Sherman Firefly Tank 1944-45

The Sherman Firefly tank was used by the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa armour units in WWII. It was based on the US Lend Lease M4 Sherman variants, but the British fitted their more powerful 3-inch (76.2 mm) caliber 17-pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon. Originally conceived as a stopgap until new British tank designs came into service, the Sherman Firefly became the most common armoured vehicle mounting the 17-pounder during the war which could take on the German Panthers and Tigers. It was the best tank gun that the Allies had until the US 90mm M26 (T26E3) Pershing heavy tank came into service in early 1945.

The Firefly conversion was done on the Lend Leased Sherman I (M4), Sherman I Hybrid (M4 Composite) and Sherman V (M4A4) tanks which the British received. Some sources state that some Sherman IIs (M4A1) were converted and used in action, but photos show these conversions were in fact views of the front half of Sherman I Hybrid Fireflies. The majority of the production of the M4A1s (Sherman II) and M4A3s (Sherman IV) were earmarked for the US Army.

In the British naming system, letters added after the mark number denoted modifications to the base model: “A” for the US 76mm L/55 gun instead of the 75mm, “B” for the US 105mm M4 L/22.5 howitzer, and “C” for the British 17-pounder gun. Examples: Sherman IC, Sherman IC Hybrid and the Sherman VC.

The nickname “Firefly” was adopted due to the bright muzzle flash of the main gun. It was sometimes mentioned in the unit level (brigade/regiment) war diaries starting from March 1944, along with “Mayfly”. The name “Firefly” in period sources often referred to any vehicle with a 17-pounder gun, including the 17-pounder self-propelled (SP) Achilles M1C based on the US M10 tank destroyer and the SP 17-pounder Archer based on the British Valentine tank hull.


The Conversion

William George Kennings Kilbourn was the Vickers engineer who successfully crammed the large heavy gun into a turret that it was not designed for. This accomplishment allowed the quick conversion of the standard US built Sherman tanks ensuring there were no changes needed in maintenance, supply and transport chains. There were a few changes made to the chassis, most of which were for the Mk I hybrids (cast glacis) and the Mark Vs, except for the modified ammo cradles and the hull gunner position being eliminated to make room for more ammo. The front hull machine gun was removed and the gun port was plated over. This resulted in the crew being reduced from 5 to 4. The turret interior was also completely modified. The turret was emptied to allow the gun to recoil and a counterweight was added to the rear to balance the long barrel. This “bustle” housed the wireless set (radio), formerly located at the back of the turret, and it was accessed through a large hole in the turret casting. The gun mantlet was also modified and was 13mm (0.51 inch) thicker than the original. The loader’s position was also changed. A new hatch had to be cut into the top of the turret over the gunner’s position since the size of the new gun prevented the gunner from using the standard hatches. The 17-pounder itself had a one meter long recoil course, and the whole recoil system was completely modified. The main recoil cylinders were shortened while additional new cylinders were added to take advantage of the turret width. The gun breech was rotated 90 degrees to allow the loader to sit on the left side. The gun cradle also had to be shortened which caused some stability problems. These were solved by the adoption of a longer untapered section at the base of the gun barrel. These changes resulted in the Firefly to have it’s own custom tailored tank gun and turret.

The majority of Shermans converted were the Sherman V model, of which the British received about 7200.

Production of the Firefly started in January 1944 and, by May 31, some 342 Sherman Fireflies had been delivered to the 21st Army Group for the Normandy landings. Allied tank troops were composed of three 75mm Shermans and one Firefly. The same distribution was in Cromwell units, but it caused logistical problems, as each Cromwell troop then needed to be supplied with parts for two different tanks. Total production of Sherman Fireflies reached around 2100 to 2200 tanks converted. The exact numbers are hard to determine as documents give contradictory totals.

Although the 17-pounder had superior anti-tank capabilities, it lacked an effective High Explosive (HE) round and was thus inferior to the standard Sherman 75mm gun against soft targets, such as infantry, buildings and lightly armoured vehicles. The Allies encountered these types of targets more often than heavy German panzers later in the war. Some Allied tank units would therefore refuse to completely switch over to Fireflies. A good HE shell for the 17-pounder became available in late 1944, and even then it was not as potent as the Sherman 75mm HE shell. After the introduction of the HE shell for the 17-pounder gun, British units started to receive two Fireflies per tank troop.

The flash of the the 17-pounder was so brilliant that both the gunner and the commander needed to blink at the moment of firing. Otherwise they would be blinded for so long that they would not see the shot hit the target. The muzzle flash spurts out so much flame that, after a one or two shots, hedges or undergrowth in front of the tank was likely to start burning. While moving, if the gun is overlap in front or, traversed to the side was so long that the driver, gunner and commander have to be constantly on alert to avoid wrapping the barrel around a tree, lamp-post or hit a building.

During the early fighting in Normandy, the Firefly tank crews did not make any attempts to conceal the 17-pounder’s long barrel. Later in the summer of 1944, tank crews began to apply various schemes to camouflage the long gun barrel as German gunners began to fire at all long barrel Shermans first. The most common scheme was a false muzzle brake fitted approximately half-way along the barrel. Its distance from the turret was equal to the length of a 75mm gun. The forepart of the barrel was then counter-shaded with white paint to reduce its visibility. The result was an apparent visual reduction in the length of the barrel. The use of the false muzzle brake was found to be essential to provide a clear cut termination of the untreated portion of the barrel but it was not always added.

Video: Tank Chats #41 Sherman Firefly | The Tank Museum

Video: Sherman Firefly walk-around at Bovington Tank Museum

Walk Around: Prime Portal M4A4 Sherman VC 17pdr


June 1944

A total of three British, one Canadian and one Polish armoured divisions were used in Normandy in the British sector. These were the British 7th, 11th and Guards, the 4th Canadian and the 1st Polish Armoured Divisions. Also independent armoured brigades under GHQ command were assigned to support any infantry division that required armour support. These were the 4th, 8th, 27th, 33rd, and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigades.

The 27th Armoured Brigade landed on Sword Beach on D-Day as part of XXX Corps supporting the 9th Infantry Brigade of the British 3rd British Infantry Division. This is Sherman VC Firefly, T-212632, named “SPITFIRE”, of A Squadron, 1st East Riding Yeomanry, 27th Armoured Brigade.

A Sherman Firefly of 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division comes ashore from a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the Gold Beach area on June 7.

IWM B 5130

The first tanks of the British 4th Armoured Brigade landed in Normandy on June 7. In the foreground is a Sherman Firefly of a tank troop with Sherman IIs lined up behind it.

This is my close up for the Sherman Firefly in the above photo. Arm of Service (AOS) 123 is for the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (the “Sharpshooters”) of the 4th Armoured Brigade. Inset on the right is the formation sign for the 4th Armoured Brigade, the “Black Rats”.

A Sherman Firefly and Sherman tanks of C Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own), 27th Armoured Brigade, waiting to be loaded aboard landing ships at Gosport on 3 June 1944. The Firefly crew in the left foreground are Trooper Fred Shaw, Trooper Doug Kay, Sergeant Fred Scamp and Trooper Bill Humphries. Their Firefly was named “Carole.”

IWM H 38995

This is the right side Sherman Firefly “Carole” at Gosport on June 3. It clearly shows the census number as T228789. Note the wading trunk has been fitted to the rear hull.

This is Sherman Firefly “Carole” aboard a LCT. Compare the name and the dark patch on the hull side below it to the photo above. The 13th/18th Royal Hussars aboard LCT 610 (loading number 212) as landing craft assemble in the Solent off Gosport on 4/5 June 1944.

IWM B 5105

Between 8 and 13 June 1944, the British 6th Airborne Division assaulted Bréville (Today Bréville-les-Monts), a village on a watershed between the rivers Orne and Dives which was defended by units of the German 346. Infanterie-Division. The British attack was launched during the night of June 12/13. To support the attack, C Squadron of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars and five regiments of artillery were assigned to the airborne division.

This is Sherman Firefly “Carole” near Bréville on June 13.

This is a close up of IWM B 5471.

After the Normandy landings were completed and Caen was captured, the British Army disbanded the 27th Armoured Brigade on 27 July 1944, and the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (including “Carole”) was transferred to the 8th Armoured Brigade. During this time, “Carole” was credited with knocking out a Tiger and a Panther on 11-12 August 1944 during Operation Totalize. During Operation Market Garden, “Carole” crossed the Nijmegen Bridge on 21 September 1944. Sadly, “Carole” was destroyed on 12 February 1945, in Goch, Germany, by an 88mm round that entered through the gun mantlet and lodged itself in the radio box at the rear of the turret.


The Canadians

The 12. SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend” equipped with Panthers and Pz.Kpfw. IVs was a formidable force. Kompanies 5, 6 and 7 (about 40 panzers) of the 12. SS-Panzerregiment arrived at the front on June 7 and attacked immediately. A tank battle ensued between the SS panzers and the advancing Canadian Shermans of B and C Squadrons of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (the Sherbrooke Fusiliers), 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, around Buron and Authie. The total number of Canadian tanks that were written off was 15, 2 of them were Stuart recce tanks, and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers claimed 41 panzer kills. The total losses of the 12th SS was 12 Pz.Kpfw. IVs and they claimed 29 Canadian tank kills.

Film: Sherman Firefly vs SS Panthers – Tank Battle At Normandy, France

Knocked out Sherman VC Firefly named “Blitz” somewhere around Buron or Cussy on June 7. The formation sign for the regiment was 53 on a red square over a white bar. The 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade insignia was a gold maple leaf on a black square with a blue horizontal stripe.

Knocked out Sherman VC Firefly, T2102203, named “Chaser” of C Squadron, somewhere around Franqueville (southwest of Authie and Buron).

This photograph of “Chaser” was taken at same time as footage seen in the German propaganda film Deutsche Wochenschau number 719. A SS officer is inspecting the knocked out firefly on June 9, two days after the battle.

Deutsche Wochenschau number 719


Villers-Bocage

The Allies and the Germans regarded Caen as a key objective of the Normandy invasion. During the days following the D-Day landings, the Germans rapidly established heavy defenses in front of the city. On June 9, a two-pronged British attempt to surround and capture Caen was defeated. On the right flank of the British Second Army, the US 1st Infantry Division had forced back the German 352. Infanterie-Division and opened a gap in the German front line. Seizing the opportunity to bypass the German Panzer Lehr Division blocking the direct route south in the area of Tilly-sur-Seulles, a mixed force of tanks, infantry and artillery, from the 22nd Armoured Brigade of the British 7th Armoured Division “Desert Rats”, advanced through the gap in a flanking manoeuvre towards the village of Villers-Bocage, southwest of Caen.

On June 12, the task force started from Saint-Paul-du-Venary, advanced south through Cahagnolles, Sainte-Honorine-de-Ducy, Livry, Briquessard and then swung eastward through Amaye-sur-Seulles and entered Villers-Bocage from the west. The British column stopped for a break in the village. Unknown to the Allies, the Germans had just moved into the area elements of the schwere SS-Panzerabteilung 101 (s.SS-Pz.Rgt. 101) and they were bivouacked northeast of the village along route number 175 (RN175). The 2nd kompanie was commanded by the German Panzer Ace SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann who claimed to have destroyed 117 Soviet tanks on the Eastern Front. During the long road march, a number of the panzers had broken down and were left behind. Wittmann arrived with a group of only four Tigers and one Pz.Kpfw. IV.

On the morning of June 13, the British column began to move out of Villers-Bocage. Squadron A of the 4th County of London Yeomanry (CLY) “the Sharpshooters” at the head of the column advanced northeast along RN175 towards Caen and reached Point 213 (1). Two troops of the 4th CLY Cromwell tanks began to move into defensive positions (towards Caen) in an orchard just south of Point 213 (2) while the other two troops were spaced along RN175 leading up to Point 213. The Squadron HQ was setup near the house at Point 213.

Wittmann watched as the Squadron A, 4th CLY tanks drove past north of his position. Realizing that his small group could not defeat a whole enemy squadron by itself, he decided to make a surprise attack against Villers-Bocage and cut off the 4th CLY tanks from the rest of the column. While advancing north towards RN175, his Tiger developed an engine problem so he jumped out and took over the Tiger that was following behind his. At 0805 hours, Wittmann could not get his panzers together and he did not want to lose the element of surprise. So he gave orders to the others in his group not to retreat but to stay where they were and hold their positions.

Wittmann, in his lone Tiger, advanced towards RN175. After he reached the highway, he first destroyed two British tanks to the right and then one to the left. Then he turned around to the left to get at the long line of parked vehicles of the British rifle brigade. As he sped pass the half-tracks and carriers, he fired 88mm shells and sprayed them with machine gun fire at point range without bothering to correct his fire.

When Wittmann reached the village, he was confronted by four Cromwell tanks of the 4th CLY HQ. The first two were almost immediately knocked out by Wittmann while Captain Pat Dyas’s Cromwell (T187577) took cover in a nearby farmyard. Wittmann advanced along the main street of Villers-Bocage, the Rue Georges Clemenceau where he destroyed artillery observation tanks of the 5th Royal Horse Artillery (RHA), a Sherman with a wooden dummy gun and a Cromwell. When Wittmann’s Tiger arrived at the Place Jeanne d’Arc (west end of the village), the lead tank of B Squadron of the 4th CLY, a Sherman Firefly commanded by Sergeant Stan Lockwood, was waiting for him. Upon seeing the Tiger 200 meters (219 yards) away, with its turret traversed to fire into a side street, Lockwood fired four 17-pounder rounds at Wittmann’s Tiger. One of them hit the Tiger’s hull, producing a jet of flame. Wittmann returned fire which brought down half of a house on top of the Sherman. Assuming the presence of more British tanks nearby and probably getting low on ammo, Wittmann turned around his hardly damaged Tiger.

When Wittmann came to the bend in the Rue Georges Clemenceau, he came face to face with Dyas’s Cromwell which had emerged from the farmyard. Dyas fired two 75mm rounds at Wittmann’s Tiger which did not stop it, but a single 88mm round put the Cromwell out of action. Wittmann continued along the Rue Georges Clémenceau until a shell brought his Tiger to sudden halt in front of the Huet-Godefroy clothing store. A single well placed round from a 6-pounder antitank gun had accomplished what British tanks had failed to do. Fired from an alley between the Rue Jeanne Bacon and Boulevard Joffre, the antitank round disabled the Tiger’s drive sprocket.

Wittmann’s damaged and abandoned Tiger in Villers-Bocage. There are arguments of what was the turret number of Wittmann’s Tiger during the engagement. Some sources state the number was 212 but there is no photographic evidence.

Wittmann and his crew abandoned their damaged Tiger, expecting that it might be recovered later. They made their way 7 km (4.3 miles) on foot to Panzer-Lehr headquarters, where Wittmann reported the situation around Villers-Bocage to the officers present.

For his actions during the battle, Wittmann was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer, and awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. His total score had risen to 138 tanks and 132 anti-tank guns destroyed.


Point 213

In the meantime, 9 Tigers of 1. Kompanie, s.SS-Pz.Rgt. 101, commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Rolf Möbius had arrived after the 4 Tigers of 2. Kompanie had cleaned up RN175 leading out of Villers-Bocage. The Tigers of Möbius’s Kompanie were joined by 14 Pz.Kpfw. IVs of the 130th Panzer Lehr Regiment and the Tigers launched an counter attack on Villers-Bocage.

At Point 213, A Squadron was in a state of confusion. The two rearmost tank troops had taken the brunt of the initial German attack and only a couple of the tanks managed to pull forward a little to take advantage of better cover near the crest. Squadron A was left with only 9 tanks. It became relatively quiet for the cut off A Squadron around Point 213. Any movement attracted fire from snipers or a short burst of machine gun fire but other than that no enemy attack developed. The British tankers knew that they were up against Tigers but all they could do was wait and hope that they saw the Germans before being seen themselves.

Rottenführer Lau’s Tiger had been driven out of its concealed position and was exposed to the British. In spite of the engine running very hot and sounded rough, the Tiger pushed on up to RN175. On the left of the Tiger, was a line burning vehicles, but on its right was a couple of British Cromwell tanks facing the opposite direction up the hill had spotted the Tiger and began to traverse their turrets to engage the threat. But they were not fast enough, both were quickly knocked out. Realizing that little could be done, the Tiger pulled back from the road to it concealed position and shut down its hot engine. Elements from 4th Kompanie, the support and reconnaissance section of s.SS-Pz.Rgt. 101 then began to arrive in the area and started to take the surviving British troops as prisoners. Of the Rifle Brigade troops who had been on RN175, and who did not reached Point 213, 30 managed to evade capture. They made their way back to British lines throughout the day and the following night.

This is view at Point 213 facing southwest towards Villers-Bocage. On the right is a Sherman VC Firefly and on the left are two Cromwells of A Squadron. Off to the left (south) and down the hill was the orchard with the remaining tanks of A Squadron.

This is the left side of the Firefly. The census number T212728 can be seen on the hull. On the turret is the triangle for A Squadron and the D-Day Shipping information stencil. The triangle should have been blue, the color for the junior regiment of the brigade.

This is the same view from Point 213 today along D675 just northeast where D83 intersects D675. Today it is the location of the Typhoon Entente Cordiale Trust (TECT) memorial which preserves the memory of those who served in RAF Typhoon Squadrons during WWII and the traditions of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, especially in Normandy in 1944. The three white flagpoles surround the outside memorial and the building to the right is the museum.

This is right side of the Firefly showing it stands alongside a priority road marker. The German car in the foreground was shot up by Lieutenant Bill Garnett when A Squadron reached the crest of the hill. On the rear of the turret is the number 4 indicating 4 Troop.

This is the front view of the Firefly. The name “ALLAKEEFEK” is an 8th Army Arabic slang, roughly translating as “Can’t be bothered” (the Sharpshooters had previously served in the Western Desert).

This is the rear view of the Firefly. Note the open engine hatches. The Germans tried to get the Firefly to run but the tank crew must had done a good job of sabotage before abandoning it. The Germans were only able to get one of the British tanks to run, a Cromwell Close Support (CS) tank armed with a 95mm howitzer.

This is another Sherman VC Firefly that was on RN175. The film below shows scenes of a vehicle driving pass the destroyed half-track and carriers on RN175 and this firefly is briefly seen. The triangle on the turret indicates A Squadron. In the background, the crest of Point 213 can be seen and there are no other tank wrecks on the road. Most of A Squadron was over the hill. Note the thin tree next to the right rear hull of the Firefly.

Film: PANZER – Sherman Firefly vs Panther Tank

This is right side of the Firefly and the same thin tree is next to the Firefly.

This is a close up of the tank name “Blondie”.

The name Blondie is of English and French origins meaning Pale yellowish-brown. Many believe that Blondie could not belong to A Squadron because the name does not start with an “A” but not all A Squadron tanks was following that rule. In 2 Troop of A Squadron, Cromwell T187599 was named “SHUFTI CUSH” (another Arabic slang from the Western Desert). The name Blondie probably refers to the popular American newspaper comic strip character created by Chic Young in 1930. By 1944, there were Blondie comic books, a popular radio program and 14 Blondie movies (1939-43). Note the double quote painted on the edge of the front hull. It appears as if someone is yelling “Blondie” like in the comics.

This is the front view of Firefly “Blondie”. Note the triangle on the turret and the same thin tree is next to the tank.

When Wittmann’s Tiger got onto RN175 somewhere below the crest of Point 213, he turned left towards Villers-Bocage and it is possible he fired at and hit Firefly “Blondie”. Firefly “Blondie” must had traversed its turret towards the south when it heard Wittmann’s Tiger approaching RN175.

Some sources captioned this Firefly with census number T212732 as belonging to the Sherbrooke Fusiliers and was knocked out on 7 June 1944 somewhere between Buron and Authie but the Sherbrooke Fusilier’s A Squadron was in reserve and did not participated in that battle with the 12. SS-Panzerdivision.


Firefly Ace

During Operation Perch, on the morning of 13 June 1944, Montgomery abandoned his pincer attack on Caen because he did not have sufficient strength to attack offensively on both flanks and ordered XXX Corps to continue in a concentrated single thrust while in the I Corps area, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division was “piped” down. The 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division had continued the attack southwards, to pin down the Germans and supported by artillery and the Royal Air Force, the division attacked with two infantry brigades towards la Senaudière, la Belle Epine, Lingèvres and Verrières. A reconnaissance-in-force was conducted the evening before and the panzergrenadiers of the Panzer-Lehr Division inflicted many British casualties. German casualties are unknown, although one panzer was destroyed.

At 1015 hours on June 14, the attack began when the 151st (Durham) Infantry Brigade supported by the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, 8th Armoured Brigade, advanced towards Lingèvres and Verrières. The Germans held their fire until the British were less than 150 yards (140 m) away and the battle lasted for five hours, until the 6th Durham Light Infantry (DLI) with artillery support, captured the German positions. Two infantry companies advanced to Verrières (northeast of Lingèvres) which was empty but further advances were checked by German infantry and panzers. The 9th DLI was also caught in German machine-gun fire, and needed their reserve companies to break through the German line. At about 1330 hours, the 9th DLI captured Lingèvres and moved anti-tank guns into the village, although most of them were put out of action by the first German counter-attack.

Three supporting British tanks of 4 Troop, A Squadron, then moved into Lingèvres. Lieutenant Morrison (Troop Leader) positioned his M4A2 Sherman III in the center of the village near the church (M). Corporal Johnson positioned his Sherman III on the road entering the village from the south (J) while Sergeant Wilfred Spit Harris positioned his M4A4 Sherman Firefly Vc on the main road at the east end of the village (H1) facing eastward towards Tilly.

Sherman markings (top down) for 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, 8th Armoured Brigade, A Squadron.

About 10 minutes later, Harris spotted two Panthers approaching Lingèvres from the east along the main road. He opened fire at a range of 400 yards (370 m) and destroyed the first Panther and disabled the second one (kills #1 & #2). Harris then relocated to a position near a farm house on the northwest side of the village (H2) so he could cover the main road from la Senaudière. While Harris was switching positions, a tank-hunting party armed with PIATs finished off the disabled Panther. Other tank-hunting parties drove off a Panther, another Panther was knocked out by a Sherman(?), and Johnson’s Sherman III was destroyed.

This is Corporal Johnson’s knock out Sherman III at the southeast corner of the church. This photo was taken on 20 June 1944, 6 days after the battle. Note the Sherman has 5 shell holes in the transmission housing. The missing left track indicates that the tank was knocked out at another location. It was probably blocking a narrow street and was towed/pushed next to the church to await retrieval.

IWM B 5783

This is the same view of the church today facing east on the main road.

Harris then spotted three more Panthers advancing along the main road towards the village from la Senaudière to the west. When they were in range, Harris fired at all three as they passed. The lead Panther was destroyed just outside the village and the third just inside the village.

The two knocked out Panthers were pushed off the main road leading into Lingèvres from the west.

IWM B 5784

This is the same view of the main road leading into Lingèvres from the west today.

The second Panther was hit but was only damaged and kept moving until it broke down and was abandoned in the center of Lingèvres near the church (kills #3, #4 & #5). Harris and his crew destroyed/damaged 5 Panthers firing only 5 rounds.

This is the knocked out second Panther in the center of Lingèvres. This photo was taken on 20 June 1944.

IWM B 5780

This is another view of the knocked out Panther in the center of Lingèvres on 20 June 1944. Note the shell hits on the 1914-1918 War Memorial in the foreground.

IWM B 5781

This is the same view of the center of Lingèvres today. The buildings in the background had been rebuilt. Note the shell hits are still on the same War Memorial in the foreground but now it represents the losses for both World Wars.

Film: The Firefly Ace that knocked out 5 Panthers with 5 rounds


July 1944

A Sherman Firefly of XXX Corps advances in the Odon valley, west of Caen, on 16 July 1944.

This is my close up of IWM B 7423.

A Canadian Sherman Firefly moving up to the front on 17 July 1944. Note the straw camouflage.

Sherman VC Firefly, T-212680, named “Belvedere” of B Squadron, Staffordshire Yeomanry, 27th Armoured Brigade, carrying infantry during Operation Goodwood on 18 July 1944.

This is my close up of IWM B 7557.

This is another photo of Sherman VC Firefly, T-212680, “Belvedere” taken during Operation Goodwood on 18 July 1944. The photo posted on the IWM website is the mirror image (horizontal flipped).

This is my corrected close up of IWM B 7513.

A heavily camouflaged Sherman Firefly just crossed a Bailey bridge over the Orne River during Operation Goodwood, 18 July 1944. Following behind it is a Cromwell tank.

IWM B 7527

Film: A70 87-1 – THE 11TH ARMOURED DIVISION’S ARMOUR ADVANCES FROM AMFRÉVILLE TO DEMOUVILLE, 18 JULY 1944

A Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid, cast front hull, welded rear, advancing through the village of Cantaloup on the road from Caumont to Aunay-Sur-Odon, 31 July and 1 August 1944. 43rd Division, 130 Brigade and 7th Armoured Division, south of Caumont (Bocage area).

IWM B 8370

A Sherman VC Firefly which belonged to the 148th Royal Armored Corps (RAC), 33rd Armored Brigade, was captured northeast of Giberville, southeast of Caen, France during Operation Goodwood. The firefly was later painted with German license plates and crosses.

This photo and many others were taken during test driving the captured firefly close to the Dinard airfield near St. Malo, France, sometime in late July 1944.

Sherman Fireflies of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, Guards Armoured Division, went face to face with a new beast on the battlefield – King Tigers (Porsche turret) of the schwere Panzerabteilung 503 (s.Pz.Abt. 503). The first combat use of the Tiger II was by the 1. Kompanie, s.Pz.Abt. 503 between Démouville and Troarn (east of Caen) during Operation Goodwood on 18 July 1944. The Germans reported two lost in combat, one was the kompanie commander’s Tiger which became trapped in a bomb crater created during Goodwood.

Lieutenant Malcolm Edward Lock of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, commander of a Sherman Firefly was credited with being the first tank commander to destroy a Tiger II during Operation Goodwood.

Film: Sherman Firefly vs King Tiger


August 1944

During Operation Bluecoat, Le Bény-Bocage was liberated the day after the capture of the bridge between La Ferrière-Harang and Carville by the British 11th Armoured Division on 31 July 1944. The two units of the division which liberated the town were the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) and the 4th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI).

Tank crews of the 3rd RTR standing on a Sherman IC Firefly in front of the town’s post office during the celebration on 1 August 1944. Note the T51 Rubber smooth track links.

IWM B 8343

Operation Totalize was launched by Allied troops in the First Canadian Army from 8 to 9 August 1944. The objective was to break through the German defenses south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy and exploit success by driving south, to capture the high ground north of the city of Falaise. The goal was to collapse the German front and cut off the retreat of German forces fighting the Allied armies further west.

Shermans of “B” Squadron, 1 pułk pancerny (1st Armoured Regiment), 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade (10 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej) , 1st Polish Armoured Division (1 Dywizja Pancerna) at the starting point at the beginning of the Operation Totalize, south of Caen on 8 August 1944. Note the wire wrapped around the barrel of the Sherman Firefly. It was used to attach camouflage netting to conceal the 17-pounder gun.

IWM B 8826


Wittmann’s Demise

Perhaps their most famous action, British and Canadian Fireflies defeated the heavy armour of a German counterattack at Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil during Operation Totalize on 8 August 1944, resulting in the destruction of at least four Tigers and the death of the attack’s leader, the infamous German panzer commander SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann. The engagement involved fireflies from the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry and 144th Regiment RAC, 33rd Armoured Brigade, and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

They ambushed a group of seven Tiger tanks from the 3. and Stab Kompanies of s.SS-Pz.Rgt. 101 supported by Pz.Kpfw. IVs and StuG IV assault guns. The tanks of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry reached the French village of Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil on the morning of 8 August 1944. While B Squadron stayed around the village, A and C Squadrons moved further south into a wood called Delle de la Roque. C Squadron positioned themselves on the east side of the woods and the under-strength A Squadron in the southern portion with No. 3 Troop on the western edge of the wood. From this position, they overlooked a large open section of ground and were able to watch as German forces advanced up RN158 from the town of Cintheaux.

They held their fire until the panzers were well within range. Trooper Joseph William Ekins (15 July 1923 to 1 February 2012), the gunner of Sergeant Gordon’s Sherman Firefly had yet to fire his gun in action. When the Tigers were in range, a 12-minute battle commenced where Ekins destroyed three Tigers that came into No. 3 Troop’s view. A short time later, the main German counterattack was made in the direction of C Squadron. A Squadron (less Sergeant Gordon who had been wounded and had already bailed out of his Firefly) moved over to support them and in the resulting combat, Ekins destroyed a Pz.Kpfw. IV before his tank was hit and the crew was forced to abandon it.

As it turned out, Tiger number 007 was commanded by the most successful German tank ace, Michael Wittmann, also known as “The Black Baron”. Wittmann only had Tiger 007 for about a month as he had ‘inherited’ it when he took over command of s.SS-Pz.Rgt. 101 on July 10 when SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinz von Westernhagen went on medical leave due to complications of an earlier head wound he received on the Eastern Front.

In a 1985 issue of “After the Battle Magazine”, Les Taylor, a wartime member of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, claimed that Ekins was responsible for the destruction of Wittmann’s Tiger. Veteran and historian Ken Tout (C Squadron of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry) also published a similar account crediting Ekins for the kill.

The 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry had the practice of naming their tanks in a consistent fashion in each squadron. A Squadron tanks were named after towns in the Soviet Union and 3 Troop used names that started with the letter “V” (Vostock, Viadivostok, Vitebsk and Velikiye Luki.) This is the Sherman VC Firefly commanded by Sergeant Gordon and Gunner Joe Ekins named “Velikiye Luki” which translates to “Great Bows.” The tanks of A Squadron were numbered consecutively with 3 Troop numbers were 9 through 12.

In 2005, Historian Brian Reid in his book “No Holding Back: Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 1944” introduced the possibility that a Sherman Firefly of A Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, positioned on the left flank of the advancing Tigers, was responsible for Wittmann’s death instead.

In 2008, Historian Norm Christie produced a documentary which examined the final battle. He interviewed Joe Ekins, Ken Tout, Sydney Valpy Radley-Walters (A Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment) and from their testimony and the two German accounts pieced together the final engagement.

The documentary aired as the first episode of the Battlefield Mysteries TV Mini Series (S1.E1 – Who killed Michael Wittmann?) in 2015.

Video: Battlefield Mysteries | Episode 1 | Who Killed the Black Baron?

The Tigers left the cover of a hedge near Cintheaux at 1230 hours in two prongs; one in the middle of the field with the other, including Wittmann, moving slower on the right. The British 75mm armed tanks engaged the lead Tiger (Iriohn) hitting it in the transmission, bogies or track and it started going in circles trying to withdraw. Joe Ekins’ tank hit the second Tiger on the right side and knocked it out. As the crew escaped and brought out their wounded, they watched another Tiger north of them go up in flames (Kisters). Iriohn partly withdrew but could not get away and was hit by Ekins, “the one that was mulling around.” Wittmann signaled “Pull back!” He did not realize that a group of the enemy tanks were immediately to his right, and in a volley they knocked out the two Tigers beside the road. The commander of the second Tiger recalled the position of Wittmann’s Tiger and specifically the skewed turret. The Tiger blew up shortly afterwards. Survivors from Dollinger’s Tiger passed by the wreck of Wittmann’s Tiger shortly afterwards.

To the west of the RN158, near the hamlet of Gaumesnil, stood a chateau with a long stretch of wall surrounding it. Six 75mm Shermans and two 17-pounder Sherman Fireflies from A Squadron, 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (the Sherbrooke Fusiliers), 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, broke through the wall to have a clear view of fire, and still be somewhat protected. They were just in time to witness the four Tigers under command of Wittmann to come into view and to come under fire from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry. The Canadian held their fire, until a single Tiger rolled into their field of fire (007?). With a single shot from the Canadian Firefly, it was stopped. A fire was started inside the Tiger, followed by an enormous explosion that blew the turret out of the hull. All of this is from verbal history only, because the after action reports from this Canadian unit was destroyed when their mobile HQ vehicle was hit by enemy fire and was destroyed. But there is some strong evidence that the Canadians were responsible for destroying Tiger 007.

It was concluded that, based on the measured ranges and location of the strike on Wittmann’s Tiger, one of the Sherbrooke tanks was probably made to shot. Their position was 150 meters (492 feet) from Wittmann, and on the same side as the strike. The Northamptonshire tanks were over a kilometer (0.62 miles) away and on the opposite side. Although Joe Ekins may not had destroyed Wittmann’s Tiger, he did destroyed three Tigers which is still a notable accomplishment.

The situation on 8 August 1944.

A Sherman VC Firefly of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (the Sherbrooke Fusiliers), 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

The only photograph of Michael Wittmann’s destroyed Tiger I number 007 in the fields near Gaumesnil was taken by French civilian Serge Varin in March 1945 when he was cycling down the Caen-Falaise road (RN158).

The chateau was burned down during the war and does not exist today. It was somewhere north of the current house along N158. The south and southeast sections of the wall still exist today and it did enclosed the chateau.

The total score of victories for Wittmann up to 8 August 1944 was 141 tanks and 132 anti-tank guns. Most of them were scored on the Eastern front. The German cemetery at La Cambe can be found on the N13 (global central between Bayeux and Carentan). Wittmann and his crew are buried in lot 47, row 3 and grave 120.

On 16 August 2015, it was reported that Wittmann’s gravestone been had stolen from the war cemetery at La Cambe in France. Local police investigated the theft and believed that it could have been taken by a neo-Nazi group.

Video: The Life and Death of Michael Wittmann


Sherman VC Firefly, T-148599, named “Fort Hope”. Probably named after the home town in Ontario, Canada. Frame from British Pathé FILM ID:1990.04 (below). Footage of Operation Totalize (AKA Totalise) taken near Cintheaux.

Film: Invasion Scenes Europe (1944)

A Sherman IC Firefly of the 11th Armoured Division and other vehicles in the square of Putanges on 20 August 1944. The photo was taken from a window in the town hall. The other vehicles probably belonged to the 159th Infantry Brigade. Note the wheel spacing and the air cleaner on the rear deck of the Firefly.

IWM B 9477

Putanges is about 10 miles (16 km) south of Falaise and 10 miles west of Argentan. On August 20, the Germans were making their last breakout attempt to the east of Putanges before the Canadian and Polish divisions finally sealed the Falaise pocket by the evening of the next day.

Click here to see the Falaise Pocket Map – 20 August 1944.

A Sherman Firefly of the Guards Armored Division crossing the railway in Beauvais (east of Rouen and north of Paris) on 31 August 1944. Note the “Culin” hedgerow cutter fitted to the front of the hull. The British Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) called the device a “Prong” which was made of 24 pieces from German beach obstacles, after which the Prongs were made in Great Britain. In August 1944, 600 Prongs Mark I kits were delivered, which were fitted to Sherman V tanks.

IWM BU 297

A Sherman Firefly leads a column of Sherman tanks of the Guards Armoured Division near Beauvais on 31 August 1944.

This is my close up of IWM BU 298.

Members of the FFI cheer as a Sherman Firefly of the Guards Armoured Division passes along a road near Beauvais on 31 August 1944. The FFI or the French Forces of the Interior (French: Forces françaises de l’Intérieur) were French resistance fighters.

IWM BU 301

A Sherman Firefly of the 2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards, Guards Armoured Division, on 31 August 1944.

IWM BU 302


September 1944

Operation Market Garden was fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 27 September 1944. Its objective was to create a 64 mile (103 km) salient into German territory with a bridgehead over the River Rhine at Arnhem, creating an Allied invasion route into northern Germany. This was to be achieved by two sub-operations: seizing nine bridges with combined US and British airborne forces (Market) followed by land forces swiftly advancing and cross the bridges (Garden). The Garden component consisted of British XXX Corps which was spearheaded by the Guards Armoured Division, with the 43rd Wessex and 50th Northumbrian Infantry Divisions in reserve. The plan was for XXX Corps to arrive at the south end of the US 101st Airborne Division’s area (Eindhoven) on the first day, the US 82nd Airborne’s area (Nijmegen) by the second day and then the British 1st Airborne area (Arnhem) by the fourth day at the latest. The airborne divisions would then join XXX Corps in the breakout from the Arnhem bridgehead.

The entire operation had many problems from the outset. The lead elements of the Guards Armoured Division were ambushed by German anti-tank defenses, causing delays to the advance while the following infantry dealt with the enemy. The ground was too soft so the advance was restricted to a narrow single highway, and the Germans had blown bridges before they were captured forcing further delays as XXX Corps engineers had to move up through traffic jams to build Bailey bridges to allow the advance to continue. The British 1st Airborne at Arnhem was cut off and the main objective of the operation was not achieved.

A Sherman Firefly tank of the Irish Guards advances past Sherman tanks knocked out earlier during Operation Market-Garden, 19 September 1944.

IWM BU 926

A paratrooper from the US 101st Airborne Division examine a knocked out Sherman VC Firefly north of Eindhoven.

A Sherman Firefly of the Guards Armoured Division Firefly passing a boy with a bicycle on the Hertogstraat in Nijmegen. Note the Allied white star on the hull side and the square would indicate B Squadron.

A Sherman Firefly leads other tanks of the 2nd Irish Guards across the Waal road bridge near Nijmegen on 21 September 1944.

Sherman tanks of 11th Armoured Division during the advance towards Gemert (northeast of Eindhoven) on 26 September 1944. The tank in the foreground is a Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid. To the right, the AOS 61 on the carrier front fender indicate it belongs to the 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

IWM B 10358


October 1944

After Operation Market Garden failed to establish a bridgehead across the Rhine River, Allied forces launched offensives on three fronts in the south of the Netherlands. The Allies launched Operation Aintree (named after Aintree racecourse) to advance eastwards to secure the banks of the Meuse River and to expand the Eindhoven and Nijmegen corridor. The battles of Overloon and Venray were fought between 30 September and 18 October 1944. The Allies moved south toward the village of Overloon (east of Gemert). After a failed attack on Overloon by the US 7th Armored Division, the British 3rd Infantry Division and the British 11th Armoured Division took over. The 7th Armored was moved south of Overloon to the Deurne – Weert area. There they were attached to the British Second Army, and ordered to make demonstration attacks to the east in order to divert enemy forces from the Overloon and Venlo areas. After taking heavy losses, the British captured Overloon and moved south towards Venray. The advance on Venray resulted in heavy losses, especially around the Loobeek creek, which was swollen due to heavy autumn rains and was flooded and mined by the Germans. The Germans also destroyed the bridge across the creek. On October 18, Venray was liberated. However, the area to the east of Venray would stay an active part of the front line for the next four months.

On 18 October 1944, a firefly and Sherman III tanks of 29th Armoured Brigade advances near Venray. The marking just below the co-driver hatch of the firefly is not clear enough to identify the regiment.

This is my close up of IWM B 11058.

A Sherman Fireflies of 10th Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse), 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade near the Beveland Canal (east of Goes), Netherlands, on 29 October 1944.


November 1944

Last day of Operation Pheasant

In order to seize the bridges over the Maas River, the Mark Canal had to be crossed which would broaden the allies line. On October 31, the town of Moerdijk was captured by Polish infantry who were supported by the Royal Artillery 4 miles (6.4 km) away near Zevenbergen. The FOOs were steady increasing the range as the Poles rapidly advanced. The Poles then managed to cross the canal but as reinforcements were brought up however the Poles were hit by a number of heavy German counterattacks. The Poles managed to repel the attack but the following day the Germans counter attacked with more strength. Throughout the day and into the evening, the Poles desperately held onto the bridgehead. Only when artillery was brought down on their own position was when the German attack stopped.

Sherman tanks of the 24 Pulk Ułanów (24th Cavalry Regiment), 1st Polish Armoured Division, in front of whats left of the post office in Moerdijk on 10 November 1944. The Sherman on the left is a Firefly and on the right is a 75mm Sherman with census number T-288817.

IWM HU 106425

The Sherman Firefly crew surveys enemy positions across the river in Moerdijk on November 10. This is the same Firefly in the above photo but at a different location in the town.

This is my close up of IWM HU 106424.

After Moerdijk was secured, the Allies controlled all of the south bank of the Maas River in the Netherlands.


December 1944

The 29th Armored Brigade normally served as the armour element of the 11th Armored Division but operated during the Adrennes campaign independent of the division.

29th Armoured Brigade AOS numbers
51 – 23rd Hussars Armoured Regiment
52 – 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (RTR)
53 – 2nd Fife & Forfur Yeomanry Armoured Regiment

When the Germans launched the Ardennes Offensive on 16 December 1944, the tank crews of the 29th Brigade had just turned in all their tanks to the replacement depot and were waiting to receive new Comet tanks as replacements. They were going to be the first unit to receive the Comet. When the attack started, the brigade received orders to go get their Shermans back and make them combat ready as soon as possible.

The brigade then moved to the Meuse River, where the 23rd Hussars and the 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry guarded the crossings at Givet and Namur (north of Dinant). The 3rd RTR was sent further south to Dinant. After crossing the Meuse River, the 3rd RTR advanced eastward. It made contact with the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, US 2nd Armored Division northwest of Celles on December 25.

British Firefly guarding a bridge in Namur in December 1944. The firefly was facing southwest and had a clear shot at any enemy vehicle attempting to cross the bridge.

This is my close up of the Firefly above. On the right side of the transmission housing, appears to a obscured hand painted number 52 indicating the 3rd RTR. It is possible that the tank crews just took the first tank they found at the depot and did not change any markings so the regiment which this firefly belonged to might be unknown. Or perhaps it did belonged to the 3rd RTR which stopped in Namur for the night and then continued to Dinant the next day.

The location today is on east bank of the Meuse River, on the Quai de Meuse (Quay), northeast of the Pont de Jambes (Bridge of Legs).

A 3rd RTR Sherman Firefly turning at a road intersection somewhere near Wiesmes or Houyet, Belgium (both are south of Celles). The road sign shows the distance to Wiesmes is one digit and the distance to Dinant is two digits, both are not clear enough to read.

Click here to see the Dinant-Wiesmes Map.


1945

A Sherman Firefly dug-in near Gangelt along the Dutch/German border on 1 January 1945. Gangelt is about 10 km (6.2 miles) east of Sittard (Netherlands) and 10 km southwest of Heinsberg (Germany). The Firefly belonged to the 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division and was supporting the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB), British 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division. It would later particate in Operation Blackcock which cleared German forces from the Roer Triangle between 13 and 26 January 1945.

IWM B 13283

Sherman tanks of B Squadron, East Riding Yeomanry, 33rd Armoured Brigade, lined up along the Ourthe River at Hotton, Belgium on 4 January 1945. The 33rd Armoured Brigade first supported the 53rd Welsh Division, then supported the advance of the 51st Highland Division in reducing the German bulge in the Ardennes. The tank with the square marking on the rear hull is a Firefly.

Another photo of the same column but with a different Sherman Firefly at the end of the column.

Sherman tanks move through the ruins of Kleve on their way to support the attack on Goch, 16 February 1945. The closest tank is a Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid and it has camouflage netting only on 2/3 the length of the gun barrel.

IWM B 14666

Film: West Front War Report (1945)

Film: 1945 British Soldiers pass destroyed burning Sherman Firefly Tank at Western Front WW2 footage

On 1 March 1945, a Sherman Firefly tank is seen through an archway in the ruined town of Uedem during the advance to the Rhine River.

IWM B 14960


Sherman Firefly Tulip

The Canadian 12th Manitoba Dragoons, 18th Armoured Car Regiment, were the first to come up with idea of mounting rocket launchers on their armoured cars. They fitted some Typhoon rockets to a Sherman tank as an experiment but they never developed the concept. Lieutenant Robert Boscawen and Captain Dermot Musker of the British 1st Armoured Battalion, Coldstream Guards, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade, Guards Armoured Division were the first to add rocket firing capability to Sherman tanks and used them in combat. The Rocket Launcher Rails Mk.I and RP-3 (Rocket Projectile 3-inch) rockets were obtained from an RAF Typhoon aerodrome near Nijmegen. The first Sherman tank was equipped with the two rockets on Friday 16 March 1945. Boscawen welded rocket launching rails on his tank and conducted a successful test firing. Then it was decided to arm the whole squadron and later the battalion with rockets. The rockets were given the code name “Tulip” because of the shape of the warhead and it allowed them to be mentioned over the radio and in regimental documents.

The British unguided air to ground rocket projectile was designed to be used by fighter-bomber aircraft such as the RAF Hawker Typhoon, against targets such as tanks, trains, buildings, ships and U-boats. The RP-3 was known as the 60 lb rocket because of its 60 pound (27 kg) warhead. The three-inch designation referred to the diameter of the rocket. The rocket was 55 inches (140 cm) in length. Eleven pounds (5 kg) of cordite propellant were packed inside the 3 inch (76 mm) steel tube rocket body. It was ignited by an electrical wire entering the tube at the rear of the rocket between the fins. Seven different warheads could be screwed onto the top of the rocket body. The normal one was the six inch in diameter (150 mm) 60 lb HE/SAP high explosive semi-armor piercing shell (27 kg). The Coldstream Guards only used HE rocket warheads to deal with enemy infantry and anti-tank guns. Some of the rockets failed to explode when fired at targets at very close range. The maximum range achieved was 3000 yards (2750 meters).

On 1 April 1945, Tulip equipped Sherman tanks of the Coldstream Guards went into action near the bridge over the Twente Canal between Enschede and Hengelo in the Netherlands. Lieutenant Boscawen’s 2 Troop of five tanks led the way at maximum speed down a concrete canal road to charge the bridge. C Squadron’s armored car had managed to cross over the bridge first. Sergeant Caulfield’s Sherman Firefly had turned right to cross the bridge and follow the scout car but spotted a German four gun 88mm flak battery on his left. He opened fire at the 88’s as he crossed the bridge.

Following was Boscawen’s Sherman V firing its 75mm gun and machine guns at the flak emplacement but it which was protected by high earth mounds so he launched both hisrockets at it. At that time, the German engineers had blown up the canal bridge and his tank was hit by a German shell that caused the Sherman to catch fire. Only Trooper Bland and Lieutenant Boscawen were able get out of the burning tank and both were badly burnt.

A Sherman IC Firefly behind a 75mm Sherman V of 2nd Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Armoured Battalion, Coldstream Guards. Both Shermans are armed with “Tulip” rockets.

A Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid fitted with “Tulip” rockets. Sherman tanks with Tulip Rockets of the Coldstream Guards were used in action in Germany when the division advanced towards Hamburg.


A Sherman Firefly of 5th Canadian Armoured Division supports troops of 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 49th (West Riding) Division to clear the Germans from the village of Ede in the Netherlands on 17 April 1945.

This is my close up of IWM BU 4215.

Dutch civilians cheer as a Sherman Firefly of 5th Canadian Armoured Division enters Ede on 17 April 1945.

This is my close up of IWM BU 4219.

A Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid of the 8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars, 5th Canadian Armoured Division in Putten, Netherlands on 18 April 1945. This Sherman has Churchill tank tracks mounted as extra armour.

A Sherman Firefly of the Royal Canadian Dragoons in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, April 1945.

The first Allied cease fire order of WWII was issued by British Army Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at 2050 hours on 4 May 1945. Orders were given to all troops to cease fire at 0800 hours on Saturday May 5. The full terms of local German surrender arranged for the 21st Army Group front followed.

A Sherman Firefly of British 7th Armoured Division in Hamburg, Germany on 4 May 1945.

IWM BU 5284

This memorial commemorates the residents of the city who were killed in WWI. The inscription “Vierzig tausend sohne der standt liessen ihr liben fur euch 1914-1918” translates to “Fourty thousand sons of the city gave their lives for you 1914-1918”.

After WWII, it was reconstructed and became the memorial for both wars named “Denkmal für die Gefallenen beider Weltkriege” (Memorial to the fallen of both world wars). It is located at northwest end of the Rathausmarkt (Town Hall Market).

This Sherman Firefly is parked on a side street off Adolf Hitler Plasse (Square) in Hamburg on 4 May 1945. Today, it is the Rathausmarkt.

IWM BU 5255

A Sherman Firefly of the Canadian 12th Armoured Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment), Canadian I Corps, in Haarlem, Netherlands in May 1945. Note the odd countershading on the 17-pounder gun barrel.

Film: The liberation of the Dutch town of Haarlem in 1945 in color

Film: Haarlem 1940 1945

Two Canadian Shermans in liberated Den Haag (“The Hague”) in May 1945. Both has extra track added for additional armor protection. On the right is a Sherman IB (M4 with 105mm howitzer) and a Sherman Firefly on the left.


Italy

6th South African Armoured Division

The British Eighth Army offensive on the German held Gothic Line was assigned the codename Olive and it began on 25 August 1944. The US Fifth Army attack was launched on September 10 against the mountain bastions south of Bologna and was led by US II Corps. As part of the plan, the 6th SA Armoured Division was ordered to advance along Route 64 leading to Vergato and Bologna and to capture the twin peaks of Monte Sole and Caprara di Marzabotto. The division met enemy resistance from strongly fortified positions which had been prepared throughout the previous winter.

11th South African Armoured Brigade

  • The Pretoria Regiment (Princess Alice’s Own) (PR)
  • Prince Alfred’s Guard (PAG)

Sherman Firefly tanks of C Squadron, Pretoria Regiment somewhere in Italy in late 1944 during Operation Olive.

4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade

Although this brigade was part of the 2nd New Zealand Division, it was also often used to support other Allied units. The New Zealanders combined their AOS symbol and the unit sign (the New Zealand silver fern). They used an AOS series unique to them. The odd numbering was taken from the mid war shortlived British experimental composite infantry divisions with an integral armoured brigade, a sort of British Panzergrenadier division. None of the British units of this type saw service outside of the UK, but the Kiwis adopted it when they added the armoured brigade to the 2nd New Zealand Division.

91 – 18th Armoured Regiment
80 – 19th Armoured Regiment
52 – 20th Armoured Regiment

New Zealand Sherman IC Firefly of 18th Armoured Regiment crossing a Bailey Bridge in Italy in 1945. Note the AOS number 91 on the rear hull.

New Zealand Sherman VC Firefly from C Squadron of the 20th Armoured Regiment during final drive through the Po Valley in 1945. Note the countershading under the front half of the gun barrel.

Polish 2nd Warszawski Armoured Brigade

  • 4th Skorpion (“Scorpion”) Armoured Regiment
  • 6th “Dzieci Lwów” (“Children of Lwów”) Armoured Regiment
  • 1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment

On 7 June 1945, the Brigade was upgraded to Division strength and became the Polish 2nd Warszawski Armoured Division.

Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid named “ZAWISZA”, of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment, 1945.

Sherman IC Firefly named “ZADLO” (“STING” in Polish), of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment, 1945.

Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid named “ZEMSTA II” (“REVENGE II” in Polish), of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment, 1945. The firefly is driving over a Churchill ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier) and it is carrying a small fascine bundle on its glacis plate. Note the tank commander is wearing a captured German steel helmet.

Sherman IC Firefly, T-270012, named “RYCERZ I” (“KNIGHT I” in Polish), of the 2nd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment, on parade in August 1945.


Today

Video: Sherman Firefly

Video: Rare Sherman Firefly MULTIBANK Engine sound

Video: Sherman Firefly at full throttle

Video: Sherman FireFly at Overloon museum 2022


Model Kits

1/35:
ASUKA Model 35-044 Sherman IC FIREFLY Composite Hull – 2018
ASUKA Model 35-009Y British Sherman VC Firefly – 2018
Dragon 6182 Firefly Vc – 2003
Dragon 6228 Sherman Mk.Ic Firefly Hybrid – 2010

1/48:
Tamiya 32532 British Sherman Ic Firefly – 2006

1/72:
Airfix A02341 Sherman Firefly Vc – 2020
Airfix A50186 Tiger I vs Sherman Firefly Vc Classic Conflict – 2021
Dragon 7300 Sherman Firefly Vc “Douglas Kay” – 2006
Dragon 7303 Firefly Vc – 2006
Dragon 7322 Sherman Ic Firefly – 2008

6 thoughts on “Sherman Firefly Tank 1944-45

  1. Mike, as always, great job with this new article.
    Is not Kurt Knispel the best german tank commander ace?

    Hope you a happy new year.

    Like

  2. Nice write up, a couple of corrections for you Mike. The Putanges tank is C squadron 23rd Hussars, with 8th rifle brigade vehicles, and the Beny Bocage one at the post office is 23rd Hussars too, my Grandad is top left holding the bottle, and my friends uncle is on there too.

    Like

  3. Some great detail, not seen the TD19065 pages before with the mounting in the turret layouts – would be interested to know if better resolution images are available please.

    You mention that the gunner got a new hatch… this is incorrect, the new hatch was cut on the loader’s side of the turret. The loader loads the 17pdr and coax 30 cal and operates the radio. The gunner sits on the other side of the turret and shares the hatch with the commander and lays and fires the 17pdr and 30 cal.

    Like

  4. Re IWM B 10358, showing Firefly in Deurne. My Dad is inside the Sherman 75mm on the left. 3rd RTR, in the 1980’s he went back,The street hadn’t changed. The Commander was Lt Don Ricketts, driver Len Brererton (97 now) Great tribute to the Firefly

    Like

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