Lavish illustration with photographs, drawings and sketches matches concise and highly informative text. The Sherman is an interesting subject because there are still numbers of this famous armoured vehicle in various stages of restoration and the prospect that unrestored examples may still exist, together with stocks of spares still to be discovered at the back of some dusty warehouse.
NAME: Sherman Tank, 1941 onwards all M4 variants), Owners’ Workshop Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Pat Ware
BINDING: Hard back
PRICE: GB £21.99
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: Sherman tank, AFV, Battle Tank, Firefly, M4, Shervick, Rotrac, Sherman Crab, BARV, M3, Grant
DESCRIPTION: When the publisher began producing Owners’ Workshop Manuals in the style of their world famous car manuals, there were some who were critical, but this has proved to be a very successful series that combine history with restoration and operation of famous aircraft and military vehicles. Now is the turn of the Sherman tank to receive the treatment. Once again, lavish illustration with photographs, drawings and sketches matches concise and highly informative text. The Sherman is an interesting subject because there are still numbers of this famous armoured vehicle in various stages of restoration and the prospect that unrestored examples may still exist, together with stocks of spares still to be discovered at the back of some dusty warehouse. The military habit of hanging on to all sorts of things for no obvious reason is not to be underestimated. HMS Ark Royal (VI) was found to have a supply of Sea Fury tail wheels in one of its stores, even though this ship never operated the Sea Fury. Bringing a Sherman back to life is no small task, but it is within the capabilities of enthusiasts, some of whom will take many years to complete a restoration. Where a Sherman is brought back into operation, most countries have the ability to test and license drivers where there is a desire to take a restored Sherman onto public roads. During the peak of production, Shermans were built at ten US factories and one in Canada. Some 49,500 Shermans were built, and continued to serve on long after 1945, additional armour being mounted, new and heavier guns installed and modern electronics fitted. Even the US Army continued using Shermans into the 1950s alongside the later post war M26 and M46 US tanks. Israel took the Sherman to war several times with success after modifying and updating the design. Many Shermans were modified after 1945 as tractors. The availability of large numbers of surplus Shermans made it economic to remove much of the military equipment, and even most of the superstructure, to provide powerful haulers that could operate in rough terrain. In Israel, the armoured hull made the Sherman a very desirable farm tractor in areas where neighbouring Arabs were keen to take any opportunity to attack farmers. Having said all of that, it is easy to assume that the Sherman was a great tank design, when the reality is somewhat different. The M3 Lee/Grant tank was a major expansion of British armoured capability, particularly in North Africa. It mounted a 75 mm gun in the hull, a smaller cannon in a turret and a machine gun in a superimposed turret. At that time, it was able to outgun some German tanks, but the hull mounting of its main gun limited the arc of fire without moving the tank. The Sherman was intended as a more potent version on the same chassis, but with a new superstructure and a longer barrel 75 mm main gun mounted in a turret. Unfortunately, German AFV design was moving forward more rapidly and the Sherman was never able outgun the contemporary German tanks. Its petrol engine made it vulnerable to German guns, earning it the nickname “Tommie Cooker”. This weakness was reduced by replacing the petrol engine with a diesel. The British Firefly modification greatly improved firepower with an effective long barrel 17 pounder main gun, but the Sherman was still at a disadvantage against German armour and 88 mm anti-tank guns. For the Allies, the main attraction was that the Sherman was available in large numbers and was relatively easy to maintain and repair in the field. Its crews also fought hard and often won victories in spite of the Sherman. Through its working life, the Sherman changed suspension and track width to keep up with increasing weight and larger guns. The M4A3 featured HVSS suspension with wider tracks, when equipped with the long barrel 76 mm main gun. The availability of large numbers of Shermans inevitably made them attractive for specialist modification as bridge layers, engineering recovery vehicles, flamethrowers, mine clearers and command vehicles. They were modified for amphibious assault, equipped to wade ashore or to swim and with special superstructure to serve as BARV vehicles on invasion beaches, recovering swamped vehicles and pushing landing craft off the beaches. The Sheman was also modified as a tank destroyer with a 90 mm main gun and as an anti-aircraft gun carriage with 40 mm cannon and heavy machineguns. The specialist vehicles, particularly bridge layers and recovery vehicles continued on in service long after the Sherman was withdrawn from service as a battle tank. This Owners’ Workshop Manual provides a good historical overview and covers construction and anatomy of the tank. The main part of the manual covers the issues of acquiring a model, insuring, driving and transporting it and the process of restoration and operation. Invaluable for anyone considering owning a Sherman and for those already have a model to restore and operate. There are no important questions that are not answered and many readers will buy a copy just because it does such a good job in describing one of the most famous tanks ever built and taken into battle.