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Some remarks and questions regarding RSG Shermans in South Italy (LONG)

January 9 2007 at 6:51 AM
Thierry Laurent  (Login Thierry-Laurent)
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from IP address


I'm currently building the new DML Sherman III as a Scots Greys tank during the Salerno-Reggio-Tarente campaign. Unfortunately, I only found the same five or six pictures such as the famous "Sheik" one in different books (essentially in the BT white "bible", the old profile devoted to Brit markings, the Tanks Illustrated booklet devoted to allied tanks in Italy and the two French Militaria specials about the South Italy landings). As the rare known pics do not show the front area, I looked for other ones on Pathe, IWM and other online sources. I looked for pictures here and there and finally found a dozen of proven or suspected pictures of RSG tanks in Calabria. Note that the original "Sheik" picture shows a spoked idler wheel whereas published pictures are generally cropped and do not show clearly this feature.

One thing that finally puzzled me is a semi-circular part on the only known front pic showing the unit "thistle marking" (IWM NA 006725).

If you look at the driver hatch armor, you will see that it is very probably one side of the two-parts hatch covering the commander turret cupola. This is fixed where applique armour was welded later. This did not strike me immediately but when I found another picture (NA 006833), I realized that this semi-circular hatch cover was also there! After analysis, this is probably a picture of the same tank. Does anybody know anything regarding this oddity?

Another picture of the same landing sequence (NA 006646) is also interesting for two reasons: the tank seeminly had a .50 on the turret and the censor had removed the insignia on the front mudguard. What is also puzzling is the fact that this tank seeminly had another marking than the thistle or besides the thistle one?!? Am I misinterpretating the picture?

To depict correctly a RSG tank, I believe that the exhaust deflector should be added as it is present on RSG tanks carrying Queens soldiers in Torre Annunciata (NA 007347; note that PATHE 1091-17-130 & 230 possibly show pics of the same vehicles).

I also made some funny observations: I did not found one pic of RSG tanks with the rear sandshield section BUT no RSG tank used such section on the rear deck as most other units did during this campaign...! I guess that the missing sections were not lost for everybody

When I looked at Mike Starmer booklet about camo of the Italian campaign, I immediately noticed that such Sherman tanks (as depicted by the scheme on Mike Canaday's page) did not comply with the regulations. I've yet to check if the scheme complies with the prior desert one as the Sherman tanks in South Italy were far from being "standard" regarding colors and camos...).

Last but not least, the only source I found giving RSG tank names is BT white book. I identified Sheik & Renown but not the others. However, there are at least two pics of other named tanks but I've not yet been able to identify the names.

The first is one of a tank crossing a river on the 29 of September (NA 008276).

I've still not found an online picture of the other one (on Mike's page: the one with the tank behind a US soldier and his Browning MG). This one is well printed on one of the abovementioned Militaria book and the name may be something like "Loch Enoch"?. AFAIK there is no other lake in Scotland with a similar name. Any insights?

I'm now scratching my head to find the easiest way to depict the infantry soldiers as most figures are devoted to NA or NWE campaigns. I think that I'll have to sacrify some Cromwell, Ultracast & Resicast figures and a lot of spare parts from the "Frankenstein box" to obtain four of five correct figures...

NOTE: all pictures are copyrighted by the IWM and Pathe and only used for discussion purposes.

This message has been edited by Thierry-Laurent from IP address on Jan 9, 2007 7:04 AM

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Dick Taylor
(Login 3RTR)
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Sherman commanders hatch as additional armour

January 9 2007, 1:50 PM 

Well spotted! When Sherman first came into British service in late '42 there was a list of suggested modifications, one of which was to remove one of the commanders hatches. It seems that rather than just throw them away, some units put them to good use!

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Ondrej Rott
(Login OndrejRott)
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TC hatches

January 9 2007, 6:19 PM 


from available photos it seems to be rather usual practice on British Shermans in NAF (which remained to some extent also in Sicily/early Italy campaign) to unmount one flap of TC hatch. I am not the expert on NAF, but if I remember other's earlier posts on ML correctly, it was because of better ventilation in higher African temperatures and also for better TC's observation. Apparently some crews stowed surplus flap infront of driver/codriver's hood as some mean of additional AT protection. Interestingly I saw one flap stowed in same way on two photos of Guards AD Shermans in NWE (so no desert war veteran unit). One photo is IWM BU 268 showing GG at Villers-Bretonneux and the other photo I found somewhere on the web and it shows GAD Sherman during op Market Garden. In both cases these tanks have both flaps installed on TC hatch, so in these cases some Sherman wreck served as the source of add on armor.

As to the above IWM photo NA 8276, same tank is also captured on Pathe film 1838.16 on stills 207-225. Here you can see both front, left side and back of this vehicle, which can helps you, if you will choose to build model of this tank. White name on hull side is "Bramham Moor", but there are also some dark color (black?)letters/numbers above it, which I cannot read properly. To me it looks like "index" and below it "NE 23". This tank also has one TC hatch flap removed (but I cannot see it stowed on the glacis) and probably thistle insignia on the front of lefthand sandshield. I am unsure as to the hull configuration, if this tank has cast hooded hull or welded hooded hull.


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Thierry Laurent
(Login Thierry-Laurent)
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Interesting and confirmation of some hypothesis!!!

January 10 2007, 4:42 AM 

I hadn't found this movie of Bramham Moor!

This brings some new elements:

- No cockade on the turret (at least on this B squadron tank)... possibly on the deck under the impedimenta? Moreover, a close-up of PATHE 1091_17_90 still confirms this regarding A squadron. Hence, I think we may probably conclude that RSG tanks had no turret cockade.
- Thistle insignia is indeed present!
- you're right regarding the painted black words: this is indeed "index" and probably "NE 23" or "ME 23".
- Hull type is difficult to identify but this seems to be a welded hood type (very visible edges). AFAIK, the only instance of such a hull for RSG tanks in South Italy.
- I read somewhere that remains of the painted dots were visible on this tank (i.e. on the turret storage box side). After a good analysis of the pictures, I disagree with this standpoint. Moreover, this does not really make sense from a chronological point-of-view as this picture was theoretically taken on the same day than the famous "sheik" one! Personally, I believe that only RSG "A" squadron tanks received this type of specific camo. This is by the way interesting to conclude that units did not comply very strictly with regulations regarding camo schemes. The two pics showing left hull side of A squadron tanks show obvious discrepancies!

Thanks to everybody for the hatch explanation! I forgot this one a long time ago and never realized it was not only a desert heat issue and as such not limited to the NA campaign!

This message has been edited by Thierry-Laurent from IP address on Jan 10, 2007 9:50 AM

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Erik Liljegren
(Login eliljegren)
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Interesting photos

January 10 2007, 10:38 AM 

Interesting photos, indeed. I think the Greys carried on at least the practice of removing one lid from the cupola when they went to NW Europe.
See photo IWM B5268, seen in eg Sherman Firefly by Mark Hayward. On the Fireflys it's clear that the commander's hatch has only one lid, the one with the periscope. I wonder if the other lid was used as applique armour?
Even though the unit is not given, the Sherman II and the upturned rear sand shields IMO identify the vehicles as Royal Scots Greys (the other Regiments in 4 AB, 3 CLY and 44 RTR, mounted the rear sand shields on the upper hull).

Erik L

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Al Bowie
(Login Albowie)

Removed Hatch

January 9 2007, 10:06 PM 

Great thread, I 've been doing similar research and haven't found anymore that what you have/mention either.
The Hatch is a carryover from early desert days and was a policy put in place to remove one flap to prevent it being a hazard to the commander when operating heads up. Apparently the early cupolas had no latching mechanism for the flap and hatches were being jolted or moved by near misses/concussion and knock out or seriously wounding TC's. An EME directive to remove this was one of many simple modifications to the early Shermans by the Brits. Feedback from these programs was used to continously improve the vehicle at point of manufacture. Obviously the extra armour benefit was adjudged to be a good use. I believe there are similar pics from units in NWE.

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Mike Starmer
(Login Mikestarmer)
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Italian camo. pattern.

January 10 2007, 5:51 PM 

All of the photographs here clearly show broad compliance with the official drawing. Since the drawing itself is rather crudely rendered in the order and on a cast hull at that, it is hardly surprising that there are detail variations. Indeed these are allowed as strict slaveish compliance was neither necessary or desirable. 'Sheik' shows an interesting variation in that in at least two places dark areas are run in together to make stripes rather than patches. In addition it seems to be painted with green patches and black spots too. It might be that the 'green' areas are actually the original US Olive Drab but somewhat faded. Such corruptions are not unknown but not too common either in these patterns as I have recorded several on the desert tanks too. The Italy pattern is not the same as the 1942 desert pattern but it does have a broad resemblance in appearance since it was designed to achieve the same purpose, to hide vulnerable spots and blend natural shadows from ground and low flying observers.

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