In 1940, when an artillerystarved Britain required a simple, powerful anti-tank gun, a certain Mr Smith had the solution. John Ash profiles the 3in Mk.I OSB Gun

Winston Churchill inspects the Smith Gun at Shoeburyness in June 1941. Also shown are Sir Archibald Sinclair (Secretary for Air), David Margesson (Secretary for War) and Lord Beaverbrook. Note the 2-pounder at the back-left
IWM H10695

At the outbreak of World War Two, the British Army was in a unique position. A small, professional, all-volunteer force, it was also the only fully motorised unit among the major powers and boasted a variety of modern weapons and vehicles largely equal or superior to those fielded by Germany. The only problem was that Britain’s vehicles and heavy equipment were being produced too slowly.

One new and vital armament was the 2-pounder Accepted in 1935 as a standardised tank/anti-tank gun, early versions of the latter entered service in 1936 and soon reached Royal Artillery regiments. The QF 2-pounder was arguably the most capable anti-tank gun available in 1940, but it was in short supply and high demand – even before Dunkirk it was supplemented with a French 25mm Hotchkiss design. After Dunkirk, given the added requirements of the RAF and its need to protect its bases, the needs of the newly formed Local Defence Volunteers/Home Guard and an army stripped of its heavy equipment, the situation was dire. Only a few hundred of the more than 2,800 artillery pieces taken to France had returned and a German invasion was imminent.

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