On 30 March 1918, during the Battle of Moreuil Wood which helped blunt Ludendorff’s massive Operation Michael spring offensive, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade– which had long been held in strategic reserve in case the Allies were able to break through– galloped into the field.
One of these units, C Sqn of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), commanded by Lt. Gordon Flowerdew, wheeled into line, and “with a wild shout, a hundred yards in front of his men, charged down on the long thin column of Germans.”
Alfred Munnings: Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron, Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Memorial
The horsemen charged through the German lines twice and set them to retreat– but lost 70 percent of their effectives in the process. Nonetheless, they held their captured ground until Canadian infantry arrived to reinforce them. Flowerdew later died of his wounds and his family was presented with the VC in his honor.
The Royal Canadians’ Strathcona Mounted Troop recently recreated the charge in France, sans Germans.
“The Canadian charge at Moreuil Wood occurred at the height of the Kaiserschlacht, the German Spring Offensive of 1918, a massive assault on the Western Front that the German High Command hoped would split apart the Allied armies and drive the British out of Europe.
On the foggy morning of March 30, 1918, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, one of the few Allied units not retreating from the German onslaught, was tasked with recapturing the Moreuil Wood, a forested ridge east of the French city of Amiens, a crucial railway junction that linked the British and French armies…”
There, only C Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, under a 33-year-old British Columbian rancher named Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, made ready to ride into history.
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 than by 1941 was using MkIV Churchills.
In World War II, Canada actually rolled their own tanks, producing 1,420 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.
A Sherman V (M4A4) of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade passes through Regalbuto Sicily during the Allied Drive for Messina – August 1943 IWM – Rooke (Sgt) Photographer
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.
Tank Crew Italy 1944 with their Sherman M4 Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) plates done for Straths by R. Marriou in the mid-1970s
Canadian Armour (M4 Sherman) Passing Through Ortona, by Dr. Charles Comfort. Canadian War Museum (CN 12245).
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.
Maj Gen. Bert Hoffmeister, 36, commander of the Canadian 5th Armoured Division, in front of his M4 Sherman command tank, “Vancouver” May 1944. MIKAN ID number 4233102
They also caught hell in Northwestern Europe.
M4A2(75) Sherman 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment Vaucelles, France June, 1944 Kodachrome LAC
A rare color chrome 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
Color photo of a Canadian Sherman Firefly tank in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, 1945, assigned to the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD)
M4 Sherman with add-on armor via spare treads to help give a talisman against Tigers in NW Europe, 1944-45. Canadian Governor General’s Horse Guards (GGHG)
M4 Sherman of the 1st Canadian Army liberating the city of Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on April 17 1945
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 a 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 leftovers 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 than 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.
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
1952- Canadian Sherman tanks of ‘B’ Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, completing a tour of front-line duty in Korea, 16 July. Note name “Catherine” on the lead tank
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 out for a Sunday drive
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 and gate guards.
The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) is a Primary Reserve armored reconnaissance (recce) regiment of the Canadian Forces that still has a vintage Sherman M4 as a gate guard
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.