Armour in Focus : The M4 Sherman – Workhorse of the Allied forces

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Throughout World War II, the Allied forces leaned heavily upon armoured units to provide an unwavering backbone to their forces which – when backed by the infantry, air forces, naval prowess, and artillery – would stand firm in the face of the Axis threat. At the front and centre stood the M4 Sherman.

Created in 1941, the M4 Sherman was built by the Chrysler Motor Company – with the first 300 units being supplied to General Bernard Montgomery in North Africa by September of 1942. Its high manoeuvrability, ease of construction, and its 75mm main gun, made it a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, not only in Africa but throughout the European Theatre of Operations and in the Pacific.

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While it did well against older German tanks, the Tiger and Panther models caused it considerable problems. The German 88mm gun could easily tear through the Sherman’s 76mm of plate armour, causing most to explode. This became such a reoccurring problem that the crews began to refer to them as “Ronsons” after the popular cigarette lighter of the time. That’s when Allied ingenuity and sheer numbers came into play. Rather than risk a full frontal attack on heavy German armour, the Allies would first call in air or artillery support to soften and confuse the target, then make full use of flank assaults where the enemy tanks were most vulnerable.

Black Bull Sherman

The Sherman could also out run and out perform the German armoured units. Its great reliability and lighter weight gave it a life expectancy of up to 3000 miles, where the Panther tank topped out at about 600. Its flexibility in design also made the tank a crowning achievement during the war. With the ease of building a fully welded hull as opposed to a riveted one, and a motorised turret which had a 360 degree firing arc, made it ideal for many future variations.

The basic Sherman chassis was used as a main battle tank, tank recovery vehicle, and an anti-tank gun platform. It was also modified to wield a minesweeper, bridge layer, and as a British 17 pound anti-tank gun known as the “Firefly”. As well as these factory-produced variants, tankers would make field modifications – with Shermans often being clad in improvised applique armour – wooden planks, railway sleepers, tree branches, sandbags, and in some cases even concrete! Their adversaries, the German tanks were more complicated and took longer to to produce, making the Sherman the forerunner in the numbers race, outpaced only by the Russians and their T-34.

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One other fact also improved Allied sustainability of firepower was that they were willing to repair or strip parts from knocked out Sherman tanks in the field, as opposed to waiting for replacement units to arrive. By 1944 there were enough active tank battalions that nearly every infantry division had its own semi-permanently attached unit. By the end of the war nearly 50,000 Sherman tanks had been built, and were put into use by the British, Canadian, Australian, American, French, and even the Soviet and German commanders.

US Sherman

Charles Hyde, in his 2013 book “Arsenal of Democracy” wrote, “American made tanks, despite their flaws and imperfections, received much praise from users of all ranks.

General Montgomery praised the American workers who built the Shermans by saying, ‘I would like them to realize how these Sherman M4’s have dominated the German tanks and driven them from the battlefield wherever we met them.'” Mr. Hyde also recounts the tale of one young Marine private who wrote to his friend in Detroit, after having been rescued by a Sherman and her crew saying, “Tanks are mighty fine things – Mighty fine!”

Thus the M4 Sherman tank, and all of its various incarnations, can accurately be listed as the tank that won World War 2. While not the most powerful or heavily armoured, its flexibility, coupled with Allied ingenuity and tactics, should bring it much praise in humanities history. Warlord Games’ Bolt Action line also allows you to bring this workhorse to life on the tabletop. Any Allied list would be remiss without including the M4 Sherman tank in its roster.

Brit Sherman Convoy

With the M4 Sherman being such a versatile and comprehensively modified chassis – we currently offer a number of variants for sale – the most popular and most versatile kit being our Plastic M4 Sherman

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We then offer two M4A3 Shermans with improvised applique armour – the Sandbag Armoured M4A3 – and it’s Wooden-armoured compatriot – both of which are aimed at providing USMC players with more characterful armoured reinforcement.

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Sherman with sandbagged hull

So – head over to the webstore to pick-up the workhorse of the Allied armoured forces now – and while you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Armoury for your decals, stowage packs, and other armour accessories!

Bolt Action Armoury

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In addition to all the great new content in the Tank War book you receive an exclusive miniature for free of this superb panzer commander. Unhorsed and letting loose with his trusty MP40 ‘Schmeisser’ SMG, he can represent dismounted tank crew or even be fielded in your Last Levy army as a panzer crewman with no tank left to ride in!

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