Category Archives: Canadian Tanks

Post # 68 The Chieftain’s Hatch does the M4A1, we review it.

Post # 68 The Chieftain’s Hatch does the M4A1, we review it: A great Hatch!

The video comes in two parts.

The subject of the video is  Black Magic, a small hatch, late production M4A1 if the turret came on it, though the turret or gun mount could be from other tanks. When it comes to restored Sherman tanks, I think being concerned about matching numbers is not a thing that seems to be worried about, and since it was so well designed and built, parts readily interchange. This sherman started life as a canadian Grizzly, basically totally the same as an M4A1 with an extra small hatch in the hull floor.

This tank has almost all the quick fix upgrades, the extra armor over the hull ammo boxes but lacks the cheek armor on the turret, and the turret may, I can’t tell for sure, have the cast in cheek armor, meaning it almost for sure didn’t come on the hull.  It also lacks the armor plates added in front of the driver and co drivers positions, that the Chieftain calls “sheet metal”.  It also has some late Sherman stuff, either added by the restorers, or by a depot rebuild later in the tanks life. The spot light, and ‘gun crutch’, or travel lock as normal people use were not on most small hatch shermans. Also the all around vision cupola would not be found on these tanks during WWII.

The Tom Jentz tangent. 

The Idea that the Sherman was no more reliable than any other tank, well, I don’t buy it. I like Mr Jentz’s work, and to some degree, his books helped inspire this site, since there was so little info on the web with really detailed info on the Sherman other than the Sherman Minutia site. I don’t think he really knows much about the Sherman if he thinks tanks like Panther and Tiger just needed more spare parts to be as reliable as the Sherman, it is a ridiculous idea. I do not think there was a single part on the Sherman that had a 500 kilometer life span, and that’s double the Panthers final drives.

First: The Chieftain himself has done Hatch posts on reports from the British, about how much more reliable, the M4A4 Sherman was than the Cromwell, even when both had full crews working to keep them running. both tanks were run thousands of miles, something late war German tanks could not do.

Second: In one of his own Hatches talks about the French experience with the mighty panther showed they averaged 150 kilometers per final drive set! Much less if the crew was hard on them.  There was no major automotive component including the oil, that had to be changed every 150 kilometers on any model of Sherman.

Third: This will focus on the Panther, since it was a major part of Germany’s late war armored force, and how terrible it was. This tank didn’t have just one flaw that should have disqualified it for production it had at least five. It was generally poorly reliable across all its automotive components, along with the final drive, 2500 kilometers for the motor and 1500 for the tranny were hugely optimistic and most of these tanks broke down and or were destroyed before they had to refuel. You had to take the whole drivers and co drivers compartment apart and the top of the hull off to change a transmission! Don’t get me started on the weak turret drive system that Rube Goldberg would have loved.  The  ‘wonderful’ dual torsion bar suspension and interleaved road wheels would cause any maintenance nazi to find the nearest US Line and surrender instead of working on it!

. . .

Another thing to note, you can see the holes drilled vertically in the suspension bogies, these are the tops of the holes the bolts that hold the suspension caps on go into. They were covered up with body filler by the factory, but on most restored and old Shermans the filler is gone, and they don’t fill the holes.

Note: the odd groove in the center of the rear Hull casting, this wasn’t done on all M4A1 tanks, and may have been unique to General Steel castings.

On the problems with the R975, I have not heard of complaints about the engine being easy to blow, and would be very surprised if the throttle wasn’t governed to prevent it.  On having to crank the engine before starting, I have it on good authority, that the crew could just start the tank and run it for a few minutes every 45 minutes to an hour to avoid having to hand crank the motor.

Many of units removed the sand shields in ETO to prevent problems with mud.

The Commanders vane site is an early version bolted to a late war vane site pad. The tank has the early style gunner’s periscope.  The gunners periscope is missing the linkage going down to the gun.  The radio looks like a 528.  Note the Armored doors on all the ammo boxes and ready rack. The tank is missing a lot of interior storage, it may have been removed in preparation on shipping the tank out to it’s new owners.

I‘m no expert, but I think the Chieftain confused a .30 cal ammo bin for the 75mm ammo bin right next to his shoulder for the location of an SCR-506, I just can’t see a WWII radio fitting in the tiny box! You can see how sparsely filled the interior is, as issued the tank would be stuffed full of items to help fight it, live with it, or keep it running.  The Chieftain shows just how easy even a small hatch Sherman was to get out of,  the the Loader was still going to have some issues though.  I wish he would have tried the belly hatch out, but maybe it’s welded shut or something.

He covers the small floor hatch on the Grizzly tanks, and you get a nice shot of the early escape hatch.  They also show the generator mounted on the rear of the transmission in one of the shots, briefly.  You can also see the full turret basket’s mesh screening that separated the turret crew from the hull crew. Part of the quick fix was to cut this all out.  I suspect most of the inconsistencies in the tanks details are due to the restoration crew using the Sherman parts they could get their hands on.  Very few people would  even notice or know it had the wrong commanders hatch, or even whole turret.

A note on the tank, it belonged to a the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, a fancy name for the collection of a man named Jacques Littlefield. He had a passion for armored vehicles of all types but really liked tanks. He restored many to full functionality, including working main guns and machine guns on some tanks.  Owning a working tank cannon is easier than you would think, and far easier than getting the paperwork approved to own machine guns in California, and Jacques Littlefield did both.  He employed a restoration crew with world class skills and did some amazing restorations, including a Panther A that was impossibly damaged, but still brought back to life.  That Panther was his crowning achievement, and he was a real mover and shaker in the international military vehicle restoration scene, seeing that tank run was one of the last things he achieved, because cancer claimed him shortly after.

The MVTF was supposed to make sure the collection of vehicles, that were a labor of love his whole life, lived on when he passed. Unfortunately the location of the MVTF, Portola California, on a large chunk of very private property, with very limited parking really presented some problem.  The collection was used often while it was there, by TV productions like Myth Busters, and was a staple for the Wargaming Staff for their productions, and occasionally opened up to groups of vets, or other interested people.  There were other difficulties with the location, and ultimately the collection was donated to the Collings Foundation.  They reportedly decided to keep 40 of the most significant vehicles and auction the rest off.  The money from the auction was going to be used to build a facility in Stowe Massachusetts, but due to zoning issues, the permits were not provided, leaving the vehicles they did keep in limbo.

I‘m sure the Collings Foundation, a really amazing Charity, they keep many rare WWII aircraft, and cars, including race cars running, has a plan for the rest of the tanks. Their website only lists the Panther in their collection, I hope that doesn’t mean they sold the rest when the museum fell through.  That’s not a criticism of the CF, they I’m sure know their business far better than I do, and they really are a top notch group of people. Just browse that site to see the airplanes they’ve gotten flying.  The only real B-24 liberator and a working F-4 Phantom are just two of the notable planes!!  If you know anything about aviation, you know just how complicated and expensive keeping an aircraft like a Phantom flying is, especially if you don’t have the resources of the U.S. Navy or Air Force backing you.

I have to say, this is one of the best Chieftain’s hatches they have done. Granted, I’m a tad biased, since it was on the Sherman, well a Grizzly made into a later model small hatch Sherman anyway, and the Chieftain really has gotten pretty good with the Sherman and its sub variants, and even has a book on US WWII TDs on the way.

 

 

 

#67 The RAM: The Shermans awkward Canadian Cousin.

The RAM: Canada’s Tank

UPDATE!

Thanks to reader and friend of the site Bobby C from down under, I have a pair of very interesting PDFs on the 6 pounder mount on the RAM. The massive image of a storage diagram below is from that very doc!

The Lee was a bit of a red headed step child, except it had a soul, and no one really wanted it. Even before production started, both the US Army, and British, working with Canadians, was working on a replacement design.  The British did not like the dual purpose M3 75mm gun on a cruiser tank, they  wanted a tank with their 57mm six pounder gun, because it had slightly superior AP performance, and their cruiser tanks were assigned the task of fighting other tanks, not infantry. The American Tank designers and Army Officers didn’t agree, and planned on using the M3 75mm gun and their stubbornness led the Brits to try and beat them to the punch, and they did, but the punch wasn’t there, literally.

This massive diagram comes from ‘Mounting practice and installation of 6 pounder gun in ram tank. This doc came to us from Bobby C, click to view the full version or save it and look at it in a image viewer.
More from the manual MP&I of 6 pounder gun
A not very good pic of a RAM I

The model they sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds for the US Army to test, was a MK I model with a 37mm gun.  This was in June of 1941, while the Sherman pilot was probably being built, and the pilot Sherman arrived in early September. They did this because they had some problems with a suitable mount for the 57mm 6 pounder. They probably sent one with a 6 pounder later, but I’m sure once the US Army had the Sherman pilot, most of the interest in the Ram would have died off, since there was zero chance of the RAM II winning out over the Sherman. They did produce nearly 2000 of them though, and the chassis was used in other roles, most notably as an APC and Command Tank.

A very nice color shot of an early RAM II

It is interesting it saw no combat use as a tank, it was certainly better than the Lee, at least on paper, but the Lee soldiered on in secondary theaters, the Ram was never given a shot. Like the Lee, it went through some fairly major changes during its production run. The Ram started life with a little machine gun turret on the front, where the driver should be, just like the Lee’s commanders cupola. This would be a feature it shed; getting a more traditional bow mounted machine gun, late in the run. It was still on the wrong side though.  It had side doors, with a little DV port, armored flap, like the Lee. The view port was replaced with a ventilator, and then the whole door was removed. They also removed the periscopic sight for the gunner and replaced that with a ventilator as well.

This is a later production RAM II, note the ventilator on the crew side door, but it still has the mini turret.

Since the RAM was based on the Lee, it was pretty much Lee from the top of the treads down, and used the same R975 radial the basic M3, and M4 and M4A1 tanks used. It used the same suspension as the early Shermans and Lees, with the single overhead roller and could use the same VVSS tracks as the Sherman. It was certainly better or equal to any tank the Brits had with the same gun, but by the time it was available in numbers, the Sherman was as well, and it was superior tank, and because of its larger turret ring, had room to grow because it could take bigger guns.

A late production RAM II at the Museum at Canadian Forces Base Borden. This is a massive photo, click for the full size.
Another early RAM at Canadian Forces Base Borden

It wasn’t all a waste of time, and steel, the hulls were used for Kangaroo APCs, and a number were built or converted to command or observation post tanks, and they were used as ammo carriers. The Ram also made a good training tank allowing Shermans to be sent to combat units. The observation or command version was interesting. They removed the main gun, and put a dummy in its place, put in extra seats, so six men could fit, added an observation port, map table and extra radios. The APC and Command versions saw extensive use by Canadian troops in the ETO.

Early RAM II being used in training.

There is a fantastic web page on the subject, it called, RAMTank.CA  A Registry of Canada’s Tank. This website has a more detailed history, a complete serial number list, and tons of pictures; it’s really worth checking out. I’ll be adding it to the links section as well. It also has a little bit of Sherman history too, since it covers the M4A1 Grizzly, the tank that replaced the Ram on the production line when the RAM was canceled, and the Sherman Skink AA vehicle, and Sexton. It also has an M4A2E8, Churchill and Centurion registries. Having just discovered the website, doing research for this post, I’ll be spending  a few hours at least checking it out.

An early RAM II
a very nice color shot of mid production RAM IIs being used in training.

Sources: Sherman by Hunnicutt, RAMTank.CA  

1664990 Mounting practice and installation of 6 pounder gun in Ram tank