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The Centurion in Canadian Service

The Centurion in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review September 2005 Title The Centurion in Canadian Service
Author Don Dingwall Publisher Service Publications
Published 2005 ISBN 1-894581-20-2
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95


Over the years the Canadian Ministry of Defence found itself stuck quite often between a rock (the US ) and a hard place (the UK ) when it came to picking weapons systems. While in peacetime it was better to "buy American" for servicing and compatibility, in wartime they found themselves, as part of the Commonwealth, fighting as part of UK formations with different kit. What to do?

In 1952 the Canadian Army began to take delivery of some 274 Centurion Mark 3 tanks, and from that point on began a 38 year attachment with the type. This was initially something of a shock as the tanks had a steep user learning curve, especially the gunner.

Over the years the tanks were upgraded, first to Mark 5 status and later to Mark 5/2 with the L7 105mm gun replacing the 20-lber. Next came the Mark 6 with IR sights and lighting, and finally the Mark 11. Radios were changed from UK pattern to Canadian pattern and finally to US sets in 1968.

Even with the complex gunsights, the Canadian Centurion crews were among the best in NATO, maintaining excellence with the tank up through at least 1975. The highwater mark of the tank in Canadian service was probably 1971 with over 315 gun tanks in service. But by June 1977 the Centurion was on its way out, leaving first-line service in Canada in 1979 in favor of the new Leopard. Tanks were scrapped, quite often as "hard targets" on gunnery ranges. A handful survive as memorials or museum pieces today, such as a Mark 5 at CFB Borden in Worthington Park.

This book is an indispensable aid to anyone wanting to do up a Canadian "Cent" and has a good selection of photos and some general information on unit markings and paint schemes.

Overall this is a handy aid. One thing not mentioned was that, due to the excellence of their gunnery, one of the premier NATO competitive events in Germany was the Canadian Army Trophy Shoot, or CAT . It is probably most fitting to note that the trophy itself was a large-scale sterling silver model of a Centurion Mark 5.

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