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Author Topic: Sherman Vc Firefly (M4A4)  (Read 3672 times)
Mad Russian

« on: 14 November 2008, 04:38:23 »

Sherman Vc Firefly (M4A4)

 The Sherman firefly was armed with the excellent 17pdr gun. It gave the British and Commonwealth armored forces the ability to destroy even the heaviest German tanks.

The Firefly was originally built as a temporary alternative to the Challenger, an up gunned Cromwell, but was so successful that it overtook the troubled Challenger design as the main tank armed with the 17pdr.

 Sherman Firefly tanks were found in most British tank units and even accompanied  the Cromwells of the 7th Armored Division.

The first Firefly tanks were conversions of the M4A4, or Sherman V, the Firefly Vc. The US stopped production of this model in 1943, which led to the British development of the Firefly IC and Firefly IC (Hybrid)

The M4A4 (Sherman V) would have been the most numerous model of Sherman Firefly to arrive on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944.

It proved to be very reliable and the British liked them and were most upset when production of this model stopped at the end of 1943.

Over 2200 Sherman's were converted to Fireflies by British ordnance factories (the British designation system adds a "c" to denote a 17pdr armed tank, i.e. Sherman Vc).

The most common model of Sherman Firefly at first was the M4A4 (Sherman Vc).

Fireflies were introduced to British Armored Divisions in 1944 just in time for the Normandy landings. After experience in the Battle of Normandy, it was decided to employ Fireflies by assigning one (later two) to each four-tank troop instead of concentrating them in Firefly-only troops or squadrons.

A Firefly is commonly credited as the tank type most likely responsible for the destruction of the Tiger tank commanded by German tank ace Michael Wittman.

By 1944 the deficiencies in the 75 mm gun lead the British to modify a number of Sherman tanks to fit their 17 pdr anti-tank gun, which had proved a match for the Tiger.  The result was named the Firefly, and became one of the more lethal allied tanks.  The conversion meant that the bow machine gunner was removed to help accommodate the bulky ammunition, and also saw a notable change in both Troop and Squadron organisation.  The aim was to deploy one Firefly per Troop of three tanks, however production failed to meet the demand of fifteen per Regiment.  Seemingly at the behest of Montgomery himself, the Troop was increased to four tanks, one a Firefly, but the number of Troops was dropped from five to four, requiring twelve Fireflies per Regiment instead. 

This arrangement initially only applied to the Regiments in the Divisional and Independent Armoured Brigades of 21st Army Group.  The Cromwell equipped Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments had none in June 1944, having to wait until August 1944 before they began to receive the Challenger.  This was a not entirely successful attempt to marry a lengthened Cromwell chassis with a larger turret mounting a 17 pdr gun, again replacing one 75 mm tank per Troop.  In Italy, the four tank Troop was not adopted, and where Fireflies were on hand they were sometimes deployed in their own Troop of three tanks.  It can be a confusing picture, especially as more Fireflies arrived and by late 1944 some units were able to deploy two per Troop. 

The Firefly’s reputation among German tank crews grew fast, so much so that gunners in Normandy were ordered to attack the Firefly at first sight. Fortunately the British strategy had the Firefly remain hidden in battle to cover other advancing armor that would engage a PzKw IV or weaker, while the Firefly would take out any Panthers or Tigers nearby, a mission the British called “overwatch.”

During the Normandy Campaign, the Squadron organization was changed notably.  It had been planned that one tank in each of the five Troops would be upgraded to the Sherman Firefly.  However, insufficient numbers were available, and instead only four could be issued per Squadron.  As a result, Squadrons realigned themselves, deleting the fifth Troop, adding one Firefly to each remaining Troop and removing one tank from HQ (either a Cruiser or a CS tank).  As more Fireflies became available, some units moved to the original idea of five Troops, each with a Firefly, others still settled on two Fireflies and two Cruisers per Troop, still with four Troops per Squadron. 

Primary Sources:
Fireflies In UK Service

British Armoured Regiments

Good Hunting.

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