The successful convoy operations of mid-December 41 and first week of January 42 also brought some new technology to the Axis forces, which managed to somewhat restore their hitting power.
Ariete’s support was strengthened by the arrival of the Semovente da 75/18, a self-propelled gun on the M13 tank chassis. Two batteries of these guns were established and almost certainly participated in the January reconquest of Cyrenaica. I presume that despite the short barrel this gun could have been reasonably effective, because of its use of a hollow-charge round (Effeto Pronto) with good penetration capabilities – this site gives 120mm, but would have suffered from low accuracy due to low muzzle velocity.
Semovente da 75/18 – I presume it is Rommel in the staff car to the rear, and the picture is most likely from the start of the January 42 counter-offensive.
90.Leichte Afrika-Division’s anti-tank battalion was strengthened by the arrival of the first Dianas, a somewhat haphazard-looking (shotgun) marriage between a medium halftrack chassis (Sdkfz 6, with this variant being the 6/3) and a captured Russian Feldkanone 36(r) (the Russian F-22 Divisional Gun), which, with its high hitting power would have been bad news for anything in the tank department of the Commonwealth. I am somewhat less certain however how much action these saw during the reconquest, or how efficient they were overall. A lot of technical info can be found at this link, and there are lots of pretty pictures of the Flames of War model of the Sdkfz 6/3 at this link. While the whole thing looks like a contraption, I should think that if put in a good position for long-range sniping it could have been quite effective, and the crew was certainly better protected than the crews of the Commonwealth 2-pdr portees, or the Italian gun crews on their truck-mounted artillery pieces.
The very useful Lone Sentry site has information from a wartime bulletin on both of these, including nice drawings, at this link.
I would like to comment on the penetration value of the hollow charge round used by the Semovente da 75/18; I think I can explain it a little further.
The 120 mm value probably derives from Nicola Pignato’s book, “Semovente da 75/18”; it’s normally considered a reliable source because the author spent years researching this and was considered, together with Filippo Cappellano, the leading expert of Italian WWII AFVs. Anyway, in a cutaway drawing of the shells employed, he explains that, from data coming from firing tests done under the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (the army of the RSI), the E.P.S. shell (“Effetto Prontissimo” o “Effetto Pronto Speciale”) could pierce some 70 mm of armor at an angle of 60° (with a German fuze); he says that this could explains the claims made by foreign sources (but he doesn’t specify what sources) that at right angles the penetration could reach 120 mm.
That being said, the E.P.S. shell came later than the E.P. one, and its main difference was in the fuze: in the latter, it was at the bottom and the explosion occurred with a slight delay (which some say made this shell akin to a makeshift HESH, at least when it came to effects), while in the former it was at the top and the explosion was immediate (and it was described as being an identical layout to the German H.L. shells).
All in all, however, when it comes to the performance of the E.P. shell (the one employed in North Africa), while the debate is still somewhat open for lack of precise data, it is safe to assume that it could negotiate with a maximum thickness of around 70 mm, thus being consistent with its success against US-built medium tanks.
I hope this proves useful.
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