Sherman Tank Import Routes into Britain

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

  1. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Kopite. Thank you for posting this. The BBC People's War is a tremendous resource but frustratingly difficult to search. Yours is a good find and confirms the possibly obvious preconception that Liverpool must have been a major, if not perhaps, the major entrepot for US heavily weighted military imports.
    I am now testing my first thoughts on an analysis of the above. Lighter vehicles (soft?) were uncrated and taken to Birkenhead for onward transport. Tanks went out from Liverpool on transporters. That implies two differing routes out of the city, east and west. I have a witness who saw columns on the road not transported and elsewhere in this thread are tanks on rail transport going south on LMS flatcars. This makes three modes of tank movement.
    I have just started to research WW2 heavy lift harbour and ship lifting capacity and Liverpool certainly had a floating crane that could lift any WW2 tank and it seems Liberty ships had one of their derricks, if I remember correctly, capable of a 50 ton lift. ,so far, if right, that means very few tanks could be carried on one liberty ship as they would not be near enough to a derrick to be lifted if there was dependence on the derrick alone. Also carrying them as deck cargo would be a ballasting nightmare for the first mate, endangering ship stability. Tanks generally must have been hold cargo. Any observations welcome. I continue my arcane research.
  2. kopite

    kopite Member

    Glad that my post was helpful. Liverpool was indeed the main port in Britain for transatlantic convoys during the war and was the nations lifeline for supplies from North America. I have some useful figures for you that I will post when I have more time. They're taken from a book I recently read called "Liverpool: A City at War" and it gives the numbers of tanks, aircraft and other goods that came through the port. Additionally, there were 1,200,000 American troops that landed in Liverpool from the US.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
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  3. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Yes please Kopite, some figures would be interesting and thanks for the reference. Thank you. I have spent the last hour working on this and the tank deck load for a Liberty ship seems to be 2. I am not surprised. However, at least two ships, including the SS Seatrain Texas could carry up to 250 Shermans at 16 knots maximum. This ship was the one that gave Monty his Shermans all in one go before El Alamein. (It was the first voyage for this ship on this type of duty). The ship had derricks capable of lifting locomotives and was used for that purpose too during the war. Photos can be found easily on line. This ship would therefore not need a port with a floating crane necessarily. Your figures and some more research into this ship and its sister(s) movements may furnish an idea of how many tanks it brought to Liverpool 1943-45.

    At this point I take a self satisfied rest for a short while. With everyone's help I am on the way to answering my own question. Thanks all.
  4. kopite

    kopite Member

    Here is a link to a 62 page online brochure called "Port at War" issued by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. It has some nice pictures of lend-lease equipment being unloaded at the docks (specifically pages 24 through 35 are particularly good).

    Port at War ~ Liverpool 1939-1945 ~ Mersey Docks and Harbour Board

    Some figures for the tonnage amounts landed that may be of interest, taken from the book that I mentioned in my previous post:

    Tanks, other military vehicles and spares - 66,000 tons
    Aircraft and spares - 659,390 tons
    Misc. war cargo - 1,218,930 tons

    Total number of aircraft and gliders landed, 73,782

    The majority of equipment arrived as deck cargo and to ease the burden of the floating cranes, which were constantly in demand, three old vehicle ferries were fitted with Scotch derricks and used to unload vessels in mid-river, including tanks.

    The dock board had 36 steam locomotives and 3,185 railway wagons, plus 260 additional mobile cranes were brought into service to handle the increased cargo.

    The US Army requisitioned 149,000 square yards of warehouse space on the docks for the arriving equipment.

    Due to enemy attacks on the port, in order to minimize the risk to incoming cargoes, it was quickly transported by rail or road to inland depots to be sorted for onward dispatch. The Liverpool depot was situated in Kirkby and consisted of four large sheds, served by nineteen miles of sidings and connected to the Liverpool Exchange-Manchester main line.

    As D Day approached there was a steady stream of land- warfare weapons arriving. Much of the movement took place at night with the heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, traveling on heavily sheeted trains to secret destinations in southern England. The railways became so burdened that tanks left the docks on their own tracks, creating a window rattling racket as they roared over the cobblestone roads of the city. More common were the endless convoys of American lorries, some flying red flags to indicate they were carrying ammunition, shepherded by military police motor-cyclists.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
  5. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Kopite. Thank you. The US built one dedicated tank carrying ship the SS Marine Eagle a C4 S 1B class ship. This was in addition to the ships they requisitioned from the Seatrain company which were originally built to carry locomotives and rolling stock. One of those ships Seatrain New York aka USS Kittyhawk, was solely used in the Pacific, That may be true of others.

    The Marine Eagle made 9 voyages to Europe with tanks 1943-5. I estimate this 15000ton ship might have been able to carry several hundred tanks at a time. The ships design was based on the Seatrain design and so must have had the necessary lifting capacity. I have found some of the convoys this ship participated in.
  6. kopite

    kopite Member

    It's an interesting subject and open to a lot of fruitful research no doubt. Good luck in your pursuits.
  7. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Plenty on US logistics which meshes with the Port at War and the BBC People's War references above. See
    Global Logistics and Strategy 1940-1943
    This book indicates that at times 80% of the soft skinned vehicles were shipped crated and there is a picture to that effect. The Seatrain Texas alone also could move the whole of a US armoured divisions total tank strength. It certainly did move the 2nd armored division to Casablanca in Operation Torch December 1942. Thanks once again Kopite and all those who helped.
  8. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Britain's West coast ports were fully stretched dealing with all the imports Britain needed when the USA entered the war. Materiel was then rapidly distributed by rail. Tanks would be distributed to Army Depot level for preparation for issue - e.g. Chilwell, Notts. Those to be modified for British may go straight to Govt. or private contractors

    After US entry into the war, as a generalisation, the US expeditionary force were allocated the Scottish ports and the eastern rail links. Some years ago I investigated York's role in the war and was surprised to find it the HQ for this major logistical effort. I spoke to a number of people who acknowledged that the BIG secret was that the US strategic bombing campaign was entirely reliant on the long stretch of 'one up, one down' line north of York.
  9. Andy H

    Andy H Member


    The Clyde ports of Gourock, Greenock and Glasgow were the main ports of debarkation of American troops during Bolero.
    The Bristol Channel ports of Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Avonmouth along with the Mersey ports of Garston, Birkenhead and Manchester were the main ports for freight discharge in the UK as they were located nearer the US's centre of activity.

    If you trawl through the various US Army Green books or go to the Hyperwar website you'll find some more info, though maybe not as detailed as you require.


    Andy H
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Were the Shermans lifted directly onto the rail cars from the ships or driven onto them from ramp?
  11. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Slipdigit see post #20 above. Tanks driven away from docks to marshaling area and then on railcars out of Liverpool, or in convoy as per my early post. Most went out by train.There were tank lagers all over UK. Possibly one on A556 south of Northwich plus others all round UK.
  12. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Andy, thank you for your #29 which I missed when you wrote it. My warning alert email is not alerting.Very interesting that supplies went out via Merseyside and the South West Wales for Torch. D-Day a bit different!
    The limited (so far) information on the Torch exodus indicates that Cheshire was a second line troop muster area as all front line combat units referred to in publications I have so far consulted were not in Cheshire. One TNA Western Command reference I have indicates that Christmas party invitations to US troops in Cheshire were being declined in December. Given Torch as 7 November, the refusals were not from first wave front line troops.
  13. Kip

    Kip YouTUBE Channel - Southampton on D-Day

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  14. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    Interesting! The Sherman tank seen as the opening image and seen again at the very end of the film is the mount of Lt Johnny Langdon MC - that's him with his head showing out of the cupola. Langdon was Troop Leader of 1 Troop, 'A' Squadron, 3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment (3RTR) and, post early September 1944, was my late fathers Troop Leader. You can just see the 1 (for 1 Troop) in the triangle (for A Squadron) on the front glacis.

    Apologies for departing from the theme of this thread.
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  15. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    The IWM film of those Shermans says they are 23rd Hussars


    at 2m 11s
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  16. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

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  17. Kip

    Kip YouTUBE Channel - Southampton on D-Day

    Please see my latest thread;

    Railway Loading prior to D-Day - Sherman Tank Import Routes into Britain
  18. Kip

    Kip YouTUBE Channel - Southampton on D-Day

    All, So interesting. I have posted threads on the importance of Southampton as the principal embarkation port prior to D Day. I wonder is you have seen this source which I have based my narrations upon?
  19. Kip

    Kip YouTUBE Channel - Southampton on D-Day

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  20. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    For those worried about thread creep, I as the original poster, I say don't worry! I find this all interesting and helpful. It shows that in 1944 they were I suspect, happy the battle of the Atlantic was being won, there was air superiority over the Channel and they could take the load off the railways by putting more cargo through Southampton.

    From my post 31
    'Tanks driven away from docks to marshaling area and then on railcars out of Liverpool, or in convoy as per my early post. Most went out by train.There were tank lagers all over UK. Possibly one on A556 south of Northwich plus others all round UK.'

    I can confirm this tank and vehicle park on the A 556 was a last minute build in the first months of 1944 and did not appear in the earlier 1943 Bolero planning. It was a change in the ordnance planning for the Third Army to put them in closer contact with their vehicle supplies.

    Keep it coming. Thanks all.

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