ARM: Review - Kangaroo in Canadian Service

Book Review: "Weapons of War" Series; The Kangaroo in Canadian
Service by Mark W. Tonner; Service Publications, Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada, 2005; 24 pp. with B&W photos and one painting diagram; price
CDN $9.95; ISBN 1-894581-30-X
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Advantages: in-depth coverage of a popular subject among Commonwealth
modelers and what amounts to the first operational fully-tracked APC
Disadvantages: lack of interior views and plans likely to disappoint
some modelers
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Commonwealth and "mech infantry" fans
Up until the advent of the Kangaroo concept, fully-tracked armored
personnel carriers for the infantry had been seen as an unsupportable
luxury. The Soviets had a number of prototypes - one of which tried
to carry half a platoon of infantry stuffed into a box on a T-26 tank
chassis! - but nobody had fielded one.
The only ones in service had been thinly-armored halftracks, or later
on the partially armored US AMTRAC vehicles. These had both the dual
problem of thin armor and insuficient mobility to keep up with tanks
cross country.
Lieutenant-General G. G. Simonds, GOC II (Canadian) Corps, was looking
for a good way to ensure that infantry could accompany the tanks into
combat. The Soviet - and American, and German - solution up until
this point had been to use "tank riders" on the backs of the tanks
themselves, but the troops were woefully vulnerable to artillery and
enemy small arms fire. Simonds figured that the best way to fight fire
was with fire; by using the more heavily armored M7 "Priest"
chassis, stripped of its gun and provided with a number of infantry
inside the casemate, could move with the tanks while providing better
protection to the infantry prior to close combat with the enemy.
Since the Commomwealth was in the process of phasing out the Priest
with its 105mm howitzer in favor of the Sexton with the 25-lber, the
standard Commonwealth field gun, there were extra Priest chassis with
which to experiment. Removing the howitzers and covering the opening
with armor plate welded in place, 72 were converted for use by the 2nd
Canadian and 51st Highland Divisions during Operation TOTALIZE. The
name came from the codename for the conversion workshop, Advanced
Workshop Detachment "Kangaroo."
The results were very promising, as the infantry using the ad hoc APCs
were able to achieve their objectives with minimal losses. In September
the Canadians were told to give the Priests back to the Americans
(after reinstalling the 105mm howitzers) so the new standard vehicle of
choice was a conversion of the Canadian Ram tank. The Ram, a good idea
when created, had become undersized and obsolete for use against German
armor, but was perfectly suitable for this purpose as it had relatively
heavy armor protection (for an APC), a bow machine gun mount or turret,
and most important of all, parts and servicing compatibility with the
M4 series of tanks then in general service with both the US and
Commonwealth forces.
Early Ram II tanks were permitted to keep their bow machine gun
turret, but most of the conversions were based on late-model ones with
the hull doors removed and a bow machine gun position instead; all were
fitted with UK No. 19 HF radio sets, and carried a crew of two and 10
infantry. Two Kangaroo regiments - one Canadian (1st CACR), one
British (49th APCR) - were formed by October 1944, each with 106 Ram
Kangaroos; each regiment had two squadrons of 53 each, and four troops
of 12 each within the squadrons.
The book continues to cover the history of the 1st Canadian Armoured
Personnel Carrier Regiment in detail. A good number of photos of the
Kangaroos in action are included, but only one general plan of the
vehicle is provided. Happily it is of the "standard" or late-model
Ram II chassis based variant.
One major complaint modelers have about the Ram Kangaroo is - what
is inside it? Most sources tend to indicate - nothing! Apparently the
vehicles were not fitted with benches or stowage racks to any standard
pattern, and admittedly cramming ten men into a relatively small area
is not helped if there are sharp objects to dodge as well. However,
they apparently used every type of M4 track produced - the photos
show them with UK pattern steel chevron, T48, T49, and T51 with or
without "duckbill" extenders.
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.
Cookie Sewell
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