The Royal Tank Corps
Middle East command was to gain an Infantry Tank Brigade and to this end two independent armoured car companies were amalgamated into the new 6th Battalion Royal Tank Corps in 1933. One was in fact a light tank squadron, while the other was actually equipped with armoured cars, which were surrendered to bring the 11th Hussars to full strength. Four Vickers Medium Tank MK.IIA ‘Tropicals’ (clad in asbestos sheets) had been sent for trial in Egypt and these formed the initial ‘heavy’ component of the new battalion.
In the UK the existing battalions of the RTC (2nd, 3rd & 5th) had their light tank companies removed and amalgamated to form 1st (Light) Battalion RTC. The remaining 4th Battalion RTC was at this point in time an armoured car battalion. A period of training was planned for the new 1st Battalion before being sent to Egypt, but events would not wait for this to be completed and the battalion, along with more light and medium tanks, was sent to Egypt to bring the brigade up to strength.
The organisation of the two battalions was fundamentally different. The 1st Battalion consisted of three companies, each with a company headquarters of a single light tank and two sections each of five light tanks. The bulk of the vehicles were two-man Vickers Light Tanks MK.II or III, but a number of three-man Vickers Light Tank MK.V were also sent, but it is not known whether these joined 1st or 6th Battalion in the event. The MK.Vs were however in platoons of three vehicles, rather than five.
6th Battalion which still only had two companies, was formed into mixed companies with the arrival of the additional medium and light tanks. Each of these had a medium and a light tank for the company HQ and a recce section of two Vickers Carden-Loyd tankettes. There were two medium sections of two tanks each and two sections each of five Light Tanks MK. II & III, or three MK.V light tanks, depending on the actual deployment of the new vehicles.
While the force seems quite scant, all of the RTCs light tanks were now deployed overseas (if the independent companies in India are considered), barring a few training vehicles, around half of them in Egypt itself, along with a tenth of its mediums. With a two front war seeming very likely, the decision whether to deploy a battalion to the South and if so which one, was a problem being wrestled with by Middle East Command.
Chain of Command British Royal Tank Corps army list
In 1928 the 11th Hussars and the 12th Lancers were selected to become armoured car units, the two regiments being ‘paired’, so that one would serve overseas, while the other would be based in the UK and the two would exchange on the normal rotation basis. Rather than transport the vehicles as well as men, these would remain in-situ and the incoming regiment would simply take them over. By 1935 the ‘home unit’ possessed a squadron of Rolls-Royce armoured cars (on ‘occupation duty’ in the Saar) and two squadrons of Lanchester 6×4 armoured cars. The ‘Egyptian unit’ correspondingly had a single squadron of Ex-RTC Rolls-Royce armoured cars and two squadrons of Crossley MK. I 6×4 armoured cars. Organisation for all squadrons was a HQ section of two cars, with three troops, each three cars.
These two units were intended to be the initial components of a mobile division in the UK and a ‘mobile force’ in Egypt. The Egyptian force was to be made up of the afore-mentioned armoured car regiment, a regiment of motorised cavalry and two regiments of light tanks. The 8th Hussars were selected for conversion for the motorised cavalry role and the 4th and 7th Hussars for the tank role. While the 7th possessed a squadron worth of light tanks, the 4th were totally vehicle-less and neither regiment was to receive further vehicles until after the end of the crisis.
Various vehicles (mainly Ford V8s) were purchased as the mechanical mounts of the 8th Hussars. There was a dearth of drivers and mechanics (in the UK there was approximately one vehicle per fourteen people and few working-class people knew how to drive) and the 11th Hussars trained them in batches. The remainder of the force received training with the Vickers-Berthier light machine gun, which was issued to them in lieu of the Lewis Guns which would normally equip an infantry unit. A similar situation occurred in the UK where the brand-new Bren Guns were issued to the cavalry first. All of this aside, by the time of the Crisis the 8th Hussars as effectively motorised infantry, were ready for war.
As it stood the cavalry brigade, less the pedestrian rather than equestrian 4th and most of the 7th Hussars, was quite a respectable force for its time. Its supporting RHA battery was completely mechanised with Light Dragon Tractors for its 3.7” Howitzers. There were the three squadrons of motorised infantry, each with three rifle troops in the 8th Hussars. The 11th Hussars had three squadrons of armoured cars, the 12th Lancers two of Lanchesters and the single squadron of the 7th had its light tanks. While it wasn’t apparently the case, had the moth-balled SEMAG-Becker dual-purpose guns been added to the inventory too, it would also have contained an effective counter to the Italian tankettes facing them.
Chain of Command British 8th Hussars army list
The British empire, and the very nature of the conflict in The Abyssinian Crisis, brought forth troops acclimated and best able to handle the conditions in Ethiopia. This involved the Askari forces of the empire, be they from British Somaliland, nearby Kenya or further afield in the Southern Sudan or beyond.
These diverse troops create an interesting array of forces for the British Chain of Command:Abyssinia player to choose from. The two main British Askari forces in The Abyssinian Crisis are the King’s African Rifles in Kenya and the Somali Camel Corps in British Somaliland. Both bordering colonies to Italian Somaliland and Southern Ethiopia.
This list can be used to depict King’s African Rifles and the Somali Camel Corps platoons in their various forms as well as any other ‘Askari’ formations (i.e. forces raised from the indigenous population, rather than Europeans) that players wish to use.
Chain of Command:Abyssinia – British Askari army list