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Firefly in Italy

From Middle East AFV Technical Liaison Letter 25, 16 December 1944 (courtesy of Peter Brown):

3. Sherman 17 Pdr (Ic)

About 100 of those are now in the theatre and issues have been made to 2nd and 7th Armd Bdes as well as 5th Can and 4th N.Z. Armd Bdes. Operational experience is scanty but certain points have already come up: -
The ammunition bin in the co-drivers compartment is of such a size and construction that it cannot be removed from the vehicle without removing the turret. This operation is necessary in order to carry out repairs to the right hand front steering brake. M.W.E.E. have a project for
investigating and suggesting a remedy and it appears probable that it will be necessary to make this bin of bolted instead of welded construction so that it can be dismantled and removed piecemeal.
R.A.C.T.D. have also hid some experience with Sherman Ic and have brought up a number of points. Their remarks, suggested remedies and comments by HQ R.A.C. have been circulated to all holding units and are reproduced as Appendix "A".
2nd Can Armd Regt of 5 Can Armd Bde have the following user comments:-
The crew found the turret space rather confined. This did not interfere with efficiency in action but it proved very tiring as there is less room for "relaxation" than in the normal Sherman.
Considerable practice is required in crew drill for the handling of amn. The driver plays an important part in this. The same regt gives the following operational account.
1. This regt received 4 Sherman Ic Tks, during a lull in battle, on 5 Oct 44.
2. After some discussion, it was decided to allot them all to one sqn, on the basis of one per tp. Since the tp ldr normally leads his tp in the sort of close country in which we are now operating, it was decided that the 17 pdr Shermans would be given to the Tp Sgts. (Sqn org - 4 tps each 3 tks).
3. Instr was commenced as soon as the kit had been checked. One offr and one sgt had just returned from a 17 pdr course at RACTD, having been flown both ways, and, in addition, a very competent sgt-instr from RACTD was attached to the Regt. It was not possible to incl firing in the brief trg progam.
4. On 14 Oct the 17 pdr tks saw their first action when this sqn provided close sp for an inf bn (H & PE) in an advance beyond SCOLO RIGOSSA. In the first afternoon this force gained approximately 1500 yds against stubborn resistance. Although the 17 pdr tks were kept rearmost in their tps, they were called upon to shoot up many houses and dug-outs, and the HE shell was found to be about the same as the 75mm. In the opinion of one tp sgt it "seems to knock out the back wall of the house"
5. An opportunity to observe its hole-punching capabilities came late in this first afternoon. One of the tp cpls spotted a Panther at about 300 yds range. He indicated it to his tp sgt and meanwhile fired one round of 75 mm AP at it. The tp sgt's gunner reports that as he laid the 17-pdr on the Panther, its turret was swinging slowly towards him and, as be fired, was still roughly 30 degrees off. Four rounds of 17-pdr AP were fired, all scoring direct hits. The Panther did not brew up, our own inf patrols, fearing recovery by the enemy, set fire to it during the ensuing night.
6. The remains of this tk may be seen at BULGARIA (mr 656045). There are two clean holes in it and three "gouges". One hole is in the side of the gun barrel, approx 3 in from the mantlet; since there is no hole out the other side of the barrel, and judging from the angle of penetration about 60 deg from normal) it seems probable that this AP round entered the turret via the breech of the gm. The other hole is in the side wall of the turret."

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