Kangaroos in Italy

Pictures of Priest Kangaroos are scarce. They were first used by the Canadians in Normandy, and later in Italy as well. The photo belows shows a Priest Kangaroo with British troops in Italy, 1945:

Source: Chamberlain, Peter and Ellis, Chris, British and American Tanks of Word War II.
London: Arms and Armour Press, 1969

Until now I have only found two sources that contain substantial information about Kangaroos in Italy:

  1. The Second World War 1939-45. Army: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
  2. Mediterranean Area AFV Technical Report 27
From the first source we learn that in Italy not only M7 Priests but also M4A2 Shermans were converted into Kangaroos.
The second source was digged up from the Bovington Tank Museum's archives by Peter Brown. He notes that "it throws some light on the use and conversion of Kangaroos in Italy. It would be interesting to see if a list of work done in the Canadian conversion was kept or has survived. Final note is on a similar matter, it seems Shermans as gun tractors were not a success".
We have included abstracts of these sources below as they are not generally available elsewhere.

Note: the book

has a chapter "The Kangaroo Army" with details about the use of Priest Kangaroos in Italy. We do not have access to this source and are interested in any new insights this book might throw on their use.

Bloor, Brigadier F.R. (compiler),The Second World War 1939-45. Army: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Volume II - Technical. London: The War Office, 1951, p.242.

"(...) Again during the winter of 1944-45 the Eight Army Commander required a large number of Personnel Carriers. The task was carried out mainly as a field workshop commitment to save time in transporting the tanks to be used for this purpose from the army area to and from base workshops in Southern Italy.
    Two types of Kangaroo were produced:-
    (1) Conversion of Priest M.7. - This involved the removal of the 105 mm. Howitzer and various stowage bins; repositioning of the wireless set; blanking off the gap left by the removal of the howitzer and mantlet; and increasing the armour and hull sides to the level of the front superstructure. Suitable store protection and accommodation for the Infantry to be carried was added, with facilities for mounting and dismounting, and the vehicles when converted carried twenty in addition to a crew of two.
    (2) Conversion of Sherman M4A2 (Mark III). - This again involved the removal of the armament and the turret, fitting of wireless set, and similar provisions for carrying personnel which amounted to ten plus crew of two.

    Between October, 1944, and April, 1945, the following conversions were carried out:
        Priest M.7       102
        Shermans III      75
the load being divided between 45 South Africa R. and H. Workshop at Rome, 661 Armoured Troop Workshops, 664 and 684 Tank Troop Workshops, and the 96th Armoured Brigade Workshops at Ancona. The actual time allowed for the conversion was usually the shortest possible with the personnel available, as will be emphasized by the fact that 52 M.7s were converted in 18 days and 25 Sherman IIIs in nine days."

Mediterranean Area AFV Technical Report 27 17 April 1945

14. Kangaroo.

"Towards the latter part of 1944 50 Shermans were converted to infantry Carriers by the removal of turrets and all interior storage fittings. As a result of experience in operations with Kangaroo'd Infantry it was decided that a further increase in the number of machines was necessary but this not to be accomplished by reducing Sherman tank reserves. An alternative vehicle was looked for and it eventually found in the Priest (M7). Attached at Appendix "F" is list of the work completed by 45 South African Workshops during the conversion to Kangaroo.
A meeting was held at the South African Workshops to view the prototype M7 Kangaroo and to decide
(1) what alterations were necessary and
(2) to compare its tactical value with that of the Sherman Kangaroo.

(1) The following modifications there deemed necessary:-
(a) The A.A. and M.G. Mountings should be retained as an automatic weapon and some extra armouring would be necessary to protect the gunner, who is particularly vulnerable on his left hand side. The infantry crew should man this weapon.
(b) The wireless set was originally positioned to the left of the driver and was placed as far forward as possible in the pannier. This position was considered to be awkward for the driver and it therefore thought it would be better positioned on the right where the armour plate had been substituted for the original 105 mm gun and mounting and should be manned by the commander operator. Three No.19 sets are needed for the Squadron leader's vehicle and two for each of the troop leaders. In these instances the second set was to be positioned in the original place, i.e. to the left of the driver.
(c) Collapsible sides fixed to the top of the existing side armour were thought to be necessary but if this arrangement was not readily available, the armour plate should be welded into the same position. A collapsible rear plate considered unnecessary, as the normal method of dismounting was to be backwards over the engine hatches which gives the maximum of cover. (d) Extra armour to the left of the gun turret was thought essential because of the gunner's left hand side would have been open to direct fire and splash from the front plate. Ricochets from the inside of the existing A.A. ring would hive also caused casualties wrong the infantry crew.

(2) This conversion did not seem to be tactically as satisfactory as the Sherman conversion for the following reasons.
(a) It has less armour.
(b) Since the lack of the superstructure leaves an open square space as opposed to the turret ring of the Sherman, the crew inside the vehicle are more vulnerable to mortar fire or air burst.
(c) The task of the commander of the vehicle is likely to prove to be harder since he has no vision port of his own. Further, the existing driver's vision port is direct and not periscopic as with the Sherman.
(d) The vehicle itself is very much more conspicuous.
(e) It is more difficult to got into and out of.
(f) Although the Priest conversion can probably hold up to two sections of Infantry as opposed to one in the Sherman Kangaroo, it is felt that this may be putting too many eggs in one basket; in addition, this multiple crewing militates against section manoeuvre. Further the breakdown of a single Priest Kangaroo, either by mine or other enemy action, may completely throw out the tactical handling of a platoon in the attack. The Priest Kangaroo not yet been tried out in battle."

"The following items are removed from inside the hull:-
Left Hand Side.
(1) Seat and bracket attached to left hand wall.
(2) 19 round ammunition rack.
(3) Portable fire extinguisher and bracket.

Right Hand Side.
(1) Seat bracket attached to right hand wall under AA/MG.
(2) 17 round ammunition rack.
(3) Portable fire extinguisher and bracket.

(1) 105-mm How complete with mounting and mantlet; the mounting may be cut off flush at the four points of attachment and the whole assembly lifted out as a unit.
(2) Folding floor plates and angle iron supports, it may also be necessary to remove the cover platoon the rear bulkhead, this should be refitted after the floor has been removed.
(3) Three stowage bins under floor on either side of propeller shaft.
(4) Water can carrier attached to RH bin under floor.
(5) AA/MG belt box tray at front of RH floor bin, together with second water can bracket attached to it.

The following items are repositioned:-
(l) Two portable fire extinguishers - secured to rear bulkhead.
(2) AA/MG folding seat - attached to lower RH side wall of hull to enable one man to sit on the right of the gearbox.
(3) Extension filler on gearbox is reduced to normal length and hole in glacis plate blanked off by 1/2" armour.
(4) W/T set moved to the right of the driver to position where gun was.
(5) Rearmost angle iron support is replaced to secure the lower end of the shield on the engine bulkhead.

As a result of the above alterations it will be found possible to accommodate 15 infantrymen in battle, order, with their rifles, in addition to the driver/W.T. operator. They are positioned is follows:-
RH side Sitting on plate over tracks - 5
Centre Sitting on prop. shaft easing - 4
LH side Sitting m plate over tracks - 5
On right hand side of gearbox - l
plus Driver-W/T Operator 1
Total 16

Provision will have to be made for:-
1. Raising the hull sides to the same height as the Superstructure at the front of the vehicle.
2. A cover or seat over the propeller shaft and vehicle batteries."

15. Gun Towers.

"The 72nd A/Tk Regt. R.A. have 8 Sherman gun towers which they found were too powerful and ruthless a method of towing the gun. The driver did not sufficiently feel the bumps and the Mirage to the 17 pdr gun occurred without his knowledge. They now use half-tracks for gun towing and the Sherman gun towers are used as Troop and Battery commander's recce vehicles. On the other hands they say that the cross country performance of the half-track is not quite good enough and that something between this and the Sherman is required. Possibly a light fully tracked vehicle in which the driver could be conscious of the evolutions through which the gun behind him was passing, may be the solution. Alternatively the new ¾ tracked copy of the German Krauss-Maffei may prove suitable."

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Page created: 20-08-1999
Last update: 25-10-1999

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