The [M4] Sherman was a fairly light tank and the armour wasn’t all that heavy on it because of it being a light tank. It was good for protection inside. Even .50 calibre machine gun bullets would just bounce off. But the German anti-tank guns – even their armor-piercing shells from 1500 yards wouldn’t even slow down going through our armour.
Mr. Glenn Rowe enlisted in May 1943 and was then transfered to the Royal Canadian Dragoon as a gunner in a Sherman tank. He fought during the Northwest Europe campaign until he was wounded when his tank hitted a landmine in the beginning of 1945 near the Dutch-German border.
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The [M4] Sherman was a fairly light tank and the armour wasn’t all that heavy on it because of it being a light tank. It was good for protection inside. Even .50 calibre machine gun bullets would just bounce off. But the German anti-tank guns – even their armor-piercing shells from 1500 yards wouldn’t even slow down going through our armour. Actually there wasn’t enough slope to it and there wasn’t enough body to it really, in the light tanks. But it was a fast tank and well equipped. When you were moving, even the Panther [the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, a German medium tank] and the Tiger tanks [the Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, a German heavy tank] couldn’t keep their gun […] to bear on you. They couldn’t – we had power traverse in our guns. We had gyro stabilizer in it. I could go across the field and that would sit level. You could pert near balance a glass or water on it with the gyro stabilizer working and I had full 360 degree power traverse on it. And you could put three rounds in the air at 2500 yards; before the first one hit, you’d have two others in the air.
One thing that we had on them – I had – the periscope was good for distance as well and if I was lined up with my periscope mounting – was basically what the – when I looked at something, the centre in the mark in that periscope is where the muzzle of the gun was pointing at. And at 1500 yards, if I had that pointed at that on the periscope, that’s where that shell was going to hit. But if I could see when I fired round 1, if that hit over here, I’d bring it over and bring the mounting periscope to line on it, I’d align the gun on it like that and I’d bring that back onto the target, my second round would be dead on. As long as I could see the first one hit.
But sometimes our forward observation officers would give you basic range for a gunner placement or something and you’d also watch. I’d always watch for my first round because there’s would be basic to it too. So many degrees left, so many degrees right, elevation up, elevation down. Actually I was on the old […] inside and the inner communication around the tank and to our crew commander was very good, but the outside – that’s why he generally had his head out the turret and that was not a good place to be. Or at least it would be open and he’d maybe just down immediately below it. He generally picked up communication from outside and he’d be giving directions for […].
I got busted up a little bit and sent home just – we just nicely got into Holland and the tank I was in, our flail got knocked out and we’d pulled out to go by it and we got about another 75 or maybe 100 yards when we hit a mine. And it blew the track on the driver’s side. I had some ammunition up in the turret but when you traverse the turret, there’s an opening in the basket down below that the – actually the co-driver could pass ammunition up into the turret for the gunner down there and that basket was fairly open and you could actually get down into the driver’s compartment from the turret if the basket was traversed in the right direction.
But when we hit the mine there’s five rounds left up in the turret because we were firing at gun emplacements. I was on the right. There was another one on the left and one immediately behind us, so we were doing a – we all had an area that we could sort of protect including the flail but it got knocked out by an 88 [by an anti-tank shell fired from the German 8.8 cm Flak 18 gun]. I think it was quite a ways away. We probably never even saw it but there was a dyke wall on the one side and they had tanks – actually it started here later – they were running out of fuel and they couldn’t take them out into action and they’d back them in and cover them all with sandbags. That gun was something else you know, the 88. They had other – they had 50 calibre guns all around when they did those too. It’d take out any of our tanks with one shot if it could get the gun to bear.
And when they were – they only had an area, a field of fire just maybe traverse left and right. But you know some of those old tanks, they still had hand traverse on them and they were slow to move and elevation was the same way there. So if you were moving, chances are they couldn’t keep their gun to bear on you if you were moving at any speed. But boy if it was you were in big trouble. From 1500 – farther away you couldn’t even see the tank that hit you. That anti-aircraft gun, see that had been an anti-aircraft gun and that thing 3,000 in the air, it would still be going that way. And the muzzle velocity was something ferocious on them.
Our 76 [the 76mm gun M1 that equipped some Sherman tanks] we had a APHE [Armoured Piercing High Explosive shell] and it was semi-instantaneous and it would hit and penetrate and then explode and that was vicious. But that thing, we could take out a Tiger or a Panther tank but you had about that much space around the hull where the tank traverses and if you could get that just in that area there between the turret and the tank, if it hit and exploded in there, that was it. The turret could never move again and that gun, all it could do was go up and down like that. And then you could do what you like with it. But even that, their slope on the front of them was about that thick of heavy armour and if you hit it even with a semi-instantaneous, it would just glance off. Just about anywhere they hit us would do a lot a damage with that 88.