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Armed forces in World War Two - Britain

Written by Sakhal

Britain 1939 - Army

Individual weapons - Pistols: Enfield No. 2 Mk 1 caliber .38, Webley Mk VI caliber .45, British Colt and Webley caliber .45
Individual weapons - Rifles: Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 and several types of the preceding No. 1, all of caliber 7.7 mm
Individual weapons - Hand bombs: N36 and N69 antipersonnel, N73 and N74 antitank, N77 and N80 of smoke

Automatic weapons - Submachine guns: At the outbreak of the war there was no provision of submachine guns
Automatic weapons - Automatic rifles: Bren and Vickers Berthier (this latter used only in India), both of caliber 7.7 mm
Automatic weapons - Machine guns: Lewis caliber 7.62 mm and 7.7 mm, Vickers caliber 7.7 mm

Mortars: Mortars of 50 mm and 76 mm

Antitank weapons - Light: Boys antitank carbine caliber 14 mm, Hotchkiss machine gun of 25/72 mm, cannon of 40/50 mm
Antitank weapons - Heavy: At the outbreak of the war there were no heavy pieces of specific antitank role
Antitank weapons - Self-propelled: At the outbreak of the war there were no series self-propelled pieces in service

Artillery - Cannons: Of 49 mm (a), 57/50 mm, 76/55 mm (a), 94 mm (a), 114 mm (a), 127 mm and 152 mm. Besides, a certain number of naval artillery pieces were used for coastal defense
Artillery - Howitzers: Of 94 mm, 95 mm and 152 mm

Armored vehicles: 1000 light tanks (Carden Loyd of 1.7 t, Vickers of 5.4 t, Medium Mk II), 146 medium tanks (A15 Cruiser Mk III), plus several types of armored cars and some hundreds of Bren tracked transporters

Chemical weapons - Flamethrowers: No models of flamethrowers were in service at the outbreak of the war

(a) Antiaircraft.

Britain 1939 - Navy

Battleships: 5 Queen Elizabeth class of 31000 t, 5 Royal Sovereign class of 29150 t, 2 Nelson class of 33900 t, 2 Repulse class of 32000 t, 1 Hood class of 42000 t, King George V and Prince of Wales of 36750 t (a)

Aircraft carriers: 2 Courageous class of 22500 t, 1 Argus class of 14000 t (b), 1 Eagle class of 22600 t, 1 Hermes class of 10850 t, 1 Ark Royal class of 22000 t

Cruisers: 13 Kent class of 10000 t, 8 Southampton class of 9000 t, 2 York class of 8250 t, 8 Leander class of 7000 t, 5 Bellona class of 5900 t, 6 Dido class of 5450 t, 4 Arethusa class of 5250 t (c)

Destroyers: 69 units of 1000 t plus 10 drivers of 1500 t (d), 80 Amazon class of 1350 t plus 9 drivers of 1500 t (e)

Submarines: 57 units (33 oceanic and 24 coastal)

(a) Just entered into service and still ineffective for combat.
(b) Obtained by transformation of the Italian steamship Conte Rosso and used only for training purposes.
(c) At the beginning of the war there were still 22 old cruisers of about 5000 tonnes in service, some of which were transformed during the war into antiaircraft units, by reinforcing their armament.
(d) Units built during the Great War.
(e) Units built between 1928 and 1939.

Britain 1939 - Aviation

Fighter aircraft: Gloster Gladiator, Bolton Paul Defiant (a), Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire

Bomber aircraft: AW Whitley, Fairey Battle (b), Bristol Blenheim (light), Handley Page Hampden, Vickers Wellington (medium), Fairey Swordfish (c)

Reconnaissance aircraft: Short Sunderland (d), Hawker Hart (liaison) plus several types of bombers adapted to this purpose, Westland Lysander for liaison and observation

Transport aircraft: At the outbreak of the war there was not a type of aircraft specifically used for transport in the RAF

(a) Firstly used as diurnal fighter, but due to some of its characteristics it was soon used exclusively as night fighter.
(b) Fighter-bomber.
(c) Torpedo bomber.
(d) Long-range seaplane.


Armed forces (equipment) of Britain in 1939.

Britain 1943 update - Army

Automatic weapons - Submachine guns: Lanchester Mk 1 and Sten, both of caliber 9 mm
Automatic weapons - Machine guns: Besa caliber 7.92 mm (a) and Besa Mk 1 caliber 15 mm (b)

Antitank weapons - Rockets: PIAT caliber 87 mm
Antitank weapons - Cannons: Of 40 mm, 57 mm, 76 mm and 88 mm
Antitank weapons - Self-propelled: Archer of 75 mm

Artillery - Cannons: Of 40 mm (c), 75 mm (c), 88 mm (e), 94 mm (d), 95 mm (e), 105 mm, 114 mm (c) and 140 mm
Artillery - Howitzers: Of 94 mm, 95 mm and 180 mm

Armored vehicles: Tanks Cruiser of 15 t, Crusader of 19 t, Valentine of 17.7 to 18.5 t, Churchill of 37.88 t, Cavalier (f) and Centaur (f)

Chemical weapons - Flamethrowers: Two models of flamethrowers were tested in combat in small numbers in 1943, but they were immediately retired to be modified

(a) Installed in heavy armored vehicles.
(b) Installed in light armored vehicles.
(c) Antiaircraft.
(d) Antiaircraft produced in two versions, the Mk 1 and the Mk 6.
(e) Self-propelled.
(f) Produced in small number and little used in operations.

NOTE: Not included the American material obtained by means of the Lend and Lease Law.

Britain 1943 update - Navy

Battleships: Duke of York, Anson and Howe of 35000 t

Aircraft carriers: Illustrious, Victorious and Formidable of 23000 t, Indomitable of 29730 t, Implacable and Indefatigable of 32100 t

Cruisers: 3 Superb class of 8000 t, 1 Newfoundland class of 8718 t, 2 Fiji class of 8000 t, 2 Diadem class of 7400 t, 3 Dido class of 5450 t

Destroyers: 1 Venus class, 2 Ulster class and 2 Troubridge class, all of 1710 t, 2 Rotherham class of 1705 t, 7 Britain class of 1450 t, 5 Milne class of 1902 t, 5 Napier class of 1760 t

Submarines: 7 T class of 1090/1575 t, 3 S class of 715/1000 t

Britain 1943 update - Aviation

Fighter aircraft: Westland Whirlwind (a), Blackburn Rock, Fairey Fulmar (b), Bristol Beaufighter (c), Hawker Typhoon (a)

Bomber aircraft: Bristol Beaufort (d), Fairey Albacore (d), Fairey Barracuda (d), Avro Lancaster, Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax

Reconnaissance aircraft: De Havilland Mosquito (e), De Havilland Dominie (f), Miles Master (f)

Transport aircraft: Bristol Bombay (g), Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle

(a) Fighter-bomber.
(b) Naval fighter.
(c) Heavy and night fighter.
(d) Torpedo bomber.
(e) Reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber.
(f) Training aircraft.
(g) Transport aircraft and bomber.


Armed forces (equipment) of Britain in 1943 (update).

Britain 1945 update - Army

Individual weapons - Rifles: No. 4 Mk 2, No. 4 Mk 1/2 and 1/3, No. 5 Mk 1, all of caliber 7.7 mm

Automatic weapons - Machine guns: During the war the British war industry did not develop, excepting for the two Besa, new types of machine guns, but 79632 weapons (Marlin, Vickers, Lewis and Browning) were received from North America

Antitank weapons - Cannons: Vickers of 75 mm, HV of 77 mm
Antitank weapons - Self-propelled: Avenger of 76 mm (a)

Artillery - Cannons: Of 88 mm (d), 94 mm (b), 94 mm (d), 95 mm (d) and 133 mm (b)(c)

Armored vehicles: Tanks Cromwell of 28 t, Challenger of 33 t, Comet of 35.7 t and Centurion of 48.7 t

Chemical weapons - Flamethrowers: Backpack type "Ack Pack" of 22 kg

(a) Delivered to the Army, but never used in combat.
(b) Antiaircraft.
(c) Generally in twin mounting.
(d) Recoilless.

Britain 1945 update - Navy

Battleships: Vanguard of 50000 t

Aircraft carriers: 3 Majestic class of 17700 t, 2 Implacable class of 32100 t, plus several auxiliary units obtained from transformation of merchant ships

Cruisers: 2 Manxman class of 2650 t

Destroyers: 8 C class, 11 Zambesi class, 9 Wagner class, 4 Valentine class, 6 Ulster class, 4 Troubridge class, all of 1710 t

Submarines: 1 A class of 1120/1620 t, 13 T class of 1090/1575 t, 14 S class of 715/1000 t

Britain 1945 update - Aviation

Fighter aircraft: Supermarine Seafire (a), Fairey Firefly (b), Gloster Meteor (c)

Bomber aircraft: Hawker Tempest (d)

Reconnaissance aircraft: Supermarine Sea Otter (e)

Transport aircraft: Avro York

(a) Naval fighter.
(b) Polyvalent aircraft.
(c) Turbojet fighter, it was used to neutralize the V-1 flying bombs, but it had no chance of being used in combat.
(d) Attack aircraft.
(e) Liaison seaplane.


Armed forces (equipment) of Britain in 1945 (update).

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Armed Forces in World War Two - United States

Categories: Statistics - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-08-09

Article updated: 2020-11-08

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