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.
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.
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.
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 Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Netherlands Army, RNLA) Ram II tank being used for training 1948
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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, early production, equipped with the QF 2-pounder (40 mm/1.57 in). Only 50 were built between December 1941 and February 1942.
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 Mk.II, early production, from the “A” Squadron, Grey and Simcoe Foresters, 2nd Army Tank Brigade, based in Great Britain in mid-1942.
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
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.
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 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)
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)|