Anti-Tank Platoon 1942-45
The Anti-Tank Platoon was created in June of 1942, when the regiment was issued a pair of 2-pounder (40mm) anti-tank guns. Lieutenant Mark Tennant was the first commander of this platoon, and later commanded the platoon on the Continent. In the early months of the platoon’s history, they obtained first place in field firing over all other Canadian units, topping the Canadian Corps with a 65.9 percent score, and beating the record for getting a gun into action with a time of 14 seconds, a three second improvement over the previous record.
By 1944, the Anti-Tank Platoon consisted of half a dozen 6-pounder (57mm) anti-tank guns. The infantry battalion had other anti-tank assets to draw on as well; each rifle platoon was armed with a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank), and the Divisional Anti-Tank Regiment was armed with 17-pounder guns, both towed and self propelled.
The 6-pounder was a relatively small gun that could be pushed by its crew when necessary. It was towed by a Universal Carrier, and could be brought into action quickly. The gun fired both Armour Piercing and High Explosive rounds, and could be used to engage not just armoured fighting vehicles, but also soft-skin vehicles, enemy entrenchments, and buildings.
The 6-pounder Anti-Tank Gun
The 6-pounder replaced the early 2-pounder (40mm) anti-tank gun in use at the start of the Second World War. By July 1944, the 6-pounder was proving inadequate against the bulk of German medium and heavy armour; against the heavier tanks like the Tiger or Panther, the 6-pounder was all but useless. Of the original platoon of 6-pounders issued to the Highlanders, only one (“Betsie”) survived the war, and is currently at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Betsy fired 1500 rounds (1200 at the enemy), one of them being the last round fired by The Calgary Highlanders on active service during the 1939-45 war.
Typical Anti-Tank Platoon
By 1944, the Anti-Tank Platoon of an infantry battalion fielded 6 guns and was the Number Five Platoon of the battalion. The platoon was a part of Support Company.