Soldiers Christmas: WWII Tanker Style

December 19, 2023  
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Categories: Learnin'

This version of “soldiers Christmas” is specifically an armored Christmas, brought to our attention by the website Mike’s Research (q.v.). Who doesn’t like a Christmas tank? 

Christmas Tank: Libya Christmas 1942

Excerpted from Mike’s Research

As in all wars, the holidays are hard on soldiers far away from home fighting for their country. Even on the front lines in the desert, British, Free French and New Zealand soldiers celebrated Christmas whenever they get the chance with what was available.

As they enjoy their dinner two German prisoners are marched away into captivity. The crew of the Sherman tank is 5 but there are 6 soldiers sitting beside the tank. The soldier with the goggles is obviously the driver.

As they enjoy their dinner, two German prisoners are marched away into captivity. The crew of the Sherman tank is 5, but there are 6 soldiers sitting beside the tank. The soldier with the goggles is obviously the driver. It is believed that this Sherman tank belonged to the 2nd troop, B Squadron (square tactical sign) of the 9th Queen´s Royal Lancers (Squadron colour yellow), 2nd Armoured Brigade, British 1st Armoured Division. On the front left fender, the AoS sign had been painted out by a censor, which would been white 86 over a red square. The formation sign would been a white rhinoceros on the front right fender.

After the Allies were defeated at El Gazala in June 1942, the British 8th Army made a “strategic withdrawal” (a British euphemism for “headlong retreat”) all the way back to Egypt and formed a defensive line at El Alamein. After the first battle of El Alamein between July 1-27, the Allies halted the Afrika Korps advance towards Cairo and the Seuz Canal. During the battle both sides took heavy losses and the tactical situation became a stalemate.

Christmas tank: WW2 soldiers Christmas, Libya 1942.

El Alamein is Located in Egypt along the Arab’s Gulf of the Mediterranean Sea, 106 km (66 miles) west of Alexandria and 300 km (186 miles) northwest of Cairo.

In August 1942, British General Auchinleck was relieved as Commander-in-Chief of Middle East Command and his successor, Lieutenant General William Gott was killed when his plane was shot down while on his way to replace him as commander of the British 8th Army. Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery was then appointed the commander of the 8th Army. The 8th Army prepared for their next assault on the El Alamein line. It received new divisions, replacements, supplies and armour including new Sherman tanks from the US.

 

 

Christmas in the Desert

December 1942

The western desert was not the best place in the world to spend Christmas or was the best place to find Christmas supplies. The soldiers in the desert would not be denied their Christmas celebration and they made do with what they had. Most of the following IWM photos were probably taken somewhere around El Agheila (today Al Uqaylah), Libya.

The Christmas spirit is kindled for this Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft gun crew by tying a simple holiday card on their gun. The spotter must remain at his post even during times such as this, so he gets a tot (shot) of whiskey to cheer him up.

The Christmas spirit is kindled for this Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft gun crew by tying a simple holiday card on their gun. The spotter must remain at his post even during times such as this, so he gets a tot (shot) of whiskey to cheer him up.

 

Turkeys, Ham, Goose and other luxuries were out of the question, so bully (corned beef), suitably dressed with camel thorn (shrubs native to northern Africa), was the main course for the Christmas dinner.

Turkeys, Ham, Goose and other luxuries were out of the question, so bully (corned beef), suitably dressed with camel thorn (shrubs native to northern Africa), was the main course for the Christmas dinner.

The Bofors 40mm gun normally had a crew of seven:

  • Elevation trainer & firer (left side of the gun)
  • Azimuth (in degrees) trainer (right side of the gun)
  • Two breech loaders (stand on the gun platform to reload)
  • Two loaders fed the loaders with ammo (4 shells per clip)
  • Gun commander, who would also “spot” for the targets

 

Another Christmas tank, unknown provenance. Comments online make it sound like this could be Camp Beuhring in Kuwait.

Another Christmas tank, unknown provenance. Comments online make it sound like this could be Camp Beuhring in Kuwait.

 

After an interruption by German aircraft, the gun crew continued with their dinner as if nothing has happened. They would not let Jerry spoil their Christmas.

After an interruption by German aircraft, the gun crew continued with their dinner as if nothing had happened. They would not let Jerry spoil their Christmas.

 

A spot of precious whiskey is poured to light over the Christmas pudding, but one of the gun crew takes no chances. He stands over the flames with a fire extinguisher at the ready. Christmas pudding is a sweet, dried fruit pudding traditionally served as part of Christmas dinner in Britain.

A spot of precious whiskey is poured to light over the Christmas pudding, but one of the gun crew takes no chances. He stands over the flames with a fire extinguisher at the ready. Christmas pudding is a sweet, dried fruit pudding traditionally served as part of Christmas dinner in Britain.

The crew of Sherman T-74371 decorated their tank for their Christmas dinner. They chalk drawn holly and berries (mistletoe) on the turret and added a large “A MERRY XMAS” on the hull side. It is not known if they added the same message on the other side. For the final touch, they draped over the tank bunting made of torn newspaper.

Infantry aboard a Sherman tank in pursuit of fleeing enemy troops somewhere near Nofilia; infantrymen are carried on the engine deck. This disruptive camouflage pattern was typical of that used by the British 2nd Armoured Brigade at the time.

This is the same tank painted with a Christmas message. Infantry aboard a Sherman tank in pursuit of fleeing enemy troops somewhere near Nofilia. The disruptive camouflage pattern shown in part here was typical of that used by the British 2nd Armoured Brigade at the time. Note: We’ve seen this image described elsewhere on the interwebz as a Sherman from the Brit 2nd Armoured near Benghazi…we can’t say whether that’s true or if this is a Photoshop job. The idea of a painted Christmas tank isn’t all that far-fetched, but if this was actually a British (or ANZAC) tank, they might have used the term HAPPY Christmas instead. You know. Like they do. Real or not (and we like to think it is), it brings the message home! Editor

 

The tank is a Sherman III (M4A2) but it has a mix of early and later features. It has the early direct vision slots in front of the driver and co-driver hatches and the early M34 gun mount. It also has the later cast transmission cover instead of the early three bolted sections and the bogies are the later M4 type with with a moveable roller bracket and a skid.

The soldiers are gathered around a camp fire beside a tank signing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of an accordion. One of the French Tahitian soldiers is probably playing the accordion.

The soldiers are gathered around a camp fire beside a tank signing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of an accordion. One of the French Tahitian soldiers is probably playing the accordion.

 

Read the rest of the article in its entirety on MikesResearch.com

 

Additional Reading: 

 

tactical gear for kids
Tactical gear for tactical kids…

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Breach-Bang-Clear Staff

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1 Comment

  1. Tennessee Budd

    In the picture with the German prisoners, that’s pretty neat that the writer of the description has X-ray vision! He can even see the front left fender of the tank, when only the right side is shown in the pic. Damn, those are good eyes!

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