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Has Own Video WW2 Canadian Tanks

Grizzly Mk.I

canadian tanks Dominion of Canada (1941)
Medium Tank – 188 Built

At the beginning of World War 2, Canada found itself in the same position as Australia. They did not have much of an armored corps or the industrial facilities to produce and support one. The Canadians had expected to rely on the British to supply them with armored vehicles in case of war. In these early years of the War, with the Fall of France and subsequent Dunkirk evacuation, the British Army needed every tank they could produce for their own use.

A Grizzly Mk.I on display outside of CFB Borden
A Grizzly Mk.I on display outside of CFB Borden. Source.Wiki

In the spring of 1942, a British Tank mission visited the United States and Canada. The goal of the visit was to standardize the fighting vehicles produced and used by the British, the United States and Canada (also called the ABC countries – America, Britain, Canada). They agreed that the American Medium Tank M4, best known as the Sherman, would be most suitable for the role. During a later meeting, it was agreed that Canadian manufacturing should be used to produce the M4A1 – the cast-hull Sherman. The proposed name was the Buffalo, but it was later changed to a Canadian fighting animal; the Grizzly, the bear native to North America.

Grizzly Mk.1 during a drill at camp Meaford
Grizzly Mk.1 during a drill at camp Meaford, Ontario. Photo: Panzerserra.blogspot.com

An upgrade

In the fall of 1941, Montreal Locomotive Works started production of the Ram Cruiser Tank. This followed a request from the British authorities from 1940. The Ram was based on the chassis of the Medium Tank M3 and used its running gear, engine, transmission and lower hull. This was, however, a challenge for the Canadian automotive industry which, while relatively advanced, was nonetheless limited for the requirements of tank production. The Ram had a new upper hull and was given a 6 pounder (57 mm) instead of the 75 mm gun found on the M3 Medium. This was done because of British doctrine at the time which called for 3 crew members in the turret. This, in conjunction with the small turret ring size, limited the size of the gun that could be fitted in the turret. The turret ring of the Sherman was 69 inches (1,752.6 mm) in diameter, only 9 inches larger than that of the Ram, which was 60 inches (1,524 mm) in diameter. 

The Medium Tank M4 Sherman was designed as the replacement for the Medium Tank M3 Lee. The new design mounted a 75 mm gun in a larger turret instead of the awkward sponson placement of the M3. The M4 was ultimately considered superior to the Ram and, in March 1942, shortly after the first production Shermans rolled off the production line, it was decided that Montreal Locomotive works should stop producing the Ram and start production of the cast hull M4A1 as quickly as possible. If they had been able to switch during mid-1942, it would have helped the Allied war effort greatly, as the Sherman was the most capable tank of the Western Allies and in great demand. But Ram production did not end until July 1943. The same month, the Montreal Locomotive Works were meant to build 50 Grizzly tanks. Each month after that, they were meant to build 150. 

Because of various industrial and bureaucratic delays, production of the Grizzly was not started until October 1943. By that time, production of Shermans in the US had undergone massive restructuring and, by the beginning of 1944, only a third of the original Sherman manufacturers remained, even though Sherman production was actually ramping up. Those that remained were no longer producing first-generation models, but new and improved second-generation models. The ample supply of Shermans from American factories, along with British requests for 25 pounder armed SPGs led to the end of Grizzly production and its replacement by the Sexton II at the Montreal Locomotive Works.

Modifications

The Grizzly I Cruiser kept the general M4A1 Sherman appearance, complete with its high profile and rounded armor and, from a distance, it is almost impossible to distinguish them.

The major often-cited difference between the standard M4A1 and Grizzly is in the tracks. The Grizzly often is seen featuring Canadian Dry Pin (CDP) tracks, which were of all-metal construction and did not require the use of rubber, which was a scarce resource at the time. As a result of the Japanese invasion of South East Asia – particularly Malaya – there was a worldwide shortage. The CPD tracks also had the added benefits of being a simpler, lighter design, although they were noisier and wore down the rubber of the roadwheels faster. These new tracks did have smaller links with a shorter pitch, which necessitated the replacement of the standard US 13-tooth sprocket wheel with a new 17-tooth wheel.

However, the CDP tracks and the new sprocket wheel were fitted after the end of Grizzly production in December 1943. The Grizzlies were initially produced with the original American tracks and sprocket. The British also used this type of track occasionally. Its use was mostly limited to the Sexton Mk.II. The track-type was most prevalent with the Canadians. The bogies of the suspension of the Grizzly also seem to have been retrofitted after the production run ended to Canadian-built reinforced bogies.

Imported parts from the US include castings, the engine, the transmission from Iowa Transmission Co., Browning machine guns and the M3 L/40 main gun. The hull armor and the turret were cast by the General Steel company in the United States. The General Steel logo is featured on the middle of the front glacis, with the vehicle number under it. The turrets lacked the left-side pistol port featured on Shermans before June 1943.

M4 sprocket wheels
Left, the standard M4 sprocket wheel (seen here on a BARV) and, right, the smaller tooth sprocket wheel necessitated by the CDP track type. Photos: Mark Nash and Panserserrabunker

The Grizzly had exactly the same armor thicknesses as the corresponding M4A1. The turret had a thickened right side cheek. A quarter inch (6.35 mm) of armor encased the ammunition bins for the main gun on the interior. On top of this, Grizzly tanks after number 25 (unclear exactly with which tank this started) had exterior armor plates welded over the side of the hull, where the ammunition bins were located. The welded on applique was unique to the Canadians, as the extra plates were made up of several pieces that, when welded together, followed the contour of the rounded M4A1 hull. Grizzly production straddled General Steel’s changeover from welded applique to ‘cast-in applique’. These eliminated the need for the extra welded applique plates. The ‘cast-in’ plates are visible from the exterior in raised portions of the armor. The front drive casting was the three-piece one.


Left: Extra welded-on applique armor for the Grizzly tank. This was made of one plate that was cut up and then welded to follow the contour of the rounded M4A1 hull. Right: The cast-in extra armor over the ammunition bins. Source: Sherman Minutia

The Grizzly kept the Continental R-975-C1 9-cylinder radial gasoline-fueled engine that provided an output of 400 horsepower at 2,400 rpm. The performance was similar, with a top speed of 24 mph (38 km/h) and a maximum range of 120 miles (193 km). Compared to the 100 mile (160 km) range of the M4, this was a slight improvement. The Grizzly also retained the standard VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring) suspension.

Like the standard M4A1, the primary armament was a 75 mm high-velocity M3 L/40 main gun mounted in a fully traversable turret. Secondary armament included the .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning heavy machine gun designed to efficiently destroy lightly armored vehicles or enemy infantry. It also consisted of two Browning M1917 .30 (7.62 mm) caliber machine guns, one coaxially mounted to the right of the 75 mm gun, the other in a ball mount in the right front of the hull. Grizzlies were produced with the blade sights as opposed to the commander vane signs introduced around that time. These sights allowed the commander to guide the gunner onto target. A single 2-inch (50 mm) smoke mortar was also added on the left side of the top of the turret. 2-inch smoke mortars were common features on British tanks.

There are smaller differences between US and Canadian Shermans, though. One was the method of turret and hull stowage. To begin with, the Canadians added a large square box on the turret bustle, held in place by a frame with a curved overhang. The overhang was curved upwards, and was designed to carry rolled up greatcoats, blankets and tarpaulins. Later on, this stowage would be replaced with a simpler, conventional box. Rear hull stowage also differed from the standard M4A1. All of the equipped pioneer tools were moved to the left rear side. This included the jack, shove (blade facing forward as opposed to rearwards on the US tank) and track tensioning wrench known as ‘Little Joe’. A groove can be seen on the center rear of the hulls of surviving Tanks. It is referred to as the Grizzly Groove but is a feature of all small hatch M4A1 hulls produced by General Steel. Around these were 6 tie down points. Photographic evidence shows that rolled up camouflage netting would be tied here, over the tools. Fitted externally were also 2 Methyl Bromide type fire extinguishers and a number of 5 gallon jerry cans. Grizzlies were produced with the original split hatches. Later, they were retrofitted with commander’s vision cupolas, most likely in the after war years.

Grizzly No.1 showing the rear turret stowage box along with rolled up material. Please note the standard 13-tooth drive sprocket and the regular Sherman tracks. Source: Sherman Minutia.

The radio used in the Grizzly was the British Wireless Set No.19. It had a range of up to 16 km and could be used on different channels for internal communication, troop communication or regiment communication.

The hatch at the bow gunner’s feet
The hatch at the bow gunner’s feet. Used to deploy Snake anti-mine devices from the safety of the tank. Photo: Facebook

Another small difference was a small hatch at the bow gunner’s feet. This hatch was designed for the gunner to deploy the Snake anti-mine device from inside the safety of the tank. The Snake was an oversized version of the infantry carried Bangalor line-charge designed to clear mines and other obstacles.

Grizzly Firefly

In the spring of 1945, the United Kingdom sent four Firefly turrets armed with 17-pounder guns to Canada and the United States. Three went to Canada and one to the United States. The Canadians mounted theirs on the hulls of three Grizzlies. The British did not consider the M4A1 to be a suitable platform for the 17 pounder “Firefly” conversion, because the cast hull could not accommodate the standard Firefly internal stowage arrangement. However, it has been reported that the Canadians managed to reconfigure the interior and convert the tank into a Firefly. Three Grizzlies underwent full Firefly conversion, including the substitution of the co-driver’s position to add 17-Pounder ammunition storage, and the addition of the right sponson ammunition racks. These Grizzlies were the only ones to be armed with 17-pounders. They were used for training.

Only one of these very rare tanks survives today, at the Base Borden Museum. After the death of Sydney Valpy Radley-Walters, the legendary Firefly ace, in 2015, the tank was named ‘Radley-Walters’ in his honor.

Skink SPAAG

The Skink was a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) based on the Grizzly. It was developed in 1944. It is one of the rare anti-aircraft variants of the M4 chassis to see any kind of production run. It featured the same CDP tracks, and corresponding 17-tooth sprocket wheel.

The standard turret was replaced by a new one with four 20 mm Polsten Anti-Aircraft autocannons. These could also be used against infantry and light vehicles to devastating effect, if necessary. Like many other projects, it did not go beyond prototype stages. Only three of the planned 135 vehicles were produced. With the Allies gaining air-superiority over the Luftwaffe by the day, an AA vehicle was no longer a priority. One of the prototypes was sent to the United Kingdom for assessment.

Sexton Mk.II, 25 pdr. SPG

With the end of Grizzly gun tank production, efforts focused on building the Sexton Mk.II Self-Propelled Gun (SPG). The Mk.IIs were built on the hulls of unused Grizzlies as opposed to the Ram hulls of the Mk.I. In total, 2,026 Sextons were ordered and production was carried out between 1944 and 1945.

Grizzly Armored personnel carriers

Like many of the other Allied tanks, the Grizzly had an APC variant, where the turret was removed from the hull. These were originally used as an expedient measure to create an APC but were later adopted for widespread use because of the over-supply of tanks.

Grizzly Mk.I tank
Grizzly Mk.I tank Photo: Panzerserrabunker

Uses after World War 2

In Canadian service, the Grizzly was only assigned to training units, and never saw combat with the Canadian Military, although some reached Great Britain.

In the 1950s, 55 of the surplus Grizzlys, 40 Grizzly APCs, and a few Sexton Mk.IIs were sent to Portugal as part of NATO’s Military Assistance Program. It is unknown whether any of the vehicles were used or fought in the country’s colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. A small number of Grizzly APCs found use as driver training vehicles in the Portuguese Army. The tanks were declared obsolete in 1973, and were taken out of service by the 1980s. They were then sold to many private collectors. As the Grizzly never saw large scale use, the tank represents some of the finest surviving examples of the M4 tanks, with many running examples. Many of them are in the hands of private collectors, but quite a few can be found in museums across the world.

Quite a few of the surviving and running M4A1s are actually Grizzlys that have been modified to look like standard US built M4s, with the CDP tracks and sprocket wheel removed, as well as various other minor tweaks. A sure way to figure out if it is a Grizzly is to look for the additional belly hatch.

Canadian Grizzly Mk.I illustration by David Bocquelet

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.81 m x 2.62 m x 2.99 m
Total weight, battle-ready 34 tonnes
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, bow gunner)
Propulsion Continental R-975-C1 9-cylinder radial petrol/gasoline engine
Max. Road Speed 38.6 km/h
Road Range 193 km
Main Armament 75mm M3 L/40
Secondary Armament M2 Browning .50 (12.7 mm) heavy machine gun
x2 Browning M1917 .30 machine gun
Armor Max 76 mm (3 inches)
Total production 188

Sources

M4A1 Grizzly Production Variants, the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/manufacturer/m4a1mlw/grizzly.html
Defence, National. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 9 Oct. 2018, www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/military-history/history-heritage/official-military-history-lineages/reports/army-headquarters-1948-1959/tank-production.html
Law, Clive M. Making Tracks: Tank Production in Canada. Service Publications, 2001.

Categories
WW2 Canadian Tanks

M1917 Light Tank in Canadian Service

canadian tanks Dominion of Canada (1940-1943)
Light Tank – 236 Used

Introduction

A single Canadian Army tank battalion had been authorized for deployment on the WW1 Western Front, but the Canadian tank crews in the UK were not trained in time to see action before the war ended on 11th November 1918.
This early Royal Canadian Amoured Corps was demobilized in 1919. During the Winnipeg General Strike, the Canadian Government looked into buying some tanks to be deployed on the streets, after reading about the American and British Governments using tanks as a deterrent in the 1930s Depression era worker strikes. The public unrest in Winnipeg finished before any tanks were delivered.

Driver and Commander positions in the Canadian Army M1917 training tank. They turret gun has been moved to point to the rear.
Driver and commander positions in the Canadian Army M1917 training tank. The turret gun has been moved to point to the rear. (caption: Jack and Ernie Camp Borden August 1941)
During the 1920s, the only armored vehicles in the Canadian Army were a few armored cars that had been shipped back to Canada after WW1.
The first step towards armored mechanization of the Canadian Army was the purchase of tracked machine gun carriers. In 1935, the Cavalry began to introduce armored cars fitted with machine guns.

War is coming. We need tanks

In 1938, the Canadian Army realized that they would need to reform the Tank Corps. Tank Battalions began to be formed from established Infantry regiments.
A Canadian Tank School was opened at Camp Borden in Ontario. Later, its name was changed to the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicles Training Centre (CASF). It still did not have lots of tanks in which to train future tank crews. A few tracked machine gun carriers, a British Light Dragon Mk III and two Vickers light tanks were all it had at its disposal.
The tank school devised a training device that mimicked a tank turret, which jolted and pitched like one in a tank crossing open country. Students could fire an air-rifle at targets on a sand pit to simulate firing a tank gun. They would look through telescopic sights to find the target, whilst using hand wheels to rotate the turret. Replica pill boxes in the sand would light up simulating the flashes of machine guns firing at the tank. A pulley system would move the board up and down and pull small tank targets across the sand. It was called ‘Rypa’.
In late 1939, when war in Europe broke out, the School was slightly better off: it now could boast that it had 14 British Vickers Mk VIB light tanks on its strength. This was not enough. The Canadian AFV Training Centre at Borden was expected to train 200 men at a time. They needed more vehicles.
Some of the Canadian M1917 were given a camouflage livery.
Some of the Canadian M1917 were given a camouflage livery. When being driven along a road the gun was turned towards the rear so the commander could open his hatch. The tank crew are from the Ontario Regiment. They are on parade in Oshawa. The WWI cenotaph on Simcoe St is in the background.
In June 1940, Colonel Frank Worthington informed the Canadian National Defence Headquarters of a number of surplus M1917 6-ton tanks in the United States. The U.S. agreed to sell 250 of the tanks. Colonel Worthington ordered 236 M1917 tanks on 21st September 1940, in order to increase the amount of tracked vehicles available to train Canadian Army tank crews.

The Neutrality problem

At the time of the deal, the United States was a neutral nation and could not officially provide weapons to any of the combatants. The Canadian Government was sold these old WW1 era tanks as ‘scrap metal’. They paid the going rate for scrap metal: each tank only cost $240US. The first M1917 tanks arrived at camp Borden on 8th October 1940, transported by train from a parking lot at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. Tank crew training could now start in earnest.
The Canadian opposition party heard about the deal and tried to embarrass the Government in Parliament and raised a question about the purchase. They received the formal reply that the train delivering 1,500 tons of scrap metal had arrived at the Camp Borden Iron Foundry. No further questions were asked.
M1917 training tanks at Camp Borden Aug 1941, Canada
M1917 training tanks at Camp Borden, August 1941, Canada

Tank crew training

The shock of the fall of France and the success of the German armored divisions led to the formation of the Canadian Armoured Corps in August 1940. There were lots of recruits that needed to be trained as tank crews. For nearly two years, the M1917 proved to be a useful tank training vehicle. The M1917 6-ton light tanks lacked suspension, so gave a very hard jarring ride when students drove across country. They had a tendency to suffer from mechanical breakdowns frequently and some caught fire. The upside was this gave the students more practical experience in tank maintenance and repair. Tank crew students had to learn flag and hand signals, as the tanks were not equipped with radios.
Canadian M1917 light tanks tank crew under training at Camp Bowden
Canadian M1917 tank crew under training at Camp Borden. Judging by the soldiers’ berets, they could be the Essex Regiment (Tank) from Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The 9 mph (15 km/h) slow speed of the M1917 6 ton tank made tactical training difficult, and the main function of the vehicle was to familiarize crews in driving and maintaining tracked vehicles. Tank gunnery was also taught using the caliber .30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 tank machine gun and the 37 mm (1.46 in) M1916 cannon.
Many Canadian tank crew drivers were recruited from the tracked vehicle cat-skinner’ drivers working for western Canadian construction crews, drag-line men, clamshell men, bulldozer drivers, and farm hands from the farms of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who knew how to look after their tractor engines. If one of these men was working in a part of the country over 20 miles (32 km) from the nearest town, he could not call a garage when something went wrong. He had to fix it himself.
The first M1917 tank is armed with a 37mm M1916 cannon
The first M1917 tank in the photograph is armed with a 37 mm M1916 cannon, whilst the others are fitted with .30 cal Browning M1919 tank machine guns.
The Canadian tank crews were trained using a very unique method. Camp Borden was off limits to civilians, but it was full of wildlife. Local farmers and hunters would ignore the no entry signs to hunt bear, deer, elk and moose. The tank crews were instructed to hunt these hunters using their tanks and pretend that they were enemy tanks. Live ammunition was not used against these poachers.
Colonel Worthington mentioned to his son, ‘One of my cherished memories is walking down the concrete road through camp to the one-room school near the Air Force area one fall day, and seeing a Renault tank emerge from the bush area with a deer carcass draped over the tank’s gun, and two disgruntled poachers in plaid shirts marching in front with their hands on top of their heads. Pretend prisoners of war. The soldier in the tank’s turret was beaming like an Olympic champion. The officers’ mess and the sergeants’ mess subsequently dined on venison.’
In 1943, many of the M1917 tanks were sold off to private industry and to farmers. There are only two Canadian M1917 6-ton light tanks left: one is located at the Canadian Forces Base Museum at Borden, Ontario, Canada and the other is on display at the Canadian War Museum
Canadian M1917
Major Gordon Churchill, Fort Garry Horse, 1940 undergoing tank crew training at Camp Borden. He served overseas in WW I from 1916 to 1919 as a Vickers Machine Gunner. During WW2, he served 1939-45 with the Fort Garry Horse and Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel) 1st Canadian Carrier Regiment in North West Europe.(Source:Library and Archives Canada )

Comment

Andrew Butcher, Canada – I spoke to a fellow whose brother off-loaded these at the railhead, and he used them in training. Broke down all the time, they’d head out with five and come back with two. Good maintenance trainers!

Sources

Old Photos: Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Regimental collection and US National Armor and Cavalry Museum.
Early Armour in Canadian Service (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2009)
The Generals: The Canadian Army’s Senior Commanders in the Second World War (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd)
‘Tanks for the Memories’ article by Peter Worthington, Calgary Sun, Sunday, August 19, 2012
US M1917 tanks in the Canadian Army, Popular Science, January, 1941
Mr Charles R. Lemons – retired curator of the US Cavalry and Armour Museum
Mr Len Dyer – US National Cavalry and Armour Restoration Shop
Mr Clark Ward – US National Cavalry and Armour Restoration Shop
The M1917 on Tank-Hunter.com
The M1917 on Wikipedia
The M1917 on Military Factory
The M1917 on CanadianSoldiers.com

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 4.88 (4.02 without tail) x 1.71 x 2.14 m
(16’0″/13’2″ x 5’7″ x 7’0″)
Total weight, battle ready 6.7 tons
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Buda HU modified 4-cylinder 4-cycle vertical L-band gasoline engine, 42 [email protected],460 rpm
Speed about 5 mph (8.85 km/h)
Range 20 miles (32 km)
Fuel tank 24 US gallons
Armament Female tank .30 cal (7.62 mm) Marlin machine gun or
M1919 .30 cal (7.62 mm) Browning machine gun (238 rounds)
Armament Male tank 37 mm (1.46 in) M1916 cannon
Armor 6 – 22 mm (0.24-0.86 in)
Total production 236

US built M1917 Light Tank armed with a caliber .30 Marlin machine gun
US built M1917 Light Tank armed with a caliber .30 Marlin machine gun.
Canadian Army M1917 Light Tank armed with a .30 M1919 Browning tank machine gun
Canadian Army M1917 Light Tank armed with a .30 M1919 Browning tank machine gun
M1917 Light Tank armed with a 37 mm M1916 cannon. It could fire high explosive HE rounds and armor piercing AP rounds.
M1917 Light Tank armed with a 37 mm M1916 cannon. It could fire high explosive HE rounds and armor piercing AP rounds.
M1917 Signals Tank with non-rotating turret, that had room for a radio and maps. It did not have a weapon.
M1917 Signals Tank with non-rotating turret, that had room for a radio and maps. It did not have a weapon.

Gallery

US M1917 light tanks arriving at the Canadian Armoured Corps Training Centre, Camp Borden
US M1917 light tanks arriving at the Canadian Armoured Corps Training Centre, Camp Borden, Ontario, October 1940. Vehicle in the foreground is a signals command tank variant lacking a rotating turret.
Canadian M1917 tank train arriving at Camp Borden
Canadian M1917 tank train arriving at Camp Borden
US M1917 light tanks arriving in Canada October 1940.
US M1917 light tanks arriving in Canada October 1940. They are being towed off the railway flat back wagon.
Colonel F.F. Worthington inspecting US M1917 light tanks
Colonel F.F. Worthington inspecting M1917 light tanks supplied by the United States Army to the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle Training Centre, Camp Borden, Ontario, October 1940. The hand crank location can be observed with the rear skid down.
Canadian M1917 light tanks
Canadian M1917 light tanks being unloaded from the railway flatback trucks. Not all of the tanks could move under their own power. Some had to be towed off by other tanks using chains.
Canadian M1917 light tanks
This photograph was taken on 10th October 1940. M1917 tanks, recently-unloaded from the rail cars and organized at Camp Borden, Ontario Canada. Here, according to the Toronto Star reporter, mechanics adjust the engines of 180 tanks that arrived that day. Another 34 tanks were on their way via rail flat cars. The tanks were towed to the site with the help of army trucks. On the Ford truck, there is written in chalk, “The Pride of the West, Fort Garry Horse”. (Source :Toronto Star/ Toronto Public Library)

Surviving Tanks

Restored Canadian M1917 6-ton light tank at the Base Borden Military Museum. Ontario, Canada.
Restored Canadian M1917 6-ton light tank at the Base Borden Military Museum. Ontario, Canada.
Surviving M1917 6-ton light tank, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada.
Surviving M1917 6-ton light tank at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada (photo: W.E.Storey)