Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Preserved Tanks. Shuffling Shermans

The much loved Sherman is surprisingly scarce when it comes to gate guards and plinths. I saw my first plinthed one in Bethlehem and have had a beady eye out ever since.  Unfortunately there are so many variants of the M4A1 that positively identifying them is problematic unless one has all the information at hand.  The Sherman (aka "Tommy Cooker") had one thing in its favour, they could build them faster than they could be broken! and the result is over 50000 units were built. My handy list says there are theoretically about 24 in South Africa, but I will be honest I never knew there were so many!

Special thanks to Michel van Loon, creator of the afregister.org website. A nonprofit organization that is trying to create a database with surviving armor from around the world. He was able to provide clarity on some of these Shermans in South Africa.

The first example in this page is the M4 Firefly in Bethlehem which is plinthed at the Springbok Redoubt Shellhole.  
Firefly in Bethlehem
There is also a Firefly and what I believe is an M4A2 variant of the Sherman at Pretoria Regiment.  The M4A2 had a 76mm gun instead of the standard 75mm, this example also has a different shaped turret to the run of the mill Sherman, but I am not a tank boffin so cannot provide much more information than that.  (Update: 14 June 2013, apparently this is an M4A1(76) )

Sherman Firefly at Pretoria Regiment. Image by Gavin Spowart


Sherman (76) at Pretoria Regt. Image by Gavin Spowart
I will do some reading and see whether I can provide more information on this variant of Sherman. The other two examples that I wish to mention are the Sherman Firefly at the National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold.

Sherman Firefly at the National Museum of Military History 
As well as the Sherman that is on display in the one hall. The nice thing about her is that her hatches are open and you can see inside of her. 


She is probably the same variant as the Sherman at the Cosy Corner Shellhole in Brakpan, based on the gun and turret shape. This is as far as I know the standard M4A1 Sherman. (Update 14/06/2013, this is an M4(105))

Sherman at Cosy Corner Shellhole in Brakpan.

M4A1 at Dickie Fritz Shelhole in Edenvale.
(Update 14/06/2013. This is technically a Sherman that did not exist. It is an M4 Firefly hull with a 105mm turret on it)
 
It is evident though, that the many variants of Sherman out there can really be confusing, and when next I visit the War Museum I will see what the plaques associated with the two Shermans say. Hopefully I will be able to track down some of the others in and around Gauteng while I am about it, although they will probably just leave more questions than answers.

While in the UK I visited Bovington Tank Museum and found a few more Shermans of interest.


This Sherman is designated M4A1, Sherman Mk 2, and is the first lend-lease Sherman and possibly one of the oldest Shermans to survive.


This is probably a Firefly variant, but I did not photograph its information sheet so can't be too sure.


A rare swimming Sherman with its screen up.


A Sherman V "Crab" mine clearing tank (also known as a Flail). 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Preserved Tanks. A Clutch of Crusaders

Another tank that seems to dominate the gate guard and plinthed tank collection is the British Crusader MkII. Again I have no idea why there are so many around, it is possible that they were used for training duties and then became surplus to requirements. The MOTH seem to have been allocated a lot of them,  and in the area where I stay there are quite a few.   

Dardenelles Shellhole in Florida
Warriors Shellhole. Muldersdrift
My Favourite: Chilly Trench. Roodepoort
Cosy Corner. Brakpan
The best preserved exmaple is probably the one at the National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold.

National Museum of Miltary History
And, there is a Crusader MkII at the Pretoria Regiment collection in Pretoria.

Pretoria Regiment Crusader. Image by Gavin Spowart 2008.
Another Crusader MkII is at Group 15 HQ in Thaba Tswane.



As at 2000, it appears as if 17 examples have survived in one form or another, however, with the closure of many MOTH shellholes, these vehicles may have ended up elsewhere, or their details have been lost.

Bovington Tank Museum in Dorset has on display a Crusader MKIII


Friday, 3 June 2011

Preserved Tanks: Heaps of Honeys

Tanks are interesting vehicles, for some odd reason I find them fascinating, and having served in mechanised infantry myself I know how safe you feel behind those steel walls, but how vulnerable you really are to anything bigger than a 12.5mm armour piercing round. World War 2 tanks do not really abound in South Africa, although lately I have been pursuing them as far as as I can. The first one I ever photographed was in Lenz, at the camp where my brother was doing his national service. It was an M3 Stuart, or "Honey" as they were known in Britain, and I do have a soft spot for them. Its probable that they are the most numerous in South Africa.

Lenz Military base M3 Stuart.
That image was taken about 1975, and as at 2000 two Honeys are listed as being at the base. I have grown up slightly and thankfully my taste in clothing has improved. The camera still survives and the print that this image was scanned from was taken with it. (126 cartridge format).

Most Stuart Tanks ended up as gate guards at military bases or MOTH shellholes.

Honey at Warriors Shellhole in Muldersdrift

Honey at Springbok Redoubt Shellhole in Bethlehem
There is also a Honey at the Smuts House in Irene.


Honey at the Smuts House in Irene.
And a former MOTH Shellhole Honey has found her way to a park in Springs where she is steadily being picked clean by scrap metal scavengers.

Honey in Springs
There is also a Honey to be found at the tank park of the Pretoria Regiment in Pretoria. Gavin Spowart very kindly sent me this image of her taken in 2008.



The document I use to find them is called "Preserved Tanks in South Africa", by William Marshall and Trevor Larkum, and it lists as many as 34 Honey's in South Africa. The reason so many seemed to have survived could be because they are small and easy to transport, sadly though, the attention of scrap metal thieves is enough to decimate them and is proving to be even more dangerous than anti-tank guns of World War 2.

The final Honey that is probably the best preserved of them all is to be found at the National Musem of Military History in Saxonwold.


At the Bovington Tank Museum they have a Honey too, and she was imported into the UK from Brasil. .