Ram Kangaroo

A Photo-study, by Hanno Spoelstra

Since I seriously started to collect data on surviving Sherman tanks and related AFVs in 1988, I had helped various museums and organisations with all sorts of information. It was thus that I was approached by Stichting Myllesheem, a local historical association of the municipality of Mill (in the province of Noord Brabant, The Netherlands) in September 1991. The association's secretary, retired municipal archivist Mr. Henk Christiaans, had read an article about the non-official cap badge of the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment. It transpired that this unit was established as a Regiment in Mill on 24th October 1944. As the association had plans to set up a memorial, they wondered if I could locate an example of the Ram Kangaroo, the type of vehicle used by this Regiment. Since the Ram Kangaroo is a rare vehicle and the association had no money really, I wondered if I could do this, too...
At that time, the only possibility I could think of were two Ram tanks that had been 'discovered' a few years before in the yard of surplus handling unit of the Dutch army. These were both equipped with 75-mm guns and had all apertures welded shut, probably to serve as mobile small arms targets.  One of these was secured by the Bovington Tank Museum, and the other somehow disappeared, never to be seen again. Thus, the project came to a temporary halt. 
The contact with Henk Christiaans was the beginning of what later proved to be major undertaking. This page shows a selection of photos that illustrate how this project developed.

Editor's note: please click on the photos at left to jump to large-scale copies...and please be patient and allow for a bit longer loading time - this sequence of pics is unique!

Ram Kangaroo as Found In 1985 David Herbert photographed the remains of a Ram Kangaroo near Warminster at the Salisbury Plain Training Area in Great Britain. Just like many other WW2 era AFVs, this Kangaroo was relegated to target duty after being struck off charge in the 1950s. This was the fate of many WW2 AFVs, and even today many can still be seen on ranges. They are rarely more than hardly recognisable, severely damaged hulks, but this Ram Kangaroo was one of the few exceptions.
Like most range targets it was regularly painted white or orange to improve its visibility. I understand the object of artillery practise in the past was to place the rounds close to the vehicle, rather than to hit them directly. Apparently this was done to save targets (remember, this was long before the CFE Treaty caused hundreds of AFVs to become available as targets). Although the subject Kangaroo was hit a few times and had been damaged by shrapnel, it had survived the rigours of its last posting.
It is believed that at some point in time it was recovered from the range to become part of a collection at the Warminster School of Infantry. In 1992 it was to be disposed of, at which time it was brought under my attention by a regular contributor of the Sherman Register, Mr. Stephen Osfield. It was secured by The Tank Museum at Bovington for the Canadian Defence Liaison Section in London, which expressed an interest in a Ram Kangaroo after seeing the restored one at Bovington.

Ram Kangaroo at Bovington By November 1992 the Bovington Tank Museum had recovered the Ram Kangaroo, and David Herbert tipped me off when it was in the museum's workshop yard. I then wrote the curator a letter to ask about the possibilities of making the ex-Warminster Ram Kangaroo available for the memorial project at Mill. Apparently the Canadian Defence Liaison Section changed its mind (maybe because the Kangaroo needed more than 'a fresh coat of paint'?) and was very happy for me to have the Ram Kangaroo for use in the proposed memorial to the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment. The curator agreed that its was an ideal and fitting use for the AFV,  so he raised no objections and the title to the Ram Kangaroo was permanently transferred to the Sherman Register.
The photo shows the Kangaroo being loaded at Bovington on the 5th of February 1993. The Ram Kangaroo was transported to the premises of Scorpios at Beuningen, the Netherlands. This company specialised in buying, selling, and restoring WW2 era vehicles and accessories. Over the years, I had become acquainted with the owners, father and son Schneider, and their band of regular volunteers of which I had become one. The Schneiders were willing to help restoring the Kangaroo and finance the project, in return for the M4A1 Sherman which was at Mill at that time. This was a fair trade, and really the only way I could realise this memorial project.

Rolling on her own Unloading the Kangaroo the next day later was easier than loading: we just winched it off. Just before we started winching someone decided to place the Ward La France M1A1 Wrecker just a little more forward - better to be safe than sorry. But no one imagined that the Ram would roll that well! The twenty-ton hulk also had no problem with crushing two hefty steel I-beams laid out to stop it. Luckily, the Ram came to a halt just a meter or two behind the wrecker. If we had not moved the wrecker forward it would have surely been severely damaged by the rolling Ram. It was our first experience with the entirely different class of vehicle we were now working with. Restoring a tank starts with the special handling of a bigger and heavier object, and then some...

Finally clear of the mud inside First thing to do was to fully assess what was needed to restore the Kangaroo to static condition. We started by cleaning out the interior of the Ram. The photo shows what it looked like after some bushes and almost half a meter of mud had been cleaned out. Although the Ram Kangaroo hardly had anything like an interior when new, being exposed to the elements for decades certainly does not improve it. Many components such as the drive shaft and battery boxes were missing, rusted away or removed by parts hunters over the years. Still, the remains of the driver's seat base, his controls and the gearbox can be seen up front. Most sheet metal was riddled by shrapnel, though. The interior of the Ram was completely stripped, after which some patches of severe rust (especially around the auxiliary machine-gun turret ring) were removed with an air-operated needle hammer.
Neither on this nor any of  the other Ram Kangaroos have I seen any traces of the benches that -  according to some popular sources - were fitted for the troops to be carried. When standing inside, you realise that there is no room for benches of any sort if a full section of infantry was to be carried. The Kangaroo purely served as a 'battle taxi', carrying infantry from the starting line to their objectives. It cannot be compared with today's APCs or even AIFVs.

Under Restoration A similar shot taken as the Kangaroo was nearing completion. Note that the interior has been stripped and heavily coated to prevent rusting and deterioration over the years, destined as it is for outside display. Wire mesh was added over the escape and special purpose hatches, to prevent entrance by small (or larger...) children. The conical bracket on the left side of the turret ring is the No.9 'B' set antenna base for the standard wireless set No.19 which was situated on the left-side sponson. The antenna in front is the 'A' set antenna, used for inter-vehicle communications.

Under Restoration February 1995, two years after the Kangaroo arrived in Holland. Although all parts - except for tracks - were finally there, we were becoming pressed for time as we had a only some three months left before the Kangaroo would have to be delivered at Mill. Therefore the Schneiders, helped by volunteers Thomas Faase and Gerard Deibel, decided to spend a full week on the restoration to finish most of the work.
This front view shows the Kangaroo after it had been sand blasted, primered and received its first coat of paint. At this stage the mudguards are being fitted. They are bolted to tabs on the side of the hull and are supported by the bar running across the front of the hull. The engineering drawings for the front mudguards with integrated toolboxes were recreated by David Herbert. Adrian Barrell made a good job of fabricating the mudguards and some replica parts such as the headlights and their guards. At the rear an ingenious construction was made in which replicas of the air cleaners are incorporated with a panel to prevent entrance of the Kangaroo by small children.

Road Wheel and Suspension Assemblies Two years were spent collecting the parts needed. Although it seems the Kangaroo was rather complete and was only to be cosmetically restored, this is not a 2.5-ton GMC truck for which loads of NOS parts can be found on every street corner. We needed all sorts of parts, ranging from small bits such as headlights to larger items like engine decks, rear hull doors, a bogie and mudguards. The hull structure itself was basically complete, except for the bit above the rear hull doors, which had been cut away with the doors while it was on the range.
With help from David Herbert and others most parts could be found or replacements made. We decided to use a mix of original and refabricated parts. This was done with an eye to the third lease of life during which the Kangaroo had to withstand the rigours of life as a plinth vehicle. Much more bearable than range duty, but still with its demanding particulars.
The photo shows some of the parts ready for fitting: a few road wheels, one complete bogie (to replace one that had been completely destroyed by a direct hit), and the repaired idler wheel (see the first photo).

Almost complete The restoration is almost complete. Less than three months before the ceremony, I still had to locate a set of tracks. I finally managed to secure a set of T54E1 tracks, by bartering some old favours I had done a number of people. I spent a day at a range to recover them, for which I was given the use of a Leopard ARV with an experienced civilian crew and a chauffeured Mercedes G-series.
Except for the missing tracks and black interior, the photo shows what a typical Kangaroo looked like. Note the armoured air intake cover, just behind the turret ring aperture. This rare part was sourced by David Herbert. Not much is known about it, but for the fact that is was used only on Ram Kangaroos. If anyone knows more about it, please tell us. 

Ram Kangaroo Completed This top view shows the finished Kangaroo. For safety reasons the Mill municipality wanted the turret ring aperture closed over. Several options were reviewed such as a glass plate and a wire mesh cover, but these all had insurmountable drawbacks. It was decided to close the aperture with a bulged steel plate that can withstand people standing on top. Of course the distinctive character of the Ram Kangaroo is spoiled to some extent by this. It is a trade-off between restoring this Kangaroo as a historically correct vehicle, making it fit for service as a memorial out in the open and public safety. As many of you will know from experience, military vehicles are an attraction to many people and they invariably clamber all over them. The municipality did not want to risk people's lives and limbs, and rightly so. Besides, the cover is hardly noticeable when standing next to the Kangaroo.
Finishing touches include a towing cable, replica .30 Browning barrel, aerials and a tarpaulin (these last two items were fitted for the unveiling ceremony only).
Because there was relatively little known about the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment at the time we were restoring the Kangaroo, I had to make and educated guess about its markings. Photos show many Kangaroos with the white star (being the official Allied recognition marking) on their sides. The left front mudguard sports the First Canadian Army formation sign, because the Regiment was attached to the 25th Canadian Armoured Regiment (for administrative purposes only) in October 1944. Only in December 1944, two months after the Regiment's formation in Mill, it was attached to the British 79th Armoured Division. Sadly neither the manufacturer's Shop Number nor the War Department registration number could be traced back. Because of various production features, this Kangaroo must have had a WD number somewhere in the CT-40438 to CT-40937 range. As this Kangaroo has hull casting serial number 665, it was decided to paint CT-40665 on the front and rear of the hull.
Since the restoration, we have learned that the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment had battle number 157 (in white on a green/blue rectangle) and also that many Canadian vehicles often displayed a 'crooked' white star. It is planned to rectify these details when the Kangaroo has to be repainted in due time.

25-Ton Lift! The 25th of April 1995: the Ram is being lifted in position by the Royal Dutch Engineers. It took the place of the M4A1 Sherman that had been on this concrete slab since being dragged from the local Army training grounds in the 1970s. Notice the aluminium treadway laid out to protect the grass.

Rear View Rear view of the Ram Kangaroo. Compare this photo with the first one - a lot of hard work went into getting it in this condition, but every drop of sweat was worth it.

13 Feb 00 History of the 1st CACR (with more photos)
Back to Restorations
The Canadian Kangaroos Home Page

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