These trials included testing over grass, in bushland, through mud and over standard "WD" obstacles such as step, trench and incline. The vehicle probably remained in the Melbourne area until around the middle of 1944.
The M4 (composite hull) at MEE Monegeetta. The name “The Shag” has been applied to the left hand appliqué armour plate. Grouser racks are fitted to the front of the tank, and the rubber chevron tracks are fitted.
The second tank, also an M4, was registered T263413, and was manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive (serial 16239). It had a fully welded hull, with rubber flat block tracks, spoked bogie wheels, late style sprocket and solid idler. The gun was mounted in a M34A1 gun mount. Applique plates were welded in front of the drivers' hatches and on the hull sides. “The Shag” was the name given to this tank.
The M4 at MEE Monegeetta. The name “The Stag” has been applied to the left hand appliqué armour plate. Grouser racks are fitted to the front of the tank, and its flat block rubber tracks are in evidence.
An interesting sideline in designations is that in both official reports of the jungle trials the two tanks are listed as M4A1. Not until a further Australian report of 1945 does the designation M4 appear.
Prior to the New Guinea trials. a series of trials were conducted in Queensland by 4th Armoured Brigade, with the Shermans being tested alongside Matildas and Grants.
The Australian Army proposed the use of the diesel-engined M4A2 in
the trials as well as the War Office supplied tanks and so the three
Shermans, together with three Churchills (a Mk IV, Mk V and a Mk VII),
were shipped to New Guinea in August 1944 on the US Liberty Ship Norman
J. Coleman, along with 26 Matildas allocated to the 2/4th Australian
Armoured Regiment. After landing at Madang, the tanks were stored in the
open for 14 days, during which time the trials camp was established. The
terrain selected for the trials included plantations of light
undergrowth, with ground surface mud up to 3 feet deep; undulating Kunai
grass, dense secondary growth and creek crossings 18 feet wide and up to
10 feet deep. Rain for the trials period was over 12 inches per month.
Initial running of the Shermans showed that the performance of the M4A2 fitted with steel chevron tracks was unsatisfactory, and so after 57 miles of running for trials purposes this tank was deleted from the trials. Instead it was used to carry observers around and as transport to and from the trials site. The track problem was noted in the report which quoted "…. had this tank been fitted with a flat rubber track and grousers, its performance would have been superior to that of the Sherman M4A1 (sic)."
The M4 with flat rubber block tracks moving up a grass covered embankment. Grousers have been fitted to the tracks but there are still some in the grouser rack on the hull front.
The trials were conducted only in first and second gears, and this caused some problems with the two M4’s due to the oiling up of spark plugs. The average distance covered by each tank during the trials, which lasted 32 days, was 130 miles.
It was considered by the trials team that overall the Churchill was preferable to the Sherman for operations in jungle terrain. The main advantages of the Churchill over the Sherman were listed as:
Superior maneuverability, especially at low speeds.
More suitable low gear ratio for low speed running during infantry co-operation.
Greater armour thickness.
Marginally better performance when crossing creeks and during hill climbing.
Greater ground clearance.
The Sherman was judged to be superior only in the areas of visibility, due to its larger periscopes which had wider fields of vision, and its ability to steer more easily on side slopes. However, the inherent reliability of the Sherman was considered advantageous.
Following the trials, the tanks remained in New Guinea for a further
three and a half months, after which they were returned to Australia,
where some further trials were conducted. Those trials confirmed the
results of the New Guinea tests, and so the Australian Government
ordered 510 Churchills for the Army. This order was cancelled at the end
of the war, after only 51 Churchills had been received.
After the war, the three Shermans were sent to the AFV school at Puckapunyal, where the M4A2 and M4 (Composite Hull) were retained. The M4 was apparently used as a tank target, and was shot up on the range. The M4 (Composite hull) was used as a small arms target in running order, as extra armour protection was welded around the entry hatches and over the air cleaners at the rear.
Later the composite hull vehicle was sent to the Officer Cadet School at Portsea as a gate guard. It was named Casper and it was reported that the morale of the officer cadets could be judged by the position of the main armament. The M4A2 and M4 (composite hull) can both be seen today on display at the RAAC Tank Museum at Puckapunyal. The turret of the M4 was rescued from the range by Long time military vehicle collector John Belfield.
The original trials reports provided much of the information for this
article as well as most of the photos. The Military History Section
photos taken during the trials can been seen in the collection of the
Australian War Memorial. Some of these appear in the Trials Reports.
AWM Photos Collection numbers include:
51956 -51957 – M4A2 in Melbourne.
68053 -68100 – Queensland Trials
82688 – 82691 – New Guinea Trials
the thumbnails in the table below to view the images full size.
Use your browser's "back" arrow to return to this page.
|The turret of the M4 (composite hull) showing the M34A1 gun mount and the separate loader’s hatch. (AS Sherman 7.jpg)|
|The lower rear hull of the M4 (composite hull) showing air cleaners and tool stowage. (AS Sherman 6.jpg)|
|The M4 after crossing a wooden corduroy road and negotiating a jungle track. The additional grouser rack and tool stowage on the rear deck can be seen, as can the towing pintle on the lower rear hull. (AS Sherman 9.jpg)|
Article Text Copyright ©
2007 by Paul D.
Page Created 25 January, 2007
Last Updated 25 January, 2007
Back to Anzac Steel Main Page