Armour in Canadian Service: Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier

Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233174)

Canadian Kangaroo armoured personnel carriers moving into position for an attack south of Caen, France, June 1944.

The Ram Kangaroo was a Canadian armoured personnel carrier (APC) used during the Second World War, created by removing the turret from a Ram tank chassis and converting it to a troop carrier.   In addition to the entire turret being removed, ammunition storage was removed, bench seats were fitted in the turret ring area, and the driver's compartment was separated.  Hull machine guns were retained, and new machine guns were sometimes fitted to the turret ring.  Kangaroos in general were supposed to carry 8 to 12 soldiers, though similar to the practice of troops riding ontanks, it was more common to simply cram as many as possible as could fit without being at risk of falling off.  Kangaroos were immediately used in the battles in Normandy, and were so successful that they were soon being used by British and Commonwealth forces.  Their ability to manoeuvre in the field with the tanks was a major advantage over earlier designs, and led to the dedicated APC designs that were introduced by almost all armies immediately after the war.

In July 1944, Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar's First Canadian Army was concerned by manpower shortages and Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, commander of II Canadian Corps, devised Kangaroos as a way of reducing infantry losses.  who were involved in the initial assault on 6 June 1944.  (Self propelled artillery were known as 'Priests' in British service, because of the pulpit-like appearance of the artillery-spotter's position. When converted to the carrier role were referred to as "unfrocked" or "defrocked" Priests, but the term 'Kangaroo' was applied to any conversion of any previously gun-armed vehicle to that of a troop or general-purpose carrier.)  The Priests were "defrocked" by removing their 105-mm guns and ammunition stowage, and separating the driver's compartment from the rest of the vehicle.  Priests with machine gun turrets retained them, and some that did not have organic mounts for machine guns had improvised ones fitted.  When the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was re-equipped with towed 25-pounder in late July, the rest of their self-propelled tracked vehicles were stripped of their 105-mm guns and converted to Kangaroos.  Later Kangaroos were based on Sherman, Churchill, and obsolete Canadian Ram tanks.  

The Priest Kangaroos were first used on 8 August 1944 south of Caen during Operation Totalize, to supplement the half-tracks already available.  When re-converted Kangaroos were returned to U.S. custody, other vehicles were pressed into service, the vast majority (some 500) being Rams, which were standing idle after being used as training vehicles when Canadian armoured formations re-equipped with Shermans.  The Ram gun tanks were shipped to France and duly converted, deploying piecemeal as they arrived.  Ram Mk. II versions, which were fitted with auxiliary machine-gun turrets, retained these features for self-defence and close support.  Later Sherman-based versions also retaining the hull machine gun.

While 'debussing' - climbing out of the hull and jumping down, potentially under fire - was challenging the obvious difficulty of getting into a vehicle designed to prevent enemy soldiers climbing onto it was quickly appreciated. Accordingly, climbing rungs were quickly added as a field modification that also simplified loading the carrying compartment with ammunition, food and other supplies to troops under fire.  The Ram Kangaroo entered service piecemeal with the Canadians in September 1944 but in December these minor units were combined to form the 1st Armoured Carrier Regiment, joining the British 79th Armoured Division (whose specialized vehicles were called "Hobart's Funnies"")

The first operation for the Ram Kangaroo was the assault on Le Havre, the last the 7th Infantry Division's march into Hamburg on 3 May 1945.  In Italy Sherman III tanks and some Priests were converted for use by the British Eight Army. Removing the turret of the Sherman and out internal fittings gave room to carry up to 10 troops.  From 1943, Stuart tanks (both M3 and M5) had their turrets removed and seating fitted to carry infantry troops attached to British armoured brigades.  (Wikipedia)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3607881)

Kangaroo APC, Normandy, France, July 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3513060)

Kangaroo armoured troop carrier transporting personnel of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 16 Feb 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3224034)

Soldiers of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada are rushed forward in convoys of Kangaroos, 11 April 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3209026)

Kangaroo troop carrier of 5 Brigade, The Black Watch, C Company, 8 April 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3209026)

(Author Photos)

Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier "Marion II", Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.

(Willemnabuurs Photo)

Ram Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrierl, Memorial "Kangoeroe monument" for the young Canadians that were killed in Mill during the Second World War, at the Langenboomseweg in Mill, The Netherlands.

(Hohum Photo)

(Andrew Skudder Photo)

Ram Kangaroo Armoured Personnel Carrier, Bovington Tank Museum, UK.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3205162)

Three Ram Kangaroos of the Fort Garry Horse lined up in front of a Sherman fitter vehicle, along a lane, North West Europe, 8 April 1945.

he FGH had 4 Ram Kangaroos on strength in June 1945, when they were turned in to the #2 AFV backloading park at Nijmegen as follows:

CT159614

CT159773 (noted as ammunition carrier for A Squadron)

CT159897 (noted as ammunition carrier for A Squadron)

CT159898

Three Sherman III (Recovery) are listed as follows:

CT151003

CT151032 (B Sqn)

CT151119 (A Sqn) - this appears to be the number on the last vehicle in the photo. (Gord Crossley)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3194299)

Crowd welcoming Infantrymen of The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders riding a Ram Kangaroo into Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 16 April 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524183)

Sherman, Ram Kangaroo, Sherman ARV, Universal carrier, then another Sherman ARV, halt on the road to Rijssen, in front of the remains of a burnt out German truck, Rijssen, Netherlands, 9 April 1945.

(IWM Photo, B 8806)

Infantry are carried forward in Priest carriers on the eve of Operation 'Totalise', Normandy, 7 August 1944.

(IWM Photo, NA 24043)

A Priest Kangaroo personnel carrier of 209th Self-Propelled Battery, Royal Artillery, transports infantry of the 78th Division near Conselice, Italy.

(Rinke Feenstra Photo)

'A' Squadron Kangaroo APC (1CACR) moving through the Kerkplein (Church Square) in Assen, Netherlands, April 1945.

Infantry of 3rd Division climbing into Kangaroo personnel carriers prior to the attack, 2 March 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo)

Infantry of 3rd Division climbing into Kangaroo personnel carriers prior to the attack, 2 March 1945.

The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had been ordered to attack Sonsbeck on 2 March 1945, after clearing the woods south of the Hochwald gap and was drawn into a five-day battle of incredible intensity. Lieutenant-Colonel S.M. Lett described the experience in a post-battle interview which emphasized themes that were familiar to all who survived the fighting: The enemy resistance encountered was as determined as any the Battalion has met in the campaign. Both German anti-tank and Schu-mines were plentifully laid throughout the area. German artillery fire supplemented with mortars was intense. The five days of this battle were most exhausting, there was little rest. For one period of 36 hours the troops had no sleep and only one hot meal. Morale, however, despite all these difficulties remained high. The casualties for the Battalion for operation Blockbuster were 65 killed and 135 wounded. The work of the tanks was exceptionally fine; frequently out of touch with their regiment, [or] troops, out of touch with their Squadron, and, at times, individual tanks fought on with the single object of doing all possible to assist the infantry. (Terry Copp, Cinderella Army)