Tobruk, Libya, 11th September, 1941
Meet the .55in Boys Anti-Tank Rifle.
VX18855 Gunner Jeff Coombe of the 9th Division's 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment demonstrates how to deploy the .55in (13.9mm) Boys Anti-Tank Rifle in the Libyan desert.
Often in short supply in the early stages of the siege, the Boys (often incorrectly spelt "Boyes") Anti-Tank rifle is a bolt actioned weapon with a 5 shot magazine. It was sometimes known as "Charlie the bastard" amongst the 9th Division troops as a reference to the heavy recoil experienced when firing the gun when compared to other smaller calibre weapons available to them at the time.
Capable of firing two different types of cartridges, the W1 and W2, with the W2 being able to penetrate 20mm of armour at 100 yards. The weapon was effective against "hard" targets (armour) out to 300 yards and against "soft" targets (infantry") to a much longer range with devastating effect.
Having initial success against the lighter armoured Italian tanks and some of the earlier model German tanks, the Boys rapidly became obsolete in the Western Desert due to the increasing thickness of the armour of subsequent models of German tank. It was still capable however, of causing casualties to machine gun nests and smaller infantry fortifications and in the absence of anything better the 9th Division simply made the most of what they had, an all to common occurrence in Tobruk.
image 020723 Australian War Memorial.