Lend-Lease Sherman tanks

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Main article: M4 Sherman
Medium Tank M4A2 Sherman III
M4a2 cfb borden 1.JPG
Medium Tank M4A2 Sherman III. Most of these, the only large-production diesel variant, were Lend-Leased to the Allies
Place of origin  United States
Specifications
Weight 29.94 tonnes (66,000 lbs empty (late production))
Length 5.92 m (19.42 ft)
Width 2.62 m (8.6 ft)
Height 2.74 m (8.99 ft)
Crew 5

Armor 13 - 108 mm (0.5 - 4.25 in) (late production)
Main
armament
75 mm M3 L/40 Gun
97 rounds
Secondary
armament
.50 Browning M2HB machinegun
300 rounds
.30-06 Browning M1919A4 machineguns
4,750 rounds
Engine General Motors 6046 diesel (conjoined twin 6-71s)
410 hp gross @ 2900 rpm
375 hp net (280 kW) @ 2100 rpm
Power/weight 12.89 hp/tonne
Suspension Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS)
Speed 48 km/h (30 mi/h) brief level

The United States provided tens of thousands of its Medium Tank M4, also named the Sherman, to many of its Allies during the Second World War, under the terms of Lend-Lease Act.

British nomenclature[edit]

The British received far more M4 medium tanks, approximately 17,000 (roughly 34% of all M4s produced), than any other Allied nation. The British practice of naming American tanks after American Civil War generals was continued, giving it the name General Sherman after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, usually shortened to Sherman. The US later adopted the name and the practice of naming tanks after generals.

In the British naming system the major variants were identified by Mark numbers, the M4 being "Sherman I", the M4A1 "Sherman II" and so on. Letters after the mark number denoted modifications to the base model: "A" for the 76 mm L/55 gun instead of the 75mm, "B" for the 105 mm M4 L/22.5 howitzer, "C" for the (British) QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) gun, and "Y" for the wider tracked HVSS type suspension.

  • Sherman I - M4 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun
    • Sherman Hybrid I - Sherman I with composite hull (cast front, welded rear)
    • Sherman IB - Sherman I with 105 mm M4 L/22.5 howitzer
      • Sherman IBY - Sherman IB with HVSS
  • Sherman II - M4A1 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun
    • Sherman IIA - M4A1(76)W, Sherman II with 76 mm M1 L/55 gun
      • Sherman IIAY - M4A1(76)W HVSS, Sherman IIA with HVSS
  • Sherman III - M4A2 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun
    • Sherman IIIA - M4A2(76)W, Sherman III with 76 mm M1A2 L/55 gun (unlikely to have been used by UK troops)
      • Sherman IIIAY - M4A2(76)W HVSS, Sherman IIIA with HVSS (not used operationally by UK troops)
  • Sherman IV - M4A3 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun (no Sherman IVs used operationally)
    • Sherman IVA - M4A3(76)W, Sherman IV with 76 mm M1A2 L/55 gun
    • Sherman IVB - M4A3(105), Sherman IV with 105 mm M4 L/22.5 howitzer
      • Sherman IVBY - M4A3(105) HVSS, Sherman IVB with HVSS.
  • Sherman V - M4A4 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun
  • Sherman VI - M4A5 (paper designation to prevent confusion with Canadian production)
  • Sherman VII - M4A6 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun (delivered to British with Ordnance RD-1820 diesel engine)
  • Sherman II ARV III - M32B1 TRV (M4A1 Sherman II chassis) recovery vehicle

Allied variants[edit]

Sherman III ARV I - British Amoured Recovery Vehicle conversion of Sherman III (M4A2), REME, 79th Armoured Division, Summer 1944. Note large winch pulley on front glacis plate and specialized storage on hull sides.

Conversions and modifications of the M4 by their foreign users included the British-Commonwealth Firefly with potent British QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) anti-tank gun; Adder, Salamander, Crocodile, and Badger[1] flame-throwing Shermans; Kangaroo armoured personnel carrier; Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARV); artillery tractors, and the specialist military engineering vehicles of "Hobart's Funnies" designed specifically for Operation Overlord ("D-Day") and the Battle of Normandy. In 1945, the 1st Coldstream Guards at the Rhine fitted Sherman turrets with two "60 lb" RP-3 air-to-ground rockets on rails to create the Sherman Tulip. Canada created a prototype anti aircraft vehicle with four 20 mm Polsten cannons mounted in a turret on Canadian-made M4A1 hull called Skink. The Soviets reportedly replaced the US 75 mm gun on some M4A2s with the 76.2mm F-34 gun of the T-34 medium tank to create the M4M but discontinued the practice when assured of US ammunition supply (Zaloga 1984:217).

Armament conversions[edit]

Firefly with British 17 pdr gun. Compare to 75 mm gun Sherman at the top of this page.

A number of Sherman tanks were converted to carry different armament other than that with which the tank was originally manufactured. Among these were:

  • Tank AA, 20 mm Quad, Skink - Canadian prototype anti-aircraft vehicle with four 20 mm Polsten cannon mounted in a turret on a Grizzly hull (tank made in Canada, not Lend-Leased).[2]
  • Sherman DD (from "Duplex drive") - British-developed swimming gear fitted to British, Canadian, and US Shermans for the Normandy landings.
  • Sherman Firefly - British Sherman I or V re-armed with QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) anti-tank gun with C added to designation (as in Sherman IC or VC).
  • Sherman Tulip - British Sherman with two 3-inch ("60lb") RP-3 rockets on rails added to the turret. Used by the 1st Coldstream Guards at the Rhine in 1945.
  • M4M— Soviet M4A2s reportedly[by whom?] converted to 76.2mm F-34 gun, as mounted in the T-34. There was no shortage of U.S. 75 mm ammunition, however, so there was little need to continue converting Shermans. (Zaloga 1984:217)

Combat engineering vehicles[edit]

Sherman Crab Mk II.
A Sherman Twaby Ark bridging vehicle, with the ramps stowed in the travelling position

British developments for Shermans were extensive and included the fascine carrier (used by 79th Armoured Division), "Crib", "Twaby Ark", "Octopus",

  • Sherman Bridgelayer -
  • Sherman CIRD - fitted with "Canadian Indestructible Roller Device" landmine exploder
  • Sherman Crab - British Sherman with mine flail, one of a long line of flail devices

Recovery vehicles[edit]

  • Sherman III ARV I - British Amoured Recovery Vehicle conversion of Sherman III (M4A2), similarly Sherman V ARV I and ARV II
  • BARV - British Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle

Artillery tractors[edit]

  • Sherman Gun Tower - British field conversion in Italy by removing turrets from M4A2 Sherman tanks to tow 17 pdr AT gun and carry crew with ammunition

Personnel carriers[edit]

Flame Tanks[edit]

  • Sherman Adder - A conversion kit to equip Sherman tanks, used in India on Sherman III and Sherman V
  • Sherman Badger - Canada's replacement of its Ram Badger, the Sherman Badger was a turretless M4A2 HVSS Sherman with Wasp IIC flamethrower in place of hull machine gun, developed sometime from 1945 to 1949. The 150 gallons at 250 psi was effective to 125 yards, with elevation of +30 to -10 degrees and traverse of 30 degrees left and 23 degrees right. This inspired the US T68.[3]

Service history[edit]

Britain[edit]

Most M4A4 Sherman Vs were Lend-Leased to allies, like this one in British/Commonwealth markings.

The British Empire received 17,184 Sherman tanks under Lend-Lease, roughly 78% of all Shermans provided world wide under this program. This includes Sherman tanks used by all members of the British Empire. The first Shermans received by the UK were equipped with two driver-operated fixed machine guns in the hull. This was a standard feature of very early Shermans and was one of the first things to be dropped from the design. The British largely used M4, M4A1, M4A2, and later became the primary user of the M4A4.

Some Shermans in British service were converted to specialist combat engineering vehicles primarily for the invasion of France. The Sherman Crab was used to clear minefields in North West Europe and Italy. The Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle was a waterproof Armoured Recovery Vehicle used only on the beaches.

North Africa[edit]

The first Shermans to see battle were M4A1s with the British Eighth Army at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. The tanks had been supplied in a hurry from the US which had removed them from their own units. They were then modified to British requirements and for desert conditions.[4] Over 250, in 12 regiments, started the battle. They formed the "heavy squadrons" (16 tanks in each) of one brigade in each division of X Corps and some other squadrons of the other units taking part; the other heavy squadrons were still equipped with Grants and light squadrons were equipped with 'Honey' Stuart and Crusader tanks. The Sherman's were still "outclassed" by the long gunned Panzer IV "Specials"[citation needed] but the British carried the battle though the Sherman units were largely out of the subsequent pursuit of the Germans. The Sherman was able to tackle enemy rearguards by using HE fired indirectly and the German Pak 50 anti-tank gun was only effective if it could engage the Sherman from the sides. More of the units in North Africa were converted to Shermans, though the infantry tank units retained their Churchills. By the Tunisia campaign the Germans had the Tiger I heavy tank, 75 mm anti-tank guns and more Panzer IVs with the long 75mm gun.

Italy[edit]

The British in Italy did not use cruiser tanks; replacing them with Shermans and turretless Stuart tanks (Stuarts equipped the reconnaissance troops). The other tank of the campaign was the, mainly 6 pdr equipped, Churchill tank; those units were bolstered with Shermans. in general the Shermans were acting in the infantry support role in difficult terrain against fixed German defences. At the end of 1944 76 mm and 105 mm gun Shermans and 17 pdr Fireflies started to be used by the British as they came up against the Gothic Line.

Northwest Europe[edit]

A Sherman DD tank of 13th/18th Royal Hussars in action against German troops near Ranville, Normandy, 10 June 1944. Note crashed Horsa glider in background.

British and Commonwealth use in Europe was comprehensive, the Sherman replaced the General Grant and General Lee tanks and the Ram Tank in Canadian service and was in the majority by 1944 - the other main late-war tanks being the Churchill and Cromwell. The Cromwell was used in reconnaissance because of its superior speed and the Churchill had the better cross country mobility.

The Sherman Firefly variant was converted mostly from M4s and M4A4s, and was used both in Sherman and Cromwell-equipped units to add extra anti-tank capability, though it was noticeably slower than the swift Cromwells (the 17 pdr development of the Cromwell was only produced in small numbers, production of the Firefly was much quicker). A 1944-pattern British armoured squadron (equivalent to a US company) had one Firefly per troop (platoon) of 4 Shermans. Later when the Sherman was being replaced in some British units by the Cromwell, the Firefly was retained in Cromwell units until the introduction of the Comet which carried the 77mm HV, a shortened derivative of the OQF 17 pounder.

By the end of the war, of the Shermans in service with the British, 50% were Fireflies. With the end of the war and superior tanks entering service, the UK returned its Shermans to reduce its Lend-Lease payments.

India[edit]

In the Indian Army tradition, formations included British regiments alongside Indian Army units.[nb 1] As well as some Indian units receiving Shermans, the 116th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (converted from the 9th Battalion Gordon Highlanders) part of 255th Brigade was equipped with Shermans. As part of the 255th, they were involved in January and February 1945 in Burma in action near Meiktila and Mandalay. The actions were predominantly in support of infantry with few enemy tanks encountered.[5] After that they were part of mobile columns that moved to retake Rangoon.

New Zealand[edit]

The 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade operated approximately 150 M4A2 Sherman tanks from late 1942 until the end of the war. The 4th Brigade formed part of the New Zealand 2nd Division and was converted from an infantry brigade. The 4th Armoured Brigade saw action during the Italian Campaign.[6]

Australia[edit]

A M4A2 during Australian Army trials in 1944

Although the Australian Army received 757 M3 Lee/Grants in 1942 it only received three Sherman tanks. These three tanks were supplied by the UK and were only used for trials purposes. When the Australian Cruiser tank programme was cancelled in 1943 a proposal was made to replace the entire order of 775 Australian Cruiser tanks with 310 Sherman tanks, however this proposal was not acted on.

Australia's first Sherman, an M4A2, arrived in Australia in 1943 with a further two M4s (sometimes mis-labeled as M4A1s) arriving for tropical trials in New Guinea in 1944. The results of these trials showed that the British Churchill tank was better suited to jungle warfare's low-speed infantry support than the Sherman. As a result the Australian Government ordered 510 Churchills, of which 51 were delivered before the order was cancelled at the end of the war, and did not order any further Shermans. Following the war the three trials tanks were placed on display at Australian Army bases and one was later destroyed after being used as a tank target.[7]

Canada[edit]

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 defense 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.[8] 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.[9]

China[edit]

An estimated 812 Shermans were transferred to China under Lend-Lease.[10] Chinese forces in India received 100 M4A4 Shermans and used them to great effect in the subsequent 1943 and 1944 offensives.

USSR[edit]

A Soviet M4A2 near Smolensk before the start of Operation Bagration

The Soviet Union's nickname for the M4 medium tank was Emcha because the open-topped figure 4 resembled the Cyrillic letter che or cha (Ч).[citation needed] The M4A2s used by the Red Army were considered to be much less prone to blow up due to ammunition detonation than T-34 (T-34-76), but tended to overturn in road collisions because of much higher center of gravity.[11]

A total of 4,102 M4A2 medium tanks were sent to the U.S.S.R. under Lend-Lease. Of these, 2,007 were equipped with the 75 mm gun, and 2,095 carried the 76 mm gun. The total number of Sherman tanks sent to the U.S.S.R. under Lend-Lease represented 18.6% of all Lend-Lease Shermans.[12]

The first 76-mm-armed Shermans started to arrive in Soviet Union in late summer of 1944.[13] In 1945, some units were standardized to depend mostly on them, and not on the ubiquitous T-34: 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, 3rd Guards Mechanized Corps, and 9th Guards Mechanized Corps.[13]

Poland[edit]

Poland was not a recipient of Lend-Lease aid directly from the United States, however, Polish forces also used a wide variety of Shermans redirected from Lend-Lease shipments to the British Empire. The Polish 1st Armoured Division entered the Battle of Normandy mostly equipped with Sherman Vs (M4A4s) with 75 mm guns, and Firefly VC Shermans, and some Cromwells.[nb 2] After heavy losses closing the Falaise Pocket and Dutch campaign, the division was re-equipped, largely with Sherman IIA (M4A1 (W) 76 mm) models. Many of the tanks had their entire glacis plate and turret front covered by spare track links in an attempt to improve the tank's protection.

The Polish II Corps, fighting in Italy, primarily used M4A2s (Sherman III) that had been used by the British Army in Africa. However, some Firefly ICs and Sherman IB (M4(105 mm)) howitzer tanks were also used.

Parts of the Polish First Army also briefly used M4A2 (76 mm) borrowed from the Soviet armies after heavy losses in the conquest of Danzig. After receiving replacements, the army was re-equipped with T-34s.[citation needed]

France[edit]

M4A1 in French markings with unit diamond symbol on hull side

Free French Forces used several versions of the M4 medium tank. Tanks were provided by the U.S. under Lend-Lease. French armored divisions were organized and equipped the same as U.S. Army, light armored divisions. In 1943, the French decided to create their new army in north Africa, and had an agreement with the Americans to be equipped with US modern weapons. The French 2nd Armored Division (French: Division Blindée, DB) entered the Battle of Normandy fully equipped with M4A2s. The 1st and 5th DB, which entered S. France as part of the First French Army were equipped with a mixture of M4A2 and M4A4 medium tanks. The 3rd DB, which served as a training and reserve organization for the three operational armored divisions was equipped with roughly 200 medium and light tanks. Of these, 120 were later turned in to the U.S. Army's Delta Base Section for reissue. Subsequent combat losses for the 1st, 2nd, and 5th Armored Divisions were replaced with standard issue tanks from U.S. Army stocks.[14]

Brazil[edit]

Brazil received a total of 53 Sherman tanks under Lend-Lease in 1941, all equipped with the 75 mm gun. These tanks were not used by the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in Italy during the war but sent directly to defend Brazil itself. In the early 1950s another group of 30 Sherman tanks were delivered under the Military Assistance Program bringing the total number of Shermans to 83 tanks. The variants of these tanks consisted of 40 M4, 38 M4 with the Composite Hull, and 2 M4A1. The Brazilian Army used the Shermans until 1979 when they were replaced by M41 tanks.[15]

Czechoslovakia[edit]

While the Czechoslovak government-in-exile was not receiving the Lend-lease equipment from the United States, its 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade was equipped and supplied by the British Army. The equipment of the brigade during the siege of Dunkirk included 36 Sherman Firefly ICs in addition to Cromwell tanks which constituted the primary armoured vehicle operated by the brigade. The Fireflies were in May 1945 exchanged for 22 Challengers with which the brigade returned home. In addition, one damaged Sherman I abandoned by an unknown unit was salvaged from the battlefield by the brigade's repair shop and was later used as a recovery vehicle. This vehicle returned with the brigade to Czechoslovakia.[16]

Combat performance[edit]

The M4 had a high profile compared to the Cromwell, which supplemented it in British service.

The best anti-tank gun on a World War II combat Sherman was the British QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) gun, a very high-velocity weapon firing APDS shells capable of defeating the heavier German tanks. The 17 pounder had already shown its value in 1943, in Africa as a towed anti-tank gun. It proved an effective weapon against German tanks. With the APDS developed for the 17 pounder, the Firefly's performance was increased again. Although the 17-pounder was an excellent anti-armor weapon, initially the HE shell provided was weak, making it a poor general-purpose tank gun. However, the HE shell problem was later resolved.

See also[edit]

Endnotes[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ The Army of India consisted of both the Indian Army and the British Army in India between 1903 and 1947.
  2. ^ With the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment.
Citations
  1. ^ R. P. Hunnicutt, Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1994, p. 420-421.
  2. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20080108124612/http://www.geocities.com/pentagon/bunker/3351/allweps/skink.html
  3. ^ R. P. Hunnicutt, Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1994, p. 420-421.
  4. ^ Sandars p6
  5. ^ Sandars p21
  6. ^ A. H. McLintock, ed. (1966). "WARS – SECOND WORLD WAR - The Army". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  7. ^ Paul D. Handel Australian Shermans Accessed 30 June 2006.
  8. ^ "Lend-Lease Shipments: World War II," Section IIIB, Published by Office, Chief of Finance, War Department, 31 December 1946, p. 8.
  9. ^ Guthrie, Steve The Sherman in Canadian Service Service Publications, Ottawa, ON. ISBN 1-894581-14-8
  10. ^ Hunnicutt p.166
  11. ^ Лоза Дмитрий Федорович - Я Помню. Герои Великой Отечественной войны. Участники ВОВ. in Russian.
  12. ^ Lend-Lease Shipments: World War II, Section IIIB, Published by Office, Chief of Finance, War Department, 31 December 1946, p. 8.
  13. ^ a b Zaloga, Steven (2003-04-20). M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65. p. 37. ISBN 9781841765426. 
  14. ^ (Vigneras, Marcel, "Rearming the French," Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, (Washington, DC GPO) 1957, p. 244-246.)
  15. ^ M4 Sherman no Brasil ISBN 978-85-99719-07-7
  16. ^ Jakl, Tomáš (2006). "Československé Shermany". Historie a plastikové modelářství (HaPM Ltd.) XVI (12): 22–23. ISSN 1210-1427. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]