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Canadian-built Tanks


28 ton Valentine tanks in the final stages of preparation after their assembly at the Angus shops. A workforce of 3,500 produces the tanks from 40,000 parts at a cost of $90,000 per tank. Montreal, January 1942.
Photo:National Film Board of Canada / National Archives of Canada, PA-174517.

Desperate to replace equipment lost at Dunkirk in June 1940, the British Army looked to Canada as a potential supplier of arms. The first tank produced in Canada was the Valentine, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway's Angus Shop in Montreal from 1941 to 1943. Production continued until early 1944. Most of the 1420 Canadian-built Valentines were shipped to the USSR for use on the Eastern Front, with only 30 being retained for training purposes. The Valentine was used in quantity by British armoured formations early in the war, but its low speed, light armour, and small main gun (a 2-pounder) rendered it obsolescent by late 1942. Nonetheless, the Russians testified to the quality of the tank, stating that "after proof in battle we consider the Canadian-built Valentine Tank the best tank which we have received from any of our allies and we propose to ask . . . for more." The compliment was conspicuous because the Russians rarely made "any other mention or acknowledgement of the many types of weapon supplied to them" by the Western Allies. (Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain, "Ram and Sexton", Armoured Fighting Vehicle, No. 13)

More significant in the Canadian context was the Ram tank. By early 1941, the Montreal Locomotive Works had undertaken to produce a battle tank that would improve upon the American M3 Lee medium tank then in production in the United States. Chief concerns about the M3 Lee were its high profile-which furnished enemy gunners with a larger target-, inadequate armour, and the limited traverse of its sponson-mounted 75-mm main armament. (Sponsons were storage areas protruding from the main body of a tank's hull.) The Ram design incorporated the proven automotive system of the M3 Lee together with a lower profile and a fully-traversing (360-degree) turret mounting the then-standard 2-pounder anti-tank gun. By the time the first Rams were ready in November 1941, however, experience in North Africa had shown that a heavier gun was necessary to defeat the latest German tanks. The Ram was subsequently altered to mount the new 6-pounder, and was designated Ram Mark II.

Ram Observation Post tank advancing near Cintheaux, France, 8 August 1944.
Photo: by Ken Bell. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-131376.

Canadian armoured formations overseas were equipped with Rams, but in mid-1943 the more-advanced M4 Sherman was selected as the Western Allies' main battle tank. Production continued until July 1943, when the Montreal Locomotive Works converted to production of the Sherman "Grizzly", a variant featuring a 2-inch smoke mortar mounted on the turret and a cast hull as opposed to the more common welded-hull version. Although Canadian armoured units were re-equipped with Shermans by mid-1944, the Ram continued to be used for training, and provided the basis for a number of other Armoured Fighting Vehicles. Examples included the Ram Observation Post (OP), which was used with self-propelled artillery units, and the "Kangaroo", an armoured personnel carrier, among others. Another vehicle closely-related to the Ram was the Sexton, a self-propelled 25-pounder field gun mounted on a Ram chassis. The Sexton was also built at the Montreal Locomotive Works, following the cancellation of Grizzly production in December 1943.

Ram Tank
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader-operator, driver, co-driver)
Model Mark I Mark II (early model) Mark II (late model)
Dimensions Length 5.8 m 5.8 m 5.8 m
  Height 2.67 m 2.67 m 2.67 m
  Width 2.87 m 3 m 2.77 m
Armour Hull front: 50 to 75 mm; sides: 30 to 65 mm; rear: 38 mm
  Turret front: 75 mm; sides: 65 to 75 mm; rear: 65 mm
Armament one 2-pounder (171 rounds AP ammunition) one 6-pounder (92 rounds AP ammunition) one 6-pounder (92 rounds AP ammunition)
three .30-Browning machine-guns (4275 rounds ammunition) three .30-Browning machine-guns (4000 rounds ammunition) three .30-Browning machine-guns (4000 rounds ammunition)
one .45-Thompson sub-machine gun one .45-Thompson sub-machine gun one .45-Thompson sub-machine gun
Engine Continental R975-EC2 providing 400 hp at 2400 rpm Continental R975-EC2 providing 400 hp at 2400 rpm Continental R975-C1 providing 400 hp at 2400 rpm
Maximum Speed 40 kph 40 kph 40 kph

Suggested Reading
"Canadian Valentine Tank MK VIIA", Canadian War Museum Fact Sheet No. 5, edited by Fred Gaffen.
"Ram Tank", Canadian War Museum Fact Sheet No. 16, edited by Fred Gaffen.
Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain, "Ram and Sexton", Armoured Fighting Vehicle #13.
Next: The Sherman Tank