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). 

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