The possibility of Canada producing cruiser tanks arose during a conversation between Major-General V.V. Pope, Deputy Director Staff Duties (A.F.Vs.). British War Office, and Colonel E.I.N. Burns, General Staff Branch, National Defence Headquarters (N.D.H.Q. in Ottawa) on 15 Jul 40. During this conversation Colonel Burns learned that it was probable that the establishment of the British Armoured Division would be revised in certain particulars and that one of the proposed changes would result in all tanks being cruisers. Major-General Pope was of the opinion that it would be excellent if Canada could manufacture such tanks. On 15 Aug 40 the Minister of National Defence approved the formation of a Canadian Armoured Corps and, in principle, an Armoured Brigade Group. Shortly after this, on 27 Aug 40, N.D.H.Q. requested Canadia Miitary Headquarters (C.M.H.Q. in London) to obtain conformation that it was the War Office policy to equip regiments in Armoured Divisions with cruiser tanks only. If the answer was in the affirmative it was proposed to produce such tanks in Canada if possible. On 5 Sep 40 C.M.H.Q. replied that the War Office had confirmed this policy. C.M.H.Q. at the same time suggested that Canada should plan to produce the British Mark VI type of Tank which was being produced in the United Kingdom at the time. Deliveries of the first British Mark VI to units was scheduled for December, 1940.
N.D.H.Q., however, considered that Canadian production should be concentrated upon the American N3 Medium Cruiser tank modified to meet British ideas. There were a number of reasons for this decision. The British had already made heavy commitments for this tank from American production sources, by way of orders placed in the United States by the British Purchasing Commission. The tank at that time was known as the M3 (Anglo-American) Cruiser Tank, and was in its pilot stage. This type was also selected due to the availability of heavy components, notably the engine and transmission, in the United States.
During September a general discussion took place, between representatives of the Canadian Department of Munitions and Supply and the British Purchasing Commission, on the British requirements of M3 Cruiser tanks to build on the North American Continent. These discussions terminated in a decision that all the British tanks would be built in the United States and none in Canada. The British Purchasing Commission in the United States, however, agreed to obtain, at Canada’s expense, transmissions, engines, and machine guns.
On 26 Sep 40, the MG wrote the Deputy Minister, Deaprtment of Munitions and Supply (DMS in Ottawa) indicating that 1,157 Cruiser tanks would be required at an early date and that a Contract Demand would be issued when the design and exact requirements were known. The Munitions and Supply Department apparently interpreted the MGO’s letter as a request to take action and accordingly asked for, and on 23 Oct 40 received, Privy Council authority (by PC 5913) for expenditure of funds to provide 1,157 Cruiser tanks. This was contrary to the usual practice as Contract Demands were as a rule raised prior to Privy Council authorization. The Contract Demand, which stated that the tanks were required to equip and let Armoured Division and the 1st Army Tank Brigade and also to provide a number for Training Centers, was in fact not raised until January, 1941. The War Committee of the Cabinet did not approve the purchase of the 1,157 cruiser tanks until 29 Jan 41. Although the Privy Council authorization of 23 Oct 40 appeared sufficient for the Munitions and Supply Department to proceed to make production arrangements with a Canadian Company, it was not used to make purchases in the United States. The following extract from a letter, to Mr. Carswell from the Deputy Minister of Munitions and Supply, dated 1 Feb 41, with regard to placing orders in the United States, appears to bear this out:- I pointed out that it was not yet possible to give Mr. Dewar formal authority to proceed. This whole Tank Programme was finally cleared up by the Privy Council a day or so ago, and I gave a letter at once to General Steel Castings, covering the purchase of the 1,157 Tops.
At the time when decision was reached to produce the M3 (later to be known as the Ram), the only firm assembling tanks in Canada was the C.P.R. Angus Shops. It was proposed to approach four other Canadian companies with regard to the production of this type of tank. Among the firms mentioned was the Montreal Locomotive Works. It was later brought to attention that the parent organization of this Company, the American Locomotive Company in the United States, was at the time working on an order from the American War Department involving the production of the M3 tank. The American company expressed its willingness to assist the Canadian company in every possible way if the latter should receive an order for the production of M3 tanks. Such assistance would be invaluable to a company becoming involved in tank production for the first time and it was accordingly obvious that the plant to do business with at this time was the Montreal Locomotive Works. Upon Privy Council authorization for the expenditure of the necessary funds being received in October, 1940, the Munitions and Supply Department authorized the Montreal Locomotive Works to build and equip a plant capable of producing two tanks per day. This plant was later known as Tank Arsenal, Montreal Locomotive Works.
Regarding the exact design of the tank to be produced it was agreed that it would not be practicable for Canada to contemplate changes in the U.S. type of M3 on any production obtained in 1941. Design work would, however, proceed in the meantime with the object of effecting changes at the end of 1941. This decision was emphasized by the Director-General of Munitions, Department of Munitions and Supply, when he wrote to the Montreal Locomotive Works on 13 Dec 40 confirming authorization to proceed with production arrangements. He stated that the first 300 and possibly additional tanks would be identical in design with the vehicle being made by the American Locomotive Company at its Schenectady shops. He further advised the Company that a final decision respecting the design of the turret to be adopted had yet to be made and the Company was not to make final plans for this part of the assembly. The instructions regarding the first 300 tanks being identical in design with the American M3 tank were in effect for only a short time. During the first week in January, 1941, Canadian and United Kingdom representatives carried out an inspection of the United States M3 Tank Hull. The vehicle in the opinion of both Canadian and United Kingdom representatives was very disappointing. The main features objected to were: –
(a) excessive height;
(b) generally cumbersome and top-heavy appearance;
(c) lop-sidedness on account of gun in the right hand sponson; and
(d) the prevalence of vertical surfaces.
It was now apparent that the design of the M3 tank, as approved by the United States Ordnance, would not be satisfactory to the United Kingdom and Canada. As a result it was decided to develop, and produce in Canada, a tank utilizing the mechanical components of the United States designs, but including turret hull and armament features of Canadian design. It was proposed to develop a cast upper hull designed to permit the driver to take a lower position in the vehicle and allow a considerable reduction in over-all height.
On 26 Jun 41 Prime Minister Churchill cabled President Roosevelt that the possibility of British, American and Canadian tank design proceeding on independent line was giving him concern. He pointed out that the M3 American medium tank was already being produced in three types for orders from Canada, Britain and the United States. Although basically identical, these types, particularly as regards main armament, varied in several respects. The British and Canadians were using the six-pounder gun, with the 75mm and the two-pounder as interim steps, while the United States was retaining the 75mm gun. Mr. Churchill suggested that a Joint Anglo-American Tank Board be set up in the United States, to include Canadian as well as British representation, for the purpose of controlling and co-ordinating new types, design and production.
As a result of this message, and a directive issued by the President, matters moved apace and on 10 Jul 41 the British Purchasing Commission in Washington reported to the British Ministry of supply the agreements reached. Among these were:-
(a) General B.C. Lewis of the U.S. Ordnance to be appointed as Co-ordinator of U.S.A. and U.K. Production with power to use combined resources of materials and components to secure maximum increase of production;
(b) Steps were being taken immediately to increase production up to 1,000 medium tanks per month to be reached by earliest date in 1942, possibly May; (c) Full co-operation of D.M.S. Canada being invited in measures designed to increase production and eliminate any conflict in design in the Montreal Locomotive tank contract; and
(b) Questions affecting design to be discussed and settled within the existing Joint Design Committee which the Canadians were invited to join. Canada signified its desire to co-operate to the fullest extent but insisted that in order to achieve complete co-operation, Canada should have representatives on Committees dealing with all tank matters, both in relation to design and production. Canada also desired the Montreal Locomotive Works to receive equal treatment to U.S. tank manufacturers in respect to the delivery of components such as transmissions, engines, etc. which were manufactured in the U.S.A. and formed components of the Canadian tanks. General Lewis assured Mr. Carswell that the Montreal Locomotive Works would be placed on parity with all American companies from the point of view of allocation of engines and transmissions. These agreements had the effect of placing Canadian tank production under the U.S. Ordnance Department .
A pilot model of the Ram tank came off the assembly line on 30 Jun 41. The U.S. War Department had expressed keen interest in the Canadian-built tank and requested that one be loaned to the U.S. Ordnance for study. Canada agreed to send the pilot model to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, to undergo trials and the tank was shipped to the U.S. on 18 Jul 41. After undergoing tests it was returned to Montreal during October, 1941. A schedule of delivery prepared on 26 Jul 41 promised the following output during the balance of 1941. This schedule was based on the assumption that transmissions and engines would be available as required:-
During July – 2 complete tanks (the one at Aberdeen and one practically complete)
During August – 3 complete tanks
During September – 7 complete tanks
During October – 17 complete tanks
During November – 22 complete tanks
During December – 48 complete tanks
Total for 1941 – 99
On 4 Oct 41, C.M.H.Q. advised N.D.H.Q. that the War Office had decided to give names to existing, and all future, types of tanks to obviate confusion between different types and marks of armoured fighting vehicles. The Canadian Corps Commander recommended that the name RAM be adopted in the case of the Modified M3 Cruiser Tank being produced in Canada. The tank armed with the 2-pounder gun, was to be known as the RAM I and the tank armed with the 6-pounder gun, to be known as RAM II. This recommendation was approved by N.D.H.Q. and the policy established that future types of tanks produced in Canada would be named after animals.
By February, 1942, fifty Ram I tanks had been assembled and were either at, or on route to, destinations. Ten had been retained in Canada and the remaining forty shipped to the United Kingdom. This was the total number of Ram I tanks built and production was now concentrated upon the Ram II. The Ram I, as it came off the assembly line and delivered, was apparently not much of a fighting vehicle in the opinion of the Director of Mechanization (Col R.A. MacFarlane). He urged that production be changed to the M4 tank as soon as possible and had this to say of the Ram I tanks:-
A study of the defects of Ram I tanks already produced by Montreal Locomotive Works reveals a number of points to which inspection took exception but which were overlooked in order that a good production showing could be made. A number of the defects were minor, but unreasonable when it is considered that each tank costs between $50,000. And $100,000. In short, the Ram I tanks already produced are not, at present, fighting tanks but would require considerable modification before they would be in a fit condition to fight. 25. During the early part of 1942, the United States War Department asked the British if they were prepared to accept “Ram” tanks, as manufactured by the Montreal Locomotive Works, as Lease Land tanks. The U.S. Ordnance had in mind the desire to increase the output of tanks from the Montreal Locomotive Works with the assistance of the American Locomotive Company. The British signified their willingness to accept such tanks, and the United States accordingly placed an order for 1,351 tanks through War Supplies Limited (a Canadian Crown Company set up in May, 1941 to negotiate munitions orders placed by the United States in Canada). At the time this order was accepted the Department of Munitions and Supply accepted capital assistance from the U.S. Ordnance in order that the programme might proceed.
At a meeting of the British Tank Commission with Canadian authorities held in Ottawa on 26 Mar 42 it was decided that the Montreal Locomotive Works would go into the production of the U.S. M4A1 type of tank at such time as productive capacity could be established without interruption of production.
During the early part of 1943, the United States order for 1,351 Ram tanks was cancelled, permitting all Ram tanks being produced to be distributed to meet the requirements of the Canadian Army programme. The cancellation of the United States order brought about a re-arrangement of the Ram tank programme. The revised programme called for the production of a total of 1,899 Ram II tanks at the rate of 150 per month to be completed by 15 Jun 43 when the Montreal Locomotive Works would concentrate upon the production of 1,200 M4 tanks which were to be completed by February, 1944.
Deliveries of the Ram tanks were completed on 11 Aug 43. Statistics prepared by the Directorate of Mechanization, N.D.H.Q., show that a total of 1,948 (including 50 Ram I) tanks were delivered; 1,671 of these were shipped to the United Kingdom and 277 retained in Canada. These figures do not agree with those given by the Department of Munitions and Supply which show 1,949 tanks being produced. How this discrepancy of one tank came about has not been discovered. 29. The Ram did not go into battle as a tank, although it performed very valuable service in training Canadian armoured divisions. Considerable numbers of the Rams did reach the battle field, however, as armoured personnel carriers, ammunition vehicles and “Badger” flame-throwers. The Ram chassis also formed the basis for the Canadian “Sexton” self-propelled 25-pounder gun.