Early Armour in Canadian Service
by Roger V Lucy.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW024
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“Although Canada did not make widespread use of armoured vehicles in the years before WW2 there were a number of attempts and some interesting ideas were thrown up. During the First World War, several designs of armoured car were produced for use by machine gun units and several were privately built. Although only the Autocar was used overseas – its story has already been covered in “The Armoured Autocar in Canadian Service” – the Jeffrey was probably a better design with four-wheel drive, front and rear steering positions and a rotating turret. Although shipped to England they were put to one side and only send to India and Ireland when nothing else was available.
Plans to adopt armoured vehicles between the wars was limited by lack of money. Attempts to buy tanks came to nothing due to the cost, even the half-measure of Disson Tractors which were armoured bodies intended to be fitted to standard Caterpillar tractors as and when needed were too expensive. It was not until the 1930s that a dozen Carden Loyd machine gun carriers were bought from Britain for use by regular infantry units. Even tracked artillery tractors were rejected after just one Light Dragon was bought for trials.
When a few units were redesignated as Tank Battalions in 1936 they had to improvise “tanks” on tractor and truck chassis for training. Only two real armoured cars were built, the first real tanks were a small number of Light Tank Mk VIB bought in time to be used for training before the outbreak of the Second World War, although there was some interest in selling Christie tanks to Canada the emphasis was on British designs with the then-new Valentine ordered for production.
With slow progress getting these built and no chance of tanks from Britain following the fall of France, units had to make do with old M1917 series six-ton tanks bought as scrap from the USA. Although long obsolete and worn out they offered the chance for some experience with armoured vehicles, not least for maintenance training. Canadian factories were to build many Valentines and their own design the Ram, however these were not to see service with Canadian units other than for training or in specialist OP roles or converted to troop carriers. Canada’s main and often overlooked contribution to armour in WW2 was the Universal Carrier.
The full story of Canadian experience with armour until well into WW2 is covered here. All known designs are covered in text and photos, even a mystery machine whose use is still not known. Photos show them all including some useful shots of M1917 and details of markings. 1/35th side view drawings show all the production tracked types from the Carden Loyd and Light Dragon to the Light Tank Mk VI, M1917, Valentine and Universal for comparison. Taken together this throws a lot of light on a little-known subject, neatly filling a gap in AFV history.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”