| With the increased interest in tanks in
the late 1920's and early 1930's it quickly became apparent that the
infantry would need a platoon weapon to counter the armor threat.
What most armies looked for were similar weapons to the Mauser Anti-tank
(AT) Rifle developed by the Germans at the end of World War I.
The idea behind an AT rifle is to punch a solid hole through an
armored vehicles hull by using a high velocity round. Once the round
punches through, it will rattle around the inside and do major damage
to the crew and any equipment it manages to make contact with. While
it may sound odd that a .55 caliber (14 mm) round could stop a tank,
the Mauser AT rifle of WWI fired a 7.92mm round. What made the round
effective was it's velocity and its penetrating power. Typically
AT rounds were tungsten core rounds which allow them to penetrate
steel where other rounds would have bounced off.
Design of the Boys (sometimes incorrectly spelled Boyes) AT Rifles
began in 1934 and it was officially adopted in 1937. At the time
of introduction, the Boys could actually defeat the armor of virtually
every tank in existence. Initially the gun was known as the Stantion
Gun but was given the name Boys when it's inventor died. The rifle
was never popular among the troops not because it was ineffective
but because it was extremely loud and had a horrendous recoil. Indeed
its recoil was such that it earned the not so affection nick-name
"Charlie the Bastard". If one did not hold on tight, the
rifle would definitely result in a bruised or dislocated shoulder.
By 1940, many of the armies of the world had developed tanks that
made AT rifles obsolete. Fortunately for the British, two of their
main adversaries still operated some tanks that were as obsolete
as the Boys AT rifle. The armor of several Italian tank could be
penetrated by the Boys AT rifle, as could most Japanese tanks. It
was also capable of penetrating the armor of some German armored
cars as well as Panzer I tanks. So while the AT rifle had really
out lived it usefulness in most places, it was still a somewhat
effective weapon in the Western Desert.
And it could also be used against fortified positions. Its armor piercing
round doing effective work against concrete emplacements fuel trucks
and parked aircraft!
The major drawback of the Boys, other than its recoil and report
was that it was a bolt action rifle giving it a slow rate of fire.
Mounting the rifle on a vehicle solved the recoil problem and increased
its accuracy. The rifle was often mounted on armoured cars in universal
carriers in place of a machine gun.
The LRDG considered the weapon somewhat useless for three main reasons. It was heavy, it had a slow rate of fire and patrols normally were able to avoid enemy armor. Once they were able to
acquire .50 MGs, the Boys rifle was normally not carried. This would lead to some problems during the Barce
raid, as the Vickers Mk. V 1/2 inch was not capable of penetrating
the 14mm frontal armor of L3 tanks whereas the Boys AT rifle could have. As it
was the raiding party had to ram L3 tanks with their trucks, on
at least two occasions, in order to withdraw from the city after
the raid. This disabled the trucks and eventually left the patrol
with only two vehicles for the long ride home.
-- See Also "Stop That Tank" A 1942 movie produced for Canada by Disney