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The Postwar Sherman in Canadian Service

The Postwar Sherman in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2012 Title The Postwar Sherman in Canadian Service
Author Rod Henderson Publisher Service Publications
Published 2012 ISBN 978-1-894581-76-9
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95

Review

When fighting a war, you usually want all of the weapons you can get if they are serviceable, reliable, and can accomplish most tasks with relative ease. During WWII two tanks stood out as meeting those requirements: the American M4 medium tank - Sherman in Commonwealth service – and the Soviet T-34. At the end of the war, thousands of these tanks were in service with their respective armies, but due to developments during the war were seen as somewhat obsolete and past their prime. While the Soviets initially stored their 76mm T-34 tanks - scrapping them much later after the war was over - the US refurbished their Shermans and sold them to other nations at bargain basement prices or furnished them to emerging governments under the Military Assistance Program.

The Sherman in its final form was still capable as a tank when used for basic functions such as infantry escort or mobile fire support; it just was not capable of standing up to newer Soviet tanks like the IS-2 and IS-3 and the nascent medium tank of the 1950s, the T-54 with its 100mm gun then in development. So it was a cheap way to “bulk up” one’s forces.

The Canadian Army decided after the war to switch from British-designed to American-designed vehicles and weapons systems, as it was an easier arrangement and many factories in the Detroit area share both parts and production tasks. Offered a lot of M4A2E8 tanks originally slated for the USSR at prices equivalent to scrap metal, the Department of National Defence (DND) purchased 294 of these tanks in 1946 along with 90 M5A1 Stuart VI tanks for a paltry $772,000 and used them to equip a number of active duty and reserve units.

Since the Canadian Army had used earlier marks of the Sherman in WWII, the new tanks were not a great technological jump, nor were they a training problem. The new tanks were the final models with “Wet” stowage hulls, T23 type turrets with 76mm guns, and the horizontal volute spring suspension with 23" wide tracks. The only part that the Canadians did not like to use were the SCR-528 VHF FM radio sets, preferring to swap them for the then-Commonwealth standard No. 19 HF AM radio sets.

When the Korean War broke out, and the US brokered a UN mission to retake South Korea from the North Koreans, the Canadians moved to sent a contingent of M10/17-pdr tankd destroyers to Korea as part of their formation. They soon decided this was incompatible with US equipment, and rather than send the M4A2E8 tanks they had trained on they drew M4A3E8 tanks from US forward based stocks. The tanks were nearly identical other than the Ford GAA gasoline engine vice the twin GMC diesels of their A2s, so the transition was quick. This unit was designated as C Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse. These were used effectively against Chinese and Korean SU-76M self-propelled guns, and even with the age of the Shermans this was not a fair fight! By the end of the war they had been replaced in situ by A and B Squadrons.

But back in Canada, starting in 1952 the Canadian Army began to transition to the new Centurion tanks and as such the Shermans were then delegate to the reserves. These tanks were used until the late 1950s when in 1957-58 the reserves began to transition to functions similar to the US National Guard, e.g. more emphasis on support to natural disasters and civil defense. This was reversed in 1964 and tank units once more trained as tank units. By 1970 all of the units had given up their Sherman with the exception of the Ontario Regiment. These were sorted out for scrap in early 1972, ending the Sherman’s active use by the Canadian Army.

While there were some experiments with the tanks over the years such as “Badger” flamethrower units and some “Kangaroo” like armored personnel carriers, for the most part the tanks remained as combat vehicles while in service.

The tanks were given DND registration numbers by the Canadians running from 78-693 to 78-992. The book includes a 1/35 tone painting of 78-748 while in service with the Regiment de Hull, Provincial forces of Quebec.

Overall this is a book that “completes the record” for every Sherman fan regardless of nationality. The cover picture of an M4A2E8 in service with the Fort Garry Horse in 1950 with polished (!) tracks needs to be seen by modelers!

Thanks to Service Publications for the review copy.

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