Sherman Firefly

The Sherman Firefly was a tank used by the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth and Allied armoured formations in the Second World War. 

It was based on the US M4 Sherman, but fitted with the powerful 3-inch (76.2 mm) calibre British 17-pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon. 

Originally conceived as a stopgap until future British tank designs came into service, the Sherman Firefly became the most common vehicle mounting the 17-pounder in the war.

During the war, the British Army made extensive use of Sherman tanks. 

Though they expected to have their own tank models developed soon, the previously rejected idea of mounting the 17-pounder in the existing Sherman was eventually accepted, despite initial government resistance. 

This proved fortunate, as both the Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger and Cruiser Mk VIII Cromwell tank designs experienced difficulties and delays.

After the difficult problem of getting such a large gun to fit in the Sherman’s turret was solved, the Firefly was put into production in early 1944, in time to equip Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group for the Normandy landings. 

It soon became highly valued, as its gun could almost always penetrate the armour of the Panther and Tiger tanks it faced in Normandy, something no other British Army tank could reliably do at that time. 

In recognition of this, German tank and anti-tank gun crews were instructed to attack Fireflies first. 

Because the Firefly had a visibly longer barrel, crews tried to camouflage it so the tank would look like a normal 75 mm-gun Sherman from a distance. 

Between 2,100 and 2,200 were manufactured before production wound down in 1945.

Archer (Self-Propelled 17pdr, Valentine

The Self Propelled 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was a British self propelled anti-tank gun of the Second World War based on the Valentine infantry tank chassis fitted with an Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun. 

Designed and manufactured by Vickers-Armstrongs, 655 were produced between March 1943 and May 1945. 

It was used in North-West Europe and Italy during the war; post-war, it served with the Egyptian Army. 

This vehicle was unusual in that its gun faced the rear of the chassis instead of the front.

The 17 pounder anti-tank gun was very powerful but also very large and heavy and could be moved about the battlefield only by a vehicle, which made the gun more effective in defence than in the attack. An improvised modification to the Churchill tank had been tested in 1942 as a self-propelled gun; the 3-inch Gun Carrier and the US was expected to be able to provide the 76 mm armed M10 tank destroyer through Lend-lease. 

Other projects were considered using obsolete tank chassis, including the Valentine for its reliability and low profile and the Crusader for its good power-to-weight ratio. 

In development were tank designs using the 17-pounder, which led to the Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger tank (and its post-war variant the Avenger SP gun) derived from the Cromwell cruiser tank and the Sherman Firefly conversion of the Sherman tank.

The Valentine chassis was soon chosen, as it was in production but obsolescent for British use and was also one of the few chassis that could accommodate such a large gun. 

The engine in the Archer had a higher power rating than in the Valentine. 

Since the Valentine had a small hull and it was not possible to use a turret, the gun was mounted in a simple, low, open-topped armoured box, very much like the early Panzerj√§ger German self-propelled guns in appearance, with the gun facing to the rear, which kept the length of the Archer short. 

The mounting allowed for 11 degrees of traverse to either side, with elevation from -7.5 to +15 degrees.

On firing, the gun breech recoiled just shy of the driver’s space, with the driver staying in position, in case the vehicle needed to move quickly. 

The rear mounting combined with its low silhouette made the Archer an excellent ambush weapon, allowing its crew to fire, then drive away without turning round. 

The first prototype was completed in 1943, with firing trials carried out in April 1943. Vickers were given orders for 800 vehicles

The Panzer

The Panzer II is the common name used for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II (abbreviated PzKpfw II).

Although the vehicle had originally been designed as a stopgap while larger, more advanced tanks were developed, it nonetheless went on to play an important role in the early years of World War II, during the Polish and French campaigns

The Panzer II was the most numerous tank in the German Panzer divisions at the beginning of the war.[2] It was used in both North Africa against the Western Allies and on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union.

The Panzer II was supplanted by the Panzer III and IV medium tanks by 1940/1941. By the end of 1942, it had been largely removed from front line service and it was used for training and on secondary fronts. 

The turrets of the then-obsolete Panzer Is and Panzer IIs were reused as gun turrets on specially built defensive bunkers, particularly on the Atlantic Wall. Production of the tank itself ceased by January 1944, but its chassis remained in use as the basis of several other armoured vehicles, chiefly self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers such as the Wespe and Marder II respectively.