Categories
WW2 Canadian Tanks

M1917 Light Tank In Canadian Service

canadian tanks Canada (1940-43) 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 hp@1,460 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)

Categories
WW2 Canadian Tanks

Cruiser Tank, Ram

Canada (1941-43) Cruiser tank – approx. 2000 built

Genesis: The first Canadian tank

When news of the British Expeditionary Force evacuation at Dunkirk, where they lost all their heavy equipment, reached Canada, it was clear that, if the Canadians wished to be committed in the conflict, no UK-built tanks would be spared for them at least for an estimated two years. At the same time, prospects from the USA were bleak as well, as all the deliveries were to be assigned to the UK first. So any armored forces levied in Canada had to be equipped with a domestic tank.
Following these conclusions, the Government prospected the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Angus Shops in Montreal (CPR), the only factory capable of large scale production of such vehicles, equipped with the heavy infrastructure required. In the meantime, this company already signed a contract to produce 300 Valentine tanks (partially fitted) under licence, which had to be shipped for completion in the UK, followed by 480 more for the Canadian mechanized infantry divisions (as an infantry support tank).

A Cruiser Based On The M3 Medium

The Canadians, already producing the Valentine, soon conducted a study to produce their own domestic cruiser tank. By 1940, CPR production of the Valentine (1940 would be produced in all, most shipped to the USSR) teethed with difficulties while using British and US parts and facing the need to adapt their manufacturing processes to US standards and methods.
Mid-production, the Canadian Joint Committee on Tank Development reported that any domestic design would depend first and foremost on US-built parts. The only available model recently put in production was the M3 Lee. At first license, production was favored, but the Canadians were not impressed by the compromise design, which was eventually rejected. The M3, of course, was an interim design, soon proved to be unsuitable for British and Candian forces in the long run. Early in 1941, the Canadian Interdepartmental Tank Committee sought a compromise to develop a new tank, based on the existing M3 chassis.
The British Tank Mission assisted with the design, allowing the Canadians the services of L.E. Carr, one of their leading experts. Carr would design the hull for the tank – while still using the lower hull of the M3 – and a turret capable of taking either a 6-Pounder gun or the 75mm M3 Tank Gun.
The tank began life as the ‘Canadian M3 Cruiser Tank’, later being named Ram. The reason for this name is unknown. The Americans would come to identify the Canadian models as M4A5s.

Characteristics

The Canadian Interdepartmental Tank Committee, which was charged with the Ram design, chose a compromise solution, with the chassis, suspension, drivetrain, engine and a reworked transmission of the M3. The upper part of the hull, a single piece entirely made of cast iron, was to be completely redesigned, including a fully traversing turret (also made of a single cast part) housing the main armament, a British 6-pdr gun (57 mm/2.24 in). The turret was mounted slightly off center, to the right of the tank. The ambitious production encountered many difficulties. To simplify construction, the manufacturer replicated or bought as many parts as possible from the M3, later from the M4 Sherman.
The most intriguing part was the British-influenced forward secondary turret, equipped with two Browning M1919 .30 cal. (7.62mm) machine-guns. This feature, still very present in British designs such as the Crusader, would be seen as obsolete and dropped in late 1942 on the Mk. II. Some vehicles also had the more American feature of a machine gun mounting on the turret roof for a Anti-Aircraft defense, in the form of either a Browning M1919, or dual Bren .303 (7.92 mm) Light Machine-Guns.
The driver sat on the right, conforming to British specifications. The lateral doors of the M3 prototypes were also seen as a good idea, for the safety of the crew and easier access, despite being an obvious weak spot.

Production

Ram Mk. I

Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW), an experienced subsidiary of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), already subcontracted for the M3, was chosen to mold the upper part of the hull. The final assembly was given to the specially funded Canadian Tank Arsenal at Longue Pointe, Québeck, responsible for the nose (with three rolled plates bolted together), the lower and upper parts, turret fitting and all the finishes and furniture.
Soon, it was found that producing all the required components took time to gear up. Second, it appeared that the Continental engine and transmissions were in short supply back in the US, which further delayed the completion of the first model. The US-built 75 mm (2.95 in) was not chosen despite its superior caliber compared to the British 6 pounder, mainly because of inferior AP capability and muzzle velocity. But it was also in short supply back in the UK, and a compromise was chosen for the first batch of the Mark Is (50).
These 50 all received the ageing -but largely available- 2-pdr (40 mm/1.57 in) instead, which was mounted in a mantlet similar to that of the British Matilda. The prototype was ready in June 1941 and the production started in November. By February 1942 the Factory had stockpiled enough QF-6 pounders to ensure a steady mass-production, and the Mark II was born.

Ram Mk. II

The Mk.II was by the main production standard of the Ram, and saw many modifications until new production resumed in July 1943. The early production was almost unchanged except for the new gun it was previously designed for, the Ordnance QF 6-Pounder (57 mm/2.24 in) Mk.III (L/43), a more compact, tank version of the Mk.II Anti-Tank gun.
This model was later designated the “short” version. The auxiliary “twin-tubes” turret was kept, and well as the coaxial machine-gun and side door. The mantlet which protected both was internal, much like many British Tanks of the era. In March 1942, the company took a radical departure when deciding to use US parts designed exclusively for the M4A1 Sherman.
The most obvious change were the new VVSS suspension and tracks, as well as the elimination of the side doors which weakened the hull. At the same time, the locally-built M4 production was delayed, allowing the manufacture of many more Rams and derivatives.

Ram Mk. III

The Mark III was the final evolution of the Ram as a gun tank. The major changes consisted of the deletion of the bow auxiliary turret, resulting in a simplified cast hull front with a standard pow MG position, as would be found on the M4. The gun was also upgraded to the long barrel (L/50) QF 6-pdr Mk.IV, equipped with a single baffle muzzle brake.

Operational service

The Ram’s fate shares some similarities with the Sentinel, the Australian domestic cruiser. The same considerations about the Sherman being delivered in large quantities prevailed. And just as the production was so slow to gear up, the factory line was converted for the Sherman, leaving insufficient numbers of Rams to entirely fill the Canadian armored divisions.
Globally, the Ram was clearly a huge progress compared to the M3 Lee, but only a slightly better design compared to the Sherman, given the fact it was lower and more compact, and had a gun capable of better performances. However, the British-US mixed requirements ended as a relatively complex and much costlier tank than the M4. It was decided already, in 1943, to send them in Great Britain for training, and they served as such until mid-1944, when many were converted for other tasks.

Dutch Army Ram Tanks

When the War in Europe ended, the Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Netherlands Army, RNLA) acquired over 200 tanks from Allied vehicle dumps in the Netherlands. This included Ram I and II tanks as well as Sherman tanks.
In 1947, an extra 44 “new” Rams were delivered from stocks in England. Four were Command/O.P. tanks, the rest were Ram IIs retrofitted with the British 75 mm gun. Numbers in service ranged from 73 (incl. 2 Ram Is) in 1947 to 50 in 1951, by which time they were in a bad state of repair. They were replaced by overhauled Sherman tanks supplied under the MDAP.
Also, several dozens (at least 25 and maybe up to 50) turretless Rams (Kangaroos, Wallaby, Gun Tower) were present at Kamp Stroe in the immediate post-war period. The Ram Kangaroos were never officially taken up in inventory but they were used at Stroe as tractors to tow disabled AFVs, a role for which they were very well liked.
By 1952 they were replaced by Centurions, and most Dutch Army Ram tanks ended up at the Ijssel Line, embedded in concrete as static pillboxes.
A Royal Netherlands Army Ram II tank being used for training 1948
A Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Netherlands Army, RNLA) Ram II tank being used for training 1948

Variants

Contrary to the original Ram, most of its conversions and variants actually saw action in the European battlefields: Holland, France, Germany, Italy. The Sexton was the most famous derivative of all.

Sexton SPG

After endless changes, the series was more or less finalized with the Sexton II, (125th unit), still armed with a 25 pounder gun which could also be used for direct fire. The 3-piece transmission housing appeared to have lingered until the 474th vehicle. Track type varied dramatically. The most obvious recognition feature are the batteries and auxiliary generator boxes with their accompanying water can holders on either side at the rear. Canadian dry pin track and heavy duty suspension with trailing idlers also depict the Sexton II.

Ram Badger

This turretless variant was based on the Kangaroo APC, modified to use the Mk.II flamethrower already made famous by the Wasp (based on the Universal Carrier). The turret ring was covered and surplus auxiliary turrets were mounted on top of these. The second series were complete vehicles, the turret receiving the flamethrower apparatus. Most served in Holland.

Ram Kangaroo

“Kangaroo” was the generic denomination for all turretless or converted Armored Personnel Carriers, based on the M3 Lee, M4 Sherman and Churchill chassis, or the “Defrocked Priest“. These vehicles were open-topped and all internal storage was discarded in order to make room for 6-10 men and their equipment. The only armament remaining was the nose hull Browning. These vehicles saw action in Holland and Normandy.

Ram OP/Ram Command

The Forward Observation Officers (FOO) attached to each Sexton SPG company, needed some form of protection, which was provided by mobile observation posts made of the 84 converted vehicles from last batch of the Mk. II. The gun was replaced by a dummy, and a powerful set of radios was added in the turret. The Ram GPO used alongside had additional equipment and Tannoy loudspeakers.

Ram Wallaby

The standard ammunition carrier derived from the Kangaroo, which followed the Sexton SPG companies.

Ram ARV

The Armored Recovery Vehicle based on a Ram Chassis, built in two series (Mk. I and II). The first was based on the Ram Mk. I, had a winch, while the second one derived from the Mk. II had a jig and earth spade.

Ram gun tower

This tractor version based on the Kangaroo had a reinforced towing hook designed for the Ordnance QF 17 pounder. They also carried the ammunition and gun crew.

Ram Mk.I
Ram Mk. I, early production, equipped with the QF 2-pounder (40 mm/1.57 in). Only 50 were built between December 1941 and February 1942.
Ram II
Ram Mk.II, early production, with the 6-pdr (57 mm/2.24 in) Mk. III, auxiliary turret and US M3 type suspensions, in khaki brown livery. It is from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse training unit, belonging to the Canadian 5th Armored Division, based in Great Britain in late 1942.
Ram II
Ram Mk.II, early production, from the “A” Squadron, Grey and Simcoe Foresters, 2nd Army Tank Brigade, based in Great Britain in mid-1942.
Ram II
Ram Mk.II, late production, with the long barrel 6-pdr Mk.V. It lost its sponson doors and auxiliary turret and received the new US M4 type VVSS suspensions.


Variants & derivatives

Kangaroo
Ram Kangaroo of an unidentified unit, Normandy, 1944. This was one of the four improvised APCs types used to cope with the lack of M3 half-tracks.
Badger
Ram Badger, early version. These were regular Kangaroos modified with Mk. II Wasp equipment. This one was repaired in the field with M4A4 drive sprockets.
Sexton
Sexton Mk.II “Exterminator” in Italy, 1944. The series was standardized after the 125th unit as the Sexton Mk.II. About 1436 were produced until early 1945 (S-233626 to S-235061). They soldiered mostly in Italy, and Holland. (Not to scale)

Gallery


Rams under construction at the Montreal Locomotive Works. Photo: – PreservedTanks.com

Crew loading their Ram during training exersises. Photo: – Royal Canadian archives

Ram Mk.I at base Borden.

Ram Mk.III at base Borden.

Ram Mk.II specifications

Dimensions 5.80 x 3 x 2.67 m (19 x 9.10 x 8.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 29 tons (65,000 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, co-driver/machine-gunner, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Continental R-975 9-cyl radial Gasoline 400 hp (298 kW)
Maximum speed 40 km/h (25 mph) – P/w ratio 12.3 hp/ton
Transmission Borg-Warner clutch, controlled differential
Suspension Vertical Volute Springs (VVSS)
Range 232 km (144 mi)
Armament Main : 6-pdr (57 mm/2.24 in) MkIII – 92 rounds
Secondary: 3 x.303 cal. (7.69 mm) Browning machine guns -4400 rounds
Armor Maximum 87 mm (3.42 in)
Total production 1948 (tank versions only)

Links, Resources & Further Reading

http://www.mapleleafup.nl/g104/nl.htm
The Ram on Wikipedia
The Ram on The Tank Museum’s website
Presidio Press, Sherman: A history of the American medium tank, R.P. Hunicuttf