Who Was the Exceptionally Powerfully Built Viking Buried in the Gokstad Ship?

Who Was the Exceptionally Powerfully Built Viking Buried in the Gokstad Ship?

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By ThorNews

Ever since the publication of a scientific article in 1883, “everyone” has known that the skeleton found in the magnificent Gokstad ship in Eastern Norway belonged to Olaf Geirstad-Alf, the legendary Viking king of the House of Yngling. In recent years, however, research has shown that this must be wrong.

Dendrochronological datings show that the Gokstad ship was built about the year 890 AD, i.e. the height of Norwegian expansion in the British Isles, and in the year 901 it was buried in the so-called “King’s Mound” (Gokstad Mound) in Vestfold, Eastern Norway.

The vessel that is largely constructed of oak is 23.22 meters (76.18 ft) long and 5.18 meters (17 ft) wide. On each side there are sixteen oar holes, and the ship was built to carry thirty-two oarsmen. With steersman (the ship’s owner) and lookout, the crew consisted of thirty-four people, but could carry a maximum of seventy men with some equipment.

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Model of the Gokstad Viking ship. (Image: CC BY-SA 2.5 )

The Gokstad ship was both flexible and fast with a top speed of more than 12 knots (14 mph) propelled by the sail of about 110 square meters (1,200 square feet). Recent tests have shown that the vessel worked very well with both sail and oars, and it may have been used for trade, Viking raids and explorations.

No thwarts have been found and the oarsmen probably sat on chests that also contained their personal equipment.

Grave Findings

When the Gokstad ship was excavated, sixty-four shields were discovered (thirty-two on each side) and every second shield was painted in yellow and black. In the front part of the ship, there were discovered fragments of a white wool fabric with sewn red stripes that were probably parts of the sail.

Behind the mast, a burial chamber was discovered with the remains of a beautifully woven carpet decorating the walls. Inside the burial chamber, there was found a made bed containing the buried person.

In addition to the Gokstad ship itself, there were among other objects found a gaming board with gaming pieces made of horn, fish hooks, harness fittings of iron, lead and gilded bronze, kitchenware, six beds, one tent, one sled and three smaller boats.

There were also discovered a large amount of animal bones that had belonged to twelve horses, eight dogs, two northern goshawks and surprisingly, two peacocks.

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Animals in the Gokstad ship grave. (Image:

When the excavation took place in 1880, it soon became clear that parts of the grave goods had been plundered in ancient times: there was no jewelry or any precious metals in the grave, nor any weapons that in the Viking Age were an important part of a warrior’s grave goods preparing him for his journey to the Afterlife.

Just south of the Gokstad burial mound, a major trading center has recently been discovered. The items excavated tell different stories and document the close connection between Vestfold and the rest of the world at the time.

Weights found in the trading center show that hectic trading activities took place at about the same time as the Gokstad ship burial.

Bone Examination

In 2007, bones from a human skeleton found in the grave were thoroughly examined by Professor Per Holck at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo.

The examination proved that the bones had belonged to a man who died in his 40’s. He was between 178 (5ft 10 in) and 184 centimeters tall (6ft), something that was significantly taller than the average height of the period (165 cm / 5ft 5in) and the Viking was exceptionally powerfully built.

The man in the Gokstad ship grave mainly ate terrestrial food [food coming from land and not the sea, like meat and corn] showing that he has belonged to the Norse community’s social elite.

Professor Holck found clear marks of five or six different cuts from an ax, knife and sword: one on each of the thigh bones, two or three on the left and one on the right calf bone.

Cut on the leg (tuberositas tibiae), probably form a sword. (Image: Per Holck, University of Oslo)

It is likely that the Gokstad man did not survive these injuries, something proved by the fact that there are no signs that his wounds have healed.

Although none of the injuries would have been fatal (perhaps with the exception of a cut on the inside of the right thigh bone, which may have damaged the femoral artery), it cannot be excluded that this particular Viking had other cuts that did kill him, for example in the head (only parts of the skull was discovered).

Aiming for the enemy’s legs was a common fighting technique in the Middle Ages. The legs were not covered by chain mail and were vulnerable, a fact documented from many examples in Norse sagas.

Professor Holck concluded that there must have been at least two people, with three different weapons, who killed the Gokstad man, and that the cuts indicate that he most likely was wearing armor and killed in battle.

Gokstad Ship by Jac Brun (National Library of Norway. .

Not King Olaf Geirstad-Alf

The theory that the skeleton from the Gokstad mound belonged to Olaf Geirstad-Alf (Old Norse: Ólaf Geirstaða Álfr, the elf of Geirstad) was described in a scientific article by anatomy professor Jacob Heiber back in 1883, and the man’s identity has since been widely accepted.

In the first section of the Heimskringla King’s Sagas written down in 1225 by Snorri Sturloson, Olaf «Geirstad-Alf» Gudrødsson is mentioned with a couple of lines: Olaf was a petty king in Vestfold, and the half-brother of Halfdan the Black (c. 810 – c. 869 AD).

Olaf was allegedly Halfdan’s nineteen years older brother, and thus probably born around the year 800. Since the ship’s grave can be dated back to the year 901, about half a century after Olaf Geirstad-Alf’s death, researchers can safely say that this is not Olaf’s grave.

The Gokstad burial mound in Vestfold, Eastern Norway. (Image: Thor News )

So, who was the exceptionally powerfully built Viking found in the Gokstad grave chamber?

If we take a close look at the large and versatile Gokstad ship and the rich discoveries, and how the person in the grave was killed – it is quite certain that this was a powerful and respected Viking warrior from Vestfold.

The peacocks discovered show that this was a man with an international network and that he belonged to the Norse upper class. Perhaps the birds were a gift from an English king, or trophies he brought back home from a Viking raid in Spain? In Medieval Europe peacocks, a bird species originally brought back from Asia, were considered a symbol of power among kings and aristocrats.

Maybe the Gokstad man was a powerful Viking petty king, earl or chieftain who had accumulated enormous wealth abroad? However, he may also have been an elite warrior, a berserker, one of the king’s loyal elite soldiers who received the funeral he deserved when he was killed in battle.

Whether he was killed in Dublin, London, York– or in Novgorod (Russia), and was brought home to be buried, we do not know. Whatever the case – it is certain that the human bones buried in the Gokstad ship did not belong to King Olaf Geirstad-Alf.

Top image: The clinker-built Gokstad ship dating back to the year 890 AD is currently on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway. (Image: Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, 1938)

The article ‘ Who Was the Exceptionally Powerfully Built Viking Buried in the Gokstad Ship? was originally published on ThorNews and has been republished with permission.

M4 Sherman Medium Tank

The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during Second World War. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease. In the United Kingdom, the M4 was named after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, following the British practice of naming their American-built tanks after famous American Civil War generals. Subsequently the British name found its way into common use in the American Shermans which were used by the Canadian Army extensively and remained in service into the 1960s in reserve units. The variant used post WW2 was the M4A2E8 76-mm (W) “Easy Eight” Sherman Medium Tank, (diesel engined) called the Sherman IIIAY in Canadian service.

The Sherman evolved from the Grant and Lee medium tanks, which had an unusual side-sponson mounted 75-mm gun. It retained much of the previous mechanical design, but added the first American main 75-mm gun mounted on a fully traversing turret, with a gyrostabilizer enabling the crew to fire with reasonable accuracy while the tank was on the move. The designers stressed mechanical reliability, ease of production and maintenance, durability, standardization of parts and ammunition in a limited number of variants, and moderate size and weight. These factors made the Sherman superior in some regards, to the earlier German light and medium tanks that had swept across Europe in the blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939-41, and which still made up the majority of German Panzer forces - albeit usually in up-gunned and up-armoured variants, in the later stages of the war.

Sherman tank in Vaucelles, France, ca 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Mikan No. 4233133)

The Sherman ended up being produced in large numbers and formed the backbone of most Allied offensives, starting in late 1942. The original Shermans were able to defeat the relatively small German tanks such as the Panzer II and III they faced when first deployed in North Africa. Later, they found themselves seriously outmatched against newer up-gunned and up- armoured PzKpfw IV and Panther medium tanks and wholly inadequate against the armour and range of the Tiger I and later Tiger II heavy tanks, suffering high casualties against their heavier armour and more powerful 88-mm and 75-mm cannons. Mobility, mechanical reliability and sheer numbers, supported by growing superiority in supporting fighter-bombers and artillery, offset these disadvantages to an extent at a strategic level.

M4A2 Sherman III, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario. (Author Photo)

Later versions of the Sherman introduced 76-mm guns, giving them better armour penetration than the original 75-mm gun, though still insufficient at range against late war German heavy tanks. In the Pacific Theatre, the Sherman was used chiefly against Japanese infantry and fortifications in their rare encounters with much lighter Japanese tanks with weaker armour and guns, the Sherman’s superiority was overwhelming.

Production of the M4 exceeded 50,000 units, and its chassis served as the basis for numerous other armoured vehicles such as tank destroyers, tank retrievers, and self-propelled artillery. Only Mikhail Koshkin’s design of the Soviet T-34 tank was ultimately produced in larger numbers during Second World War. Many German generals and many historians considered the T-34 the best tank of the war, but even so the Russians recognized the Sherman’s particular advantages when they used them in certain niche situations.

The US Army had seven main sub-designations for M4 variants during production: M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4, M4A5, and M4A6. These designations did not necessarily indicate linear improvement: for example, A4 was not meant to indicate it was better than the A3. These sub-types indicated standardized production variations, which were in fact often manufactured concurrently at different locations. The sub-types differed mainly in engines, although the M4A1 differed from the M4 by its fully-cast upper hull the M4A4 had a longer engine system that required a longer hull, a longer suspension system, and more track blocks M4A5 was an administrative placeholder for Canadian production and the M4A6 had an elongated chassis, but fewer than 100 of these were produced.

Early Shermans mounted a 75-mm medium-velocity general-purpose gun. Although Ordnance began work on the Medium Tank T20 as a Sherman replacement, ultimately the Army decided to minimize production disruption by incorporating elements of other tank designs into the Sherman. Later M4A1, M4A2, and M4A3 models received the larger T23 turret with a high-velocity 76-mm M1 gun, which reduced the number of HE and smoke rounds carried and increased the number of anti-tank rounds. Later, the M4 and M4A3 were factory-produced with a 105-mm Howitzer and a new distinctive mantlet in the original turret. The first standard-production 76-mm gun Sherman was an M4A1, accepted in January 1944, and the first standard-production 105-mm Howitzer Sherman was an M4 accepted in February 1944.

M4A2 Sherman tank, "Bomb", Sherbrooke Hussars, Quebec. (Author Photo)

There were many remarkable tankers in the Sherbrooke Hussars. According to BGen Radley-Walters, one example was "Sergeant Ralph "Pop” Beardsley, who had returned to the Squadron (Sherbrookes) after being wounded outside of St. André in France, and he was once again one of Radley-Walter’s Troop Leaders. One of Pop’s idiosyncrasies was that he never talked on the radio. He always listened, but never spoke. Pop was well loved and respected in the Regiment not only because he was a real character but also because of his physical courage. During the attack on Bourgtheroulde, Pop again displayed uncommon courage. Pop was knocked out. He wasn't very far from me to the left. I saw him bail out and then he came walking toward my tank. I thought he was badly wounded, but when he got there [to my tank] and I spoke to him, he said, “No, No, I’m fine. Nothing is wrong with me. But that is poor old Paul Elliot spread all over me. It just made mincemeat out of him when the round came through." He was rubbing all these bits and pieces of him [Elliot] off his battle dress. So I said to him, “Go on back Pop and pick up a tank and I'll see you in a couple of days time.” So we kept on moving towards Bougthorould and about a half an hour later I see this tank whizzing by in the field and it's Beardsley again. He just kind of waves as he goes by and moves forward to the left and up about 300 yards and Bang! He gets hit again. This time his driver was badly hurt and lost his legs. Pop managed to get him out and save his life and then went back to get another tank. I didn’t talk to him that particular time. We got into Bougthorould with the Black Watch and into a defensive position. Night was coming on and the echelon was moving in and the Sergeant-Major came up with the echelon to replenish [the squadron]. And I said, “Beardsley got knocked out a couple of times with us and see that he is looked after when he gets back to the echelon. I think he has gone back for another tank." He says, “My God Sir! Beardsley is right here!" He just pulled in behind me with a new tank and he was all ready to go again. I think that just shows the courage that man had. Getting knocked out of two tanks in a short period of time. But that was Beardsley and that was the way he operated."

In June–July 1944, the Army accepted a limited run of 254 M4A3E2 Jumbo Shermans, which had very thick armour and the 75-mm gun in a new, heavier T23-style turret, in order to assault fortifications. The M4A3 was the first to be factory-produced with the HVSS (horizontal volute spring suspension) suspension with wider tracks to distribute weight, and the smooth ride of the HVSS with its experimental E8 designation led to the nickname Easy Eight for Shermans so equipped. Both the Americans and the British developed a wide array of special attachments for the Sherman few saw combat, and most remained experimental. Those that saw action included the bulldozer blade for the Sherman dozer tanks, Duplex Drive amphibious tanks with waterproof float screens. (When in the water the float screen was raised and the rear propellers came into operation). The three regiments of the 2 nd Armoured Brigade, when used in the assault role in Normandy, had 38 DD or Duplex Drive Shermans issued. Other variants included the R3 flamethrower for Zippo flame tanks, and the T34 60-tube Calliope 4.5” rocket launcher for the Sherman turret. The British variants (DDs and mine flails) were among “Hobart’s Funnies “, named after their commander, Percy Hobart of the 79 th Armoured Division .

M4A4 Sherman Duplex Drive tank with waterproof float screen. (Wikipedia Photo)

Sherman DD Swimming Tanks inflated, preparing for launch from an LCT on exercise in the UK prior to D-Day. (IWM Photo H35179)

Sherman ARV moving into positions for an attack south of Caen, France, June 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3512561)

The M4 Sherman’s basic chassis was used for all the sundry roles of a modern mechanized force: roughly 50,000 Sherman tanks, plus thousands more derivative vehicles under different model numbers. These included M32 and M74 “tow truck”-style recovery tanks with winches, booms, and an 81-mm mortar for smoke screens M34 (from M32B1) and M35 (from M10A1) artillery prime movers M7B1, M12, M40, and M43 self-propelled artillery and the M10 Wolverine and M36 Jackson tank destroyers.

M74 Tank Recovery Vehicle, Military Communications and Electronics Museum, CFB Kingston, Ontario. (Author Photo)

Sherman Flail tank, Fort Garry Horse, Op Tractable, Bretteville-le-Rabet, France, 14 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396203)

Sherman Flail tank coming ashore from an LCT, Walcheren Island, Netherlands, 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614385)

M4A4 Sherman Crab, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The M4A4 Sherman Crab was equipped with a mine flail. A mine flail is a vehicle-mounted device that makes a safe path through a mine-field by deliberately detonating land mines in front of the vehicle that carries it. They were first used by the British during Second World War. The mine flail consists of a horizontal, rapidly-rotating rotor mounted in front of the vehicle on two arms. Fist-sized steel balls are attached to the rotor by chains, with each length of ball-ended chain comprising a flail. The rotor’s rotation causes the flails to spin wildly and to continuously and violently strike the ground. The force of a flail strike above a buried mine mimics a person or vehicle passing over it and causes the mine to detonate, but in a safe manner that does little damage to the flails or the vehicle. Wikipedia.

During Second World War, approximately 19,247 M4 Shermans were issued to the US Army and about 1,114 to the US Marine Corps. The US also supplied 17,184 to Great Britain, while the Soviet Union received 4,102 and an estimated 812 were transferred to China. These numbers were distributed further to the respective countries’ allied nations.

The United States officially did not list Canada as a Lend-Lease recipient, but did create the 1941 Joint Defense Production Committee with Canada so “each country should provide the other with the defence articles which it is best able to produce” and American Locomotive Company enabled its Canadian subsidiary, the Montreal Locomotive Works, to build M4A1 variants in Canada. Canada received four Shermans under Lend-Lease the mechanism of this is not fully understood. The MLW built 188 Shermans called the Grizzly I cruiser in Canadian service, which were restricted to training. MLW investment in Sherman production was turned to production of the Sexton self propelled gun. In European combat the Canadian Army used American-built Shermans supplied by the UK. These were armed with 75-mm, 105-mm and 17-pounder guns. Wikipedia.

The Sherman was being issued in small numbers for familiarization to US armoured Divisions when there was a turn of events in the Western Desert. Rommel had taken Tobruk, and Egypt (and the Suez Canal) was threatened. The US considered collecting all Shermans together so as to be able to send the 2 nd Armoured Division under Patton to reinforce Egypt, but delivering the Shermans directly to the British was quicker and 300 had arrived there by September 1942

The M4A1 Sherman first saw combat at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 with the British 8 th Army. The first US Shermans in battle were M4A1s in Operation Torch the next month. At this time, Shermans successfully engaged German Panzer IIIs with long barrelled 50-mm L/60 guns, and Panzer IVs with short barrelled 75-mm L/24 guns. Additional M4s and M4A1s replaced M3 Lees in US tank battalions over the course of the North African campaign. The M4 and M4A1 were the main types in US units until late 1944, when the Army began replacing them with the preferred M4A3 with its more powerful 500 hp (370 kW) engine. Some M4s and M4A1s continued in US service for the rest of the war.

Encounters with a company of Tiger Is, with their heavier armour and 88-mm L/56 guns, in Tunisia were typical of the mid-war period: the fearsome quality of a few German heavy tanks and their crews could be overcome by the quantity and mobility of the Shermans, supported by artillery and airpower, but sometimes at a great cost in US tanks and crewmen. By June 1944, the Panzer IV had been up-gunned with a 75-mm L/48 weapon, and 75-mm Shermans were out-gunned on a regular basis.

The first Sherman to enter combat with the 76-mm gun in July 1944 was the M4A1, closely followed by the M4A3. By the end of the war, half the US Army Shermans in Europe had the 76-mm gun. The first HVSS Sherman to see combat was the M4A3E8 76-mm (W) in December 1944.

In 1943, most German AFVs (later models of the Panzer IV, StuG III, and Marder III) mounted 7.5 cm KwK 40. As a result, even weakly-armoured light German tank destroyers such as the Marder III, which was meant to be a stop-gap measure to fight Soviet tanks in 1942, could destroy Shermans from a distance.

The disparity in firepower between the German AFVs of 1943 and the 75-mm M4 tank was the impetus to begin production of the 76-mm M4 tank in April 1944. The merican 76-mm gun proved to be comparable in penetrating power to the 7.5-cm KwK 40, the most common German tank gun encountered during the fighting in France.

The Sherman, due to its 75-mm gun, had major difficulty penetrating the glacis of Panther tanks. The Sherman had a gun that could penetrate roughly 88-mm at 1000 m. The average combat range noted by the Americans for tank vs. tank action was around 800 m to 900 m. This was just enough to penetrate a Panzer IV frontally, a tank designed in 1939. In order to deal with a Panther, a Sherman would have to get relatively close, due to both the armour and low-flash powder of the Panther. Sherman crews also had issues with firing from range as the Sherman’s high flash powder made their shots easy to spot. Summer 1944, after breaking out of the bocage, saw US tank crews assaulting German defensive positions with sometimes 50% casualties before spotting where the fire was coming from.

Although tests against armour plate suggested that the new M1A1 76-mm gun would be adequate, testing against Panther tanks was never done. This would have shown that the gun could not penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther at any distance, and could only penetrate the center of the gun mantlet at 100 meters.

In testing prior to the invasion of Normandy, the new 76-mm gun on the M4 Sherman was found to have a undesirable muzzle blast that kicked up dust from the ground and obscured vision for further firing. The addition of a muzzle brake solved this problem by directing the blast sideways. It also had a much weaker high-explosive shell than the existing 75-mm gun. Standard Army doctrine at the time emphasized the importance of the infantry support role of the tank, and the high-explosive round was considered more important. Hence the 76-mm M4 was not initially accepted by various US Armoured Division commanders, even though a number had already been produced and were available. All of the US Army M4s deployed initially in Normandy in June 1944 had the 75-mm gun.

Note: M4 Sherman letter code variations: M4 - Model Number, A1 - Continental Radial Engine, A2 – twin General Motors Diesel Engines, A3 - Ford GAA V-8 Engine 75-mm, 76mm - calibre of main gun (W) – Pressurized wet stowage of ammunition HVSS - widetrack Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension.

Ordnance QF 17-pounder Anti-Tank Gun, Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta. (Author Photo)

The British were more astute in their anticipation of the future development of German armour - beginning development of a 3 inch anti-tank gun even before its predecessor entered service and planning for its use in tanks that would replace the M4. Out of expediency driven by delays in their new tanks designs, they mounted a high-powered Ordnance QF 17-pounder gun in a standard 75-mm M4 Sherman turret. This conversion became the Sherman Firefly. The 17-pounder still could not penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther but it could easily penetrate the Panther’s gun mantlet at combat range moreover it could penetrate the front and side armour of the Tiger I at nearly the same range that the Tiger I could penetrate the Sherman.

German Panzer V Panther tank being examined by Infantrymen of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade Authie, France, 9 July 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3401771)

The higher-velocity 76-mm M1 gun gave Shermans anti-tank firepower at least equal to most of the German vehicles they encountered, particularly the Panzer IV, and StuG. However, with a regular AP (Armour Piercing shot) ammunition (M79) or APCBC (M62) shells, the 76-mm might knock out a Panther only at close range with a shot to its mantlet or flank. At long range, the Sherman was badly outmatched by the Panther’s 75-mm gun, which could easily penetrate the Sherman’s armour from all angles. This contributed to the high losses of Sherman tanks suffered by the Allied forces in Europe.

The Sherman would finally give way to post-war tanks developed from the M26. Various original and updated versions of the Sherman would continue to see combat effectively in many later conflicts, including the Korean War, the Arab-Israeli Wars, and Indo-Pakistani Wars into the late 20th century, against the T-34 and sometimes much more contemporary Soviet tanks. Wikipedia.

While Canadians served at sea, in the air, and in small numbers attached to Allied formations and independently, the invasion of Sicily was the first full scale combat engagement by full Canadian divisions since First World War. Canadian soldiers went ashore in 1943 in the Allied invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy, and then fought through the long Italian Campaign. During the course of the Italian Campaign, over 25,000 Canadian soldiers became casualties of war.

The 1 st Canadian Division and the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in Operation Husky, 10 July 1943 and also the Allied invasion of mainland Italy on 3 September 1943. Canadian participation in the Sicily and Italy campaigns were made possible after the government decided to break up the First Canadian Army, sitting idle in Britain.

Public pressure for Canadian troops to begin fighting forced a move before the awaited invasion of north-eastern Europe. Troops fought on through the long and difficult Italian campaign until redeployed to North-West Europe in February–March 1945 during Operation Goldflake. By this time the Canadian contribution to the Italian theatre had grown to include I Canadian Corps headquarters, the 1 st Division, 5 th Canadian (Armoured) Division and an independent armoured brigade. Three Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadian Army troops in Italy Captain Paul Triquet of the Royal 22 e Régiment, Private Smokey Smith of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, and Major John Mahoney of The Westminster Regiment (Motor). Notable battles in Italy included The Moro River Campaign, the Battle of Ortona and the battles to break the Hitler Line. Wikipedia.

Normandy and Northwest Europe

On 6 June 1944, the 3 rd Canadian Division landed on Juno Beach in the Battle of Normandy and sustained 50% casualties in their first hour of attack. By the end of D-Day, the Canadians had penetrated deeper into France than either the British or the American troops at their landing sites, overcoming stronger resistance than any of the other beachheads except Omaha Beach. In the first month of the Normandy campaign, Canadian, British and Polish troops were opposed by some of the strongest and best trained German troops in the theatre, including the 1 st SS Division, the 12 th SS Division and the Panzer-Lehr-Division.

Caen-Falaise Road, 8 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4164905)

Canadian tanks move into position for attack toward Falaise, between Hubert-Folie and Tilly-la-Campagne, Normandy, 8 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-132904)

Soldier of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (4th Canadian Armoured Division) passing a destroyed Canadian tank in St. Lambert sur Dive, Normandy, 19 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.)

Several costly operations were mounted by the Canadians to fight a path to the pivotal city of Caen and then south towards Falaise, part of the Allied attempt to liberate Paris. Canadian troops played a heavy role in the liberation of Paris. Suggested that Canadian inexperience during the battle to close the Falaise Gap allowed German forces to escape destruction, but by the time the First Canadian Army linked up with US forces, the destruction of the German Army in Normandy was nearly complete.

Major David V. Currie, V.C., South Alberta Regiment, Breda, Netherlands, 25 November 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3224834)

Humber Mk. I, Maj David V. Currie, VC, SAR, Halte, NE, 12 Nov 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3227188)

Three Victoria Crosses were earned by Canadians in Northwest Europe: Major David Currie of the South Alberta Regiment won the Victoria Cross for his actions at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dive. Captain Frederick Tilston of the Essex Scottish and Sergeant Aubrey Cosens of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada were awarded the Victoria Cross for their service in the Rhineland fighting in 1945, the latter posthumously.

M4A4 Sherman 17-pounder Firefly

Sherman Firefly Vc tank of The Fort Garry Horse near the Beveland Canal, Netherlands, ca. 29 October 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3228088. Lt Ken Bell)

Sherman 17-pounder Firefly 1c, 5 th Canadian Armoured Division , Putten, Holland, 18 April 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo)

M4A2 Sherman Firefly V, "Cathy", Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. (Author Photo)

The Sherman Firefly was a Second World War British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17-pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon. Originally conceived as a stopgap until future British tank designs came into service, the Sherman Firefly became the most common vehicle with the 17-pounder in Second World War.

Although the British expected to have their own new tank models developed soon (and were loath to consider using American tanks), British Major George Brighty championed the already-rejected idea of mounting the 17-pounder in the existing Sherman. With the help of Lieutenant Colonel Witheridge and despite official disapproval, he managed to get the concept accepted. This proved fortuitous, as both the Challenger and Cromwell Cruiser Tank designs experienced difficulties and delays.

After the problem of getting the gun to fit in the Sherman’s turret was solved, the Firefly was put into production in early 1944, in time to equip Field Marshal Montgomery’s forces for the Normandy landings. It soon became highly valued as the only British tank capable of defeating the Panther and Tiger tanks it faced in Normandy at standard combat ranges. In recognition of this, German tank and anti-tank gun crews were instructed to attack Fireflies first. Between 2100 and 2200 were manufactured before production wound down in 1945. Wikipedia.

The nickname “Firefly” is not found in wartime official documents. It was sometimes used at unit level (Brigade/Regiment) war diaries from March 1944, with another nickname being ‘Mayfly’. During the war, Shermans with 17-pounder guns were usually known as ‘1C’ ‘1C Hybrid’ or ‘VC’, depending on the basic mark of the vehicle. In British nomenclature, a “C” at the end of the Roman numeral indicated a tank equipped with the 17-pounder. The Firefly had no armour or mobility advantages over the normal Sherman tank, although the gun mantlet was some 13-mm thicker.

The main armament of the Sherman Firefly was the Ordnance Quick Firing 17-pounder. Designed as the successor to the British QF 6-pounder, the 17-pounder was the most powerful British tank gun of the war, and one of the most powerful of any nationality, being able to penetrate more armour than the Tiger I’s 88-mm KwK 36, the Panther tank’s 75-mm KwK 42, or the M26 Pershing’s 90-mm gun. Although when supplied with M304 HVAP rounds the 90-mm could still penetrate some 15-mm additional armour at 500 m than even the APDS of the 17-pounder, though neither round saw much use during the war.

The Firefly 17-pounder was able to penetrate some 140-mm of armour at 500 m (550 yd) and 131-mm at 1,000 m (1,100 yd) using standard Armour Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Capped (APCBC) ammunition at a 30 degree angle. When supplied, Armour Piercing, Discarding Sabot (APDS) ammunition could penetrate some 209-mm of armour at 500 m and 192-mm at 1,000 m at a 30 degree angle, which on paper was able to counter almost every German tank at any likely range. However, early production APDS rounds lacked accuracy and being a sub-calibre shot, the actual penetrating shot at around 50-mm wide was less destructive after it had penetrated enemy tank armour than the 76-mm APCBC shell. In any case, APDS ammunition was rare until late 1944.

Despite the Firefly’s superior antitank capabilities, the tank was regarded as inferior to the regular Sherman against soft targets such as enemy infantry, buildings and lightly armoured vehicles. As the war in Europe neared its close, the Allies found themselves encountering these more often than heavy German tanks. Allied tank units therefore typically refused to completely switch to Fireflies. A good HE shell only became available in late 1944 and even then was not as potent as the standard Sherman 75-mm HE shells.

Another problem was that the powerful blast from the 17-pounder gun kicked up large amounts of dirt as well as smoke, making it difficult for the gunner to observe the fall of the shell and thus relying on the commander to observe the fall of the round and to order corrections. Dirt and dust revealed the position of the tank, so Sherman Fireflies would have to move every few shots to avoid detection. The recoil and muzzle blast could be severely jarring to Firefly crews and the muzzle blast frequently caused night blindness as well. This was a common problem on any tank armed with a high velocity gun, including Panther and Tiger tanks. The cramped nature of the turret meant that loading the large 17-pounder shell was difficult so Fireflies had a reduced rate of fire compared to regular M4 Shermans. Since the Firefly was a stopgap to get a 17-pounder gun mounted on a tank, these problems were never eliminated as the Firefly was to be retired with the introduction of the new British tank designs.

Three different variants of Sherman Firefly served during the Second World War, each based on different variants of the M4 Sherman. The Firefly conversion was carried out on Sherman I (M4), Sherman I Hybrid (M4 Composite) and Sherman V (M4A4) tanks. Some sources state that several Sherman IIs (M4A1) were converted and used in action, but photos allegedly showing these conversions are in fact views of the front half of Sherman I Hybrid Fireflies.

To complicate matters, a very small number of Canadian licence-built Sherman IIs (M4A1), the Grizzly, were converted to Fireflies in Canada and used for training, but none saw action. The majority of Shermans converted were the Sherman V/M4A4 model, of which the British received about 7,200. The Sherman VC and IC variants are easily distinguished by their lower hulls the VC having a riveted lower hull with a curved shape while the IC has a welded and angled lower hull. The Hybrid can be distinguished by its upper hull which is cast and which gives it a distinctive curved look in comparison to the boxier hull of a typical Sherman.

Production of the Firefly started in early 1944, and by 31 May, some 342 Sherman Fireflies had been delivered to Montgomery’s 21st Army Group for the D-Day landings. As a result, British tank troops were composed of three regular Shermans and one Firefly. The same distribution occurred in Cromwell Cruiser Tank units, but this caused logistical problems, as each Cromwell troop now needed to be supplied with parts for two different tanks, and the Fireflies were slowly replaced by Challenger tanks as they came out. Churchill Infantry Tank units received no Fireflies, and as a result often had to rely on any attached M10 or M10 Achilles SP 17-pounder units to provide increased firepower to deal with tanks their 75-mm guns could not eliminate.

Production was limited by the availability of suitable tanks, with the phasing out of 75-mm Sherman production. To make up numbers the Mark I “hybrids” were employed. From D-Day in June to the end of the Battle of Normandy in late August, some 550 Sherman Fireflies were built, more than sufficient to replace any permanent tank losses during the battle. In late 1944, with the creation of an effective High Explosive shell for the 17-pounder gun, British units started to receive two Fireflies per troop. By February 1945, some 2,000 Sherman Fireflies had been built and British armour troops were equipped with a 50/50 mix of 75-mm and 17-pounder armed Shermans.

In the spring of 1945, production of the Firefly was scaled down, with the last tank being delivered in May 1945. This was the result of several factors, from superior home-grown designs like the Comet and Centurion coming into service which would replace the Firefly, to the impending defeat of Nazi Germany, and the inferior design of Japan’s tanks, which it seemed, would be the next opponents the British would have to face after the fall of Germany.

Overall production of the Sherman Firefly reached some 2,100 - 2,200 tanks exact numbers are hard to determine as documents give contradictory totals. Jane’s Second World War Tanks and Fighting Vehicles gives a production of 1,783 over 1944 and 563 over 1945, for a total of 2,346.

The Firefly’s secondary armament was the standard .30 inch coaxial machine gun in the turret. The hull mounted machine gun had been removed to increase ammunition storage for the main gun. A top-mounted .50 cal machine gun was also attached, though many crews removed it due to awkward mounting and position near the commander which limited a full 360 degree view when unbuttoned in battle. Wikipedia.

Fireflies were introduced to armoured brigades and divisions in the 21 st Army Group in 1944 just in time for the Normandy landings. The timing was fortunate as the Allies discovered that the Germans were fielding a much larger number of formidable tanks, such as the Panther, than had been expected in the Normandy theatre. In fact the Allies had mistakenly assumed the Panther, like the Tiger, would be a rare heavy tank with a limited production run, rather than a total replacement for their medium tanks, and the larger-than-expected number of Panthers came as a nasty shock to the Allied commanders as well as the tank crews forced to engage them with guns that could not penetrate the frontal armour at long range.

Fireflies were deployed as one tank per troop of Cromwell Cruiser Tank or Sherman tanks. The deployment with Cromwell troops made servicing and supply of those units more complex. The Firefly was also slower than the Cromwell.

Panthers and Tigers only accounted for some 30% of the nearly 2,500 German tanks deployed in Normandy (the rest being Panzer IVs, Sturmgeschütz IIIs and other tanks that the standard Shermans were able to effectively handle). However, the importance of Caen and Montgomery’s operations, which pinned German armoured forces in front of the British positions so the American units could break out to the west, meant that British and Commonwealth units had to face over 70% of all German armour deployed during the Battle of Normandy, as well as over half the elite, well-equipped SS units. As a result, the Sherman Firefly was perhaps the most valued tank by British and Commonwealth commanders, as it was the only tank in the British Army able to effectively defeat the Panthers and Tigers at the standard combat ranges in Normandy.

This fact did not go unnoticed by the Germans, who realized that these long-barrel Shermans posed a much greater threat to their heavy tanks than the regular Shermans, and German tank crews and anti-tank gun crews were instructed to eliminate Fireflies first. Similarly, the Firefly crews realized that the distinctive long barrel of their 17-pounder gun made the Firefly stand out from regular Shermans, so crews attempted to disguise their tanks in the hope they would not be targeted. Some crews had the front half of the gun barrel painted white on the bottom and dark green or the original olive drab on the top to give the illusion of a shorter gun barrel. Another suggestion was for a shorter wooden dummy gun would be mounted on the rear of the turret and point forward however, this tactic does not appear to have been used in combat.

Despite being a high priority target, Fireflies appear to have had a statistically lower chance of being knocked out than standard Shermans this was probably due more to how they were employed than to the actual effectiveness of the attempted camouflaging of the long barrel.

Given the high value placed on Fireflies, a common tactic was for commanders to reconnoitre the battlefield before a battle to look for good hull down positions. During the battle, Firefly tanks would stay behind in those position and cover the regular Shermans as they pushed forward, eliminating any enemy tanks that revealed themselves when they opened fire on the advancing Shermans and only moving forward when the regular Shermans had secured the area, or when they could no longer cover them from their current position. Similarly, when on the move, troop commanders tended to position Fireflies in the rear to reduce the chance of them being knocked out. However, given the relatively unpredictable nature of battle, this setup was not always practical or possible, and many times, Fireflies were forced to engage enemies in the open where they could be identified.

Despite this, the Firefly’s increased firepower was much valued, and during many engagements, the Firefly proved its worth, knocking out Tigers and Panthers at long range, as well as less formidable tanks like the Mark IVs and StuG IIIs.

One example of this increased firepower was displayed by Lt. G. K. Henry’s Firefly during the defence of Norrey-en-Bessin on 9 June against an attack by the 3 rd Company of the 12 th SS Panzer Regiment of the 12 th SS Panzer Division. Determined to capture the town in preparation for a larger offensive to drive the British and Canadians back into the sea, Kurt Meyer ordered an attack by 12 Panthers of the 3 rd Company and infantry to attack Norrey-en-Bessin and drive the Canadians out of the town. The attack got under way at 1300 hours with the Panthers racing to the town at full speed only to stop to fire their guns, quickly outrunning their infantry support which was forced to the ground by Allied artillery fire. Within 1,000 m (1,100 yd) of the town, nine Shermans of the 1 st Hussars opened fire into the advancing Panthers’ flanks. Lt. Henry’s gunner, Trooper A. Chapman, waited until the Panthers “lined up like ducks in a row” and quickly knocked out five with just six rounds. The attack was repulsed with the loss of seven of the 12 Panthers.

A similar example occurred on 14 June, during Operation Perch. Sgt. Harris of the 4 th /7 th Dragoon Guards, along with three standard Shermans, set up defensive positions along with the infantry after successfully driving out the Germans in the village of Lingèvres, near Tilly-sur-Seulles. Looking through his binoculars, Sgt. Harris spotted two Panthers advancing from the east. He opened fire at a range of 800 metres (870 yd), knocking out the lead Panther with his first shot, and the second Panther with his second. Relocating to a new position on the other side of the town, he spotted another three Panthers approaching from the west. From his well-concealed flanking position, he and his gunner, Trooper Mackillop, eliminated all three with just three rounds. Harris and his gunner had knocked out five Panthers with as many rounds, demonstrating the potency of the Firefly, especially when firing from a defensive position on advancing enemy tanks.

Sherbrooke Fusiliers Sherman accompanied by soldiers of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal on rue de Falaise, 17 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo)

In perhaps its most famous action, a group of seven Tiger tanks from the 3 rd Company and HQ Company, Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101 supported by several Panzer IV tanks and StuG IV assault guns were ambushed by Fireflies from A Squadron, 1 st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, 33 rd Armoured Brigade, A Squadron, the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment, 2 nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and B Squadron, The 144 th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, 33 rd Armoured Brigade. Tanks of the 1 st Northamptonshire Yeomanry and elements of the 51 st (Highland) Division reached the French village of Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil on the morning of 8 August 1944 during Operation Totalize. While B Squadron stayed around the village, A and C Squadrons moved further south into a wood called Delle de la Roque. C Squadron positioned themselves on the east side of the woods and the understrength A Squadron in the southern portion with No. 3 Troop on the western edge of the wood. From this position, they overlooked a large open section of ground and were able to watch as German tanks advanced up Route nationale 158 from the town of Cintheaux.

Under strict orders from the troop commander, they held their fire until the German tanks were well within range. Ekins, the gunner of Sergeant Gordon’s Sherman Firefly Velikye Luki (A Squadrons tanks were named after towns in the Soviet Union) had yet to fire his gun in action. With the Tiger tanks in range, the order was given to fire. What followed was an almost 12 minute battle that saw Ekins destroying all three Tigers that No. 3 Troop could see there were actually seven Tiger tanks in the area heading north along with some other tanks and self propelled guns. A short time later, the main German counterattack was made in the direction of C Squadron. A Squadron (less Sgt Gordon who had been wounded and had already bailed out of the Firefly) moved over to support them and in the resulting combat, Ekins destroyed a Panzer IV before his tank was hit and the crew were forced to bail out. One of the Tigers Ekins is credited with knocking out was that of Michael Wittmann, though there is still some controversy over whether Ekins really killed Wittman, as Fireflies of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment also fired at the Tigers from a closer range of 150 m.

Overall the Firefly proved itself a very successful tank despite the fact it was only intended as a stopgap tank until future British tanks like the Comet and the Centurion came into service. While Normandy had priority, Fireflies also served with distinction in Italy in British and Commonwealth units. British units in Italy also used the Sherman with the US 76-mm gun. Wikipedia.

M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyer

M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyer. (US Army Photo)

The M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyer, formally the 3 inch Gun Motor Carriage, M10 was a United States tank destroyer of Second World War based on the chassis of the M4 Sherman tank. It was numerically the most important US tank destroyer of Second World War and combined a reasonably potent anti-tank weapon with a turreted platform (unlike the previous M3 GMC, whose gun was capable of only limited traverse). Despite the introduction of more-powerful types as replacements, it remained in service until the end of the war. Some of those replacements were in fact modified and/or rebuilt from the M10 itself.

It was christened the Wolverine by the British, although unlike other vehicle names such as the M4 Sherman, the name was not adopted by American soldiers, who called it TD (a nickname for any tank destroyer in general) beyond its formal designation.

US combined-arms doctrine on the eve of Second World War held that tanks should be designed to fulfill the infantry support and exploitation roles. The anti-tank warfare mission was assigned to a new branch, the tank destroyer force. Tank destroyer units were meant to counter German blitzkrieg tactics. Tank destroyer units were to be held as a reserve at the Corps or Army level, and were to move quickly to the site of any enemy tank breakthrough, manoeuvring aggressively to destroy enemy tanks. This led to a requirement for very fast, well-armed vehicles. Though equipped with turrets (unlike most tank destroyers of the day), the typical American design was more heavily gunned, but more lightly armoured, and thus more manoeuvrable, than a contemporary tank. The idea was to use speed and agility as a defence, rather than thick armour, to bring a powerful self-propelled gun into action against enemy tanks.

The 3 inch Gun Motor Carriage T35 was the prototype of the M10. It was equipped with a 3 inch (76.2-mm) gun in a new sloped, circular, open-topped turret, developed from the Heavy Tank T1/M6 turret, and mounted on an early-production Medium Tank M4A1 hull.

This prototype was further developed by sloping the hull, using an M4A2 chassis, and replacing the circular turret with a pentagonal version this model was designated 3 inch Gun Motor Carriage T35E1. In June 1942 the T35E1 was finalized as the 3 inch Gun Motor Carriage M10 and ordered into full production. Towards the end of production the 76-mm gun M1 was installed in the last 300 or so M10’s, as it was being fitted into the new production M4 Sherman tank at the time. The 76-mm M1 offered slightly better anti-armour performance than the previous 3 inch gun M7.

A British variant designated M10 Achilles SP 17-pounder was developed by mounting the successful 17-pounder anti-tank gun in a modified turret. The 17-pounder was of a similar bore, but had far superior armour penetration capability. It was used by the British, Canadian and Polish armies in Italy and North-West Europe.

The M10 used a Medium Tank M4A2 chassis (M10A1s used M4A3 chassis) with an open-topped turret mounting a 3 inch gun M7. This gun fired the Armour Piercing M79 shot that could penetrate 3 inches of armour at 1,000 yards at 30 degrees from vertical. Other ammunition carried throughout its service life included the Armour Piercing Capped Ballistic Cap (APCBC) M62 projectile, High Velocity Armour Piercing (HVAP) M93 shot, and Armour Piercing High Explosive (APHE) 54 rounds of 3 inch ammunition were carried. The rear of the turret carried two large counterweights which gave it a distinctive shape. The main shortcoming of the M-10’x 3 inch cannon was its APHE round, which was the round most commonly used for engaging tanks. The 3 inch APHE round was based on the naval 3 inch round and had a small charge in the rear of the round which was supposed to explode after penetration of the targeted tank’s armour plating. Unfortunately it was discovered that it exploded on impact or shortly thereafter, causing the round not to penetrate. It is still a puzzling mystery as to why this problem was never addressed with a better base fuse or by deleting the small HE charge in the rear of the round. This was also the problem with the towed version of the 3 inch cannon, the M-5, in the antitank role.

A .50-calibre Browning M2HB machine gun could be mounted on the top rear of the turret for use against enemy infantry and for anti-aircraft use, along with 1000 rounds. The crew were also equipped with their personal weapons for self-protection. Wikipedia.

In its combat debut in Tunisia in 1943 during the North African campaign, the M10 was successful as its M7 3 inch gun could destroy most German tanks then in service. Later in the Battle of Normandy, the M10’s gun proved to be ineffective against the frontal armour of the newer German Tiger and Panther tanks unless firing HVAP rounds, but was effective against lighter tanks such as the Panzer IV medium tank and other lighter vehicles and self propelled guns.

British M10s were designated as (Gun) 3 inch Self Propelled Wolverine (3in SP Wolverine) or “M10 3 in SP” and as with all British self-propelled guns were operated by Royal Artillery units. They saw action in Italy and France, many being upgunned with the more effective 17-pounder gun (M10 Achilles SP 17-pounder) from 1944 onwards.

The M10’s open-topped turret left the crew vulnerable to artillery and mortar fire as well as infantry close assault, especially in urban combat and wooded areas. By the end of the war its armour was too thin to provide protection from the newer German tanks and anti-tank guns. The other main disadvantage of the M10 was its very slow speed of turret rotation, as the turret traverse was unpowered and the crew had to hand-crank the turret around. It took approximately two minutes to rotate a full 360 degrees. US tank destroyers fired many more high-explosive shells than anti-tank ammunition, indicating that they were employed much like the tanks they were supposed to support. Wikipedia.

M10 Achilles SP 17-pounder

M10 Achilles Tank Destroyer (TD), Courselles, Normandy, 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233767)

M10 Achilles Tank Destroyer (TD), possibly Normandy, late 1944. (DND Photo)

M10 Achilles of 245 Battery, 62nd Regiment, Royal Artillery, knocked out in Normandy, 1944. Three penetrating hits are visible on the turret. (Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-299-1818-05)

The 17-pounder, Self Propelled, Achilles was a British variant of the American M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyer armed with the powerful British Ordnance QF 17-pounder anti-tank gun in place of the standard 3 inch (76-mm) Gun M7. With a total of 1,100 M10s converted, the 17-pounder SP Achilles was the second most numerous armoured fighting vehicle to see service armed with the 17-pounder gun, behind the Sherman Firefly.

The name “Achilles” was officially a designation applied to both the 3 inch gun and 17-pounder versions (as Achilles I/II and Achilles Ic/IIc respectively) but was little used during the Second World War at the time, the vehicle was called 17-pounder M10, or 17-pounder SP M10, or even occasionally, “Firefly”. It has since become identified almost exclusively with the 17-pounder version.

In the wake of Germany’s successful 1939-41 campaigns, US armour doctrine had incorporated the idea of fast, lightly armoured vehicles carrying high velocity anti-tank guns as the best way to deal with the fast moving armour spearheads of the German Blitzkrieg. The M10 was based on the chassis of the M4 Sherman but carried thinner although more sloped armour in order to comply with the high speed requirement for the tank. At the same time, the British had been examining the possibility of designing a low-silhouette self-propelled tank destroyer, preferably with a 360-degree traversing turret, with armour that would be able to resist the German 50-mm at 800 yards and mounting the 17-pounder. However with the arrival of the M10 on the battlefield in late 1942, British plans for a turreted self-propelled gun were cancelled.

The M10 was first made available to the British in 1943. These vehicles were open topped and mounted a 3 inch American gun, which was significantly more powerful than the Ordnance QF 6-pounder that was mounted on British tanks of the period and was of equal power to the 75-mm KwK 40 used by the Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz III. When introduced into service in late 1942, the thin but sloped armour of the M10 provided good protection against the standard 50-mm gun mounted on most German tanks and anti-tank guns, and the 3 inch (76-mm) gun was able to easily defeat all German armour except for the handful of Tigers deployed against the Western Allies.

The M10 Achilles SP 17-pounder was little more than a modified M10. The main difference between the Achilles and the original M10 was the gun. The main armament of the Achilles was the Ordnance QF 17-pounder, a gun with greatly superior anti-tank performance over the standard American 3 inch anti-tank gun.

The 17-pounder mounted on the Achilles was able to penetrate some 140-mm of armour at 500 m and 131-mm at 1,000 m using standard Armour Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Capped (APCBC) ammunition impacting at a 30 degree angle. When supplied, Armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) ammunition could penetrate some 209-mm of armour at 500 metres and 192-mm at 1,000 metres at a 30 degree angle. In comparison the 3 inch (76-mm) gun on the standard M10 using the same type of ammunition (APCBC) would penetrate 98-mm of armour at 500 m at a 30 degree angle, and 88-mm of armour at 1,000 meters at a 30 degree angle. Only with HVAP ammunition did the 3 inch (76-mm) gun compare with the 17-pounder, the ammunition being able to penetrate 140-mm at 500 m at a 30 degree angle, and 127-mm at 1,000 m at a 30 degree angle. However HVAP ammunition was in very short supply and it only just compared with the standard 17-pounder ammunition that was available in huge amounts for the British.

The 17-pounder required a counterweight fitted behind the muzzle brake on its long barrel. This gave the Achilles a distinctive appearance compared to the M10 and there were attempts to disguise this by painting the brake and counterweight in order to disguise them.

The only other change carried out on the Achilles was the addition of 17-mm thick armour plates welded to the front and sides of the M10 to increase armour protection, as well as a 20-mm thick shield fitted to the top of the turret to provide protection from overhead threats that resulted from the M10 having an open top turret.

The desire to mount the 17-pounder on the M10 was governed by the degree of difficulty involved in mounting the 17-pounder on the tank itself. Luckily for the British, the initial batches of M10s had an easily modified gun mounting to facilitate the future replacement of the older 3 inch M7 gun with the newer 76-mm M1 gun. This gun mounting design allowed for the British to replace the 3 inch gun with the 17-pounder gun. The British took delivery of some 845 vehicles in 1943, but of the second version of the M10, only the T71 mark could carry the 17-pounder, the T70 mark being designed to only allow the lighter American 76-mm M1 gun.

The British had planned to convert some 1,000 M10s into 17-pounder armed variants for Normandy, but for some reason conversions were not started until April 1944. By D-Day only some 124 M10s had been converted, however the number of conversions post D-day increased and by the end of the year 816 M10s had been converted, 152 vehicles in November alone. However the low numbers at D-day meant that many British units went ashore fielding standard M10s rather than 17-pounder armed Achilles, and losses in Achilles units could at times be hard to replace, the crews receiving regular 3 inch armed M10s as replacements for their lost 17-pounder Achilles much to their dismay.

As a self-propelled anti-tank gun, Achilles as well as standard M10s were distributed to and operated by the regiments of the Royal Artillery. Around 1,650 M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyers were received by the British during the war, of these 1,100 were converted to the 17-pounder by the end of the war. Wikipedia.

Unlike the Americans, who saw the M10 as a tank hunter, the British viewed the Achilles as a mobile anti-tank gun. The standard anti-tank gun used in infantry units in the British Army was the 6-pounder anti-tank gun, a small, light gun able to defeat the more common German Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz with regular ammunition but not the heavier Tigers and Panthers. The next generation British gun, the 17-pounder anti-tank gun, was able to deal with Tigers and Panthers but was a heavy and unwieldy weapon that could take over 12 hours to move into position, dig in and camouflage. The British knew from experience that the Germans would quickly counterattack and it took too long to set up the 17-pounders before the German heavy tanks could overrun the infantry’s position.

As a result, the British used the Achilles as a quickly deployable anti-tank gun, able to reinforce a position taken by infantry and engage counter-attacking German forces while the slower towed 17-pounders were pulled up and dug in for a more long-term defensive presence. This had the advantage of mitigating the weak armour protection of the Achilles as being used defensively usually allowed it to fire the vital first shot. Usually, the only time the British used the M10 and Achilles offensively was in support of Churchill tank units as they did not have associated 17-pounder armed tanks like Sherman and Cromwell tank troops did.

Achilles went ashore on D-Day, equipping units of the Royal Artillery and Royal Canadian Artillery in Armoured Division or Corps Anti-tank Regiments. A typical Anti-tank Regiment would have 4 Batteries, 2 x Towed 17-pounder Batteries, 1 x Achilles and 1 x M10 Battery. The M10 Battery was replaced by a second Achilles Battery as more vehicles became available. Perhaps the most successful action of the Achilles was conducted by B troop, 245 th Battery, 62 nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery attached to the Hamilton Light Infantry during Operation Charnwood. A mixed German force of Mark IVs and Panthers from the 12 th SS Panzer Division attempted to retake the town of Buron. The eight Achilles of B troop had set up in an orchard looking south towards Abbaye d’Ardenne and were ideally placed when the Panzers began their counter-attack. In the brief action, 13 German tanks were knocked out and the attack fell apart. Wikipedia.

Canadian Operations in the Low Countries

One of the most important Canadian contributions in 1944 was the Battle of the Scheldt , involving the II Canadian Corps. The Corps included the 2 nd Canadian Infantry Division, 3 rd Canadian Infantry Division and 4 th Canadian (Armoured) Division. Although nominally a Canadian formation, II Canadian Corps contained the Polish 1 st Armoured Division, the 1 st Belgian Infantry Brigade, the Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade, and the 51 st (Highland) Infantry Division.

The British had liberated Antwerp, but that city’s port could not be used until the Germans were driven from the heavily fortified Scheldt estuary. In several weeks of heavy fighting in the fall of 1944, the Canadians succeeded in defeating the Germans in this region. The Canadians then turned east and played a central role in the liberation of the Netherlands. Wikipedia.

Universal Carrier (Ford). (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3626704)

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by Allied forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built in the United Kingdom and abroad, it was the most numerous armoured fighting vehicle in history. 28,992 were built in Canada, along with 5,000 Windsor Carriers. [30]

The origins of the Universal Carrier family can be traced back generally to the Carden Loyd tankettes family which was developed in the 1920s, and specifically the Mk VI tankette.

The carrier put the driver and commander at the front sitting side-by-side the driver to the right. The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear. The suspension was a mixture of the Vickers light tank and Horstmann springs Directional control was through a (vertical) steering wheel. Small turns moved the front road wheel assembly warping the track so the vehicle drifted to that side. Further movement of the wheel braked the appropriate track to give a turn.

The hull in front of the commander’s position jutted forward to give room for the Bren gun (or other armament) to fire through a simple slit. On each side of the engine were two areas in which passengers could ride or stores could be carried.

Initially, there were several different types of Carrier that varied slightly in design according to their purpose: “Medium Machine Gun Carrier” (the Vickers machine gun), “Bren Gun Carrier”, “Scout Carrier” and “Cavalry Carrier”. However, production of a single model came to be preferred and the Universal design appeared in 1940 this would be the most widely produced of the Carriers. It differed from the previous models in having a rectangular body shape in rear section, with more space for crew.

Production of these combat vehicles began in 1934 and it ended in 1960. Before the Universal design was introduced, production was by Aveling and Porter, Bedford Vehicles, the British branch of the Ford Motor Company, the Morris Motor Company, the Sentinel Waggon Works, and the Thornycroft Company.

The Universal was produced in Great Britain by Aveling-Barford, Ford, Sentinel, Thornycroft, and Wolseley Motors. By 1945 production amounted to approximately 57,000 of all models, including some 2,400 early ones.

The Ford Motor Company of Canada manufactured about 29,000 of the Universal Carriers. Smaller numbers of them were also produced in Australia (about 5,000) and New Zealand (about 1,300).

Ordnance 2-pounder Anti-Tank Gun is service with the RCA in the United Kingdom, ca 1940. (UK Government Photo H498)

Universal Carriers were issued to infantry units for carrying support weapons (initially 10, 21 by 1941, and up to 33 per battalion by 1943). Artillery units used them as an artillery tractor (US: “prime mover”) for the Ordnance QF 6-pounder anti-tank gun. Wikipedia. A small number (at least 24) Tank Hunting Universal Carriers were equipped with 2-pounder anti-tank guns in 1942. At least one unit was shipped to England in May 1942. The remainder provided emergency airfield defence on the Canadian northwest coast. [31]

Mk II. Equipped with a towing hitch.

Universal Carrier, Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta. (Author Photo)

Wasp flamethrower, Camp Petawawa, Ontario, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234056)

Wasp flamethrower crews, Queens Own Rifles of Canada, Vaucelles, France, 29 Jul 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3205139)

Wasp flamethrower, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

A flamethrower-equipped variant, using the “Flame-thrower, Transportable, No. 2”. The Mark I had a fixed flamethrower, the Mk II had the projector in the co-driver’s position. Both had the fuel tank within the rear compartment. The Mk IIC (C for Canadian) moved the fuel tank to the rear of the vehicle. The flame thrower was known as the “Ronson Lighter” (later improved as the Barracuda).

The Queen’s Own Rifles, a unit of the 3 rd Canadian Division equipped with Wasps landed on Juno Beach on 6 June 1944. The original design for this flame equipment came from Canadian military forces in the United Kingdom. Although considerable development problems were experienced, over 1,300 units were produced, starting in 1942. Flame range was 65 to 90 metres. [32]

The Carrier, Universal, T16, Mark I. was a significantly improved vehicle based upon those built by Ford of Canada, manufactured under Lend Lease by Ford in the United States from March 1943 to 1945. It was chiefly used by Canadian forces during the war as an artillery tractor. After the war, it was used by Swiss and Netherlands forces. It was longer than the Universal with an extra road wheel on the rear bogie the engine was a Ford Mercury delivering the same power. Instead of the steering wheel controlling the combination brake/warp mechanism, the T-16 had track brake steering operated by levers (2 for each side). Wikipedia.

Exactly 5,000 four-bogie Windsor Carriers were produced from 1944 to 1945. Unlike the American T-16, the Windsor retained the traditional Cam plus Brake steering wheel of the Universal Carrier. The extra bogie wheel provided excellent stability, especially when towing a trailer or anti-tank gun. [33]

Canadian Tracked Jeep (Willys)

Canadian Tracked Jeep (Willys), Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

In late 1942, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND)’s Directorate of Vehicles and Artillery (DVA) began work at No.1 Proving Ground in Ottawa on a small tracked vehicle using largely Jeep automotive components. DVA anticipated that there was a potential requirement for the smallest practicable tracked vehicle, for use by airborne troops and in the Pacific theatre. The project was formalized by the Army Technical Development Board (ATDB), on 10 January, 1943, as project 49, and assigned to its proponent DVA. The vehicle came to be referred to successively as: the Bantam Armoured Tracked Vehicle, the Light Recce Tank, and finally as the Tracked Jeep. Its envisaged roles included: intercommunication (running messages over contested ground), armoured reconnaissance, and engaging unarmoured troops in airborne and combined operations. Follow-on versions of the vehicle were to be amphibious, with twin propellers for water propulsion although fully laden, it had a very low freeboard.

One of two surviving Tracked Jeep Mk.I pilots now on display in the Canadian War Museum’s Lebreton Gallery. This example may be Pilot No.2, which underwent extensive reliability trials at No.1 Proving Ground, in Orleans, Ontario (just east of Ottawa).

Daimler Dingo Armoured Car

Canadian Daimler Dingo Armoured Car captured at Dieppe, being examined by German soldiers, Aug 1942. (Bundesarchiv Photo. Bild 1011-291-1207-11)

Dingo Armoured Car, 8th Royal Scots & 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion after crossing the Rhine, Bergerfarth, Germany, 25 Mar 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524486)

The Daimler Scout Car, known in service as the "Dingo" (after the Australian wild dog), was a British light fast four-wheel drive reconnaissance vehicle also used in the liaison role during the Second World War.

Morris Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC)

Morris Mk II "Carol", 4 July 1944, Norrey en Bassin possibly RCE, 3rd Division. (DND Photo)

The Morris Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC) was a British-built light armoured car for reconnaissance use. The vehicle had an unusual internal arrangement, with three-man crew sitting side by side by side with the driver in the middle, a crewman manning a small multi-sided turret mounting Bren light machine gun at the right side, and another with Boys .55 inch anti-tank rifle (mounted in brackets in the hatches on the hull roof) and access to radio set at the left. From 1940 to 1944 over 2,200 were built.

Humber Armoured Car

Humber Mk. I Scout car, Falaise, France, 17 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3206554)

Personnel of the 17 th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars in their Humber Mk IV armoured car in Normandy, France, 18-20 July 1944. ( Library and Archives Canada Photo, LAC MIKAN No. 3378681, Lt Ken Bell)

Although at the outbreak of the Second World War the British Army already had the excellent Daimler Dingo Armoured Car, the need for scout cars could not be met by Daimler alone, so other companies were required to produce similar vehicles. One of these companies was Rootes Group, which in 1942 built a vehicle similar to the Dingo in layout. The Canadian Army used a number of them throughout the war.

To comply with the official requirement to keep the weight down, the Daimler “Dingo” had an open top (the Humber had an unarmoured floor).

The vehicle carried a crew of two, with an emergency seat for a third member. It was equipped with a No. 19 radio set. The armament consisted of one Bren light machine gun with a 100-round drum. A second Bren could be added if necessary. This was mounted above the roof, and could be operated from inside the vehicle using a system looking similar to bicycle handlebars, where the “brake” levers fired the triggers of the Bren guns.

Humber Armoured Recconnaissance Car, France ca. 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233288)

Production of the vehicles continued until 1945. At least 4,298 were ordered and at least 4,102 delivered, 1,698 of them Mk I. They were used by British armoured units for scouting and liaison and were generally considered less capable and reliable than the Dingo Armoured Car. After the war, the vehicle was used by some European armies. Belgian police continued to use the car until 1958. Most of the vehicles were destroyed in the 1960’s by the British Army using them as tank target practice. There are now currently only about 20 known to exist. Wikipedia.

Fox Armoured Car, with Major-General Frederic Franklin Worthington, MC, MM, CD, nicknamed "Worthy" and "Fighting Frank". He is considered the father of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. He is seen here in a Fox on Parliament Hill. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4232408)

Fox Armoured Car Mk IV, outside the old Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Fox Armoured Car was a wheeled armoured fighting vehicle produced by Canada in the Second World War. The Fox was built by General Motors, Canada, based on the British Humber Armoured Car Mk IV but using Canadian components. The four man crew consisted of the vehicle commander, the driver, a gunner and a wireless operator. 1506 vehicles were manufactured in 1943. The Fox saw operations in Italy, UK and India. After the Second World War many of them went to the Portuguese Army, which used them from 1961 to 1975 in counterinsurgency in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique. Wikip

The Fox and Humber Armoured Car Mk IV were armed with a 37-mm gun, a 7.92-mm Besa machine gun and .303 Bren gun. The Fox was powered by the GMC 270 cubic inch six-cylinder engine and its hull was manufactured by the Hamilton Bridge Company. [34]

Dingo Armoured Car of the Canadian Army being examined by German soldiers after the vehicle was abandoned during the August 1942 Dieppe Raid. (Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-291-1207-11)

The Daimler Scout Car, known in service as the Dingo Armoured Car“ (after the Australian wild dog), was a British light fast 4WD reconnaissance vehicle also used in the liaison role during the Second World War. Arguably one of the finest armoured fighting vehicles built in Britain during the war, the Dingo was a small two-man armoured car. It was well protected for its size with 30-mm of armour at the front. The engine was located at the rear of the vehicle. One of the ingenious features of Dingo was the transmission a pre-selector gearbox and fluid flywheel that gave five speeds in both directions. The original version had four-wheel steering however this feature was dropped in Mk II because inexperienced drivers found the vehicle hard to control.

Although the Dingo featured a flat plate beneath the chassis to slide across uneven ground, it was extremely vulnerable to mines. No spare wheel was carried, but it was not really necessary because of the use of run-flat (nearly solid) rubber tyres instead of pneumatic. Despite the hard tyres, the independent suspension gave it a very comfortable ride. A swivelling seat next to the driver allowed the other crew member to attend to the No. 19 wireless set or Bren gun when required. It had the ideal quiet engine and a low silhouette. Wikipedia.

Lynx Scout car, "Flash", Bagnacavallo, Italy, 3 Jan 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3240447)

Lynx II Scout Car, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Lynx Scout Car was a closely related vehicle to the Daimler Scout Car. It was produced by Ford Canada in Windsor, Ontario. The Lynx took a Dingo -type hull and set it on a chassis with four wheel drive taken from the rear mounted engine. While the engine was more powerful than the Dingo’s, the gearbox and suspension were inferior. 3,255 units were built, entering service sometime around 1943. Wikipedia. Over 3,200 Lynxes (Mk I & II) were built at Windsor, Ontario. The hulls were fabricated by the International Harvester Company, Hamilton, Ontario. [35]

In Canadian service the Lynx was used by Armoured Car Regiments, Armoured Recce Regiments, Armoured Regiments, Reconnaissance Regiments, HQ Armoured Division and by RC Signal Corps in armoured formations.

General Motors Otter Light Reconnaissance Car

Otter Light Reconnaissance Car, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Otter Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC) was an armoured car produced by Canada during the Second World War. The Otter LRC was a front-engine armoured car with a 270 cubic inch GMC powerplant. It was developed by General Motors Canada as a replacement for the Humber LRC. Between 1942 and 1945, 1,761 units were produced in Oshawa, Ontario. The vehicle was based on the Chevrolet C15 CMP truck. The armament consisted of a hull-mounted Boys anti-tank rifle and a Bren light machine gun in a small open-topped turret.

The Otter served with Canadian units in the Italian Campaign and Northwest Europe. It was also employed by some British units. After the war the Otter was used by the Jordanian Army and Dutch Army during the Indonesian Revolution. Wikipedia.

M20 Greyhound Armoured Utility Car

M8 Greyhound Armouored Car, (Serial No. F268708), Oshawa Military Museum. (Photo courtesy of Andre Blanchard)

The M8 Light Armoured Car was a 6x6 armoured car produced by the Ford Motor Company during Second World War. It was used by the US and British troops in Europe and the Far East until the end of the war. The vehicle was widely exported and as of 2006 still remains in service in some third world countries.

In British service, the M8 was known as the Greyhound. The British Army found it too lightly armoured, particularly the hull floor where anti-tank mines could easily penetrate (crews’ solution was lining the floor of the crew compartment with sandbags). It was produced in such a large volume and, coupled with its off-roading capabilities, that this shortcoming was largely overlooked. The M8 Greyhound could virtually go anywhere, which made it a great supportive element to the advancing American and British armoured columns.

The M20 Greyhound Armoured Utility Car, also known as the M20 Scout Car, was a Greyhound with the turret removed. This was replaced with a low, armoured open-topped superstructure and an anti-aircraft ring mount for a .50 in M2 heavy machine gun. A bazooka was provided for the crew to compensate for its lack of anti-armour weaponry. The M20 was primarily used as a command vehicle and for forward reconnaissance, but many vehicles also served as APCs and cargo carriers. It offered high speed and excellent mobility, along with a degree of protection against small arms fire and shrapnel. When employed in the command and control role, the M20 was fitted with additional radio equipment. Originally designated the M10 Armoured Utility Car, it was redesignated M20 to avoid confusion with the M10 Wolverine tank destroyer. 3,680 M20s were built by Ford during its two years in production (1943–1944). Wikipedia.

Daimler Mk. 1, Sallenelles, France, Library Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233183)

The Daimler Armoured Car was a parallel development to the Daimler Dingo “Scout car”, a small armoured vehicle for scouting and liaison roles. It was a larger version designed upon the same layout as the Dingo fitted with the turret similar to that of the Mark VII Light Tank and a more powerful engine. Like the scout car, it incorporated some of the most advanced design concepts of the time and is considered one of the best British AFVs of the Second World War. The 95 hp engine was at the rear linked through a fluid flywheel to a preselector gearbox and then by propshafts to each wheel. Four wheel steering similar to early models of the Scout car was considered but not implemented following experience with the Dingo.

The prototypes had been produced in 1939, but problems with the transmission caused by the weight of the vehicle delayed service entry until mid-1941. 1,694 armoured cars were built by Daimler.

The Daimler had full independent suspension and four wheel drive. Epicyclic gearing in the wheel hubs enabled a very low ratio in bottom gear - it was credited with managing 1:2 inclines. The rugged nature combined with reliability made it ideal for reconnaissance and escort work. Wikipedia

In Canadian Army service the Daimler Armoured Cars were used by Armoured Car and Reconnaissance Regiments for short and long distance recce and for special missions such as raids, securing tactical features, collecting intelligence information and for protective duties with HQs and convoys. It was armed with a 2-pounder gun and a 7.92-mm machinegun. [36]

T17E1 Staghound Armoured Car

Staghound T17E1, A Sqn, 12th Manitoba Dragoons, Hochwald, Germany, March 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3202099)

Canadian Staghounds on parade in Amsterdam, 28 June 1945. (Netherlands Nationall Archief Photo)

General Motors T17E1 Staghound Armoured Car, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

T17E1 Staghound Armoured Car was an American armoured car produced during the Second World War. They did not see service with frontline US forces but were supplied via the United Kingdom to British and Commonwealth forces during the war and received the service name Staghound. T17E1 production started in October 1942 and continued for the United Kingdom. Approximately 4,000 Staghounds were produced in total. A number of countries used the Staghound after the war, with some of the vehicles continuing to serve into the 1980s.

The Staghound was an innovative design that incorporated some advanced features. It had two rear-facing 6-cylinder engines with automatic transmissions (with 4 forward and 1 reverse gears) feeding through a transfer case to drive both axles. Either two or four-wheel drive could be selected. Either engine could be shut down while in motion and taken out of the drive train. Additionally, a power steering pump was incorporated which could be switched on or off manually from the driver’s instrument panel depending on steering conditions. Steering and suspension components were directly attached to the hull as the structure was rigid enough to dispense with the need for a separate chassis.

The Staghound entered service too late for use in the North African campaign where its combination of armour, range and main armament would have been an advantage. As a result it first saw operational service in Italy, where many units found its large physical size too restrictive in the narrow roads and streets of Europe. As a result it saw most service at squadron and regimental headquarter level.

Built by Chevrolet for Britain, 2,687 - 2,844 units were produced. The T17E1 was armed with a 37-mm M6 gun, a coaxial Browning 1919A4 .30 cal machine gun and a 2 inch smoke mortar in a rotating turret. In the hull was mounted a Browning 1919A4 .30 cal machine gun. Some T17E1 had an additional Browning 1919A4 .30 cal machine gun for anti-aircraft defence. The turret had power traverse and featured a turret basket (which limited the amount of internal crew storage). The 37-mm gun was gyroscopically stabilized. The Staghound had a crew of 5, commander, loader, gunner, and hull machine gunner. It saw combat with the British, Free Polish, Canadian, New Zealand, Indian, and Belgian armies in Italy, Greece and Northwest Europe. After Second World War, it saw further action in Cuba, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Rhodesia. Wikipedia.

Primary users of the Staghound in Canadian armoured car regiments overseas were the 12 th Manitoba Dragoons and the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Initially 58 and later 72 T17E1 Staghounds were allocated per regiment. In addition, there were two rear link armoured cars and five T1E2 AA Staghounds (armed with twin .50 calibre Machine-guns on a co-axial mounting) in the regimental HQ squadron, and two Staghounds armed with 3 inch howitzers or 75-mm guns in each squadron’s heavy troop. Staghounds, mainly the command, control, or rear link versions, were issued to the headquarters of 2 nd Canadian Corps (two cars), 3 rd Canadian Infantry Division (three cars), 4 th Canadian Armoured Division (two cars), and 4 th Canadian Armoured Brigade (four cars). Staghounds were also issued to HQ 1 st Canadian Corps, HQ 3 rd Canadian Infantry Division (one for the GOC), and HQ 4 th Canadian Armoured Division. The 7 th Canadian Recce Regiment received Staghounds in mid-July 1944. [37]

Canadian armoured car regiments had a regimental HQ, an HQ Squadron, and four fighting squadrons. Each squadron had five recce troops (each with two scout cars and two Staghounds), a heavy troop with two Staghound II or IIIs, and a support or assault troop of four 10-man infantry sections mounted in White scout cars (or later Canadian 15-cwt armoured trucks). [38]

After the war, more than 100 Staghounds (90 Staghound I, four Staghound II, six Staghound III, ten Staghound AA, the Rocket Launcher, and three Command versions) were brought to Canada. Many went to various schools or were held in Ordnance depots. Ten were issued to the Princess Louise Dragoons Guards, four to the 12 th Manitoba Dragoons, 19 to the 14 th Canadian Hussars, and 8 to the 19 th Alberta Armoured Regiment. The last Staghound in Canadian service was retired in 1964. [39]

AEC Armoured Command Vehicle

An ACV of the British Army's 23rd Brigade HQ at Francolise, Italy, 1944. (Sgt Hewitt, No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit, IWM Photo NA 12991)

The AEC Armoured Command Vehicle was a series of command vehicles built by the British Associated Equipment Company during the Second World War. During Second World War the United Kingdom was the only country to develop and widely employ purpose-built armoured command vehicles. Those were essentially armoured buses based on truck chassis.

The most common ACV of the British Army was the AEC 4x4 ACV. The vehicle, based on the AEC Matador chassis, entered production in 1941. A total of about 415 units were built. The vehicle was used for the first time in the North African Campaign and remained in service until the end of the war. Big and comfortable, it was nicknamed Dorchester by the troops, after the luxury hotel in London. Three ACVs of this type were captured by the German Afrika Korps. Two of them, named “Max” and “Moritz”, were employed by Rommel and his staff throughout the campaign.

In 1944 a larger AEC 6x6 ACV was developed. The vehicle was based on the AEC 0857 lorry chassis and was powered by the AEC 198 150 hp engine. The hull was welded from 9-mm thick rolled steel. The weight of the vehicle reached 17 tons. One hundred and fifty one units were built. Both vehicles were built in two configurations, called LP (Low Power) and HP (High Power), with different radio equipment. Wikipedia.

AEC ACVs were used by the Royal Canadian Signal Corps at Armoured Division HQ as High Power wireless control terminals for communications between main and rear Corps and between main and rear division. The vehicle also served as an office for members of the divisional staff. High Power equipment was used for longer rangers than Low Power vehicles. [40]

M3A1 Armoured Scout Car

White M3A1, Roermond, the Netherlands. (Dammit Photo)

The White Motor Company M3A1 15-cwt armoured truck was used as an armoured personnel carrier, a reconnaissance scout car and on occasion as an ambulance. It had a canvas tarpaulinover an open top and could seat six soldiers. It was equipped with a mount for a Brownking .50 cal Machine-gun. The vehicles engine, hood and body were covered with armour plate.

M3 Halftrack Armoured Personnel Carrier

M3 Halftrack Armoured Personnel Carrier “Slow Poke”, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Carrier, Personnel Halftrack M3 was an armoured vehicle used by the United States, the British Empire and the other Allies during Second World War and the Cold War. Nearly 43,000 were produced, and supplied to the US Army and Marines, as well as British Commonwealth and Soviet Red Army forces, serving on all fronts throughout the war. Wikipedia.

Between the world wars, the US Army sought to improve the tactical mobility of its forces. With the goal of finding a high-mobility infantry vehicle, the Ordnance Department had evaluated the halftrack design by testing French Citroën-Kégresse vehicles. The White Motor Company produced a prototype halftrack using their own chassis and the body of the M3 Scout Car.

The design, using as many commercial components as possible to improve reliability and speed production, was standardized in 1940 and built by the Autocar Company, Diamond T Motor Company, and the White Company.

Offered with a choice of White 160AX or IHC RED 450 engines, the M3 was driven through a manual constant-mesh (non-synchromesh) transmission with four forward and one reverse gear, as well as a two-speed transfer case. Front suspension was leaf spring, tracks by vertical volute spring. Braking was vacuum-assisted hydraulic, steering manual, without power assist. The electrical system was 12-volt.

M5 Halftrack Armoured Personnel Carrier, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The M3 was the larger counterpart to the M2 Half Track Car. The M2 was originally intended to function as an artillery tractor. The M3 had a longer body than the M2 with a single access door in the rear and seating for a 13-man rifle squad. Ten seats were arranged down either side of the vehicle, with three in the cab. Racks under the seats were used for ammunition and rations additional racks behind the seat backs held the squad’s rifles and other stowage. A small rack for mines was added on the outside of the hull just above the tracks. In combat, most units found it necessary to stow additional food, rucksacks and other crew stowage on the outside of the vehicle. Luggage racks were often added in the field, and very late vehicles had rear-mounted racks for this crew stowage.

Halftrack 75-mm gun carrier, Royal Canadian Dragoons, Larino, Italy, 20 Mar 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3574238)

Early vehicles had a pintle mount just behind the front seats mounting a .50-calibre (12.7-mm) M2 Browning machine gun. The later M3A1 adopted a raised, armoured ‘pulpit mount’ for the .50-calibre, and .30-calibre (7.62-mm) machine guns could be used from mounts along the sides of the passenger compartment. Many M3s were later modified to the M3A1 standard. The body was armoured all around, with an adjustable armoured shutter for the engine’s radiator and a bulletproof windscreen. The variant in the CFB Borden Military Museum is an M3 - White Halftrack with White 386 cu in (6,330 cc) 160AX engine. It was fitted with either an M32 anti-aircraft machine gun mount or a pedestal mount, both featuring an M2HB machine gun.

The halftracks were initially extremely unpopular and dubbed “Purple Heart Boxes” (a grim reference to the US Army’s decoration for combat wounds) by American troops. Chief complaints centered on the complete lack of overhead protection from airbursting artillery shells and that the armour was inadequate against machinegun fire.

Total production of the M3 ran to nearly 41,000 vehicles. To supply the Allied nations International Harvester produced several thousand of a very similar vehicle, the M5 half track for Lend-Lease. Wikipedia.

GMC C15TA with RHLI, Krabbendijke, Netherlands, 27 Oct 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3205115)

GMC C15TA, Z5822762, on display in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The C15TA Armoured Truck was an armoured vehicle produced by Canada during the Second World War. The C15TA was developed by General Motors Canada along a concept lines of the American M3 Scout Car. The vehicle utilized the chassis of the Chevrolet C15 CMP truck. Between 1943 and 1945 a total of 3,961 units were built in Oshawa, Ontario. Armoured hulls were supplied by the Hamilton Bridge Company.

The C15TA was used by the British and Canadian units in the Northwest Europe as armoured personnel carrier and ambulance. After the end of the hostilities, many vehicles were left in Europe and were subsequently employed by armies of the liberated European countries, including Belgium, Denmark (as M6 Mosegris), the Netherlands (received at least 396 units), and Norway. In addition about 150 were sold by Canada to Spain.

Trucks left by the British forces in Vietnam were taken over by the French, which used them in Indochina and later transferred to South Vietnam. Many C15TAs were employed by the police forces of the Federation of Malaya. In 1955 Portugal received a number of vehicles, known as “Granadeiros” that were later used in the African wars. Some vehicles remained in service until the 1960s. Wikipedia.

LVT-1 Amphibious Vehicle

LVT-1, Swords and Ploughshares Museum, Kars, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) was a class of amphibious vehicles introduced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Army during Second World War. Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they rapidly evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles as well. The types were all widely known as amphtrack, amtrak, amtrac etc., for the amphibious tractor.

The LVT 1 could carry 18 fully equipped men or 4,500 pounds (2,041 kg) of cargo. Originally intended to carry replenishments from ships ashore, they lacked armour protection and their tracks and suspension were unreliable when used on hard terrain. However, the Marines soon recognized the potential of the LVT as an assault vehicle. Armoured versions were introduced as well as fire support versions, dubbed Amtanks, which were fitted with turrets from Stuart series light tanks (LVT(A)-1) and Howitzer Motor Carriage M8s (LVT(A)-4). Among other upgrades were a new powerpack, also borrowed from the Stuarts, and a torsilastic suspension which significantly improved performance on land. Production continued throughout the war, resulting in 18,621 LVTs delivered. Wikipedia.

LVT-2 Buffalo II Amphibious Landing Tracked Vehicle

Buffalo II amphibious troop carrier of the 79th Armoured Division with soldiers of the North Shore Regiment of New Brunswick near Terneuzen in the Netherlands, 13 Oct 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo)

The American LVT-2 Water Buffalo, British designation Buffalo II (1942) featured a new powertrain (taken from the M3A1 light tank) and torsilastic suspension. Its performance on hard terrain was much better compared to the LVT-1. 2,962 units produced. The US, British and Canadian Armies used the Buffalo in the Battle of the Scheldt, during Operation Plunder, along the Po River in Italy, across the river Elbe, and in a number of other river crossing operations. Wikipedia.

The LVT-4 Water Buffalo, British designation Buffalo IV (1943), had the engine moved forward and a large ramp door was added to the rear, allowing troops to exit from the rear of the vehicle. This innovation also greatly facilitated the loading and unloading of cargo. Some vehicles received armour kits. It was by far the most numerous version of the LVT, with 8,351 units delivered. Many of the British LVT versions were armed with a Polsten 20-mm cannon and 2 × .30 cal Browning MGs.

DUKW Amphibious Truck

DUKW, ferrying Canadian troops, in Normandy, June 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233777)

The DUKW (colloquially known as duck) is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by a partnership under military auspices of Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors Corporation during Second World War for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks. Designed to last only long enough to meet the demands of combat, productionized Ducks, a modification of the 2-ton capacity “deuce” trucks used by the US military in Second World War, were later used as tourist craft in marine environments. Approximately 800 were in service with the Canadian Army.

The designation of DUKW is not a military acronym - the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC the “D” indicates a vehicle designed in 1942, the “U” meant “utility (amphibious)”, the “K” indicated all-wheel drive and the “W” indicated two powered rear axles. The DUKW prototype was built around the GMC ACKWX, a cab-over-engine (COE) version of the GMC CCKW six-wheel-drive military truck, with the addition of a watertight hull and a propeller. The final production design was based on the CCKW.

The vehicle was built by the GMC division of General Motors (which was still called Yellow Truck and Coach at the beginning of the war). It was powered by a GMC Straight-6 engine of 270 in³ (4.416 L). The DUKW weighed 6.5 tons empty and operated at 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on road and 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h 6.3 mph) on water. It was 31 feet (9.4 m) long, 8 feet 2.875-inches (2.51 m) wide, 7 feet 1.375-inches (2.17 m) high with the folding-canvas top down and 8.8 feet (2.6 m) high with the top up. 21,137 were manufactured. It was not an armoured vehicle, being plated with sheet steel between 1/16 and 1/8 inches (1.6–3.2-mm) thick to minimize weight. A high capacity bilge pump system kept the DUKW afloat if the thin hull was breached by holes up to 2 inches (51-mm) in diameter. One of every four vehicles was produced with a ring mount for machine gun, which would usually have held a .50-calibre (12.7-mm) Browning heavy machine gun.

The DUKW was the first vehicle to allow the driver to vary the tire pressure from inside the cab, an accomplishment of Speir’s device. The tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads and less inflated for softer surfaces - especially beach sand. This added to the DUKW’s great versatility as an amphibious vehicle. This feature is now standard on many military vehicles. Wikipedia.

DUKW, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

One GMC DUKW is in the Canadian War Museum, another is on display in the Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario.

M29C Water Weasel Tracked Amphibious Cargo Vehicle, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The M29 Weasel was a Second World War tracked vehicle, built by Studebaker, designed for operation in snow. The idea for the Weasel came from the work of British inventor Geoffrey Pyke in support of his proposals to attack Axis forces and industrial installations in Norway. Pyke’s plan to hamper the German atomic weapons development became Project Plough for which he proposed a fast light mechanised device that would transport small groups of commando troops of the 1 st Special Service Force across snow. In active service in Europe, Weasels were used to supply frontline troops over difficult ground when wheeled vehicles were immobilised.

The first 2,103 Weasels had 15-inch (380-mm) tracks a later version had 20 inch (510-mm) tracks. The M29 was amphibious, but with a very low freeboard the M29C Water Weasel was the amphibious version, with buoyancy cells in the bow and stern as well as twin rudders. Wikipedia

Canadian Army Operations Post War, Cold War & Peacekeeping

Bombardier snowmobile with PPCLI soldier. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233989)

One of the 7 Hägglunds Bv206 acquired for the Canadian Forces. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3930991)

It was during the Cold War Canada began to assert the international clout that went along with the reputation it had built on the international stage in First World War and Second World War. In Korea, during the Korean War, the moderately sized contingent of volunteer soldiers from Canada made noteworthy contributions to the United Nations forces and served with distinction. Of particular note is the effort of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry contribution to the Battle of Kapyong.

Canada’s major Cold War contribution to international politics was made in the innovation and implementation of “Peacekeeping”. Although a United Nations military force had been proposed and advocated for the preservation of peace vis-a-vis the UN’s mandate by Canada’s representatives Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his Secretary of State for External Affairs Louis St. Laurent at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in June 1945, it was not adopted at that time.

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, the idea promoted by Canada in 1945 of a United Nations military force returned to the fore. The conflict involving Britain, France, Israel and Egypt quickly developed into a potential flashpoint between the emerging “superpowers” of the United States and the Soviet Union as the Soviets made intimations that they would militarily support Egypt’s cause. The Soviets went as far as to say they would be willing to use “all types of modern weapons of destruction” on London and Paris - an overt threat of nuclear attack.

Canadian diplomat Lester B. Pearson re-introduced then Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent’s UN military force concept in the form of an “Emergency Force” that would intercede and divide the combatants, and form a buffer zone or ‘human shield’ between the opposing forces. Pearson’s United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) - the first peacekeeping force, was deployed to separate the combatants and a cease-fire and resolution was drawn up to end the hostilities. Wikipedia.

4 Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers, man a Ferret scout car while a armoured personnel carrier of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, swims the Weser River during NATO's exercise Rob Roy, Germany, ca 1970s. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4221644)

Ferret Scout car, Lord Strathcona's Horse, Cyprus. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235910)

The Ferret armoured car, also commonly called the Ferret Scout car, is a British armoured fighting vehicle designed and built for reconnaissance purposes. The Ferret was produced between 1952 and 1971 by the UK company, Daimler. It was widely adopted by regiments in the British Army as well as Commonwealth countries throughout the period. Canadians had 124 in service from 1954 to 1981.

The Ferret was developed in 1949 as a result of the British Army’s need to obtain a replacement model for its Second World War light armoured vehicles. Due to the success of their Reconnaissance Scout Car, the “Dingo“, Daimler was employed to design and manufacture the Ferret.

The Ferret Scout Car shared many similar design features with the Dingo and Canadian Ford Lynx, but featured a larger fighting compartment and an optional small machine gun turret. It was built from an all-welded monocoque steel body, making the vehicle lower but also making the drive extremely noisy inside as all the running gear was within the enclosed body with the crew. Four-wheel drive was incorporated together with “Run flat” tires (which kept their shape even if punctured in battle thus enabling a vehicle to drive to safety).

Ferret Scout Car with Turret, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The turret, though not fitted to all models, carried a single machine gun. Six grenade launchers fitted to the hull (three on each side) could carry smoke grenades. It is fast and small enough to be used in an urban environment but strong enough to negotiate rugged terrain off road. The Ferret is no longer in service in the British Army, although several Commonwealth countries still operate them to this day. They have been popular with private collectors due to the compact size and affordable price e.g. around $20,000 to $30,000 in the USA. A total of 4,409 Ferrets, including 16 sub-models under various Mark numbers, were produced between 1952 and 1971.

There are several Marks of Ferret, including those with varying equipment, turret or no turret and armed with Swingfire anti-tank missiles. Including all the marks and experimental variants there have probably been over 60 different vehicles. It is possible to upgrade the engine using the more powerful FB60 version from the Austin Princess 4-Litre-R. This upgrade would provide 55hp over the standard B60 engine. Wikipedia.

Bobcat Armoured Personnel Carrier

The Bobcat was an armoured personnel carrier (APC) designed and built in Canada in the 1950s and early 1960s. A lengthy development period and changing requirements drove the price up while not improving the basic design, and the project was eventually cancelled in late 1963 in favour of purchasing the ubiquitous M113.

During Second World War the Canadian Army introduced the fully tracked APC to the world when they converted a number of M7 Priest SP Gun and Ram tanks to expedient personnel carriers before Operation Totalize. Existing designs were almost universally halftracks, or lightly armoured tracked vehicles not really designed for the APC role, like the Universal Carrier. The expedient vehicles, named “Kangaroos,” were considerably better armoured and had much better cross-country performance. Similar vehicles were soon in use by other allied forces as well, converted from broken or out-of-date tanks.

In the post-war period the Canadian Army, like its other western counterparts, underwent a period of dramatic downsizing. By the late 1940s it was essentially identical in formation and equipment as it had been during the war, but much smaller. With the cooling of international relations that marked the start of the Cold War, and especially with the opening of the Korean War, the Canadian armed forces started the process of rapidly modernizing their equipment, which was by this point extremely outdated.

The Bobcat Armoured Personnel Carrier project started in 1952, intending to produce a fully modern replacement for the Kangaroo in the APC role. Over the next four years of design the requirements changed several times, adding an amphibious capability, as well as another version as a replacement for the Universal Carrier in the battlefield cargo role. When the requirements were finally stabilized as the XA-20 in 1956, a prototype contract was offered to Leyland Motors (Canada) under Project 97.

While the prototype was being built, Leyland Motors was purchased by Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF). A mock-up was produced and sent to the Canadian Armour School at Camp Borden, and a number of improvements were suggested. While this process continued, CCF itself was purchased by the ever-growing Avro Canada. Work continued on the design, and the first mild steel prototype was delivered in the APC layout, followed by two additional prototypes, another APC version, and a self-propelled artillery version intended to mount the M101 105-mm Howitzer, although this was not fitted.

Testing was relatively positive, and in 1959 the Ministry eventually secured an order for 500 of the APC version. However in 1960 the defence budget was slashed and it was not until February 1961 that the Cabinet finally approved the budget. By this point the Bobcat had been in development for nine years, and no replacement for the Kangaroos or Universal Carriers had been purchased in the meantime. There was some discussion of modifying remaining Shermans and Universals for the interim, but this was dropped.

In 1962 Avro dissolved CCF, and moved production of the Bobcat to their aircraft plants in Malton, Ontario, which were underused since the cancellation of the Avro Arrow in 1959. A prototype of the complete production version started testing in February 1963, and by June it had completed 75% of its 2,000 mile qualification test run. However, the test report on the Bobcat was extremely negative. Pointing out a variety of problems, from tripping hazards in the cargo area to the extremely loud operating sounds, the report concluded that the vehicle was in need of additional development. Further confusing issues, in 1963 Avro itself was dissolved and rolled into its parent operating company, Hawker Siddeley Canada. In July the company met with the Ministry again to work out a program to fix the remaining problems, but neither side was willing to invest any more of their own money.

Given that no immediate solution seemed in sight, in November 1963 the Chief of the General Staff requested that the Bobcat project be terminated and the US M113 purchased in its place. Although the Bobcat had a number of advantages in comparison to the M113, notably in terms of size and its amphibious ability, the M113 by this point had entered service around the world and its huge production numbers led to a very low unit cost. Final cost for the Bobcat program was CDN$9.25 million. All that remains of the project is the qualification prototype at the Base Borden Military Museum.

The Bobcat was a relatively typical post-war APC design, with the engine located at the front, infantry area with rear-exit doors at the back, and a crew of two between the two sections. In the case of the Bobcat, the engine was located behind a large access door mounted in a glacis that was tilted slightly forward, meeting a deck that sloped upward to the cockpit area. The two operators, driver and commander/gunner, were housed under hemispherical cupolas with a ring of vision blocks below them offering relatively good all-round vision except to the rear, where the infantry area was raised and blocked the view. The front half of the cupola could be flipped up and back, opening to allow the seats to be raised for heads-out operation when not “buttoned up”.

Overall the design was smaller than the M113, and considerably less “boxy,” more in keeping with contemporary European designs like the FV432. The small size meant there was no room for a transverse transmission in the front of the vehicle, so a rear-drive was use with a drive shaft and transaxle housed under the cargo section. These required boxy protrusions into the cargo area, and the transaxle in particular, mounted just in front of the doors, was a major tripping hazard. Additionally, the drive shaft was extremely noisy in operation. Wikipedia.

The prototype Bobcat with a mild steel hull was sent to the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps Museum, with enough components (but no engine) to have a complete vehicle for static display. It now preserved with the CFB Borden Military Museum. The other vehicles were scrapped. [41]

M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier

M113 operated by soldiers serving with R22eR, 4 CMBG. The APC is armed with a Recoiless Rifle and a .50 cal HMG, SW of Wurzberg, Germany, Oct 1975. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4692424)

The M113 is a fully tracked armoured personnel carrier. The M113 introduced new aluminum armour that made the vehicle much lighter than earlier vehicles it was thick enough to protect the crew and passengers against small arms fire but light enough that the vehicle was air transportable and moderately amphibious. The M113’s versatility spawned a wide variety of adaptations that live on worldwide, and in Canadian service. To date, it is estimated that over 80,000 M113s of all types have been produced and used by over 50 countries worldwide, making it one of the most widely used armoured fighting vehicles of all time.

The 10.5-ton M113 is built of 5083 aircraft-quality aluminum alloy which gives it some of the same strength as steel at a slightly reduced weight, as the greater thickness allows structural stiffness. Its weight allows the use of a relatively small engine to power the vehicle, a 6V53 Detroit 2-stroke six cylinder diesel, with an Allison tx100-1 3 speed automatic transmission, and allows the vehicle to carry a large payload cross-country and to be transported by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. The M113 can swim without deploying flotation curtains, and is propelled in the water by its tracks.

The Canadian Forces acquired 1,143 M113s, purchased from the mid-1960s through the 1990s. Mostly declared surplus, 289 are to be upgraded to various configurations and retained until 2020. Wikipedia.

M113A2 MTV-E (Mobile Tactical Vehicle Engineer) Military engineering version equipped with a large plough blade on the front, a hydraulically powered auger on the rear driver's side, and hydraulic hoses for use with hydraulic tools opposite the auger.

M113A2 MTV-E, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

Tube-launched optically-guided anti-tank (TOW) under armour (TUA) version, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, ca 1998. (Author Photo)

M548 Cargo Carrier, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The M548 is an unarmoured cargo carrier equipped with a rear cargo bed.

M577 Command Post, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

With the M577 Command Post variant, the roof over the rear troop compartment is higher. The vehicle also carries additional radios and a generator.

The M579A is a fitter and repair vehicle equipped with a crane.

The M806 repair and recovery vehicle is equipped with an internal winch and two earth anchors mounted on the rear hull.

M113 Lynx Command & Reconnaissance Vehicle

M113 C & R Lynx, "Radley-Waters", Armour School, Combat Training Centre, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The M113 C & R Lynx reconnaissance vehicle (M113 Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle) is a United States-built tracked armoured fighting vehicle, which was employed by the armed forces of the Netherlands and Canada.

The Lynx is a smaller command and reconnaissance vehicle built as a private venture in 1963 by FMC Corp., the manufacturer of the M113 armoured personnel carrier. The Lynx uses M113A1 components, including aluminum armour, but with only four road wheels on each side and the engine mounted in the rear instead of the front. The Lynx was employed in the reconnaissance role by the Netherlands and Canada (where it was officially designated the Lynx).

The Lynx is amphibious, propelled in the water by its tracks. Before swimming, a trim vane is erected at front, bilge pumps started, and covers mounted on the air intake and exhaust. In practice, crews would close the hatches and ford shallow streams at high speed.

The Canadian Forces accepted 174 vehicles from 1968, replacing the Ferret armoured car. Lynxes were issued to the reconnaissance squadron of an armoured regiment (D Sqn). The squadron consisted of three troops, each equipped with seven Lynxes - three two-vehicle patrols plus the troop leader’s vehicle (Militia armoured reconnaissance units trained for the role with Jeeps or Iltis ¼- ton 4×4 trucks. Nine Lynxes also equipped the reconnaissance platoon of an infantry battalion’s combat support company.

M113 C &R Lynx, Sherbrooke Armoury, Sherbrooke, Quebec. (Author Photo)

In the Canadian Lynx, the crew commander’s cupola is located on the middle-right, and the observer’s hatch at the rear-left. The commander operates the manually-traversed M26 heavy machine gun cupola from inside the vehicle, but reloads it with the hatch open. The rear-facing observer operates the radio and fires the pintle-mounted 7.62-mm machine gun. The Canadian Lynx was withdrawn from service in 1993, and replaced by 203 Coyote eight-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles by the end of 1996. Wikipedia.

M24 Chaffee Light Tank

M24 Chaffee Light Tank, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. (Author Photo)

M24 Chaffee Light Tank, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Light Tank M24 Chaffee was an American light tank used during Second World War and in postwar conflicts including the Korean War and with the French in the First Indochina War and war in Algeria. In British service it was given the service name Chaffee, after the United States Army General Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., who helped develop the use of tanks in the United States armed forces.

Combat experience indicated several shortcomings of the Light Tank M3/M5, the most important of them being weak armament. The T7 design, which was initially seen as a replacement, evolved into a mediocre Medium Tank M7 and was eventually rejected in March 1943, which prompted the US Ordnance Committee to issue a specification for a new light tank, with the same powertrain as the M5A1 but armed with a 75-mm gun.

In April 1943 the Ordnance Corps together with the Cadillac division of General Motors started work on the new project, designated Light Tank T24. Every effort was made to keep the weight of the vehicle under 20 tons. The armour was kept light, with the glacis plate only 25-mm thick (but sloped at 60 degrees from the vertical). A new lightweight 75-mm gun was developed, a derivative of the gun used in the B-25H Mitchell bomber. The gun had the same ballistics as the M3, but used a thinly walled barrel and different recoil mechanism. The design also featured wider (16-inch) tracks and torsion bar suspension. It had a relatively low silhouette and a three-man turret.

On 15 October 1943 the first pilot vehicle was delivered and production began in 1944 under the designation Light Tank M24. It was produced at two sites from April at Cadillac and from July at Massey-Harris. By the time production was stopped in August 1945, 4,731 M24s had left the assembly lines. Some of them were supplied to the British forces.

The M24 started to enter widespread issue in December 1944 but they were slow in reaching the front-line combat units. By the end of the war many armoured divisions were still mainly equipped with the M5. Some armoured divisions did not receive their first M24s until the war was over.

Reports from the armoured divisions that received them prior to the end of hostilities were generally positive. Crews liked the improved off-road performance and reliability, but were most appreciative of the 75-mm main gun, as a vast improvement over the 37-mm. The M24 was not up to the challenge of fighting German tanks, but the bigger gun at least gave its crews a chance to fight back when it was required. The M24’s light armour made it vulnerable to virtually all German tanks, anti-tank guns, and hand-held anti-tank weapons. The contribution of the M24 to winning the war in Europe was insignificant, as too few arrived too late to replace the worn-out M5s of the armoured divisions.

In the Korean War M24s were the first US tanks to fight the North Korean T-34-85s. The M24 fared poorly against these much better-armed and armoured medium tanks. M24s were more successful later in the war in their reconnaissance role.

Like other successful Second World War designs, the M24 was supplied to many armies around the globe and was used in local conflicts long after it had been replaced in the US Army by the M41 Walker Bulldog. France employed its M24s in Indo-China in infantry support missions, with good results. They employed ten M24s in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. In December 1953 ten disassembled Chaffees were transported by air to provide fire support to the garrison. They fired about 15,000 shells in the long siege that followed before the Viet Minh forces conquered the camp in May 1954. France also deployed the M24 in Algeria. The last time the M24 is known to have been in action was in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where some 66 Pakistani Chaffees stationed in Bangladesh were easy prey for Indian Army T-55s, PT-76s, and anti-tank teams. Although both Iran and Iraq had M24s prior to the Iran-Iraq War, there is no report of their use in that conflict. Wikipedia.

Centurion Main Battle Tank

Centurion, B Coy, RCD, 3 Mechized Commando, Oct 1973, Neustift, Germany. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4694259)

Centurion Main Battle Tank, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

Centurion Main Battle Tank, 1 Canadian Division Headquarters, CFB Kingston, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Centurion was the primary British main battle tank of the post-Second World War period, and was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades. The chassis was also adapted for several other roles. Manufacture of the Centurion began in January 1945, and six prototypes arrived in Belgium soon after the war in Europe ended in May 1945. The Centurion has served in more wars than any other western tank.

Centurion tanks on exercise in Germany, 1964. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 42357)

It first entered combat with British forces in the Korean War in 1950, in support of the UN forces. The Centurion later served in the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, successfully fighting US supplied Pakistani M47s. It served with the Royal Australian Armoured Corps in Vietnam. It was sold to Israel which used Centurions in 1967, 1973, and during the 1975 and 1982 invasions of Lebanon. Centurions modified as APCs were used in Gaza, the West Bank and the Lebanese border. South Africa used its Centurions in Angola. The Royal Jordanian Land Force used Centurion tanks on the Golan Heights in 1973. The first of 274 Centurion Main Battle Tank Mk 3 tanks were delivered to the Canadian Army between 1952 and 1953. Training of Canadian Centurions had not been completed in time for them to see service in Korean, but the first 21 were delivered to the Royal Canadian Dragoons in Germany in March 1952. Nine Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) were purchased in 1954, and four armoured vehicle bridge layers (AVBL) in 1966. [42]

Centurion tanks on exercise in Germany, 1964. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235690)

It became one of the most widely used tank designs, equipping armies around the world, with some still in service until the 1990s. As recently as the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict the Israel Defense Forces employed heavily modified Centurions as armoured personnel carriers and combat engineering vehicles. Wikipedia.

Centurion tanks on exercise in Germany, 1964. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235689)

In 1943 the Department of Tank Design was asked to produce a new design for a heavy Cruiser Tank under the General Staff designation A41. After a series of fairly marginal designs in the A series in the past, and bearing in mind the threat posed by the German 88-mm gun, the War Office demanded a major revision of the design requirements, specifically: increased durability and reliability, a maximum weight of 40 tons and the ability to withstand a direct hit from the German 88-mm gun.

Tank Design responded by extending the long-travel 5-wheel suspension used on the Comet with the addition of a sixth wheel and an extended spacing between the second and third wheels. The Christie suspension with internal vertical spring coils was replaced by a Horstmann suspension with external horizontal springs. The hull was redesigned with welded sloped armour, and featured a partially cast turret mounting the highly regarded 17-pounder main gun and a 20-mm Polsten cannon. With a Rover-built Rolls-Royce Meteor engine, a version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the new design would have excellent performance.

Shortly after the programme commenced, it became clear that the requirement to withstand 88-mm artillery would be impossible to meet within the permitted weight. The original specification had been set so that the A41 could be carried on the existing Mark I and Mark II transport trailers, which were limited to a 40-ton load. The War Ministry decided it would be wiser to build new trailers than hamper what appeared to be a superb design. Even before prototypes of the original 40-ton design were completed, the design of a heavier version was well under way. The new version carried armour equal to the heaviest infantry tanks, and cross-country performance was superior to even the early Cruiser Tanks. The A41 was the first British tank that could “do it all”, leading to the new designation “universal tank”.

Centurion tanks on exercise in Germany, 1964. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235688)

Prototypes of the original 40-ton design, the Centurion Mark I, had 76-mm of armour in the front glacis, thinner than the then current infantry tank designs such as the Churchill Infantry Tank which had 101-mm, but the glacis plate was highly sloped and so the effective thickness of the armour was very high - a design feature shared by other effective designs such as the German Panther tank and Soviet T-34 . The turret was extremely well armoured at 152-mm. The tank was also extremely mobile, and easily outperformed the Comet in most tests. The uparmoured Centurion Mark II soon arrived, featuring a new 118-mm-thick glacis and side and rear armour increased from 38-mm to 51-mm. Only a handful of Mk Is had been produced when the Mk II replaced it on the production lines. Full production began in November 1945 with an order of 800 with production lines at Leyland, the Royal Ordnance Factories at Leeds and Woolwich, and Vickers at Elswick. The tank entered service in December 1946 with the 5 th Royal Tank Regiment.

Centurion tank, RCD, Germany, 1960s. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234065)

Soon after the Centurion’s introduction, Royal Ordnance finished work on the extremely powerful 20 pounder (84-mm) tank gun. By this point the usefulness of the 20-mm Polsten had been called into question, so it was replaced with a Besa machine gun in a completely cast turret. The new Centurion Mark III also featured a fully automatic stabilisation system for the gun, allowing it to fire accurately while on the move, dramatically improving battlefield performance. Production of the Mk 3 began in 1948. The Mk 3 was so much more powerful than the Mk 1 and Mk 2 that the earlier designs were removed from service as soon as new Mk 3s arrived, and the older tanks were then either converted into the Centurion ARV Mark 1 armoured recovery vehicle for REME use or upgraded to Mk 3 standards. Improvements introduced with the Mk 3 included a more powerful version of the engine and a new gunsight and gun stabiliser.

Centurion tank, Armour training. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 42342260)

The 20 pounder gun was used only for a short time before the Royal Ordnance Factories introduced the now famous 105-mm L7 gun. All later variants of the Centurion, from Mark 5/2 on, used the L7. A total of 24 variants and sub-variants were produced. Design work for the Mk 7 was completed in 1953 with production beginning soon afterwards. Wikipedia.

Centurion tank on exercise, Camp Gagetown, summer 1963. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235424)

Centurion tank, Royal Canadian Dragoons last roll, Lahr, Germany, 21 June 1977. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4728208)

Centurions remained in Canadian service until 2 June 1977 when the Royal Canadian Dragoons held their final parade in Lahr, Germany. A handful soldiered on in Canada after the official retirement as late as 1979 until the Leopard MBT began to arrive in sufficient numbers. Many were turned into hard targets on the ranges at CFB Gagetown (28) CFB Petawawa (8) and CFB Suffield (11). A few were used in indoor ranges as training aids, and a number of Mk 5 variants are on display in Museums or as gate guards. [43]

Centurion AVBL, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The Centurion was used as the basis for a range of specialist equipment, including engineering variants with a 165-mm demolition gun Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE), the Armoured Vehicle Bridge Laying (AVBL), and the Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV). It is one of the longest-serving designs of all time, serving as a battle tank for the British and Australian armies from the Korean War (1950–1953) to the Vietnam War (1961–1972), and as an armoured engineer vehicle during Operation Desert Storm in January - February 1991.

Centurion ARV, CFR 54-81334, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

Centurion Mk 5 had Browning machine guns fitted to coaxial and commander’s cupola mounts, stowage bin on glacis. About 4,423 Centurions were produced between 1946 and 1962, consisting of thirteen basic marks of the Centurion tank. The Centurions in use in Canada were replaced by Leopard C1. Many of the tanks were sold to Israel which converted them to diesel. Some are still in use as variants. Wikipedia.

Leopard C1 Main Battle Tank

Leopard C-1 tank crosses the Mainz river on a french amphibian bridge during exercise Royal Sword. Oct 1987. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4730771)

Leopard C1 Main Battle Tank, Fall Ex, Sep 1977, Germany. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4728086)

Leopard C1 Main Battle Tank, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario. (Author Photo)

The Leopard (or Leopard C1) is a main battle tank designed and produced in Germany that first entered service in 1965. Developed in an era when HEAT warheads were thought to make conventional heavy armour of limited value, the Leopard focussed on firepower in the form of the German-built version of the British L7 105-mm gun, and improved cross-country performance that was unmatched by other designs of the era.

The design started as a collaborative project between Germany and France in the 1950s, but the partnership ended and the final design was ordered by the Bundeswehr, production starting in 1965. In total 6,485 Leopard tanks have been built, of which 4,744 were battle tanks and 1741 were utility and anti-aircraft variants, not including eighty prototypes and pre-series vehicles.

The Leopard quickly became a standard of European forces, and eventually served as the main battle tank in over a dozen countries worldwide. Since 1990, the Leopard 1 has gradually been relegated to secondary roles in most armies. In the German Army, the Leopard 1 MBTs have been phased out in 2003 while Leopard 1 derived vehicles are still widely used. The Leopard 2 MBTs have taken over the MBT role. Leopard hulls have been re-used in a wide variety of roles.

Canada acquired 127 Leopard C1 tanks (equivalent to Leopard 1A3 with laser rangefinder), in 1978–79 for its Land Forces, with 114 being put into service. Most of these tanks were stationed in Germany during the Cold War, with a few retained at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick for training.

While investigating the possibilities of increasing the Leopards’ armour prior to a refit, turret armour upon close-up inspection was 1.5” + turret wall cast .75” steel, ‘belly’ armour was approx. 2.25” + cast frame steel 0.75” steel, skirt covering treads (tracks) was 1” rubber - not steel, but additional armour was applied on the forward half of the skirt during the refit - although only a small handful of C1s received a complete refit. The refit also included adding thermal night-vision equipment, five or six Leopard C1 tanks had an extremely thick MEXAS appliqué armour kit applied, made by German firm IBD Deisenroth Engineering. These tanks, designated Leopard C1A1, served with Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) in the 1999 KFOR mission in Kosovo. They were later upgraded with the same sights and fire-control system as the Leopard C2.

Leopard C2, 1 Canadian Division Headquarters, CFB Kingston, Ontario. (Author Photo)

Starting in 2000, the 114 Leopard C1 tanks in service were upgraded to C2 standard at a cost of CAD $139 million. The turrets of 123 surplus Leopard 1A5 tanks purchased from the German Defence Ministry were fitted into the existing hulls (nine turrets were reserved for spare parts and training), and the German tank hulls sold back to the upgrade contractor. The Leopard C2 is also equipped with thermal sights and EMES 18 fire-control system. Eighteen Leopard Crew Gunnery Trainers were purchased at the same time.

Canada also operates the Leopard 1-based Beaver Bridgelayer and Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicle, bought with the original Leopard C1, and the Badger Armoured Engineer Vehicle with a dozer blade and excavator bucket, which entered service in 1990.

A number of the Canadian Leopard tanks were pulled out of service during the 2000s in anticipation of replacing them with the eight-wheeled Mobile Gun System, but these plans were put on hold. Of the obsolescent tanks, 23 were sold to companies in North America, 4 put in Museums or used as monuments (including two at the Bovington Tank Museum), and 21 used as hard targets on ranges. The Canadian Army web site list indicates that 66 Leopard C2 remain in service.

Canadian Leopard C2 tank being driven onto a USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III named the "Spirit of McChord" for the transport 7 Oct 2006, from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan. ( Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle, USAF Photo)

Canadian Leopard C2, LdSH, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 3 Dec 2006. (Hellopple Photo)

Canada sent a squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) to Afghanistan in the fall of 2006, equipped with fifteen Leopard C2 tanks with add-on armour, as well as two recovery vehicles and two engineering vehicles. The armoured squadron is intended to provide convoy protection, supporting Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams and other organizations equipped with lighter vehicles. The first tanks arrived in Kandahar in mid-October 2006. On 2 December 2006 the Leopards stationed in Kandahar entered the field, marking the first time since the Korean War that a Canadian armoured squadron had sent tanks into an active war zone, and fired their guns in combat for the first time in as many years on the following day in response to a Taliban rocket attack.

After an initial assessment of the performance of the Leopard C2 in Afghanistan, Canada decided to invest in Leopard 2 tanks. It was determined that the lack of adequate air conditioning (essential in the searing heat of Afghanistan,) was degrading the tank crew’s war fighting ability. The Army later downplayed this factor, citing increased armour protection and the main gun armament as reasons for upgrading to the Leopard 2. After some public speculation, Canadian Defence minister Hon. Gordon O’Connor clarified the situation on Thursday, 12 April 12, 2007.

Leopard 2A6 Main Battle Tank, Combat Training Centre (CTC) Armour School, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

To meet immediate needs in Afghanistan, twenty of the Bundeswehr’s stock of Leopard 2A6s were upgraded to 2A6M standard and loaned to Canada at no cost by the German government. Two Leopard 2 Büffel Armoured Recovery Vehicles were acquired at the same time. These vehicles were shipped from Germany to Afghanistan, with the first arriving on 16 August 2007.

For the long term, Canada plans to replace the borrowed Leopard 2 tanks with a purchase of 100 surplus vehicles from the Netherlands, including 40 Leopard 2A6Ms for combat service, 40 Leopard 2A4s for training, and 20 support vehicles, such as Armoured Recovery Vehicles, Bridge-Layers and Armoured Engineer vehicles.

The older Leopard C2 tanks are considered to become completely obsolete by 2015, but specific plans for them have not yet been announced. Up until deployment with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan the Leopard 1 C2 had never seen active combat. Wikipedia.

Beaver AVLB, Canadian Military Engineer Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The Beaver is an armoured, fully tracked vehicle built on the chassis of a Leopard Tank. It is a highly mobile, rapidly deployable assault bridge that can be used to span natural and man-made obstacles on the battlefield. The vehicle’s 22 meter-long bridge can support vehicles as heavy as 60 tonnes over streams and anti-tank ditches.

The Beaver is powered by a V-10, twin super charged, 830 HP, multi-fuelled engine. It is equipped with an NBCD system that provides protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. It is also equipped with eight smoke/HE grenade dischargers. [44]

The Badger armoured engineering vehicle is designed to provide engineer support to mechanized combat forces. It is capable of performing a wide range of tasks under battlefield conditions including dozing, ripping, excavating, craning, grappling, welding, cutting, winching, and towing. The CF has nine in service, each operated by a crew of 2 to 4 personnel.

The Badger AEV is capable of dozing 270 cubic meters per hour with a maximum dozing speed of 8 km/h. The dozer blade is equipped with two ripper teeth that are used when backing up. The vehicle is also capable of excavating up to 140 cubic meters per hour when fitted with a 1.5 meter wide bucket. It can also be fitted with a smaller 0.8 meter-wide bucket with a capacity of 0.6 cubic meters.

The AEV is capable of operating in a crane mode with a maximum lifting capacity of 7.8 tonnes. The excavator arm can be fitted with two grappling teeth for picking up large objects. The Badger is also equipped with an electric welding and cutting unit and a CAPSTAN winch. The winch has a pulling capacity of 35 tonnes and a cable length of 90 metres.

The Badger is capable of carrying and deploying the class 60 Track Way (portable road sections) as well as fascine (a large bundle of tubes used to fill in anti-tank ditches, creating a crossing site). The class 60 Track Way is carried on the dozer blade and is deployed by the winch. The fascine is carried on the back deck and is placed using the excavator arm with the grappling teeth.

The AEV is powered by a V-10, twin super charged, 830 horsepower, multi-fuelled engine. It is equipped with an NBCD system that provides protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. It is also equipped with eight smoke/HE grenade dischargers. [45]

Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), 4 CMBG, Ex Certain Sentinel, Germany, Feb 1979. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4886180)

The Taurus is an armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) used to repair battle- or mine-damaged as well as broken-down armoured vehicles during combat, or to tow them out of the danger zone for more extensive repairs. The Taurus ARV is built on the chassis of a Leopard main battle tank (MBT). ARVs are usually built on the basis of a vehicle in the same class as they are supposed to recover a tank-based ARV is used to recover tanks, while an APC-based one recovers APCs, but does not have the power to tow a much heavier tank. Wikipedia.

Leopard 2A4 Main Battle Tank

Leopard 2A4, C Tp, RCD, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, 6 Oct 2016. (Author Photo)

The Leopard 2 is a German main battle tank (Kampfpanzer) developed by Krauss-Maffei in the early 1970s and first entering service in 1979. The Leopard 2 replaced the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the German Army. Various versions have served in the armed forces of Germany and twelve other European countries, as well as several non-European nations. More than 3,480 Leopard 2s have been manufactured. The Leopard 2 first saw combat in Kosovo with the German Army and has also seen action in Afghanistan with the Danish and Canadian ISAF forces.

There are two main development batches of the tank, the original models up to Leopard 2A4 which have vertically-faced turret armour, and the “improved” batch, namely the Leopard 2A5 and newer versions, which have angled arrow-shaped turret appliqué armour together with a number of other improvements. All models feature digital fire control systems with laser rangefinders, a fully stabilized main gun and coaxial machine gun, and advanced night vision and sighting equipment (first vehicles used a low-light level TV system or LLLTV thermal imaging was introduced later on). The tank has the ability to engage moving targets while moving over rough terrain.

The Canadian Forces acquired 100 Leopard 2A4 tanks from the Netherlands in 2007. Twenty Leopard 2A6M were borrowed from Germany from mid-2007 to support the Canadian deployment in Afghanistan, with the first tank handed over after upgrading by KMW on 2 Aug 2007, and arriving in Afghanistan on 16 Aug 2007. Two Bergepanzer 3 Büffel were purchased or loaned from the German Bundeswehr for use with the Canadian deployment in Afghanistan. An additional fifteen Leopard 2A4 tanks were being purchased from Germany for spare parts. An additional 12 surplus Pz 87 were purchased from Switzerland in 2011 for conversion to protected special vehicles. Canada will be able to deploy 40 combat tanks (20 2A4M CAN and 20 2A6M CAN) with 42 2A4s for training, all supported by 13 to 18 AEVs, 12 ARVs and 15 Logistic Support Vehicles. Wikipedia.

The AVGP (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose) is a series of three armoured fighting vehicles ordered by the Canadian military in 1977. The three vehicles are the Cougar, Grizzly and Husky. These vehicles were based on the six-wheeled version of the Swiss MOWAG Piranha I. They formerly had propellers and trim vanes for amphibious use, like the eight-wheeled Bison. Recent retrofits have removed the marine drive system, as it is no longer used and service is expensive.

The Canadian Armed Forces’ LAV III, the United States Marine Corps’ LAV-25, and the US Army’s Stryker are other variants of the Piranha family.

The AVGP variants were introduced into Canadian service in the 1970s. Intended for use only in Canada, they were pressed into service for several United Nations missions, including UNPROFOR and the mission to Somalia. One Grizzly was captured by Croatian forces in the late 1990s. Wikipedia.

(Author Photo)

AVGP Cougar , New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick . (Author Photo)

The Cougar is used as a tank trainer and fire support vehicle on United Nations missions, the Cougar is manned by a three-man crew. It is equipped with the turret of a British Scorpion reconnaissance vehicle (76-mm main gun).

AVGP Grizzly

(Author Photo)

AVGP Grizzly , Infantry School, 5 Canadian Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick . (Author Photo)

The Grizzly is an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with a three-man crew. The Grizzly is designed to carry a section of infantry. It mounts a Cadillac-Gage 1 metre turret, armed with a .50 ca HMG and a 7.62-mm machine gun.


(Author Photo)

AVGP Husky, New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick .

The Husky is an Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) manned with a two-man crew. The Husky is designed to provide mechanical support for the other two vehicles.

The Cougar is only used for training in Canada as a reconnaissance vehicle. The Grizzly is no longer in front line service but is being converted to support vehicles such as Command Post and Mobile Repair Team Vehicle. The Husky still serves in its original role. The majority of vehicles have had their marine propulsion systems removed.

In June 2005, the Canadian government announced plans to loan 105 AVGPs (100 Grizzlys and 5 Huskys) to African peacekeepers in the Darfur region. The AVGP was considered sufficiently modern to be useful in this low-intensity conflict. The Canadian government planned to arrange for civilian contractors to maintain these vehicles. As the vehicles contained some US-manufactured or licensed parts, US permission would be required to loan the vehicles. Initially, the vehicles were to be shipped without their Cadillac-Gage turrets.

The vehicles arrived in Senegal in the late summer of 2005. The Sudanese government required various kinds of assurances before they would allow peacekeepers to use the vehicles in Sudan. On 18 November 2005 the vehicles started arriving in Sudan, in white livery, with their turrets.

The loan of vehicles for peace-keeping service in Sudan was originally for one year. But the loan was extended, and transferred from the African Union to the United Nations. According to Amnesty International the soldiers who used the loaned vehicles served in Sudan for too short a term to be properly trained, and become experienced.

One of the vehicles was destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade. A second vehicle was damaged when it rammed a more heavily armed, but unarmoured technical.

In May 2007, the Edmonton Police Service accepted the donation of a disarmed Grizzly from the Canadian Forces.

In 2008, the Uruguayan Army bought 44 Cougars from the Canadian Army (surplus to requirements). They were rebuilt without the turret by the Chilean MOWAG-Piranha builder FAMAE, as they will act as armoured personnel carriers for the UN deployment in the Republic of Congo (MONUC), and domestically.

In 2009 Uruguay bought 98 Grizzlys and 5 Huskys that they were on loan with the AMIS/UNAMID mission in Darfur.

In March 2010, the Canadian Forces Donated 2 disarmed Cougar AVGPs to the British Colombia area Royal Canadian Mounted Police for use by the Emergency Response Team. They were retrofitted to transport ERT assault teams into hazardous areas where transport in unarmoured vehicles wouldn’t be safe.

(Canadian Forces Land Force Command) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - As the TAV 2 variant (Cougars modified for ERT tasks) these were given for free by the Canadian Forces to the BC RCMP in March 2010.

African Union (AMIS mission) - 100 (-1 lost in combat) Grizzlys, 5 Huskys.

Uruguay - 44 refurbished Cougars with turrets removed. 98 Grizzlys and 5 Huskys given directly from the AMIS/UNAMID mission in Sudan. Wikipedia.

Bison Armoured Personnel Carrier

Bison Armoured Personnel Carrier, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, 24 Nov 2016. (Author Photo)

The Bison is an armoured personnel carrier based on the 8x8 MOWAG Piranha II platform, and was produced by General Motors Diesel Division (now General Dynamics Land Systems Canada) in London, Ontario. They are primarily operated by the Reserve Force of the Canadian Army, but have been adopted by the Regular Force as well.

By starting with a basic Piranha II, the Bison design process took only 7 days. The Bison differs from the baseline Piranha II by raising the height of the roof, removing the turret ring, placing a commander’s cupola behind the driver, and incorporating a rail mount system in the cargo/passenger compartment to quickly change mission specific equipment. The driver is seated in the front-left of the crew compartment. The commander has a slightly raised position directly behind the driver with access to his own hatch and mounted machine gun. The engine is to the right of the crew compartment.

The Canadian Forces began upgrading the Bison between 2002 and 2008. The upgrades include improved engine power, new torsion bars, fittings for add-on armour, air conditioning, and the VRS respirator system for NBC defence.

The Bison’s rail mount system allows it to be adapted to a variety of roles without any major modifications. 199 Bisons used by the Canadian Forces, have been adapted for use as armoured personnel carriers (original configuration - mostly replaced in this role by the LAV III), 81-mm mortar carriers, ambulances (32), Mobile Repair Team (MRT) vehicles (32), Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) (32), Electronic Warfare (EW) vehicles (25), and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Reconnaissance vehicles (4). Wikipedia.

Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle

Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. (Author Photo)

The Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle is a lightly armoured fighting vehicle built by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada for the Canadian Forces, for use in the reconnaissance role. Its eight-wheeled design is a licensed version of the Swiss MOWAG Piranha 8x8. In service since 1996, the Coyote is a later generation of the six-wheeled Canadian AVGP, also developed from the Piranha. It is of a similar family and similar generation as the, Bison APC, USMC LAV-25 and the Australian ASLAV.

The Coyotes mount a 25-mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun and two 7.62-mm C6 general purpose machine guns. One of the machine guns is mounted coaxial to the main gun while the other is pintle-mounted in front of the crew commander’s hatch. The main gun is equipped with dual ammunition feeds that allow for separate weapons effects, selectable by the gunner/crew commander the standard load is a belt of AP sabot rounds and a belt of HE-T explosive/fragmentation rounds. The main gun and coax machine gun are 2-axis stabilized. The turret is equipped with a laser rangefinder, but no ballistic computer elevation and lead corrections are applied manually by the gunner using multi-stadia reticules in the day, thermal, and image intensification sights. The turret is also equipped with grenade dischargers that can be loaded with smoke and fragmentation grenades.

The Coyote is powered by a Detroit Diesel 6V53T engine developing 275 horsepower, and can reach speeds of 120 kilometres per hour. The coyote has a maximum road range of 660 kilometres. The Coyote uses a larger wheel than initially used on the Bison and AVGP (these vehicles were later retrofitted with this wheel). Compared to the later LAV-III family of vehicles, the Coyote is physically smaller, uses smaller wheels and tires, has a “sharp” rather than “rounded” nose profile, and has a smaller, oval driver’s hatch. Like the LAV-III, the Coyote can be fitted with additional ceramic bolt-on armour panels for increased protection. The Coyote can be transported on a Hercules C-130 transport plane but their turrets have to be removed first.

Coyotes come in three variants: Command, Mast, and Remote. The Mast and Remote variants have a sophisticated suite of electronic surveillance equipment including radar, video, and infrared surveillance night vision devices. The mast variant has this equipment mounted on a 10 m telescoping mast that can be extended to raise the surveillance suite out from behind cover. The remote variant of the Coyote has its surveillance suite mounted on two short tripods, which crew can deploy remotely using a 200 m spool of cable.

Unlike the USMC LAV-25 from which it was derived, the Coyote was not equipped with an amphibious propulsion system. The areas where the marine drive propellers would normally be mounted were replaced by external fuel tanks, and the trim vane has been deleted.

When first purchased, the Coyote was designated for service with both the Regular Force and Reserve Force, with the Mast variants earmarked for the Regular units and the Remotes designated for the Reserves. Shortly after taking delivery of the vehicles, but before they were assigned to the Reserve units, all Coyotes were reassigned to the Regular Force.

Since the introduction of the Coyote in the Canadian Forces, this vehicle served national interest and also served overseas. The Coyote served during the United Nations mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo. A task group of Coyote were deployed during “Operation Grizzly” to Kananaskis to secure the 28th G8 summit. The Coyote reconnaissance vehicle currently serves in Afghanistan and has served in Canada to defend the 36 th G8 summit and the G-20 Toronto summit. Wikipedia.

(Author Photo)

LAV III, 2 RCR, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, 2 May 2011.

The LAV III light armoured vehicle (LAV) is built by General Dynamics Land Systems, entering service in 1999. It is based on the Swiss MOWAG Piranha IIIH 8x8. It was developed in Canada and is the primary mechanized infantry vehicle of the Canadian Army and the New Zealand Army. The United States Army uses a more lightly armed LAV III derivative named the Stryker.

By July 1991, the Canadian Forces had identified the need to replace their aging fleet of 1960s and 1970s era armoured personnel carriers. As a result, $2.8 billion was earmarked for the Multi-Role Combat Vehicle (MRCV) Project by the sitting Conservative government. The mandate of the MRCV project was to provide a series of vehicles based on a common chassis which would replace the M113 armoured personnel carrier, Lynx reconnaissance vehicle, Grizzly armoured personnel carrier, and Bison armoured personnel carrier. The project was, however, deemed unaffordable and cancelled by March 1992.

By 1994 after the Liberal Party had returned to government, the army was still in need of new vehicles. As a result, the army embarked on the Light Armoured Vehicle Project, which would adapt parts of the MRCV Project, and be implemented incrementally to spread out the costs. Also, the requirement to replace the Bisons was dropped. The first phase of the project saw the selection of the Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle to replace the Lynx. On August 16, 1995, it was announced that General Motors Diesel Division (later renamed GM Defense, and subsequently purchased by General Dynamics Land Systems) of London, Ontario, had been awarded the contract to produce the LAV III which would replace the Grizzly and a large portion of the M113 armoured personnel carriers. The LAV III would incorporate the turret and weapon system used with the Coyote (which was produced at the same location), and the latest, heaviest version of MOWAG’s Piranha family which would be “Canadianized” and built locally.

The LAV III is powered by a Caterpillar 3126 diesel engine developing 350 horsepower, and can reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. The vehicle is fitted with 8x8 drive and also equipped with a central tire inflation system, which allows it to adjust to different terrain, including off-road. The LAV III is fitted with a modern anti-locking brake system (ABS) and a traction control system (TCS). Unlike earlier versions of the LAV, the LAV III does not have any amphibious capabilities.

The LAV III faces the same concerns that most other wheeled military vehicles face. Like all wheeled armoured vehicles, the LAV III’s ground pressure is inherently higher than a tracked vehicle with a comparable weight. This is a result of the fact that tires will have less surface area in contact with the ground when compared to a tracked vehicle. Higher ground pressure results in an increased likelihood of sinking into soft terrain such as mud, snow and sand, leading to the vehicle becoming stuck. The lower ground pressure and improved traction offered by tracked vehicles also gives them an advantage over vehicles like the LAV III when it comes to managing slopes, trenches, and other obstacles.

The LAV III can somewhat compensate for these effects by deflating its tires slightly, meaning that the surface area in contact with the ground increases, and the ground pressure is slightly lowered. However, wheels offer several advantages over tracked vehicles, including lower maintenance for both the vehicle and road infrastructure, quieter movement for improved stealth, greater speed over good terrain, and higher ground clearance for protection against mines and improvised explosive devices.

The LAV III‘s turret gives the vehicle a higher centre of gravity than the vehicle was initially designed for. This has led to concerns that the vehicle is more likely to roll over on uneven terrain. While there have been several recorded rollovers (about 12), the most common cause was found to be unstable terrain, specifically road shoulders unexpectedly giving away beneath the vehicle. The weight balance of the LAV III is taken into consideration during driver training, largely mitigating the chances of a rollover.

The basic armour of the LAV III, covering the Standardization Agreement STANAG 4569 level III, which provides an all-round protection against 7.62x51-mm NATO. Ceramic appliqué armour (MEXAS) can be added, which protects against 14.5x114-mm Heavy calibre rounds from 500 meters. In December 2008 the Government of Canada awarded EODC Engineering, Developing and Licensing Inc. C$81.5 million worth of contracts to provide for add-on-armour kits, modules and spares for its LAV III wheeled armoured personnel carriers. This armour kit is intended to provide increased protection against Improvised Explosive Device (IED), Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) and 30-mm calibre armour piercing rounds. The LAV III can be also fitted with cage armour, which provides protection against shaped charges. The LAV III is fitted with a nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) filtration system accompanied with a GID-3 chemical detector and AN/VDR 2 radiation detector systems. The LAV III was designed to produce a very low and very compact structure to minimize radar and IR-signatures. The LAV III also uses heat-absorbing filters to provide temporary protection against thermal imaging (TIS), image intensifier and infrared camera (IR).

The majority of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan have occurred during a patrol aboard a LAV III. This can be explained by the fact that the LAV III is the most commonly used Canadian armoured personnel carrier in theatre, and simply represents a normal association between use and likelihood to encounter a mine or improvised explosive device. The LAV III offers comparable or better protection than most other infantry carriers used in Afghanistan. In an effort to improve protection as a result of experiences in Afghanistan, future LAV III upgrades will likely include improved mine and IED protection.

The LAV III is fitted with a two-man turret, armed with the M242 Bushmaster 25-mm calibre chain gun and coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun. One more 5.56-mm or 7.62-mm machine gun is positioned on top of the turret. The LAV-III have also has eight 76-mm grenades in two clusters of four launchers positioned on each side of the turret. The grenade launchers are intended for smoke grenades.

The LAV III is equipped with a daytime optical, Thermal Imaging System (TIS) and Generation III Image Intensification (II). The LAV III is equipped with a Tactical Navigation System (TacNav) to assist them in navigation and target location tasks. The LAV III is equipped with a LCD monitor directly connected to the vehicle’s external cameras, providing real-time images of the battlefield for the passengers.

In July 2009, the Canadian Department of National Defence announced that $5 billion would be spent to enhance, replace and repair the Army’s armoured vehicles. Part of the spending would be used to replace and repair damaged LAV IIIs due wear and tear from operations in Afghanistan. As much as 33 percent of the Army’s light armoured vehicles were out of service. Furthermore, the LAV IIIs will be upgraded with improved protection and automotive components.

Of the $5 billion announced, approximately 20% of it will be used to upgrade LAV III models. The upgrade will extend the LAV III life span to 2035. The remaining $4 billion is to be spent on a “new family of land combat vehicles”. The Department of National Defence is considering the purchase of a vehicle meant to accompany the Leopard 2 and to sustain the LAV-III into combat. The CV90, the Puma (IFV) and the Véhicule blindé de combat d’infanterie are the most likely candidates for the role. A contract of 108 with an option for up to 30 more is under consideration. Wikipedia.

651 LAV IIIs have been in service with the Canadian Forces at home and abroad on United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Kosovo (UNMIK), Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), Haiti (UNMIH), as well as in the War in Afghanistan with the Kabul Multi-National Brigade and in Kandahar with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Wikipedia.

LAV III variants:

TOW Under Armour (TUA) - Standard LAV III turret replaced with TOW Under Armour launcher for anti-tank purposes.

Infantry Section Carrier (ISC) - Surplus LAV TUA hulls fitted with a Nanuk Remotely Controlled Weapon Station.

Observation Post Vehicle (OPV) - Standard LAV III equipped for use by a Forward Observation Officer (FOO).

Command Post Vehicle (CPV) - Standard LAV III equipped for command post duties.

Engineer LAV (ELAV) - LAV III equipped with a dozer blade and other engineering equipments.

RG-31 Nyala Armoured Patrol Vehicle

(Author Photo)

RG-31 Nyala APV, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

The RG-31 Armoured Patrol Vehicle (APV) is a 4 x 4 wheeled multi-purpose mine-protected armoured personnel carrier and patrol vehicle. Manufactured in South Africa by Land Systems OMC, it is based on the Mamba APC. The Nyala is designed to provide a high level of protection for troops while they conduct patrols, command and liaison, and reconnaissance tasks in complex urban and mountainous terrain. Canada has 75 X RG-31 Mk 3 equipped with Protector M151 Remote Weapon Stations.

The RG-31 is built from a V-shaped all-steel welded armour monocoque hull and high suspension, typical of South African mine protected vehicles, providing excellent small-arms and mine blast protection. The vehicle is designed to resist a blast equivalent to two TM-57 anti-tank mines detonating simultaneously. The vehicle accommodates a crew of 8 or 10, including the driver, depending on model. Dismounting is provided via a large rear door and two front doors.

The RG-31 has become the multi-purpose vehicle of choice of the UN and other peacekeeping and security forces. It is finding favour with non-governmental organisations requiring a vehicle with a non-aggressive appearance to protect their personnel against the threat of land mines. Wikipedia.

In the near future between 2015 to 2017, the Canadian Army will receive a new family of combat vehicles including 138 close combat vehicles meant to accompany the main battle tank into combat and to increase combat capabilities of Land Force Command. Land Force Command will also receive a new family of tactical armoured patrol vehicles which will eventually replace the RG-31 Nyala and Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle.

Dismounted soldiers will be equipped with the long-awaited Integrated Soldier System designed to improve command execution, target acquisition and situational awareness. Land Force Command will receive a new family of engineering vehicles especially designed to clear pathways for troops and other vehicles through minefields and along roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices. This new family of vehicles will eventually replace the aging fleet of AEV Badger, ARV Taurus and AVLB Beaver. Wikipedia.

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