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  1. #1
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    Captured Breda 20mm Guns

    Hello everybody, I guess this is an unusual subject but I thought I'd ask a few questions anyway

    As you may already know, the Italian Breda 20mm gun (Cannone mitragliera da 20 mm mod.1935) fired the Rheinmetall/Solothurn 20x138 round, the same as the German FlaK 30 & 38 guns and the Solothurn A/T rifle.
    Many Breda guns were captured by the British, in several instances during the figthing North Africa, starting in December 1940. It seems the gun was much appreciated, and most if not all were re-used by the British. For sure the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and the Australians used several truck-mounted captured guns of this type.

    It is unclear how the troops were able to resupply with ammo, as the only source was capture of enemy supplies. Granted, a lot of ammo and guns were captured during the successful British operations, and that kind of ammo was used both by the Italians and the Germans, "doubling" the opportunities to capture some, but it seems to me hard to believe they could always get their hands on enough ammo to satisfy the needs of all the captured guns.

    In particular, from 1942 the LRDG had several "Breda gun trucks", one per patrol, but no mention is ever made on ammo resupply. Note that the guns were fitted upon official orders, which should mean that resupply was not a problem, otherwise the higher Command would not have issued such an order in my opinion. Furthermore, at least one veteran remembered the RAF supplying them with belted ammo from their aircraft guns. This, though, could refer to the .303" ammo for the Vickers guns the LRDG used, where the rounds had to be un-belted and inserted into the ammo drums.

    Most surprisingly, there is a picture of one of the LRDG Breda gun trucks with a trooper holding belted ammo, with several spare belts hanging on the truck back and some spare rounds scattered around as if the trooper was unbelting rounds and preparing them to be loaded in the Breda clips. The ammo is clearly too big to be .303" and, as the RAF in North Africa only had Hispano 20mm guns, those must be belts of 20mm Hispano HS404 rounds. The problem is that the Hispano and Rheinmetall cartridges are very different in size and shape; furthermore, the section drawings of the chamber of the Breda gun from the original documentation seem to confirm there is no way the HS404 round could seat correctly, there being too much headspace and other "mismatches", though all the dimensions are equal or smaller than the Rheinmetall round, which could mean that at least the round could be extracted from the clip and chambered.

    Short of trying to fire an HS404 round in a Breda which is most likely impossible, I am wondering if anybody here on the forum has ever stumbled upon any information from the British side of any testing or use of different ammunition on the captured Breda guns.

  2. #2
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    I can confirm that there is no way that Hispano ammo - or any other ammo than 20x138B - could work in any gun designed for 20x138B.

    Possibly a Hispano gun was fitted into the Breda mounting?

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    robc, maybe it would help to see images with the guns and vehicles in question?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Williams View Post
    Possibly a Hispano gun was fitted into the Breda mounting?
    Of course, but it was done after the war by Italian Air Force ('50). Here two shots from Italian Air Force Museum of the Model 1953 system.

    Regards
    stecol
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Quote Originally Posted by stecol View Post
    Of course, but it was done after the war by Italian Air Force ('50).
    That's interesting - but the question is, did the British do it during WW2?

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    I'm sorry Tony, but I haven't evidence of this "join" during the war.

    It was a relatively simply work to do, so I can't exclude a similar field combination realized by british.

    Regards
    stecol

  7. #7
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    Just found this on the net which has one photo showing belted 20mm ammo with a Breda used by LRDG - not sure if this is the picture referred to but thought interesting to post
    http://www.german.o5m6.de/2cm_Breda.html

    scroll down the link and you will see the photo I mean

    regards Kev

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    Quote Originally Posted by butterfly View Post
    Just found this on the net which has one photo showing belted 20mm ammo with a Breda used by LRDG - not sure if this is the picture referred to but thought interesting to post
    http://www.german.o5m6.de/2cm_Breda.html

    scroll down the link and you will see the photo I mean

    regards Kev
    Yes, that is the picture. It originally appeared in Brendan O'Carroll's "Kiwi Scorpions". Brendan sent me a high-res scan to try and make out the ammo, but the picture is not so clear; nevertheless, the shape of the cartridge does look like HS404 and the size seems to fit also, compared with objects around of known size.
    The gun on the truck is unmistakably a Breda, and apart from what can be seen in the pic there was not a "belted version" of the 20x138B, so this picture shows a lot of belted ammunition on an LRDG truck with a Breda that didn't fit in ANY of the LRDG guns, captured or not... you may well understand my surprise and my doubts.

    The 1950s Breda+Hispano is actually a Breda mount for a Hispano gun, not a Breda gun firing Hispano ammunition.

    Thanks for your comments, I had already ruled out the possibility of firing non-20x138 rounds but still that picture "haunts" me. It could have simply been a test, they had just been issued some belted ammo from the RAF to see if the gun could fire it - and they weren't given a handful of rounds but some full belts; or it could have been there for some other unknown reason, but still the fact remains that the LRDG did not have any gun able to fire belted ammunition of that size.

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    Interesting! The gun in the right-hand LRDG photo certainly looks like a Breda, but if so it clearly didn't fire the belts of ammo draped on the vehicle since the gun wasn't designed to fire belted ammo.

    I can imagine the scene: photographer says to soldier: "just stand by that gun while I take your photo....wait, it would look better if we slung some ammo belts over you and the truck....there's some Hispano stuff here, that'll do!"

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    On doing a bit of searching I read on a site "Desert Rats org.uk.Artillery Equipment,"about the Breda that a number were fitted to Panzer IIs when converted for the reconniassance role to give a bit more firepower,and when used in these it fired from "loose belts or 100 round drums"that is the only place I have seen reference to the belted ammunition being used,the cannon used in these tanks was designated 20cm,Breda(i),
    Don,

 

 
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