#22 British Shermans: Is It A Tank Or A Teapot?


Shermans Of the United Kingdom: Or, Let’s Confuse People Even More With An Odd Designation Systems!

The British took the Lee and Sherman into combat for the first time and they offered a lot of input into both tanks design. They even had a specific version of the Lee never used by US troops the M3A5 Grant.  The Sherman and Lee tanks saved their bacon at El Alamein. As we saw in an earlier section of this document, the US produced a lot of Sherman tanks, and the British received more than 17,000 Shermans. It would become the backbone of their tank force and remain so until the end of the war. The British had a unique way of using tanks and preferred to send them into battle without direct infantry support. This coupled with their tendency to stuff every nook and cranny of the tank with ammo resulting in much higher Sherman losses than the US Army did.

Sherman MK III with the 4th County Of London Yeomanry. It is crossing an AT ditch near Gabes in North Africa

They came up with their own naming system for the tank:

The M4 was named the Sherman I in Commonwealth use, if it had a 105mm gun it was an Ib if it also had HVSS it was an Iby. The British received 2096 75mm Sherman Is, and an additional 593 105 armed Ib tanks, or M4 105 tanks. These numbers are not broken down further into submodels, so all the Ic Firefly tanks produced came from 2096 they received, and this number would include the composite hulls too. This version was the preferred US Army version, and many of the ones the Brits received came as replacements stripped from US Tank Divisions before the battle of El Alamein. They became much rarer because the US sent M4A2 and M4A4s as replacements.

The M4A1 was named the Sherman II and in most cases just that. It wasn’t until late in the war the Brits took some M4A1s with 76mm guns, and those they gave to the poles or other commonwealth allies. An M4A1 76 would be called a Sherman IIa, or an IIay for an M4A1 76 HVSS tank. These M4A1 76 HVSS tanks made it to depots in Europe during or just after the war ended, but none saw combat. The M4A1 was also the US Army’s preferred version because it was basically the same tank as the M4, and the Brits only received 942 75mm M4A1 Shermans. Something I found a bit of a surprise, the British received more M4A1 76 w tanks than 75mm tanks, 1330 total.

M4A2 was named the Sherman III and this was their second most common Sherman type. They received 5041 M4A2 75mm Sherman IIIs, far more than the Soviets got. They also received 5, M4A2 76 W or Sherman IIIa tanks as well, yes, that’s not a typo, five tanks. I wonder if the M4A2 76 HVSS or Sherman IIIaytank used in Fury was one of them?

M4A3 was named the Sherman IV in British use, but they only received 7 seventy five millimeter tanks and no 76mm tanks of this type. This became the US Army’s preferred model, and once they got it in numbers, they probably started sending more M4 and M4A1s to the Brits after this tank became common.

M4A4 was named the Sherman V in British use, and was by far the most common British Sherman; they received 7167 M4A4s, or Sherman Vs, almost the whole production run. Chrysler really went to bat for this version of the tank and sent tech reps to Europe with the tanks to help manage the complicated, but less trouble than anyone could have expected, motors. There were no subtypes of the Sherman IV other than the Firefly since it was never produced with a 76mm gun or HVSS suspension. The Sherman Vc was the most common version of the 17 pounder Shermans, and a wide variety was probably converted to fireflies, and many of the A4s they got later in the war had been through a remanufacturing process, that made sure the tanks had turrets updated with all the late improvements, and all the hull upgrades like armored ammo racks and raised arm rollers and improved skids, along with a travel lock, on the front plate, for the gun.

Sherman MK I or IIIs. It looks like these men are being taught how an M1919A4 works. 



The British had their own set of modifications for the Sherman that they received through LL.  They added sand skirts, racks for jerry cans, and an armored box on the back of the turret in some cases. They installed their own radios as well, the British wireless set no 19, and this went into the armored box in the back of the turret on Firefly’s, or just replaced the US radios in their normal location in regular models. Legend has it they installed some sort of stove to cook tea.  The only Sherman Mk I and Mk IIs they got was because Churchill practically begged Roosevelt for more Shermans just before El Alamein.

As the war progressed, the US Army put a priority on the M4 and M4A1; the British had to settle for M4A2 and the M4A4. Then when the Russians refused to take any Shermans but M4A2s, the Brits really had to rely on M4A4s. From what I’ve read they didn’t want the nightmare that everyone feared the A57 Multibank motor to be, in service it proved to be reliable enough, and more so than its British counterparts. The M4A4 was by far the most common Sherman type, and the Brits like them enough they took a batch of refurbished M4A4 and would have taken more if production hadn’t been stopped.

This presented a problem for the British, they did not like the M1A1 gun, and the T23 would not take the 17-pounder without major modifications to the gun or turret. The US did end production of 75mm tanks and when stocks of 75mm gun tanks ran low, they were forced to take M4A1 76 tanks these tanks would be designated Sherman IIB. The British sent most of the IIBs to their forces in the MTO or gave them to the Poles.

Sherman V

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, The Sherman Tank in British Service 1942-45 by John Sanders

13 thoughts on “#22 British Shermans: Is It A Tank Or A Teapot?

  1. I am writing a biography on 47 RTR. Can anyone please email the War Diaries of the 24 Armoured Divison. I will repay any cost that has been involved.re this venture.

    Many thanks

  2. Has anyone any info re the 47 Royal Tank Regiment which I believe were the first unit to be given the Shermans at El Alamein

  3. Hello!

    Great site! i was wondering if the British ever fitted their 77 mm gun to a Sherman tank?
    I know that it would have been ballistically identical to the 76 mm but I know that they liked having their own calibers


    A fan

  4. It may be worth noting that after the war pretty well all British Shermans were returned and British tank regiments went over entirely to the Cromwell/Comet/Centurion. I have always wondered if they gave back the Firefly’s 17 pounders.

    Any kept (usually special purpose ones) had to be paid for with scarce foreign currency. In the meantime the French and Italians seemed to have them in quantity and continued to receive them. Did they pay for theirs or were they gifts?

  5. The stove to cook tea was a ‘Boiling vessel’ that heats water.

    I understand British tanks still have them, and that as late as Gulf2 American officers who saw them. were surprised about them… Remarking that it was an obvious and brilliant idea. (Hint.. with hot water you can make coffee, if of course you uncivilized enough to prefer it to tea).

    1. Here is what I think of this

      Coffee = delicious
      Sweet tea = delicious
      British tea = ok

    2. I can confirm that all UK armoured vehicles still have the Boiling Vessel, known as a BV. It isn’t just for making tea. UK ration packs have historically been based around tinned food that is heated up in a mess tin of hot water or boil in the bag rations. The BV is still used for these reasons.

  6. Hiya, where did you get the picture of the Firefly (village of Putanges, 20th August, 1944) from? Im looking for a copy of it i can use.



  7. I am really enjoying your blog but the section on the British Shermans is just so wrong I feel obliged to write having the Commonwealth use of the Sherman as my primary interest.
    The British 8th Army used ONLY the M4A2 and the M4A1 – NO sherman 1 were used in North Africa by the British fullstop. The tanks (Only M4A1 and enough to equip one regiment (about 80 all up) taken directly from US forces were at the request of Roosevelt and not Churchill to replace a shipment sunk in the Mediterranean and happened to be a show of solidarity with Churchill who was with Roosevelt when they got the news about the NA campaign and the fall of Tobruk plus the loss of the shipment. It was certainly not a case of begging as the British had placed orders for M4 before the US Army Originally Roosevelt offered to send the US 2 AD but they were not well enough trained or ready for war yet and it was decided that they would send the M7 and M4A1 of one of its Armd BN’s. The Majority they got issued were the original order placed remembering that the Sherman genisis was to a British requirement.
    The M4 served in a limited role in Italy with Army Tank Brigades issued with Churchill tanks as they were primarily equipped with 6 Pounders with limited HE capability. This was eventually redressed with later models of Churchill and the conversion using battle damaged Sherman guns (NA 75) . In late 44 early 45 the late M4 105 was issued to HQ Sqns of the Sherman equipped (M4A2 and M4A4) Brigades of the British, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Polish. The 1c was also used in both Hybrid and welded hull types from 45. In North west Europe the Sherman 1 originally equipped only the 33 Armoured Brigade as a gun tank in most hull configurations such as composite, DV and cast hood as the majority of those delivered were usedfor conversion to Firefly. The 8th Armoured Brigade and 4th Armoured Bde also were issued M4 (mainly Composites) as attrition replacements late in 44 despite being an M4A2 Bde and M4A1 Bde respectively. The M4A1 was supplied in great numbers despite US standardisation and equipped the 8th Army regiments in NA and Italy and served in limited numbers in Churchill units in Italy as well as other 8th Army Units in Italy including the Polish 2AD. In Europe the 4th Armoured Bde was equipped with M4A1 for the whole campaign but had a limited number of M4 as well.

    1. Al
      Thanks for the info. When I did the Brit Sherman use, I only had Hunnicutts book and Armored Thunderbolt for info. I have more source material now, and may have updated the section in the word doc I use for the site master. I will check tonight.
      Cab you recommend a book on the subject?
      Glad you like the site, and my goal is always to correct any bad info, thanks again for the post.

    2. “….remembering that the Sherman genisis was to a British requirement.”

      Can you tell us more about this please? I understood the Sherman was the US Army’s response to the Pzkw-IV used in the battle of France in 1940.

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