105 mm SP Gun
After entering service at
El Alamein, the Priest 105 mm SP Gun proved to be a successful AFV. Since
the Royal Artillery wanted to standardise on the 25 pounder gun, a Commonwealth
counterpart was developed. Thus the Sexton 25 pdr SP Gun was largely identical
to the Priest. Replacement of the Priest started (shortly) before D-Day
but was not completed until after the Normandy landings. The Priests struck
off charge by the artillery units of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
in France were quickly converted for their new role: armoured personnel
The Priests are 'unfrocked'
by AWD Kangaroo
In the evening of 31 July
the DDME 1st Canadian Army, Brig. G.M. Grant, was instructed to set up
an organization to convert 72 Priest SP Guns, to APCs by 9 August. The
date, however, was soon changed to 6 August with 'as many as possible'.
The job consisted of removing
the 105 mm guns with mount and mantlet, welding armour plate across the
gap left, overhauling the radial engine (100 hour check), transmission,
controlled differential, brake linings and running gear (the overhaul itself
would normally take seven days to complete).
An AWD (Army Workshops Detachment),
code named 'Kangaroo', was set up in two fields near Bayeux with the camp
sited in the protection of a neighbouring orchard, about twenty miles from
the start line. Fourteen Canadian and British units contributed and pooled
their efforts and skills in the project. The unit was led by Major G.A.
Wiggan and totalled 250 men.
The first arrived at the
Kangaroo site late on the afternoon of the 2nd of August and had 14 equipments
stripped before dark that night. The hours of work were 0500 to 1100, 1230
to 1700 and 1800 to 2200. But as Cfn. A.M. Campbell of 2 Tank Troops Workshop
later recalled, he worked steadily for the four days from 0400 to 2300.
He was so busy he didn't even know what the next fellow was doing. Each
had his assigned job, for example, Cfn. Campbell was track tightening or
engine changing using his Diamond-T wrecker.
All the RCEME/REME units
were canvassed for the electric and gas welding equipment with the tradesmen
to go with them. Almost unlimited access to welding rod, armour plate,
radial engine parts, oxy-acetylene welding sets and gases and radial engine
overhaul stands was required.
The armour plate came from
the Help-Yourself-Park of "W" crocks (those tanks declared beyond repair).
After this source ran out, mild steel from the steel mills in the south
of Caen was tried. The Navy also complained at this time that Canadian
soldiers were cutting pieces of plating out of craft stranded on the beaches.
Maj. Wiggan recorded in his war diary that 'An examination of steel
plate in wrecked naval vessels and from the Schneider Steel Works in Caen
showed that metal to be unsuitable.' Hence it was necessary to fall
back on mild steel plate welded over the openings in the form of spaced
armour, that is, one plate welded over the opening from the outside and
a second plate welded over the opening from the inside. The gaps between
the plates were filled with sand.
All carriers were completed
on time by 2000 hours on the 5th. In addition, 6 more were ready by noon
on the 6th. LGen H.D.G. Crerar, GOC 1st Canadian Army, telephoned his thanks
and congratulations to Brig. Grant in the afternoon of 5th and asked him
to convey these to all the officers and men responsible for doing such
a splendid job in so short time.
The 72 Priest Kangaroos were
baptised in battle on the night of 7 August 1944 and were used in action
throughout the rest of the month. When on 28 August a squadron of carriers
was organised, only 55 out of the planned 100 (four troops of 25 each)
Priest Kangaroos were available. They were were armed with a M2 .50 calibre
heavy machine gun and about 60% were equipped with wireless. The crew usually
consisted of the driver, with at times an added member, either an officer
More Priests were not available
and a replacement was found in the Ram Kangaroo.
The Priest Kangaroos were phased out of service at Pierreval, near Rouen,
France during the latter part of September.
to Enlarge Any Photo Below)