The first Sherman tank - the M4A1

This very early example of a Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tank can be found at the Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset, England

Surviving Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tank

Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tank at the Bovington Tank Museum

There have been many different variations of the Allies main battle tank, the M4 Sherman. This is the first version used by the British. It was classified as the M4A1 but it was the British that gave it the name 'Sherman' after the American Civil War Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman. In 1864, Sherman succeeded General Ulysses S. Grant as the Union commander in the western theater of the war. The Sherman tank succeeded the M3 Grant tank. The British name for this new tank found its way across the Atlantic, where it found favour with American troops.

In 1940 the British were totally unprepared for war. They desperately needed more equipment, including tanks. Politician Michael Dewar were sent to Washington DC 1940 to be the head of a British 'Tank Mission'.

The British government wanted American manufacturers to produce British design tanks. This would have caused too many delays in developing tank production lines. It was felt best to buy American built and designed tanks. Prime Minister Churchill stepped in as he could see Britain would soon run out of money.

Surviving Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tank

Sherman M4A1 Tank co-axil turret machine gun

After successful negotiations US President Roosevelt introduced the Lend-lease Act in March 1941. This allowed America to use British bases around the world in exchanged for loaning tanks and other military supplies for its battle against Germany and Italy.

Very original design for the M4A1 Sherman tank dates back to April 1941. A prototype was ready for inspection in September 1941, and after it was approved, full-scale production began in every 1942.

The chassis, suspension system and engine were very similar to the M3 medium tank. The outer hull was radically redesigned to be able to mount a larger fully cast turret that could carry a 75mm short barrelled gun. First M4 Sherman's to come off the production line had a cast metal hull.

Surviving Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tank

Two hull machine guns only found on very early Sherman M4A1 British Medium Tanks

Many later versions had welded hulls as they were easier and quicker to produce. The first factory to produce the Sherman tank was the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio.

The M4A1 Sherman tank kept at Bovington Tank Museum was the second Sherman off the production line that was destined for the United Kingdom under the new Lend-lease Act. It has been given the name 'Michael' after the leader of the British Tank Mission to Washington.

It has a very unusual feature that only exists in very early Sherman tanks. The driver had his own machine gun in the hull. Another unusual feature of the early Sherman's is that the main armament sight is set in the top of the turret. It is the oldest example of a Sherman tank to survive the war.

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