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The Sherman Firefly

Compared with a Panther or King Tiger it might not look much but, from 1944, almost to the end of the war the Sherman Firefly was the most powerful tank in the arsenal of the western allies. Not the fastest, not the best armoured, but it did have the best gun.

Tank Museum 4238/F/3Tank Museum 4238/F/3

The 17 Pounder (76.2mm) gun was a British weapon which, with some difficulty, was installed in the American Sherman tank. It was not renowned for its accuracy but, with a muzzle velocity of 3950 feet per second, firing Sabot ammunition, could penetrate 135mm of armour at 1,800 metres.

Tank Museum photo No 4157/F/6Tank Museum photo No 4157/F/6

Fitting the gun into the turret caused a few problems. An extra box had to be welded onto the back of the turret to take a radio and an extra hatch was fitted on top, for the loader.

Tank Museum photo No 4238/E/6Tank Museum photo No 4238/E/6

Since the ammunition took up more space it was also necessary to remove the front machine-gunner, who sat alongside the driver. The gun mounting was then plated over.

Tank Museum photo No. 4238/F/4Tank Museum photo No. 4238/F/4

One problem with the tank was the length of the gun. This made it very obvious to the enemy who always attempted to destroy Fireflies first. The regiments tried all kinds of tricks, with paint and other means, to disguise the long gun but these were not terribly successful.

Tank Museum photo No. 4238/F/5Tank Museum photo No. 4238/F/5

It was not possible to replace all Shermans with Fireflies and, in any case the gun could not fire High Explosive so both types were required. Normal practice was to distribute the Fireflies on the basis of one per troop, something less than one third of the tanks in a regiment.

Tank Museum photo No. 4157/E/6Tank Museum photo No. 4157/E/6

The Tank Museum's Firefly is an M4A4 (Sherman VC) but the gun was also fitted to the Sherman I and I Hybrid which had a part cast, part welded hull. Surviving Fireflies are extremely rare and although ours has, at various times, sported the markings of the 11th Armoured Division and Guards Armoured Division it was probably a sample tank, retained at Bovington during the war.

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