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Category: Armour/Allied WW2

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The Canadian Kangaroos in WW2

1st Canadian Armoured (Personnel) Carrier Regiment


loosely translates to

Bearing Armed Men

Priest Other
Ram Kangaroo  Priest Other Vehicles

To quote Ken Ramsden, in 


...Developing a strong unit with high performance standards was not an easy task. With a suddenly assembled strength of 268 all ranks, no regimental home in Canada, no regimental traditions, and a group of newly-arrived officers, NCOs and troopers, it was a challenge of considerable proportion.

Amongst the first on the list was proper unit identity. Thus was born the classic 'Kangaroo' cap badge. As a mother kangaroo protects and transports her young within her pouch, so too did the Canadian Kangaroos for the infantry. The Regimental motto was decreed as ARMATOS FUNDIT, loosely translated as "Bearing Armed Men'. It was incorporated into a scroll on the bottom of the badge.

The morning mists of mid-winter roll about a column of loaded Kangaroos somewhere in Holland, January 1945. Note that the troops in the lead vehicle are wearing berets, which suggests this might be an administrative move rather than combat assault. The gentleman on his feet looks like a cold and somewhat bored junior infantry officer waiting for orders.

Kangaroo # 14 is a late-production model featuring a hull-mounted Browning .30 calibre machine gun rather than the cupola of the earlier Ram IIs. Most Kangaroos were initially equipped with at least one Browning .50 on an improvised mount on the turret ring, but these mounts were found awkward and unreliable due to the incredible vibration of firing, and were subsequently replaced with one or two additional Browning .30s scrounged from wrecked vehicles or wherever they could be found. 

Sticking with .30s also eased a logistical problem in that much more of the smaller calibre ammunition could be carried, and no space required for bulky .50 calibre. Generally, responsible infantry were taught to man these extra guns on the run into the debarkation point (it was easier to teach them to use the .30 as well), providing saturating fire all over the objective. A troop of eight Kangaroos would thus have a minimum of sixteen machine guns to cover their advance, not including the Brens of their infantry lift and the support from whatever other armour might be along for the ride.

The Kangaroo's worst enemies in 1945 were mines and artillery. The former usually just blew off tracks and running gear (and shaking up the occupants!), but the latter could prove deadly in or out of the tank. Most Kangaroo casualties were as a result of artillery fire.

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A Short History of The Kangaroos

The Kangaroo concept of moving infantry units forward with the leading elements of armoured formations quickly became a critical, integral aspect of armoured corps operations in Northwest Europe, and later, in Italy. It is a concept which remains the cornerstone of all infantry operations today.

The Canadian Armoured Corps, which provided most of the personnel for the Kangaroos as well as the basis for their administration and employment, was itself a relatively new service, having only been constituted just a few short years before. Largely through the efforts of one remarkable man,  Frank Worthington, Canada was able to field more than two complete armoured divisions during WW2. They played a critical part in the campaigns in Italy and Northwest Europe, fighting with equipment which was sometimes greatly inferior to that of the enemy. The men of these units were proud, bold, and creative, as they had to be - and they and their attitudes were the seed corn of the startlingly simple, radical new concept of carrying the infantry under armour (more may be read about the Armoured Corps on the MAPLE LEAF UP site).

The story of the Kangaroos is of a unit which used what it could, wherever it could be found. The vehicle chosen for their mission was initially the U.S. M7 Priest Self-propelled Gun, which embodied a 105mm howitzer in an open body set on an early Lee/Grant/Sherman chassis. As has been seen, in a momentous effort in the first week in August 1944, 72 of these vehicles were overhauled and modified as personnel carriers; subsequently they went on to prove a concept which remains the cornerstone of infantry operations to this day.

Once the inherent value of such a unit was realized, and official steps taken to expand it into a full regiment, the Priests, which were by this time some 53 in number through battle damage and general mechanical attrition, were replaced by specially modified Canadian Ram tanks, which were available in quantity in depots in England (having been superceded as battle tanks by the U.S. Sherman, itself having been declared the standard of Commonwealth armoured formations).

Along with the new Regiment came a significant headquarters infrastructure which also required different vehicles for reconnaissance, logistics and general administrative activities, which further changed the face of the unit as a whole.


WITH THE viability of the 'Unfrocked' Priests limited by battle attrition and maintenance issues, a suitable supplement had to be found. It was realized that there were in excess of 500 Canadian-manufactured Ram tanks in storage in England; the Ram, being a predecessor to the U.S. Sherman, had been designated obsolete for general armoured corps use, due to design limitations imposed during the manufacturing process.

The Canadian Ram, manufactured by Montreal Locomotive Works 1942-1943, was a unique Canadian design based upon the chassis and power-plant of the American M-3 medium tank. Designed originally for the obsolete British 2 pdr gun, it was later adapted for the much better 6 pounder, but was incapable of taking the 75mm QF gun such as was retrofitted to the Churchill. As a result, the Ram was replaced in combat units by the Sherman V, and used from then on for training purposes only.

There was no question about converting Shermans to APCs, as the battlefield attrition rate amongst those had put severe strain on the replacement pipelines as it was, but the Rams were another story. Here was a tank which would have been only marginally successful in its original role as a cruiser tank, but which, divested of its turret and inadequate main armament, was light, agile and with a comparatively low profile.

The first Ram Kangaroos were delivered to the Squadron at Pierreville, near Rouen, France, on 1 October 1944. At the same time, discussions had been taking place at the higher echelons about expanding the personnel carrier squadron. At this point, the squadron was authorized four troops of 16 carriers each, along with 3 to 5 assigned to headquarters.

24 October 1944 marks the official birth of the Regiment as an independent entity. On that day, an official communication was received which indicated that
...By authority of the GOC 1st Canadian Army, 19 October 1944, the 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron ceased to exist as a separate entity and became a squadron of the newly-created 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment. The Regiment to be commanded by Lieut. Col. Gordon M. Churchill, formerly 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (Elgin Regiment) and 10 Canadian Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse) with Major F.K. Bingham Sherbrooke Fusiliers and 1st Hussars as Second-in-Command. Regimental Headquarters to be at 83 van Ryswick St., Antwerp.

Lt. Col. Churchill was truly the right man for the job. A Sergeant machine gunner in WW1, Churchill knew the face of war. With the new regimental status, he was now able to indent for the thousand-and-one things which the previous squadron had depended on others for. At the same time, Col. Churchill set about creating the trappings of a unique identity for this already unique unit. 

Amongst the first on the list was proper unit identity. Thus was born the classic 'Kangaroo' cap badge. As a mother kangaroo protects and transports her young within her pouch, so too did the Canadian Kangaroos for the infantry. The Regimental motto was decreed as ARMATOS FUNDIT, loosely translated as "Bearing Armed Men'. It was incorporated into a scroll on the bottom of the badge. Shoulder titles for the new regiment were manufactured locally, orange letters (representing Holland) "ARMD CARRIER REGT Canada" embroidered on a black felt backing. The 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment had come of age.

At this time, the Regiment also came under command of 31 Brigade of the famous British 79th Armoured Division. Previously, the association of the original squadron with the British had been long and successful, and the whole concept of specialized armour fit perfectly within the infrastructure of the "Funnies" of this valourous assault division.

Accordingly, the Canadians of 1CACR were authorized the wearing of the 79th 'Bullshead' flash, and the same was painted on their vehicles, along with the unit designation "157" in white on a green-and-blue square. On 1 November 1944, RHQ moved formally to Tilburg, Holland, the 'birthplace' of the Regiment. Luckily, deteriorating weather conditions - which were to lead to the worst winter in Europe in 50 years - permitted the new CO to concentrate on building the new organization.


Fortunately, all progressed smoothly. The new faces were integrated quickly, and through labourious indents and  some good, old-fashioned scrounging (for which the Canadians in Europe were famous), the Regiment was brought quickly to a state of battle readiness. At this point the combat strength of the Regiment was 106 carriers, and it was contemplated increasing the two existing squadrons to four, but this move was held in abeyance indefinitely, due to the logistical difficulties. 

By now, 1CACR also had a sister regiment in the 79th Armoured Division, the British 49th Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment (also equipped with Ram Kangaroos), and it was determined that, between the two, the assault requirements of 21st Army Group would be satisfied. Towards the end of December, Col. Churchill has also finally won the battle to have 1CACR formally known as the '1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment', dropping the word 'Personnel'. 

This was significant, as elements within the Canadian command infrastructure had long campaigned to make 1CACR a part of the Service Corps, due to its transport function; the men of the Regiment were vociferously opposed to this categorization, as in combat they were exposed daily to the same hazards as were the infantry and armoured corps.

The Regiment was back in action in January 1945, and stayed in the thick of things until the end of the war. 'A' and 'B' Squadrons functioned pretty much independently from the crossing of the Rhine until the official Cease Fire order on 5 May 1945, causing no end of headaches to the administrative staff attempting to keep up with the lads. However, both squadrons rendered yeoman service to many British and Canadian infantry formations through this final victory campaign.

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