ARM: Book Review - The Leopard in Canadian Service

Book Review: "Weapons of War" Series; The Leopard in Canadian
Service by Michael P. McNorgan; Service Publications, Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada, 2005; 24 pp. with B&W photos and one painting diagram; price
CDN $9.95; ISBN 1-894581-31-8
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Advantages: Finally tells the tale of the Leo 1 in Canadian service;
covers the history and allocation of tanks and derivatives
Disadvantages: Modelers will be disappointed with lack of some of the
specific details that differentiate the Leo C.1 from the Leo 1A4 and
Australian AS.1
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Leo and Canadian armour fans
I have always liked the Canadian Leopard C.1 and have had two of the
old Italeri Leopard 1A4 kits kicking around just to built a model of
one. Barry Beldam even gave me a quick boot by providing me with 1/35
scale "maple leaf" insignia for it, but never got around to the
model. Now a new book from Service Publications by former Canadian
tanker and retired Major Michael McNorgan covers the entire history of
the Canadian Army (er, Land Forces) and the Leo.
The Canadian Army in Europe in the early 1970s was equipped with the
Centurion 11, an upgraded version of the older Mark 5s they had
purchased in the 1950s, and by that time it was lagging behind the
Soviets as well as their allies in performance. The US was using the
M60A2 and M60A3, the British the Chieftain 5, and the Germans were
equipping with the Leopard 1A1 and 1A2. Due to internal squabbles over
budgets, the Canadian government blew a chance to get more than 200
Leopard 1A1/1A2 tanks for a bit more than CDN $53 million.
Finally, being way behind the power curve and facing Soviet forces
equipping with the
T-64A main battle tank, in 1976 the Canadian government bought 114
Leopard 1A4 models and associated Leopard-chassis support vehicles for
CDN $187 million, not quite the same bargain!
Until the Germans had the bugs out of the 1A4 and were able to built
the modified Canadian version, dubbed the Leopard C.1, the Canadians
were loaned two battalions worth of Leopard 1A2 tanks, wryly dubbed
"rentatanks" by the Canadian tankers. The C.1s began delivery in
1978.
The C.1 was essentially the then-current Leopard 1A4, a
product-improved version of the 1A3 that had successfully tested during
REFORGER 1974, and was quite similar other than some of the locations
for kit on the tank hull and turret, and an integrated fire control
system topped off by the fitting of the large PZB 200 low-light-level
television sight on the left side of the mantelet. The tank also used
the AN/VSS-4 searchlight, which was mounted inside the tank and used a
small aperture for use vice the big boxy German one used on their
Leopard tanks.
The major user of the tanks was the Royal Canadian Dragoons based at
Lahr with the 4th Canadian Mechanised Battle Group (CMBG), essentially
a brigade-sized structure. But as Major McNorgan wryly notes, since it
was the ONLY Canadian armoured unit in Germany and other tankers
rotated through from North American bases as well, it was dubbed the
"Royal Lahr Dragoons."
(For American readers, the Canadians do not quite use the same type of
system as the US does with the Combined Arms Regimental System or CARS.
Once assigned to a regiment, you usually stay with that regiment for
your career in a manner similar to the US system today of battalion
assignments in CONUS and overseas with the same regimental affiliation.
The Canadian tankers had no such system, so anyone from another
regiment, such as Lord Strathcona's, the 8th Hussars, or the 12eme
RBC, would re-badge in Germany as RCD. This was the only assignment in
the Canadian military which required this re-badging.)
But the Leopards lost much of their attraction once the Wall fell in
1989, and in 1992 were all pulled back to Canada. The use of Canadian
forces in peacekeeping operations did cause a spark of need for armor
support (anyone who read General MacKenzie's book on his adventures
in Sarajevo can understand why he would have loved to have had Leos to
back his forces up!) Overall, however, only four tanks were ever sent
abroad for these missions.
As the tanks hit their 20th year of service, and became more and more
obsolete, in 1999 the Canadian government decided to replace them with
123 Leopard 1A5 tanks declared surplus by Germany. But as the 1A4 hull
was superior to the 1A1/1A2 hull of the 1A5 upgrade, when they got the
tanks in they swapped the more modern 1A5 turrets onto the C.1 hulls
and created a new model, the C.2. This is the standard main battle tank
of the Canadian Land Forces today.
A good set of plans for a Leopard C.1 by George Bradford is the
centerpiece of the book, but some modelers may find them not detailed
enough for creating the C.1 from a Leopard 1A4 kit.
Overall a good and entertaining read, as Major McNorgan has a good
style and "knows where the bodies are buried!"
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.

Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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