The Churchill in Canadian Service
by Mark W Tonner.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW028
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“Canadian use of the Churchill tank will always be remembered for the landing at Dieppe in August 1942. However that action was only one day in the life of one Regiment using these tanks. Canadian Military Headquarters in the United Kingdom were anxious to have an armoured formation, so the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade was sent overseas to provide that. Originally was planned that they would operate Canadian-built Valentine tanks, however delays in production prevented this so instead they were equipped with British-built tanks on loan from the War Office. As the Churchill was only just beginning production, at first only the Ontario Regiment received Churchills while the remaining two Regiments in the Brigade – the Three Rivers Regiment and the Calgary Regiment – received Matildas. By early 1942 the Brigade had a full complement of Churchills.
As with other units with this then-new tank, they went through a period of mechanical problems which were gradually overcome both with new tanks including Mk III and older ones modified by the rework programme. Meanwhile the Calgary Regiment became detached from 1CATB and moved to the Isle of Wight off the English south coast to train for its role in a landing in France to be known as Operation RUTTER. After several cancellations and re-naming to JUBILEE this took place on 19th August. It was not to be a success with all the tanks landed being lost, despite this the crews had high praise for the their tanks this was not to become known until the first men were released from prisoner of war camps.
Following this action the Calgaries re-equipped and 1CATB continued to train. New Mk IV tanks were issued and reliability was greatly improved, but Ram tanks were now available and these were issued to replace the Churchills. By May 1943 the last Churchills were gone from Canadian service.
Their service is well recorded here in the usual format of the series. Coverage begins with a background to the Churchill giving enough detail for those who are not familiar with the tank, then follows the use of all the different types with 1CATB. This includes not only the main gun tanks Mks I, II, III and IV but the “Mk II (Special)” flame thrower and the “TLC Carpet Laying Device” which were both used at Dieppe and also the Carrier, Churchill, 3-inch Gun Mk I used briefly and in small numbers in a special Squadron within the Brigade. The events of the Dieppe landing are not covered in great detail although a list of names and serial numbers of the tanks taking part is included.
Original black and white photos show tanks from all three Regiments in the Brigade at different periods in a variety of situations. A set of half-tone four-view plans to 1/35th scale across the centre pages depicts an early Mk II in one set of markings. One section of text also covers the markings including details of naming conventions and some unusual use of tactical signs which are shown in the photos.
Although not a major type in Canadian service their use deserves to be covered and this is what this book does well. As such it is a worthwhile addition to the series and available books on Canadian armour as well as adding detail to one part of the Churchill tank story.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”