Made in Canada
In 1939, Britain’s heavy industry was fully engaged in tank production for the Royal Armoured Corps. Concerned the output would not be enough, other manufacturers around the empire were considered.
One such company was the Canadian Pacific Railway Angus Workshops located in Montreal, Quebec. As the Angus shops were already producing locomotives and rolling stock for the railways, it was felt that they could be easily converted to wartime tank production.
The tank selected for production in Canada was the Infantry Tank Mk.III known as the Valentine. Preliminary designs indicated there was concern there would not be enough allowance for modifications and upgrades, expected over a potentially long conflict, and factors such as the two-man turret and light armament were noted as shortcomings.
In order to establish the Canadian production line, a British order was placed with CPR for 25 tanks, that was later increased to 100 tanks by mid-September, 1939. It was agreed that Canada could produce thanks using same specification for the Canadian Armoured Corps after the orders for the British government had been fulfilled.
Canadian pre-production of the Valentine started almost immediately with a request made on September 29th, 1939. Reports from the time indicate that there were problems with these drawings as many were missing and of those supplied the copy quality was often so poor that they were unusable and had to be re-drawn. By 1940 the production of tanks was still not underway, as other factors such as securing North-American supply for components and setting up the production lines and tooling in Montreal was taking longer than expected.
Due to these concerns, the British decided to cancel the order of 100 tanks at CPR in April 1940. Then in May 1940 the situation changed drastically with the invasion of France by Germany. On May 27th, the British made a new request concerning Canada’s ability to manufacture tanks. On June 7th, 1940, the Ministry of Supply initiated a new order for 300 Valentines under SM 1201 to be produced by the CPR shops in Montreal. This contract order would be added to a number of times over the next few years ultimately supplying 1390 tanks of the Mk.VI VII and VIIa variants. All but two of these tanks would go on to be supplied to the USSR where they saw considerable combat against the Germans.
Canada had hoped to add a follow-on contract to the British order for 488 tanks to be used to equip the Canadian Armoured Corps but things would not work out for Canada and Britain insisted on all tanks produced in Montreal being supplied to them as a priority, Canadian armoured units in the UK would be equipped from British tank stocks, not Valentines. Canada was however able to negotiate the production of 30 tanks to be used for training and evaluation in Canada in advance of the British order.
In order to facilitate the production of the tanks in Canada, a test installation of the GMC Diesel engine was completed into a pilot model tank by AEC in England and the vehicle was shipped to Canada during the summer of 1940. These new models were to be designated Valentine VI. The “canadianization” of the design was now progressing quickly although there were still plenty of issues with the manufacture and supply of the numerous components such as road wheels, optics, and armaments to name a few. The first installation of a GMC engine into a Canadian hull was completed In Montreal during early 1941. Pre-production was almost complete.
On May 27, 1941 the first Canadian made Valentine tank was unveiled at the Angus Shops in Montreal to much press and fanfare. This was followed in August 1941 when T.23205 the number 2 tank under the British order was seen in a display at Montreal.
Canadian Army Use
The 30 Canadian Army Valentines were all supplied under contract CDLV 67. These tanks were assigned War Department registration numbers from CT-138916 to CT-138945. All were supplied as Mk.VI models with the provision for the Besa machine gun in the co-axial mounting and No.11 radio sets. Deliveries of the Mk.VI tanks began in June 1941 when one tank was delivered to Camp Borden in Ontario. Five more were delivered in July, ten in August and the last 14 in September. The critical shortage of optics and armament in the first year of production meant that the majority of these vehicles were shipped without guns or vision blocks. These items were added to the vehicles at a later date, as production of these items caught up.
Sixteen of the Canadian production Valentines were assigned to the Canadian Armoued Corps School at Camp Borden, while the others were either held in stores or distributed to other units. Much reporting on the durability and capabilities of the tanks was carried out at Borden during the summer of 1942 with hill-climbing, and suspension test being noted. During the winter of 1942-43, the AEDB conducted cold weather trials of the Canadian Valentines at Kampuskasing, Ontario and Shilo, Manitoba. By 1945 a number of the tanks were also in use at Camp Petawawa in northern Ontario.
The vast majority of images depicting Canadian Amy Valentines show them in use as training vehicles at Camp Borden. The markings on these vehicles are generally limited to D.N.D. registration numbers on the driver’s hatches and occasionally unit or squadron markings on the turret. Some examples appear to also use an individual vehicle number also seen on the Canadian Carden Loyd and Vickers MkVIb tanks during the pre-war and early war period.
Due to the limited numbers acquired and short period of use, Valentines in Canadian service do not usually incorporate any noticeable modifications. These tanks appear sometimes heavily worn by 1945 and are often depicted with numerous spare road wheels on the engine decks reflecting the issues with the rubber tires un-bonding from the metal wheels that all users of the tanks experienced.
By the end of the Second World War, the Valentine had outlived its use in Canada and the remaining examples were quickly disposed of. A number of the tanks were converted to hard targets on artillery and anti-tank firing ranges while others were undoubtedly scrapped. Only one example of the first tank manufactured in Canada was earmarked for preservation at the time and remains on display at Camp Borden.
Registration numbers for tanks used in Canada
T.15950 – Vickers, Newcastle manufactured Mk.1. Loaned to Canada in 1940.
T.16356 – British production tank. Loaned to Canada in the fall of 1940 as sample tank for GMC engine installation.
Contract CDLV 67 30 Tanks, Mk. VI (fitted with Besa coaxial guns)
Canadian Tanks Supplied to Britain and USSR
Contract CAN 279 S/M 1021 1390 tanks in total (shop numbers re-started at 1)
T.23204-T.23218 15 Mk.VI tanks (fitted with Besa coaxial guns)
T.23219-T.23503 285 Mk. VII tanks (fitted with Browning coaxial guns)
T.40981-T.41430 450 Mk.VII tanks (T.41063 and T.41105 retained in the UK for trials)
T.73554-T.74193 640 Mk. VII and VIIa tanks (Mk.VIIa introduced about T.73594)
Canadian Army Valentine Images
Design Record Volume 3. Army Engineering Design Branch. Ottawa, 1945.
Valentine Infantry tank 1938-1945, Bruce Newsome, Oxford, 2016.
Wheels and Tracks Magazine, Number 46. 1994.
Tools of the Trade, Clive Law, Ottawa, 2005.
Canadian Valentines, Peter Samsonov 2020. https://warspot.net/237-canadian-valentines
Early Armour in Canadian Service, Roger Lucy, Ottawa, 2009.
Interim Tank Distinguishing Flags and Markings of the Reconstituted 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade (Independent), 1943 Mark Toner 2014. https://milart.blog/2014/12/04/interim-tank-distinguishing-flags-and-markings-of-the-reconstituted-2nd-canadian-armoured-brigade-independent-1943/