The allied medium tanks: the Sherman Firefly

(To Francesco Sisto)

Lo Sherman Firefly (firefly) was an important medium tank employed by the British armored departments at the end of the Second World War. The vehicle was - probably - the most important British variant of the US tank M4 Sherman.

Il Firefly was built taking as a basis the hulls of M4A4 (Sherman V for the United Kingdom) and fitted with a 17-pounder (76,2 mm) gun. Designed in 1943, the vehicle entered service in early 1944; over 2000 examples were built.

The tank, during the conflict, was also used by Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans and Poles. It should be noted that the Firefly it was the only British tank (perhaps even among the allied vehicles) to place itself on the same level as the Panther and Tiger as firepower.

The first tanks M4 Sherman, the British were able to get them just before the battle of El Alamein (October 23-November 11, 1942) and in that battle they employed between 250 and 300 units. Larger numbers began arriving in the UK in late 1942, but the bulk of "distribution" occurred in 1943 with the M4A4.

It can be asserted that until 1943 the primary armament of the tanks of His Majesty it did not outrun the 6-pounder (57 mm) gun. In fact, the British armored departments were in serious difficulty against the German and Italian vehicles; the self-propelled 75/18 of the Royal Army, in fact, several times managed to interdict the Grant, Sherman and other vehicles.

To make up for this situation, the military authorities decided to launch a program with the aim of creating a tank with a 17-pounder cannon.

However, the development of projects Cruiser MkVIII Challenger e Cruiser Mk VIII Cromwell (tanks "cruisers") turned out to be laborious and fraught with complications. Then, the leaders of the British War Office - with many doubts - decided to "alter" some M4A4 to obtain a back-up solution until future British tanks enter service. Thus it was decided to create a turret that adapted to the 17-pounder piece and could, at the same time, be installed on the US tank without causing too many problems.1

In the autumn of 1943 the first examples of this new solution were ready, and the vehicle was "christened" Sherman V. C. Firefly.

At the beginning of 1944 the production of the Sherman Firefly became top priority; we can say that the vehicle from "reserve" had become "owner".

The baptism of fire for the chariot took place with theOperation Overlord (June 6-August 30, 1944). Later, during the war, the tank was used on the Western Front and in the Italian countryside. Firefly turned out to be (after all) one of the best tanks used by the allies, “armed as it was with the 17-pounder gun finally firing shells with muzzle velocity equal or nearly as good as those of the German Panthers and Tigers”.2

In the postwar period it Sherman Firefly it was used by various armies, including the Italian and Argentine ones. The latter used it until the mid-XNUMXs.

The medium tank Sherman Firefly it had a length of 5,89 m, height 2,7 m and width 2,64 m. She weighed 34,75 tons and had 89mm (maximum) armour.

Engine: Chrysler A57 Multibank petrol, power 425/430 HP. The maximum speed was 40 km/h.

The main armament consisted of a 17-pounder (76,2 mm) cannon, while the secondary armament consisted of Browning M2 (12,7 mm) and M1919 (7,62 mm) machine guns.

The vehicle could count on a crew of 4 men.

1 See C. Falessi-B. Pafi, Sherman V. C. Firefly, in Illustrated History n°164, 1971, p.146

2 Ibidem

Photo: US Army center of military history / IWM