The demise of the Boys ATR
PIAT in action
REPORT NO. 113
CANADIAN MILITARY HEADQUARTERS
Situation of the Canadian Military Forces
Overseas, Winter, 1943-4 : I
Progress in Equipment (February 1942 - December 1943).
1. This Report deals with the equipment problem of the Canadian Army Overseas during the period between 22 Feb 42 (the date of Report No. 62, the last dealing with this topic) and 31 Dec 43. The demands of other and more urgent subjects have prevented the preparation of a report dealing with equipment during the past twenty-two months. The period has witnessed many important changes and developments in this field.
35. ANTI-TANK WEAPONS. Thanks largely to increasing Canadian production, the deficiency of Boys anti-tank rifles, mentioned in Report No. 62, was progressively reduced during 1942. However, during that year radical changes in anti-tank policy took place. The experience of Allied troops in the various theatres of war, especially North Africa, raised the question of the effectiveness of the Boys in an anti-tank role. Canada was devoting considerable productive effort to the manufacture of this weapon, and it was of primary importance that she be "in the picture" as regards future policy in order to avoid producing an unusable surplus of weapons. Accordingly, in order to find out the trend of official British opinion, the Senior Officer, CMHQ, wrote to the War Office on 16 Mar 42, requesting enlightenment on the proposed anti-tank policy of the British Army (CMHQ file 1/A Tk Rifle/1, Senior Officer, CMHQ, to Under-Secretary of State, War Office, Attention DSD(W)). The answer contained outlines of proposed changes: it was intended, it was explained, to introduce the 2 pounder anti-tank gun into infantry battalions in lieu of Boys rifles, and to replace the 2 pounder in Anti-Tank Regiments, RA, with the newer 6 pounder as soon as supply of these weapons made it feasible. Mention was also made of an experimental projector which might replace all remaining anti-tank rifles, the E.Y. rifle and the No. 68 grenade and possibly the 2 inch mortar (ibid, 30 Mar 42, DSD(W), War Office to Senior Officer, CMHQ).
36. This new anti-tank device was described as a shoulder controlled weapon, mounted on a monopod, designed on the spigot principle with modifications necessary to reduce the recoil. It weighs about 31 pounds, and measures overall approximately 3 feet. Two straps make it possible to be carried on one man's shoulders (ibid, 21 May 42, Senior Officer, CMHQ, to NDHQ). It fires a bomb designed to penetrate armour. This weapon was ultimately developed to a point meriting its production in quantity, and first supplies became available in October 1942. It was named the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank. The first Canadian allocation of the PIAT was received in December 1942 (CMHQ file 1/PIAT/1, 4 Dec 42, Cable GS 4051, Canmilitry to Defensor).
37. During succeeding months supplies of the PIAT were delivered to the Canadian Army Overseas from British sources. However, owing to a serious shortage of ammunition, the decision to replace the Boys with these new projectors was not taken until April 1943 (CMHQ file 1/Equip Pol Ltr/1, 9 Apr 43, CMHQ Equipment Policy Letter No. 41). The AFG 1098 of units affected has not as yet been changed. This changeover necessitated some revision of a policy initiated in December 1942. In that month the Boys .55 anti-tank rifle had been withdrawn from all units equipped with 2-pounder anti-tank guns or awaiting equipment with 20 mm guns. This change had reduced establishments of Boys rifles by 1,322 weapons. In effect, a deficiency of 565 weapons had become a surplus of 1,193. The Boys was, however, to be retained in the fighting vehicles of Armoured Car and Reconnaissance Regiments and Infantry and Mortar battalions "and by units which will not be issued with 20 mm guns". (ibid, 7 Dec 42, Equipment Policy Letter No. 12). The decision to withdraw the Boys from the units mentioned (in December 1942) had been affected by the expectation of receiving large numbers of 2-pounders, 6-pounders and 20 mm guns in short order. The hoped-for supplies of 6-pounders and 20 mm guns did not appear, and consequently the Boys was reissued to the units equipped with anti-tank guns and those who were to receiver 20 mm guns. The re-issued Boys was to be replaced with the PIAT on a pro rata basis as supplies made it practicable. (CMHQ Equipment Policy Letter No. 41, 9 Apr 43). There were no notable shortages of the projector by 31 Dec 43 (Equipment State of Canadian Army in the United Kingdom, file 13/Equip State/1/5). The surplus stock of the Boys anti-tank rifle is being evacuated to British Ordnance Depots.
Taken from Report number 46 dated 19 Sept 1941, describing general deficiencies in the supply of infantry weaponry.
As can be seen, serious deficiencies in stock availability of this rifle existed at this time. Full report at: http://www.forces.gc.ca/hr/dhh/Downloads/cmhq/CMHQ046.PDF