Free French troops landed in Varreville, Normandy, France on 1st August 1944. General Leclerc led the French 2nd Armoured Division and advanced immediately to La Haye-du-Ouits and Saint-James. They were issued with Sherman tanks and assigned to the 20th Corps of General George Patton's US 3rd Army.
This M4 105mm Sherman tank VVSS can be found at the Normandy Tank Museum
The Normandy Tank Museum is not hard to miss. It is next to the main N13 (E46) motorway. Set your Sat-Nav to the town of Catz in Normandy and then the road of La Fourchette or Rue de la Fourchette to be directed to the Museum entrance.
The M4 Sherman was powered by a Continental R975 C1 9 cylinder radial petrol engine that produced 400 hp. It had a maximum road speed of 30 mph (48 km/h). The tank had an operational range of around 120 miles (193 km) before it needed refueling. It needed a five man crew: commander, gunner, loader, driver, co-driver/machine gunner. They were protected by armour that ranged in thickness from 25 mm to 76 mm.
The tank was armed with a 105 mm M4 howitzer that was designed to fire powerful high explosive HE artillery rounds. It was deployed in a six tank assault gun platoon and used to provide close fire support and smoke to assist the attacking lead tanks. It was not designed to take on enemy tanks. It was an artillery gun fitted inside a tank turret.
M4 Sherman tank armed with a 105mm howitzer
The 105mm howitzer had poor anti-tank performance except at very close range. It could fire up to 6 rounds a minute, muzzle velocity of 1550ft/sec. It utilised HEAT High Explosive Anti Tank rounds, impact fused HE rounds and other smoke and chemical rounds mission dependent on what was needed. The tank was also armed with two 30-60 Browning M1919A machine guns. One was next to the main gun in the turret whilst the other was in a ball mount in the hull.
The Chrysler Corporation was the sole manufacturer of 105mm armed Shermans. It produced 800 M4(105) Shermans with VVSS suspension, and 841 M4(105) Shermans with HVSS suspension. Production started in Feb 1944 and ended in March 1945. They also built 500 M4A3(105) Shermans with VVSS suspension, and 2539 M4A3(105) Shermans with HVSS suspension between May 1944 and June 1945. That meant 4680 Shermans built during WW II had the 105mm Howitzer as their main gun (1,641 M4 105mm and 3,039 M4A3 105mm). Issued to U.S. Army Overseas = 2009. Issued to U.S. Army Stateside = 556. Issued to USMC/USN: 289. In Depots 1945: 1119. Tests/Other: 114. Lend-Lease: 593
The Sherman M4 105mm was designed on average to carry the following: 66 rounds for the 105mm; 4000 for the 30 cal; 600 for the 50 cal; 12-15 smoke bombs plus crew weapons. They were mainly used in the headquarter companies of US tank battalions for direct fire and indirect fire artillery support, so they would usually never see tank vs tank fights, but there were exceptions to that rule. A US 3rd Arm.Div, 105mm Sherman knocked out a Tiger II tank at Hamborn Castle near Paderborn on 31st March 1945.
The US Army tended to concentrate Sherman 105mm armed tanks as a mobile artillery as opposed to the M7 Priest and M7 B1 Priest self-propelled Artillery guns which were divisional artillery and stationed further back from the front line. Unlike the tanks the M7s could use variable charge 105mm rounds to give fire support at longer distances.
M4 105mm Sherman Free French tank
The role of the Sherman tanks armed with the 105mm howitzer was to supply more localised artillery support to tank companies including laying down smoke barrages. The ammunition for the 105mm Howitzer tanks was the same as that issued to M7 and towed M2A1 105 mm gun with a semi fixed charge with reduceable charges from 1 -7 the latter being a full charge.
The M67 HEAT high explosive anti-tank round was a fixed round as it only fired on one increment 1250 ft /sec. Although it was a nominally effective anti tank round which was capable of piercing 4 inches of armour irrespective of range it was rather inaccurate. As a general rule the Sherman 105mm tanks only carried a handful of these HEAT rounds to be used only in case of emergencies. They were not meant to fight it out with enemy armour, tank on tank.
The early models didn't have power traverse as it was deemed unnecessary. In Italy British, Canadian, Polish and South African Sherman equipped units tended to use the 105 mm as they would an old CS Close Support tank in the days of the 3inch howitzer as Head Quarters weapons in Battalion and Squadron HQ troops to give mainly direct smoke and to an extent HE high explosive shell support. The British in 21st Army Group in North West Europe didn't use them. Mainly to rationalise the supply of 105 mm ammunition to US Army and the fact that they had a close support tank, the flawed 95mm howitzer equipped Cromwell tank.
The Sherman 105mm howitzer tanks were the 'assault guns' of the tank battalions. Originally the tank battalion had three 75 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8, also known as the M8 Scott. to provide HE high explosive shell direct and indirect fire. The M4 Sherman 105mm tanks started to be issued in the late spring of 1944 to replace the M8s.
The M4A3 105mm came in the Fall/Autumn of 1944. The late production of both types had HVSS suspension. These were in the Assault Gun Platoon of the battalion's HQ company. The three assault guns were later supplemented by an M4 with 105mm in each company (total of 6 in the Battalion). Some Battalions gathered all six howitzer tanks together to create a strengthened Assault Gun Platoon.
This tank's history
The Sherman M4 105mm VVSS 'La Moskowa' in the Normandy Tank Museum at Catz did not serve with the French 2nd Armoured Division, but it is the correct model (early M4 105mm). The Normandy Tank Museum have not been able to find its combat history through archival records as of yet. There are some post World War Two French Army markings stamped on the front hull so it is believed it served in the French Army in the 1950's. The 2eme DB were the first French units to be issued with Sherman 105mm tanks. The 1st French Army 1re Armée units were issued with them in April 1945.
Free French 105mm M4 Sherman Tank number 74 called La Moskowa
Where can I find other preserved 105mm Sherman Tanks?
- M4 105mm HVSS (large tracks) - The Tank Museum, Bovington, England
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Armourgeddon Paintball Museum, Southfields Farm, Leicester Road, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire, LE17 6NW, England.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Dutch Cavalerie Museum, Amersfoort, Netherlands.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Ede, Netherlands.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Bastogne Barracks, Bastogne, Belgium
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Bastogne War Museum, 5 Colline du Mardasson, Bastogne, Belgium
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Private Collection, Turnhout, Belgium.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Normandy Tank Museum, Catz, Normandy, France
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Private collection, France.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Latrun, Israel.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - School of Armour Museum, Tempe, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - 2x Special Services Battalion Museum, Tempe, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, GA, USA.
- M4 105mm VVSS (narrow tracks) - 1st Cavalery Division Museum, Fort Hood, TX, USA.
- M4(75) turret 105mm Chassis - Private collection, France.
- M4(75) turret 105mm Chassis - Piana delle Orme Museum, Italy
- M4(75) turret 105mm Chassis - Museo Memoriale della Libertà, Bologna, Italy
- M4(75) turret 105mm Chassis - Monumento ai Caduti, Monte Cassino, Italy
- M4(75) turret 105mm Chassis - Sacrario Caduti di Montelungo, Italy
- M4(105) Sherman Dozer - Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Latrun, Israel.
- M4(105) Sherman Dozer - 2x French Tank Museum, Saumur, France.
- M4(105) Sherman Dozer -Balmoral Green association, Versailles, France.
- 105mm turret - Ijsellinie kazemattenmuseum, Kornwerdsand (Netherlands.
- Source - Pierre-Oliver Buan - http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Panzers.html