Failure of Flame Throwing Tanks Doctrines
Flame thrower tanks have many vulnerabilities and they weren’t the most effective weapons in WWII as some people may suggest.
The insinuation that Panzerfausts are useless against Crocodile flamethrowers overlooks the reality that the German antitank doctrine was based on 50mm, 88mm guns, Panzershreks, explosives and side infantry ambush and traps. The Panzerfausts didn’t have a big role in defensive doctrine in North Africa and Normandy where the Crocodiles debuted. The range of Panzerschreks is 150 meters which is 30 meters more then the Flame throwing range. Panzershreks were more used by the army whereas Panzerfuasts were mainly manufactured for civilian, urban and close quarters combats and were manufactured in 1944 and 1945 in millions as a last resort weapons intended mainly for use to defend the cities in Germany specially against the Red Army.
The Crocodile was thought impractical due to its wheeled trailer.http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/gb/churchill-crocodile
Flame thrower tanks weren’t used vastly in the initial landing of Normandy, rather more in the Bocage and other battles later on. That is because they had little maneuverability, were slow, cumbersome, had big silhouette and vulnerable. Every 37mm caliber gun and above aimed from the Normandy cliffs or Panzerschrek could easily take them shooting at the fuel trailer or even at the tank.
The 88 mm guns, T34s, P51s and even Stuka planes where more effective and indispensable then the Crocodile Churchill in the after math.
The Stallion, and the crew would be the only tank crew out of the 18 tanks in the squadron that would survive through to the end of the war.
The role of the Crocodile Churchill and the Sherman version of the frame-thrower was infantry close support against bunkers, dense vegetation and trenches. The Churchills would lose easily in the open against any Panzer formation of the same size. Even two 37mm guns aimed at the trailer or the joints between the turret or trailer and the hull would make the tank a death trap.
If the flame-thrower tank would be a successful concept, than it would have been vastly used in an effective way in the Vietnam war and in the middle east wars and so on.
The role of tank units is to punch and exploit defensive formations and opening with fast maneuver and firing punch. This doctrine is totally different from what a clumsy and vulnerable Fire-Thrower can do. The Fire-thrower tanks were more suited to close combat infantry support and had a limited time use of 80 seconds fire bursts.
If a flamethrower tank catches fire it can be devastating to close units, be it infantry or other tanks and when in flames it would invite targeting the whole regiment or division from the air, nearby artillery or other tank formations.
Related Sources and Links:
Usage of Flame-Thrower Tanks in the Pacific
Infantry tacctics against Tanks
Panzerschreks and Panzerfausts
Crocodile Churchill Tank Photos and History