Sherman Tank Import Routes into Britain

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Osborne2, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know the routes Sherman tanks were imported into Britain prior to D Day? I am researching the US army camp Marbury Hall, about 10 miles south of Warrington.

    I have a local resident's report of a large column of Shermans coming through a village close to Marbury. Would Liverpool be the standard delivery port or would Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Bromborough or Runcorn/Weston Point be a tank discharge port?

    Would an armoured regiment drive their vehicles from a northern port all the way south or would they normally be moved by train? Was there a problem with the loading gauge (width) of a Sherman on a rail flat car or were they capable of rail transport?

    I have searched the thread but cannot find any discussion.

    Any advice and or references would be considered most helpful. Thank you.
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  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Not sure if you have seen this site (yet?)...

    Rail Album - Military Wagons - World War Two - 50-ton 'Warwell' Wagons


    "The 50 ton 'Warwell' wagon was specifically designed to carry Sherman tanks. These were collected from the docks when they arrived from the USA and taken to storage locations. During the build up to Operation Overlord the tanks were moved to the docks in preparation for shipment to Normandy.

    This particular wagon carries a Gloucester C&W maker's plate and is labelled to show it was on loan to the LNER."

    It has some info. but not everything you are after....
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
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  3. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Ramiles. I had not seen the site.

    Interesting that it was LMS that seemed to have many of these flats initially, which implies it was largely western ports that were visited by these supply trains. Evidence shows that Cheshire/Lancashire was a key site for storage and transit camps for the Torch then Bolero inspired D Day build up, Cheshire having the 12th highest County population of US troops in the UK, the Liverpool/Manchester Ship Canal Preston and Glasgow being the entry points.

    It takes a large capacity floating crane to unload a ship unless the they arrived by LST, which were obviously designed for Atlantic crossing. Evidently my observer saw an armored unit on the move prior to D Day. Perhaps the unit seen arrived with their vehicles. Would a unit normally leave the US along with their vehicles or normally pick them up in the UK?

    I am now checking the sites of US armored units in Cheshire prior to D Day.
  4. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Whilst not direct information, I believe all tanks were exported from the USA to the UK in standard cargo ships in much the same way as other vehicles and cargo. A few ships were sunk and there are web sites that cover this (wrecks) topic. Troops invariably travelled separately in Troopships including modified ocean Liners - the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth being the two most famous examples. The tanks would then have gone into store - there are photos on the Internet of, for example, rows and rows of vehicles being stored on Salisbury Plain - before being issued to their end users, in this case the Armoured Battalions/Regiments/etc. The end users would then have done their final training with the issued tanks and then been moved to their embarkation points either under their own power and/or on Transporters and/or Train depending on distances and other operational considerations etc. That's for tanks transiting via the U.K.: I'm not sure as to the arrangements for those going to Normandy direct from the USA. I doubt that LSTs would be used to move tanks across the Atlantic (someone will no doubt be along in a minute to correct me!). Although the LST was ocean-going, it had limited capacity for that sort of heavy lift and I understand that they were used for lighter cargoes such as ammunition.
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Fascinating stuff.
    Page 2 showing military usage up to 2000
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  6. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    It might be a good idea to start a specific thread also on: "researching the US army camp Marbury Hall, about 10 miles south of Warrington." - as you might find further info that way also?

    There's quite a number of snippets of info. in the Wardiary of the 24th Lancers about their Shermans, delivery and training etc. And overall the topic is very broad.

    Britain's Railways - The Home Front War Years 1944 to 1945

    Has... DVD's for sale relating to "Britain's railways -the-home-front-war-years" and this bit of info... "Rare colour footage of the GWR Wartime HQ at Aldermaston.The transportation of soldiers, armour and munitions by train in preparation for D-Day; gun barrels, dock piers, pontoonbridge sections and Valentine, Cromwell, Crusader and Sherman tanks. Many of the tanks loaded at the old LNER Newmarket station."

    I'm sure I've seen moving footage of Sherman tanks on trains and loading in the UK prior to and during the build up to D-day etc. variously about. A lot of it often ref'd as coming ultimately from the IWM collections now.


    Is I think a very nice example of a US officer checking "a line-up of newly delivered M4 Sherman tanks at a supply depot in Britain, 1944."

    I took a glance at this too: Overlord Military Train

    i.e. with modelling the "Overlord military train" info. and some descriptive text attached.


    Salvesen UK Ltd. - Underwater Consultants, Surveyors and Engineers

    Also mentions a bit about the loading and unloading of Shermans at British ports etc. i.e.

    "June 2, 1944 - Sailed from the river Orwell to a 'hard' (concrete slipway) at Felixstore, and here we knew this was it. We embarked a load of ten tanks - seven Stuarts, two Shermans and a Cromwell. The Second Front at last! The C.O. and I spent a hectic weekend coping with an avalanche of secret operational orders and charts, and settling on board the crews of the tanks, men of Montgomery's famous 'Desert Rats'."
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
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  7. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    SDP I agree with your synopsis.Point taken on LST restrictions. Its obvious from my observers in two villages that Sherman tanks were in Cheshire, yet I cannot find official records showing armored units in county residence. I therefore think these were transitory visitors using the A49 or A 56 from Warrington as these were the first Mersey bridging points in WW2, unless the Birkenhead Tunnel A41 or Wirral ports were used. It is yet to be confirmed whether the unopened but built Northwich bypass sections were used as tank lagers as has been suggested by some in the past locally. There must have been limitations on the number of ports that had the lifting capacity to lift tanks from cargo ship holds in times when ro-ro did not exist.
  8. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Ramilies. Thanks again. Your post appeared before I posted my last. I do not recall reading any US trooping story where the unit did not arrive in Britain independently of their vehicles or hardware and usually in one of the "Queens". They usually arrived by train direct from their ships. I am contemplating opening a new thread. The local witnesses seem to show a trend that when the camp was not occupied by resident units, it was a transit camp for others and that tanks were not all moved by rail.
  9. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    ....and, of course, the camp became a very large POW Camp soon after D Day. I get the overall impression that the camp was primarily a 'holding' camp: bit of a 'Depot for troops'. Pure speculation of course.
  10. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Transit camp at times but certainly was a residents camp as well April 44 onwards. Thinking about it, with no where to train in a tank in the area, why put an armored unit there permanently? It was though, virtually the first camp south of Warrington and the bridging point, roughly 35 miles from Liverpool. POW camp 180 started 23 October 1944, lasted until June 1948, by which time it was renumbered 189. it was also a POW transit camp, base camp and working camp, where its proximity to Liverpool also played a part.
    I must say I am grateful for all the help I am getting. Thank you.
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  11. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Might be an idea to post a similar question on the more USA oriented sister site

    In your first post you mention a 'village' : do you have the name of the village? That might give some clues as to why the Shermans were there at that time - local rail head? Local Depot?

    Are you certain the Shermans were linked to Marbury? They could have simply been passing close by......

    Options open to you could also be to search for web sites covering Atlantic Convoys?

    I think there are also maps/images available - courtesy of Dr Google-search? - that will show USA forces dispositions prior to D Day?....and that could lead to a schedule of USA armoured units based in tha area at that time. Very 'needle in haystack' but, hey, that's the fun of this sort of research!
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  12. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member


    Thanks again for the suggestions. I think they are all worth following up and I did start. Port cranes, already followed up. Liverpool had floating crane, Mammouth, with 200 Ton max lift that could handle a 30-34 ton (weight varied with mark) Sherman easily. Lifting capacity varies with crane radius of lift, so a 34 ton rated crane only has that capacity at minimum radius. Ship to dockside unloading would need a big capacity crane greater than 34 tons if lifting a Sherman from the far side of a hold. I have yet to discover the maximum dockside crane capacity available in the north west. I will be looking at all suggestions for sure.

    The village is Barnton, a mile west of Marbury and the tanks came in from the north and turned for Marbury through estate roads thus avoiding a frail canal bridge with a very difficult left hand bend on a steep slope beyond. There is no rail head, just a road coming in from the north. If passing through, there is an easier road route further east past Great Budworth.

    I am slowly working through the information I have on troop dispositions in Cheshire, eliminating sites one by one.Many sites I know had troops in were 79/80 Infantry Divisions and Quartermaster, MP etc but I also know that many more sites existed, such as large houses taken over for the duration, that did not appear on any Bolero site lists I have recovered from TNA. I am having fun and will get there. What I do find is that there is little published on home front build up in memoirs and histories because, quite understandably, the "hot" war was the focus. I have two published diaries from soldiers at the hall and between their 500 plus pages there are about seven on the Cheshire area. It's only to be expected.
  13. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Interesting. Barnton is close to both the West Coast Main Line and the A49. That gives access to a number of interesting locations - too many to list! - including Crewe (southbound transit route?) and the huge Depot at Donington/Lilleshall near Telford. Those locations are too far for new tanks to move on their tracks (tanks servicing schedule was part linked to 'track miles') so 'your' tanks could have been moving to a transit area with the lift then being completed on Transporters or Train.

    Pure speculation again but, if correct, the tanks might have had nothing to do with Marbury itself especially as there were many Logistics Depots dotted around the countryside: lots of modern-day Industrial Estates indeed still having that stereotypical military heritage look about them. I drove south down the A49 a few weeks ago from the Birkenhead direction and I have a faint recollection of a 'Depot-style' abandoned military base in the general Whitchurch(?) area.
  14. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member


    Whitchurch.Remains of the RAF Tilstock site, set in the junction gap between A41 and A49. Operational in 1943 as OTU.

    Agreed Crewe a possible rail head also nearby Hartford used by a British unit to load Universal Carriers in 1941. Agreed, Donington a possibility too. I do know Hartford had tanks in 7 acre orchard. Marbury did have a new gateway in 1943 built by US Engineer General Service troops which may have been put in for US tanks/heavy vehicles in transit as it was much wider turn in than a normal road gateway.
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
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  16. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Thanks Ramilies. My apologies for a delayed thanks, out of internet access in 14th century cottage! I will view.
  17. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Any idea where that 'Sherman triangles' photo was taken?

    Clearly of an 'A' Squadron and likely yellow in colour. Guess you know what I'm hoping!
  18. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    While these links to the IWM are to media not currently online:



    They have the description:


    Full description: The camera dwells on a railway signal at Wood Ditton level crossing as it indicates 'go' and on the wheels of a train as it rushes by. An LNER locomotive is put onto a turntable at Newmarket Old Station where tanks belonging to the 24th Lancers are driven onto flat cars. 'Warflats' belonging to another train are shunted into the station. A locomotive driver awaits the departure signal in his cab. Two tank crewmen chain their Sherman to its 'Warflats'. The train, consisting of ten loaded 'Warflats', a passenger coach and two locomotives in tandem, is filmed entering Cambridge where two firemen fill a locomotive tender with water. The train then leaves for Winchester. At Newmarket, half tracks and a Valentine bridgelayer from the 4/7th Dragoon Guards are driven onto 'Conflats'. General Eisenhower, allied Supreme Commander, arrives with members of his staff and accompanied by an RAF railway transport officer, inspects the 24th Lancers' armour and soft-skinned vehicles before reboarding his special train. the bridgelayer is finally made secure, the 'Conflats' are coupled up and the station guard waves the train off.


    Full description: An LNER signalman (Mr J G Hayward) leaves his signal box to close the gates at Wood Ditton level crossing. The wheels of a train dash by over the crossing. 10/4/1944, three men from the 24th Lancers (?) load kit from the back of a lorry into a baggage van at Newmarket Old Station. Two officers are seen addressing a party of 24th Lancers on a station platform prior to their train journey. Two locomotives in tandem pull ten Shermans and Fireflies loaded onto 'Warflats' and a passenger coach through Six Mile Bottom station. An M5 half-track and a Valentine Scissors Bridgelayer belonging to the 4/7th Dragoon Guards are driven onto 'Conflats' at Newmarket. 11/4/1944, accompanied by the RAF Flight Lieutenant in charge of railway transport in the Cambridge area, Eisenhower inspects vehicles belonging to the 24th Lancers awaiting despatch on 'Conflats'. He is introduced to the station master and railway superintendent.

    And I'd hazard a (slight ;-) guess that the tiny bit of film of the en-trained Shermans in the Bovington tank chat on the M4A1 Sherman might have come from there? Anyhow at least, the light triangles we see in the B&W film to me look like A squadron tanks of the 24th L ;-)
  19. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    ......which was my fathers Squadron! Must get to the IWM sometime for a view of that film..... Wonder if anyone can be recognised!
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  20. kopite

    kopite Member

    This extract taken from an article posted by "ateamwar" on the BBC WW2 People's War archive might be of some help. It was written by a Liverpool based engineer and contains some information on Sherman tanks arriving from the docks:

    "During the Second World War I was employed as an engineering Tradesman in the 'City Engineers Department, Breckside Park', where a massive war effort was made at the same time as having to meet the needs of the City of Liverpool itself!

    Thousands of American Army vehicles were assembled after they arrived, in large wooden crates, from the United States. Then once they were ready we had to drive them in convoys, of sometimes a hundred vehicles, over to Arrowe Park, in Birkenhead. They would then be parked by American GIs in their thousands, as far as the eye could see, ready to be moved down to the South of England for the forthcoming invasion of France!

    Hundreds of American Sherman tanks were driven up along Queens Drive, from the docks, into a parking area at Cherry Lane. They would then await transfer into our depot to be serviced, then transported on large Dyson Trailers down south. Again, hundreds of British Army vehicles were completely overhauled then dispatched back to their units.

    Last, but by no means least, large mobile Power Plants on railway bogies were built up to be sent by sea direct to Russia to provide Electrical Power for destroyed Russian Cities!

    Yes! Liverpool can be very proud of the great effort that was made to defeat Hitler!!"

    Credits / Acknowledgements - 'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at'
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017

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