We were gonna run this during Tank Week. But we forgot. *le sigh*
The advent of tanks on the battlefield naturally led to the almost immediate scramble to develop infantry weapons to stop them. Some were far more effective than others. Many had far greater theoretical effectiveness on the drawing board or range than in action, though battlefield use quickly taught users how to make mobility kills if a crew or vehicle kill weren’t possible. Early developments included bundled grenades, the 13mm German Mauser Tank-Gewehr Mod. 1918, and Rheinmetall’s 3.7 cm Tak and field guns. These evolved through the P14.5 PTRS-41 Simonov, the bazooka, the Piat, the Panzerfaust and so on until you get to weapons like the RPG29 and Javelins of today.
One of the weapons used in WWII against (mostly) German armor was the Mk. I Boys Rifle, and none other than Walt Disney (as in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck) was enlisted to help instruct its use. The result: Stop that Tank!, a contemporary video tutorial that broke the Boys Rifle down Barney style in a way that would probably be helpful to some of our Joes and Janes learning modern weaponry today.
The Boys was a .55 caliber bolt action anti-tank rifle that was over 5 ft. long and weighed 36 lbs. Tens of thousand were produced during WWII and issued to British and Commonwealth units all over the world, as well as Allied “Free Forces” like the Poles and French.
It wasn’t terribly effective against anything much heavier than Axis light tanks and armored reconnaissance vehicles (more so against Japanese AFVs than German), and became even less so as the war progressed.
Although the idea of a Disney film made to provide weapon instruction might seem counterintuitive, the reality is that Disney studios contributed to dozens of wartime films, educational and propaganda, and many of them are very good. For instance, if you fast forward to approximately 12:31 in Stop That Tank! you can watch some excellent instructions on aiming. Using the adjustable rear sight, the film instructs soldiers how to engage frontal targets approaching head on, to hit tanks in enfilade, as its approaching diagonally and how to maintain a slight lead to make an accurate hit.
Some other points to look at, if you don’t want to sit through the whole thing (including one sequence when a cartoon Hitler goes to hell);
→3:21 Characteristics and cycle of operation
→5:33 Cautionary message about angle of impact and ricochet
→5:51 aiming points for medium and heavy tanks (allegedly)
→6:59 begins walking you through the weapon features.
→At 19:24 you can learn to clean the damn thing — one would assume armorers of the day were as much of a pain in the ass as they are today.
Here’s the film.
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