Canada’s long-running and unlikely Sherman obsession

Today the Canadian Army rocks some gently used (mainly former Dutch Army) Leopard 2A4+/2A4M/2A6M main battle tanks but their armored tradition goes way back. In the 1930s, the branch trained with early US M1917 tanks and Vickers MKVI light tanks then by 1941 was using MkIV Churchills.

In World War II, Canada actually rolled their own tanks, producing 1420 locally-built Valentines at the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Angus Shop in Montreal. While most of the V’s went to the Soviet Union for use on the Eastern Front, the Montreal Locomotive Works built a modified version of the M3 Lee medium tank as the Ram to equip Canuck units in Northern Africa early in the war.

In 1943, MLW switched from the Lee/Ram to the Sherman (called “Grizzly” in Canadian service), which included British radio gear, a 2-inch smoke mortar mounted on the turret and a cast hull as opposed to the more common welded-hull version.

The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was equipped with Grizzlies in time for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

In all, MLW made 188 Canuck Grizzlies while others were acquired from allies.

The novice Canadian Armored Corps in Italy caught hell from both the terrain and German PzKpfw IV’s when 36 Shermans from the Three Rivers Regiment (Tank), CASF (now the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada) took on the brunt of the veteran German 16th Panzer Corps near Termoli in one of the most epic armored engagements of Canadian military history.

The 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, training in Britain for Operation Overlord, had their Ram tanks swapped out with the new tank just before D-Day.

They also caught hell in Northwestern Europe.

A rare colorchrome of a Sherman V of the Canadian 29th Reconnaissance regiment (The South Alberta Regiment). The Tank was commanded by Major David Currie (VC), and the tank was named ‘Clanky’. This photo was taken in Normandy around Arromanches in July of 1944. Photo via TheShermanTank.com http://www.theshermantank.com/category/allied-use-wwii/

A rare colorchrome of a Sherman V of the Canadian 29th Reconnaissance regiment (The South Alberta Regiment). The Tank was commanded by Major David Currie (VC), and the tank was named ‘Clanky’. This photo was taken in Normandy around Arromanches in July of 1944. Photo via TheShermanTank.com

A pair of burnt out Canadian M4A2 Shermans of the 10th Armored Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) at the foot of the church at Rots – June 1944

A pair of burnt-out Canadian M4A2 Shermans of the 10th Armored Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) at the foot of the church at Rots – June 1944

Some Grizzlies were converted into the Skink anti-aircraft tank with a turret mounting four 20 mm Polsten guns– a very effective anti-personnel and AAA platform.

"Tank AA, 20 mm Quad," better known as the Skink was Canadian self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, developed in 1943-44 fully enclosed mounting on the chassis of the Grizzly Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman

“Tank AA, 20 mm Quad,” better known as the Skink was Canadian self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, developed in 1943-44 fully enclosed mounting on the chassis of the Grizzly Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman

Other variants included the Badger flame tank and Kangaroo APC, both made from Sherman hulls.

When Hitler was vanquished, the Canadians left their Grizzlies/Shermans in Europe while in 1946 they picked up 294 “Easy Eight” M4A2(76)W HVSS Shermans cheap– just $1,460 each (Late model Shermans cost $200,000 to make in 1945). They were left overs from Lend Lease production meant for Uncle Joe in Moscow but by that stage of the 1940s, the U.S. would rather sell them at scrap prices that give them to the Soviets.

The batch of M4A2(76)W’s (M4A3E8’s) were kept in Canada proper for training purposes, even though they were different from the Shermans forward deployed along the Rhine.

When Korea came, the Canadians borrowed 20 Shermans from the U.S. Army and Marines in-country and, after using them in often very heavy combat and tense DMZ patrol from 1951 to November 1954, returned all 20 back to the U.S.

Trooper Andy Parenteau of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) sleeps on the back of a Canadian Sherman M4A3(76)W HVSS tank, Korea. Note the American ration box and United Nations/Canada crest on the tail

Trooper Andy Parenteau of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) sleeps on the back of a Canadian Sherman M4A3(76)W HVSS tank, Korea. Note the American ration box and United Nations/Canada crest on the tail

British forces used Centurions in the conflict– speaking of which…

In 1952, the Canadian Army bought the first of what would be 274 Centurion Mk 3 Tanks and split these MBTs between the active units in Germany (with their Grizzles being passed on to Portugal) and at home, later adding 120 Mk 5’s to the arsenal– while transferring the Easy Eight Shermans to reserve units.

They remained in service until 1978 when Canada replaced their aging Centurions with 127 new German-built Leopard C1 (equivalent to Leopard 1A3 with laser rangefinder) MBTs and, as the buy was limited and 114 were based in West Germany, just a handful were sent home to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick for training.

The days of large tank lots in Canada had come to an end.

This led to the retirement of the last Canadian reserve force Shermans in the 1970s, one of the last Western countries to do so.

Canadian Easy Eight Shermans in reserve units 1970s

Canadian Easy Eight Shermans in reserve units 1970s out for a Sunday drive

You have to admit, the camo scheme looks good on these tanks...

You have to admit, the camo scheme looks good on these tanks…and they were an instant WWII veterans parade every time they left the armory

After retirement, many Canadian Shermans remained in use well into the 1980s– as targets.

Ex-Canadian M4 Sherman used for target practice with anti-tank weapons, 1986

Ex-Canadian M4 Sherman used for target practice with anti-tank weapons, 1986

It should be noted that as late as 1989, the Finning Tank Drill, a rock drill used in logging road construction, was produced in British Columbia from Sherman hulls while BC’s Morpac Industries, Inc., still produces heavy-duty, off-road load crawlers based on Sherman components. It is very likely these civilian mods will be in the wilds of Canada’s western forests for decades to come.

Here is a Finning caught in its natural state:

Today some 60~ intact models are thought to still exist in the country as gate guards and museum pieces and they pop up from time to time in both their Grizzly and later Easy Eight variants for sale at reasonable prices.

The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) Museum in Oshawa, Ontario has a pair of great working Shermans, (“Bart” #78-904 and “Billy #78-856).

Overall, not a bad track record for the often derided Sherman.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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