Sexton (artillery)

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25pdr SP, tracked, Sexton
Sexton.JPG
Sexton on exhibition in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw; this particular vehicle was used during WWII by the Polish 1st Armoured Division
Type Self-propelled artillery
Place of origin Canada
Service history
In service 1943 - 1956
Used by  Canada
 United Kingdom
 South Africa
 Poland
 Portugal
Wars Second World War
Production history
Designed 1942
Manufacturer Montreal Locomotive Works
Produced 1943-1945
Number built 2,000
Variants Mark I, Mark II
Specifications
Weight 25 tons (25.86 tonnes)[1]
Length 20 ft 1 in (6.12 m)[1]
Width 8 ft 11 in( 2.71 m)[1]
Height 8 ft (2.44 m)[1]
Crew 6 [1] (Commander, Driver, Gunner, Gun-Layer, Loader, Wireless Operator)

Elevation +40° to -9°
Traverse 25° left 15° right1

Armour up to 32 mm[1]
Main
armament
Ordnance QF 25 pounder (87.6 mm) Mk II
105 rounds (mostly HE) carried on board
Secondary
armament
Two 0.303 (7.7 mm) Bren light machine guns
50 30-round magazines
Engine Continental R-975 9 cylinder Radial gasoline [1]
400 hp (298 kW)[1]
Suspension Vertical volute spring
Operational
range
125 miles+ (200 km)[1]
Speed 25 mph (40 km/h)[1]

The 25pdr SP, tracked, Sexton[2] was a self-propelled artillery vehicle of World War II. It was based on Canadian-built versions of the American M3 Lee and M4 Sherman tank chassis, which entered production in Canada as the Ram and Grizzly. When Sherman production in the US expanded and supply was no longer a problem, in 1943 it was decided to switch the Canadian production lines to produce the Sexton to give the British Army a mobile artillery gun using their Ordnance QF 25 pounder gun-howitzer. It found use in the Canadian and British Army, as well as numerous other British Empire and associated forces. Just after the war, a number of Grizzly and Sextons were sold to Portugal, who used them into the 1980s.

History[edit]

In order to better provide artillery support in the highly mobile desert warfare of the North African Campaign, the British Army had quickly adapted a number of obsolete Valentine tanks with the 25-pounder gun. These were introduced in 1942 as the Bishop, but proved to have many problems in service. In particular, the turret left little room for elevation, and gunners took to driving their tanks onto hills or dirt ramps in order to get the full range out of the gun. The Bishop was quickly replaced by the US-built M7 Priest, consisting of the US 105 mm gun mounted on the obsolete M3 Lee tank chassis.

However, the Priest used the American 105 mm howitzer rather than the British equivalent, the QF 25 pounder gun-howitzer. Having to supply different ammunition for just a few units complicated supply for the British Army. The US attempted to fit a 25 pounder to the M7 Priest, producing the T51 in mid-1942, but the program suffered delays including the destruction of the gun mount on the prototype during the first live-firing exercises.[1] US resources were not available for a vehicle solely for British use so Britain turned to Canada.

The Canadian Army Engineering Design Branch through the Canadian government's Department of Munitions and Supply were asked to build a vehicle similar to the M7 on the Ram tank chassis. The Ram tank was a Canadian tank design that used the chassis of the American Medium Tank M3 as did the Priest. The Ram had been sidelined by a decision to standardize on the Sherman tank for British and Canadian units. A prototype was completed on 23 June 1942. Following trials in Canada, the Canadian government ordered 124 vehicles in three batches. The prototype was shipped to the United Kingdom in early 1943,[3] where it underwent further trials; the vehicle was found to be highly satisfactory and was given the designation "Sexton" (after the religious custodian) in May 1943. The British government ordered 300 Sextons in the summer of 1943; however, these Sextons were to be built on Grizzly tank hulls (Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman tanks) instead of Ram tank hulls. The Ram-based Sexton was designated as the Sexton Mark I and the Grizzly-based Sexton was designated the Sexton Mark II. British orders for the Sexton II eventually totalled 2,026 vehicles.

Unlike the Ram, which was inferior operationally to the Sherman and never saw combat as a gun tank, the Sexton was successful.[4] Between 1943 and 1945, the Montreal Locomotive Works manufactured a total of 2,150 Sextons for the use of both Canadian and British forces. The vehicle entered service in September 1943. The vehicles were first used in combat in Italy by the British Eighth Army.[1] Later Sextons took part in the invasion of France and subsequent Battle of Normandy and the campaign in north-western Europe. During the D-day landings a number of Sextons were ordered to fire from their landing craft as they approached the beaches although the fire did not prove to be very accurate.[1] In spite of its confused origins, the Sexton was a combination of proven parts and proved to be a successful design and remained in British service until 1956.

Unlike Germany, which often used its self-propelled guns (assault guns) in a front line direct fire role[citation needed], Britain and Canada only used the Sexton for indirect supporting fire. They kept the Sextons well back from the front line and used forward observers to direct overwhelming fire on a target.

Variants[edit]

Sexton I
The first 125 vehicles manufactured. Based on the Ram tank hull.
Sexton II
Boxes added to the rear deck to carry batteries and an auxiliary generator to charge them. Based on the Grizzly (M4A1 Sherman) hull.
Sexton GPO (Gun Position Officer)
The 25 pounder was removed and an extra No. 19 Wireless was added along with map tables; this vehicle was used to control battery fire.[5]

See also[edit]

25pdr Sexton self-propelled artillery vehicle moving during demonstration at Fort Nelson, Hampshire
25pdr Sexton self-propelled artillery vehicle firing during demonstration at Fort Nelson, Hampshire
  • Yeramba - an Australian amoured vehicle of the 1950s mounting of 25 pounder on an M3 hull.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Livesey, Jack (2007). Armoured Fighting Vehicles of World Wars I and II. Southwater. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-1-84476-370-2. 
  2. ^ also "Mounting, SP, 25-pdr, C, Mk I"
  3. ^ AFV Profile "Ram and Sexton"
  4. ^ Stacey, C. P. (1970). Arms, Men and Government: The War Policies of Canada, 1939 - 1945. The Queen's Printer by authority of the Minister of National Defence. pp. 513–514. 
  5. ^ AFV Profile
  • Chris Ellis, Peter Chamberlain - AFV No. 13 - Ram and Sexton, Profile Publications, England

External links[edit]