. There was an intercom system. It was the only electrical system above the turret ring in the original vehicles. Obviously, with the addition of the power traverse that has changed a little bit. Nothing much else for him to do here. He’s got a great view of the crew, great view of the world around him, and a nice big recoil guard to protect his legs. That’s it for the turret. Now we move forward. Right, so those contortions were because the gun mantlet was directly over the driver’s hatch, which was mentioned earlier, you can’t open or close the hatch if the gun is to the front at all. So, that said, the seat backs do fold, so it’s probably much easier to come in and out through the turret. Especially since there is no basket at all. So there’s nothing interfering unless the gun happens to be at that wrong angle where it’s at your access point. So, moving in, the seat does come up and down simply enough. So the Driver’s position will be our last one here, because the assistant driver simply has nothing to do. The radio would be mounted in the sponson to his right, but he has no driver’s controls, he has no hull machine gun, he is pretty much along for the ride. He does have the periscope to his front so he can look around and help spot threats. He also has the escape hatch, which is down behind him should he need it. Driver’s position is pretty much what you would expect on a Sherman type vehicle. Steering is done, of course, with the tillers, which also act as your brake. It is fixed radius steering, so five feet would be the absolute minimum in first gear, and in top gear it would be 26 feet. Speaking of gears, clutch pedal to the left, transmission to the right. Its five speed synchronized. First gear tops out at a whopping 2 miles per hour, and by the time you hit 17 you want to be in fifth. So that gives you an idea of the spread range. Speaking of clutches, we have the two clutches for the two engines, as opposed to the clutch for the transmission. And you could engage them or disengage them by depressing the clutch pedal and pulled one lever or the other out as required. Accelerator; there is the accelerator and the hand throttle. The accelerator is, of course, the pedal on the floor. The operator manual is quite descriptive on how to use it, ‘To go forward depress pedal.’ I guess it’s worth noting that back then not everyone had cars. Especially if, maybe, you’re an inner city boy. The hand throttle, out is more gas, in is less gas. Sometimes when I get in some of these vehicles, the diagram doesn’t match up with what I was expecting, but in this case I know this is true, because when I depress the accelerator I can see the throttle come up. Controls to his left, the typical panel, you would have seen something like this in the M4A2 if you looked inside one. So, obviously we have the panel lights. We have two sets of oil pressure, obviously one for each engine. Oil Temperature, fuel. You would select which fuel tank you wanted to look at with your selector. The manual does recommend that you use one fuel tank to dry before you switch over to the other. So, I don’t know if that’s a way of making the refueling process simpler, but that’s what the manual says. Speedometer, two tachometers; one for each engine. Starter button, one for each engine. These would be the main lights, black out marker, blackout drive, stop lights only, and full headlights. Also, and this is a toggle to select which engine’s temperature you would like to read. They are circuit breakers, and finally we have a warning light for water or low oil pressure. To get going, you start off of course with master power which is in its traditional position over the left shoulder. Lockout two engine clutches. Depress the accelerator half way, bring it back to idle. You’re not looking for the pressure warning lights. If all is good, go ahead and start one engine, using the starter. Once that is up and running, start the other engine. Let them warm up a bit. Depress the clutch pedal, put the engines into gear, of course you’re still in neutral. Release the clutch pedal, your engine is now connected and you can drive on. It is possible to start one engine with the other. Let’s say your starter motor is gone, or it’s really really cold, and you want to save on the battery. Once you have the first engine running, go ahead and with the clutch pedal depressed, put both of the engine back into connection with the transmission by use of the individual clutches. Give it a bit of gas, let go of the clutch. Now the one engine is mechanically connected to the other. It should start up. Of course compression system, no electricity required. Outside of that, nothing really in here. The transmission takes a fair bit of space to his right, but that’s pretty much standard. He does have a headrest to protect his head from falling back too much. There is cushion above him as well. So he doesn’t hurt his head. Usually the driver is just going to be wearing the soft plastic helmet, but that’s enough to stop you from getting the knocks and bangs. The position is comfortable for somebody who’s shorter than I am. I can drive this, which is saying something compared to some other vehicles I have been in, in the past. I’m going to digress. Yes, I am taller than most. My thinking is that if I am comfortable in a tank, then shorter people are really comfortable They’re going to have a lot of room to work, they’re going to be very efficient. If I am uncomfortable, but can still operate it, then shorter people are probably going to be okay, and if I can’t operate it at all, even if shorter people can operate it, then they’re still probably going to be a little bit cramped, a little bit uncomfortable, and they will be less efficient. Right, and we are done in here. Now I am not going to attempt to extricate myself again through the main door. They are actually called doors and not hatches in the manual. Instead I’m going to take advantage that there is no turret basket and get out the easy way. So that’s about it. 1648 M10s were sent to the British, and about two thirds of them were converted to 17 pounder. They were used in troops of usually four guns, and themselves in mixed batteries of anti-tank regiments. A battery consisted of mixed vehicles, a troop of self-propelled M10s, a troop of towed 17 pounders and a troop of towed 6 pounders all in the same battery. All these vehicles were manned by Royal Artillery personnel. Not tankers. The difference between British Anti-tank doctrine and US Tank Destroyer concept, is that although the Royal Artillery considered them anti-tank guns, they were not held purely in reserve. American Tank Destroyers were entirely a reactionary force. However, the British were aggressive with their guns, sighting them further forward along an expected enemy avenue of attack. The Americans would be more held to the rear, in order to respond en masse to whatever came up. Now at the corps level, the British anti-tank artillery did function very similarly to the tank destroyer concept. This is a matter of detail. They were more in effect the corps’ fire brigade. And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed your tour of the Achilles, and we’ll see you on the next one.