Sherman tanks to mark liberation of Antwerp

Don’t jump if you see an American Sherman tank on the streets of the city of Antwerp this week. A military column will be making its way through the northern port city to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation.

“A Sherman tank weighs 33 tons and needs up to 500 litres of petrol to cover a 100 kilometres” explains Willem Segers of the Royal Army Museum.  “The Americans built 49,000 Sherman tanks.  During the Second World War it was used by US forces, the Canadians, Poles and Brits.”

The Sherman was instrumental in the liberation of Belgium in 1944.  Hundreds of Shermans were destroyed in the Allied advance from the Normandy beaches.  When the Germans pulled out of Belgium the US and British armies followed them in their Shermans.  Everywhere, in Antwerp, Brussels and out in the sticks, people came out to cheer the tanks and the young tank soldiers in their advance.

Willem Segers will be marking the liberation of Antwerp next Saturday in a Sherman Firefly, the version with the longest gun: “Driving a tank is very different to driving a car.  There are three pedals and no steering wheel.  A Sherman has two handles to control the tracks individually.

Our driver will be pleased he can stick his head out of his tank in the hot weather forecast: “Just a little sun and a Sherman tank becomes an oven.  Of course in battle you can’t open the hatch. In such circumstances there are five of you inside.  The engine and the gun make a terrible noise.  Fortunately the situation will be very different during next weekend’s celebrations.”

© IWM (NA 17613)
© IWM (NA 16938)
© IWM (H 38079)