Canada (1946)
Medium Tank – 294 purchased

M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman tank

Many people call this tank the M4A2E8 -The Easy 8. The designations M4E8, M4A1E8, M4A2E8 or M4A3E8 only officially applied to prototype vehicles used to test the new HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring System) suspension. Its experimental E8 designation led to the ‘Easy Eight’ nickname for Sherman’s so equipped. Many websites say it was because this tank was powered by a V8 engine. This is wrong. Not all the Sherman tanks given this experimental designation were powered by V8 engines.

The experimental code E8 refers to a tank fitted with Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS) system, with wider tracks. The only production Sherman tank that had an official E designation was the up-armoured 75mm Gun Tank M4A3E2(W) – the so called Jumbo. In the American army in the 1940’s, the letter E in the phonetical alphabet was known as ‘Easy’.

The U.S. adopted the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet during 1941 to standardize systems among all branches of its armed forces. The U.S. alphabet became known as Able Baker after the words for A and B. Today, the 1951 International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, commonly known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, uses the word ‘Echo’ when referring to the letter E. To complicate the naming issue, some Canadian Army documents name this tank by its prototype name, the M4A2E8.

The ‘E8’ HVSS suspension modification was an effort to improve the ride and increase the mobility of the Sherman tanks that had progressively become heavier with increased armor and a bigger 76 mm (3 in) gun. The HVSS system used four wheels per bogie instead of two, which allowed tracks that were wider to be installed: 23 inches (58.42cm) compared to the normal 16 inches (40.66cm).  It did give better performance on soft ground and allowed for a smoother ride.

Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC) M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman Tanks
Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC) M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman Tanks of the Essex Regiment (Tank), (Windosr Regiment) 30th (Reserve) Reconnaissance Battalion

Production and Development

The first M4A2 75 mm (2.95 in) Sherman tank was produced in April 1942, with a new General Motors 6046 engine (two GM 6-71 General Motors Diesel engines), welded hull with extra applique protective armor on the hull sides and gunner position (left side of the turret). In total 8,053 tanks were manufactured by May 1944. Early versions of the M4A2(75) had small hatches and protruding drivers’ and co-drivers’ hoods, a 57 degree glacis and dry ammo stowage bins. The rear hull plate was sloped.

A transitional version built by Fisher, the M4A2(75)D, which had a one-piece 47 degree glacis, with large hatches, but it still used dry ammo bins and applique armor. This model was also produced with a diesel GM 6046, 410 hp, used mostly for the British and the USMC. Range was 241 km (150 mi) with 641 liters (170 gal) of fuel (consumption was 279 liters/100 km or 118.6 gal/mi), total weight 31.8 tons, with a 1.01 kg/cm³ ground pressure. The hull frontal glacis was 108 mm (4.25 in) thick.

The M4A2(76)W was the upgunned late variant, of which over 3230 were delivered by May 1945. It was fitted with the modified T23 turret, which housed the M1 L/55 gun, which gave an overall length of 7.57 m (25 feet). With the GM 6046 diesel, and 673 liters (178 gal) of fuel, range was 161 km (100 mi). The weight rose to 33.3 tons. The glacis was at 47 degrees, 108 mm (4.25 in) thick with large hatches.

Canadian M4A2(76)W Sherman tank driving along forest tracks in Camp Petawawa Training Ground in 1963
Canadian M4A2(76)W Sherman tank driving along forest tracks at the Camp Petawawa Training Ground in 1963. Notice the wide tracks.

What does the letter ‘W’ stand for?

The letter ‘W’ referred to the fire resistant wet stowage containers for the 76 mm (3 in) shells. The ammunition storage in the new tanks was improved by surrounding the racks with water and ethylene glycol-filled jackets to reduce the probability of explosion in the event of penetration of the armor by enemy fire. The tanks equipped with this protection system were designated “Wet”. By early 1945, the better HVSS suspension and wider tracks was fitted.

The main gun

The tank’s main gun was the long barreled 76 mm (3 in) L/55 M1A2 fitted into the T23 turret, which could penetrate 143 millimetres (5.6 in) of unsloped rolled homogeneous armor at 100 meters (110 yd) and 97 millimetres (3.8 in) at 1,000 meters (1,100 yd) using the usual M79 round.

High-Velocity Armor Piercing (HVAP) ammunition, standardized as M93, became available in August 1944 for the 76 mm gun. The projectile contained a tungsten core penetrator surrounded by a lightweight aluminum body, which gave it a higher velocity and more penetrating power.

During training the gun barrel muzzle brake is covered. The tank crew are wearing padded cold weather clothing
During training the gun barrel muzzle brake is covered. The tank crew are wearing padded cold weather clothing

The Engine

This Easy 8 Sherman was not powered by a V8 Gasoline (Petrol) engine. The M4A2 version of the Sherman tank was powered by the General Motors 6046D twin diesel engine, a 12-cylinder twin bank version of the General Motors series 71 six cylinder, Roots blower-scavenged, two-stroke diesel. Each six cylinder engine unit displaced 6,965cc, and was separately clutched to a single output shaft, which was itself clutched to the transmission unit. The whole engine weighed 2,323 kg (5,110 lbs) dry weight, and produced up to 410 horsepower at 2,900 rpm with both units running. A total of 10,968 6046D-powered M4A2 Shermans were produced.

The Armor

The lower hull was made of large welded parts, although the bogies were bolted to the hull for easier replacement or repair, and the rounded front was made of three bolted steel plates. Other external parts were either bolted or welded. The upper hull, at first cast, was later welded, with a well-sloped glacis, flat sides and slightly sloped engine compartment roof, making a characteristic tumblehome culminating just above the main turret. The back plating included a rear “U” shaped exhaust muffler, distinctive of the early production. The armor was 76 mm (2.99 in) thick on the nose and upper glacis, 50 mm (1.96 in) on the turret and upper sides and 30 mm (1.18 in) elsewhere.

RCAC M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman Tanks training with Centurion tanks in Canada
RCAC M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks training with Centurion tanks in Canada

Canadian Easy 8 tanks

In 1945, Canada left almost all its wartime vehicles in Europe rather than paying to ship them back to Canada. What little armour Canada retained was a mixture of wartime Achilles tank-destroyers, as well as Grizzly and Stuart tanks which were used for training the new post WW2 tank crews.

In 1946, Canada purchased 294 M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks from the US at the very reasonable price of $1,460 each. They had originally been intended for export to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease, until the end of the war in Europe halted that program. These Shermans remained in Canada, where they were used as training tanks. These tanks were given DND (Department of National Defence) CFR (Canadian Forces Registration) Numbers 78-693 through 78-992. About 60 units have survived, and are on display as museum pieces and monuments throughout Canada. Data indicates that this batch of Sherman tanks were built between March 1945 through to May 1945.

Cross country training in a Canadian RCAC M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tank.
Cross country training in a Canadian RCAC M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tank. Notice the gun barrel is clamped down in the travel lock.

The first batch of new Shermans were sent to the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School then located at Camp Borden, Ontario. The first Regiment to bring them on strength was the Royal Canadian Dragoons, which were stationed at Camp Borden.

The other regular force units were then allocated their Shermans as well. The first M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks arrived with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) in March 1947 with 30 of them sent to Camp Wainwright, Alberta. The units began the respective courses to train the new crews on the operation of these vehicles.

The Sherman was only in service with the regular force until 1952, when the new British Centurion Mark IIIs came into service. 274 Centurion Mark III tanks were received in 1952-53. The Sherman tanks were given to the Canadian reserve force ‘militia’ units. The regular army trained on Centurion tanks whilst the reserve force tank crews trained on M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks, who had previously been using old Grizzly tanks. (The Grizzly tanks were taken out of service in late 1953 and put into storage, then sold off to Portugal.)

In 1954, The Windsor Regiment, 22nd Reconnaissance Regiment became the 22nd Armoured Regiment. The Regiment traded in their Stuart light tanks for the heavier M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tank.

These new Sherman’s carried on being used for “militia” training until 1972, when the last ones were taken off strength. These tanks now became surplus and around 50 of them became monuments all over Canada. The rest became hard targets for tank gunnery practice live fire ranges. When the ranges were cleaned up and the hulks were sold for scrap metal.

The Canadian Easy 8 Armoured Personnel Carrier

After WW2, the Canadian Army used de-turreted M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks as armoured personnel carriers (APC) and unarmored trucks as a temporary solution to the problems of troop transport on the battlefield, whilst Canada was in the process of standardizing an APC design to replace both. The United States M113 armored personnel carrier was eventually chosen as the Canadian government’s preferred vehicle. The Sherman APC was used until it was replaced in the mid 1960’s by the M113. They were also used for tank crew and infantry training.

The Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (School)’s Field Training Section equipment strength in 1963 was 26 Centurions, 12 Sherman M4A2(76) HVSS gun tanks and 22 Sherman APCs. The Canadian Army also operated some Grizzly APCs until 1956 when they were sold to Portugal. They were sometimes know as Grizzly Kangaroos. A Grizzly tank was a standard WW2 Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman tank with some modification first produced in 1943.

Canadian Easy 8 Armoured Personnel Carrier APC being followed by a Centurion tank
Canadian Easy 8 Armored Personnel Carrier being followed by a Centurion tank at MTC Meaford, Army Training Area, Ontario

M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman specifications

Dimensions L W H 6.09 (without gun) x 2.99 x 2.99 m (19’11 x 9’7″ x 9’7″ )
Track Width 0.59 m (1’11” ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 30.3 tonnes (66,800 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, co-driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion General Motors GM 6046 diesel (conjoined 6-71s)
Maximum speed 40 – 48 km/h (25 – 30 mph) on road
Suspensions Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS)
Range 193 km (120 miles)
Armament Main: 76 mm (3 in) L/55 M1A2 with muzzle brake
cal .50 (12.7 mm) Browning M2HB machine gun
cal.30-06 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 A4 (7.62 mm) machine gun
Armor Maximum 76 mm (3 in)

Sources

United States tanks of WW2 by George Forty
Special thanks to historian Steve Osfield and retired RCAC tank crew member Anthony Sewards
The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) Museum
Sherman Minutia, tech database (the shadocks)
M4A2(76) with HVSS on www.tank-hunter.com

M4A2-HVSS_Boss
Canadian Sherman M4A2(76)W HVSS “Boss” now on display in Vancouver.M4A2_Can1
Canadian Sherman M4A2(76)W HVSS now on display at the Ontario RCAC Regiment Museum.M4A2-76W-HVSS_Asqn-FtGarryHorseMil-CanTrain
Sherman M4A2(76)W HVSS with markings of ‘A’ Squadron, Fort Gary Horse (Militia) used in Canada for training.M4_Sherman_Kangaroo-HVSS
Canadian RCAC M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier

M4_Sherman_Kangaroo
Canadian RCAC Grizzly Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier

Gallery

A Canadian M4A2(76)W Sherman tank firing its machine hull machine gun at Camp Petawawa training ground.
A Canadian M4A2(76)W Sherman tank firing its hull machine gun at Camp Petawawa training ground ranges in 1963.

Canadian M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tank crews using available cover to ambush the 'enemy' on a training exercise.
Canadian M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tank crews using available cover to ambush the ‘enemy’ on a training exercise.

Sherman M4A2(76)W HVSStank crews taking part in firing practice at Meaford Range 1966
Sherman M4A2(76)W HVSS tank crews taking part in firing practice at Meaford Range 1966

Surviving Tanks

Ontario Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank
Ontario Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank

Ontario RCAC Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank serial number 65240
Ontario RCAC Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank serial number 65240

Ontario RCAC Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank Beowulf
Ontario RCAC Regiment Museum M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank Beowulf

M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank in Haliburton Canada
M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank in Haliburton, Canada

M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank in Vancouver, Canada
M4A2(76)W with HVSS Sherman Tank in Vancouver, Canada

Fort Garry Horse (Militia) A Squadron Sherman tank
Fort Garry Horse (Militia) A Squadron Sherman tank Memorial outside McGregor Armoury

Essex Regiment (tank) RCAC

The Essex Regiment (Tank) was established in Windsor, Ontario on 15 December 1936. The Regiment achieved the distinction of being the first unit of the Canadian Army to wear the black beret which was associated with armoured soldiers since 1924 in the British Royal Armoured Corps.

By 1937 the Regiment had 27 officers and 277 other ranks but only a year later, the strength was up to 34 officers and 297 other ranks.

From 11th to the 23rd of July, 1938, 12 members of the Regiment attended Course #1 at the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Borden, Ontario. Here they were introduced to the Carden-Loyd tracked carrier (Canada’s only armoured vehicle at the time) and to the mysteries of armoured warfare.

By 1939, the Regiment was wearing a small First World War style tank on the right sleeve of their uniforms to further distinguish themselves from other, non-tank units. The tanks badge were worn during the Royal Visit Parade in Windsor on 6 June, 1939.

In September 1940, the Essex Regiment (Tank) received the order to stand down from active duty and the Regiment never received an opportunity to deploy as a whole unit. Rather, the soldiers where offered the opportunity to re-enrol in the Regiment proper or to join a different unit. The split was approximately 50/50 with those that departed joining the ranks of Headquarters Squadron 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade under Brigadier FF Worthington, MC, MM.

Training continued for the Regiment while also supplying a steady stream of men for the Canadian Armoured Corps active service units. By August of 1941 the Regiment had supplied 47 officers and 500 other ranks for the Corps but still no mobilization for the Regiment proper!

On the 27th of January, 1942 the Regiment’s name and role within the Corps changed. They were now the 30th Reconnaissance Battalion (Essex Regiment) and its role changed from tank to reconnaissance or RECCE as it is commonly known. This is just as well because the Essex Regiment (Tank) never had been equipped with tanks! During the Regiment’s life, its role would flip back and forth between tank and reconnaissance many times.

Although the Essex Regiment (Tank) was renamed 30th (Reserve) Reconnaissance Battalion (Essex Regiment) in 1942, the traditional name remained in brackets due to regimental sentiment. In 1949 the Regiment became The Windsor Regiment (RCAC) and trained on the M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman ‘Easy 8’ at Camp Borden.

Canadian M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman Easy Eight
AVGP Cougar
Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *