First published in Great Britain in 2005 by P E N & S W O R D M I L I TA RY an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire. S70 2AS Copyright © Gavin Birch, 2005 ISBN 1-84415-187-5 eISBN 978-1-78303-900-5 The right of Gavin Birch to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing. Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI UK Pen & Sword Books Ltd incorporates the imprints of Pen & Sword Aviation, Pen & Sword Maritime, Pen & Sword Military, Pen & Sword Select, Pen & Sword Military Classics, Leo Cooper, Wharncliffe Local History, For a complete list of Pen & Sword titles please contact: PEN & SWORD BOOKS LIMITED 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS, England. E-mail: [email protected]
Contents Acknowledgements Foreword Source of Photographs British and American Focus Chapter One ‘AFPOO’ – The War on Film Chapter Two The Sherman Story – Design and Development Chapter Three The UK Home Army – First UK Sherman to the ‘Funny’ Chapter Four North Africa – British Action – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia Chapter Five The Mediterranean – Sicily and the Hop to Italy Chapter Six NW Europe – Normandy to Belgium & Holland Chapter Seven NW Europe – Spring 1945 into Germany and Victory Chapter Eight The Far East – British Shermans up the Jungle Chapter Nine US Shermans – Wartime American Action Chapter Ten
Model List – Identifying Sherman Variants
n 1944 my grand father, Frank Birch, was a British citizen soldier. He left his job on pre-war South London Bus routes with colleagues from London Transport when their entire depot was called up to the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) during WW2. Of his many assignments with the British Army in Europe he spent most of his time driving Scammel Pioneer bridging trucks. From the French coast through Holland toward Germany, he built the bridges that allowed the armour spearheads to advance. He died when I was a child, but not before engendering a lasting impression with his photographs and real life experience of the war in North West Europe during 1944-45. This photo is fundamentally identical to the many portraits of our relatives I have seen on the living room mantlepieces of my friends over the years. Our fathers and grandfathers, and now great grandfathers - those generations who downed tools in civilian life to pick up the tools for Victory. His wartime ‘snaps’ began a fascination with the photography of the period. The stories relayed to me as a child were full of conscript humour, but edged with a certain pathos, a sense of witnessing history in the knowledge he was playing a minute part in it all. His humorous recollections were partnered by tales of great tragedy, especially when recalling the columns of DP’s (Displaced Persons) he saw strafed by enemy aircraft at the roadside. Perhaps a child should not have been told of such things but the effect was to make his war stories REAL. He gave me an appreciation of an entirely different age, a period in history which will continue to capture my imagination and that I will always continue to try to comprehend. I also thank: Brigadier Henry Wilson and the team at Pen & Sword Books Limited for their support and fruitful suggestions throughout the project. Hilary Roberts and the staff at the Photographic Archive, IWM, & BCMH members Mr Chris McCarthy, Mr Mike Taylor, and Mr Alan Jeffreys for historical and compilation advice. Friend and fellow graduate Mr Paul Billington for accompanying me on a research trip to the Ardennes region of Belgium in 2003 where we spent many fascinating days covering the ground on which the Battle of The Bulge was fought, and for our investigation of the Remagen Bridgehead during the Sixtieth Anniversary of its capture in March, 2005 - it’s simply imperative to see the lay of the land when trying to understand how a battle played out. I also acknowledge the private owners around the world who have endeavoured to save and exhibit many original Sherman Tanks in running form. It is through their commendable efforts that the generations of tomorrow will not only view photographs like these, but will hear, smell and touch something tangible of the experience of crewing the Sherman Tank in wartime. Finally, I thank Vicky.
Gavin Birch (c) 2005
Foreword uthors of military books often make the claim of using rare unpublished photographs in publications but frequently I have been disappointed by their photographic content. They often use either blurred images, photographs digitally enhanced, or originals cropped or reversed from older books. In endeavouring to compile THE SHERMAN TANK I have returned to primary source negatives held under Crown Copyright regulation by the Imperial War Museum. To undertake a project such as this, one has to bare certain concessions in mind from the outset. There are sequences of photographs in circulation which anyone who has taken a passing interest in the Sherman Tank will instantly recognise - These are reprinted consistently. Sometimes they are incorrectly dated, identified and even located. I have seen photos taken in Italy described as originating in Burma! I have elected to reject these shots for this publication as they are overused and thus have become instantly recognisable and a little tired. Great photographs in their own right no question, but a little tired. You, like me, want something new and this book offers that. Over eighty per cent of these photographs have never appeared in previous publications before, and those that have, are included to give an accurate date, caption, or reference number. There also exists the notion that every battle and every constituent part of these battles was captured on film as we have become accustomed to viewing WW2 in black and white and that therefore a new book on the Sherman Tank will have fully comprehensive detailed photography of every single design change made to this tank in war years. This is simply not the case in this book and for solid reasons. The cameramen responsible for the photographs in this book were working under orders and to an agenda in extremely difficult circumstances, (See Chapter 1 - The AFPU). Thus one cannot expect perfect 360 degree cataloguing shots of how each variant and model differed. During many actions along the frontline the cameramen were not present in that sector, perhaps having been given a more mundane assignment on that particular day. In many actions the nature of the fighting was so ferocious that the combat conditions made the taking of photographs impossible. In some cases the angle from which the tank has been photographed defies a definitive identification as interchangeable parts were used. The aim for this publication is to provide a genuine panoramic illustration of the Sherman Tank in its many guises as demonstrated by the official photography of the period. It is not a technical manual, appraisal of the machinery or guide to making scale models of the tank although will be helpful in all of those applications. The photographs in this book will certainly inspire some new scale model dioramas for sure, but those publications already exist, and now even original US Ordnance Manuals have been reprinted and are available to those restoring and rebuilding the real thing. I would argue that the Sherman is the most recognisable tank of all time, and certainly of armour types that saw action in the 1939-45 war. ’Sherman M4 Tank’ is of course an amalgamation of official nomenclature, and nickname that adhered when the tank was pressed into service. Recent debate has
even asked if wartime crew referred to their tanks as Shermans, for surely they were Medium M4’s as the covers of original tech manuals refer to them? Initially for the American producers of the tank, and US Army intended users, it was only known as ‘Tank, M4, Medium’. The British referred to this new armour type as the ‘General Sherman’ and then ‘Sherman Tank’ in compliance with their policy of naming American armour in British Service after US Civil War Generals such as Jeb ‘Stuart’, ‘Grant’ and ‘Lee.’ Within a short period all troops knew the tank as the Sherman, and Sherman M4 in official parlance, and only rarely described themselves as belonging to a ‘Medium Tank’ unit. It was manufactured in huge numbers with production figures exceeding the totals of all German types of armour combined in wartime production. They saw service on almost every battlefront in every campaign and were used by Russian, British, American, French, Polish, Indian, New Zealand, Canadian and Chinese armoured forces on the Allied team. Only a handful were sent to Australia for testing and one or two of these examples survived into museum captivity down under. Even the Germans ‘rebadged’ a captured few (German Shermans) over the last months of the war. So many were produced during 1941-45 that they can still be discovered in locations around the world from gate guardians, to privately owned vintage vehicle showstoppers, on firing ranges and in museum displays. Sherman Tanks have frequently been used as contemporary monuments on the wartime battlefields too. Perhaps you are familiar with some that you have viewed while taking a holiday? Examples can be viewed at Montormel in Normandy, the town square in Bastogne, in fact all over the Ardennes and at Slapton Sands in Devon to name a handful of locations. The late Ken Small orchestrated recovery of the Devon Sherman in the UK from out at sea to where it now stands in memoriam o...