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The Kangaroo in Canadian Service

The Kangaroo in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review September 2005 Title The Kangaroo in Canadian Service
Author Mark W. Tonner Publisher Service Publications
Published 2005 ISBN 1-894581-30-X
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95


Up until the advent of the Kangaroo concept, fully-tracked armored personnel carriers for the infantry had been seen as an unsupportable luxury. The Soviets had a number of prototypes – one of which tried to carry half a platoon of infantry stuffed into a box on a T-26 tank chassis! – but nobody had fielded one.

The only ones in service had been thinly-armored halftracks, or later on the partially armored US AMTRAC vehicles. These had both the dual problem of thin armor and insuficient mobility to keep up with tanks cross country.

Lieutenant-General G. G. Simonds, GOC II (Canadian) Corps, was looking for a good way to ensure that infantry could accompany the tanks into combat. The Soviet – and American, and German – solution up until this point had been to use "tank riders" on the backs of the tanks themselves, but the troops were woefully vulnerable to artillery and enemy small arms fire. Simonds figured that the best way to fight fire was with fire; by using the more heavily armored M7 "Priest" chassis, stripped of its gun and provided with a number of infantry inside the casemate, could move with the tanks while providing better protection to the infantry prior to close combat with the enemy.

Since the Commomwealth was in the process of phasing out the Priest with its 105mm howitzer in favor of the Sexton with the 25-lber, the standard Commonwealth field gun, there were extra Priest chassis with which to experiment. Removing the howitzers and covering the opening with armor plate welded in place, 72 were converted for use by the 2nd Canadian and 51st Highland Divisions during Operation TOTALIZE. The name came from the codename for the conversion workshop, Advanced Workshop Detachment "Kangaroo."

The results were very promising, as the infantry using the ad hoc APCs were able to achieve their objectives with minimal losses. In September the Canadians were told to give the Priests back to the Americans (after reinstalling the 105mm howitzers) so the new standard vehicle of choice was a conversion of the Canadian Ram tank. The Ram, a good idea when created, had become undersized and obsolete for use against German armor, but was perfectly suitable for this purpose as it had relatively heavy armor protection (for an APC ), a bow machine gun mount or turret, and most important of all, parts and servicing compatibility with the M4 series of tanks then in general service with both the US and Commonwealth forces.

Early Ram II tanks were permitted to keep their bow machine gun turret, but most of the conversions were based on late-model ones with the hull doors removed and a bow machine gun position instead; all were fitted with UK No. 19 HF radio sets, and carried a crew of two and 10 infantry. Two Kangaroo regiments – one Canadian (1st CACR), one British (49th APCR) – were formed by October 1944, each with 106 Ram Kangaroos; each regiment had two squadrons of 53 each, and four troops of 12 each within the squadrons.

The book continues to cover the history of the 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment in detail. A good number of photos of the Kangaroos in action are included, but only one general plan of the vehicle is provided. Happily it is of the "standard" or late-model Ram II chassis based variant.

One major complaint modelers have about the Ram Kangaroo is – what is inside it? Most sources tend to indicate – nothing! Apparently the vehicles were not fitted with benches or stowage racks to any standard pattern, and admittedly cramming ten men into a relatively small area is not helped if there are sharp objects to dodge as well. However, they apparently used every type of M4 track produced – the photos show them with UK pattern steel chevron, T48, T49, and T51 with or without "duckbill" extenders.

Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.