The Valentine Infantry Tank in Canadian Service

A Canadian Army Valentine Mk.VI seen during an exercise at Camp Borden in 1942. Note the tank number “3” stenciled above the drivers vision block. (Archives of Ontario Image)

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.

Drivers compartment of a Canadian Valentine. Note the Riveted construction of the bow plates used on the early tanks and the interesting shift pattern of the transmission! (AEDB Design Record)

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)

CT.138916-CT.138945.

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)

A demonstration for workers,the press and officials of the first Valentine VI tanks produced for Britain, at the Canadian Pacific Railway, Angus Shop, Montreal, 12 August 1941. The tank with shop number 2 also bears the W.D. number T.23205 on the rear plate. (Library and Archives Canada)

Canadian Army Valentine Images

Assembly of a Valentine lower hull at the Angus works on 23 May, 1941. The early date would suggest that this was destined to be a Canadian Army Valentine. Interestingly the production style shown at this date is still very much that of prototype work rather than full production assembly. (Library and Archives Canada)
Another fine promotional shot taken at the Angus shops on 23 May 1941, this time showing a recently completed Mk.VI tank with no wear on the suspension or track. (Library and Archives Canada)
An image dated 23 May, 1941 of an complete early production Valentine at the CPR Angus Shops. note the lack of a horn protective cover on the left fender and the British style headlights. This tank is also fitted with all of its Vickers vision blocks and Besa coaxial gun. (Library and Archives Canada)
Another image of the same tank taken on 23 May, 1941. This image clearly shows the British style headlamps and full compliment of vision blocks in addition to the fresh finish overall. (Library and Archives Canada)
27 May 1941 The first Canadian produced Valentine is unveiled to the Press, Canadian and British officials at Montreal. Note this tank has only one vision block fitted to the drivers compartment. (Library and Archives Canada)
A nice image of the same tank shown running on 27 May, 1941. Note the non standard exhaust tip routing on this tank. (Library and Archives Canada)
C.D. Howe, the Minister of Munitions and Supply speaking on the occasion of the unveiling of the first Canadian made tank. 27 May, 1941. (Library and Archives Canada)
C.D. Howe and Brigadier Kenneth Stuart inspecting the turret of the tank unveiled at Montreal on May, 27, 1941. In this image the Besa coaxial gun and blocked off drivers periscope position can be seen. (Library and Archives Canada)
A close-up of the turret on the tank unveiled at Montreal on 27 May, 1941. This image shows the casting marks on the mantlet in clear detail. These same foundry marks are also visible on the preserved Canadian manufactured Valentine at CFB Borden. (Library and Archives Canada)
Col. R. Y. Eaton, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Governor-General’s Horse Guards seen on a Canadian Army Valentine Mk.VI at Camp Borden on 10 June 1941. This tank appears to be stenciled with the number “3” on the bow plate. Note that the storage plugs are still fitted to the main and coaxial gun apertures and this production model tank now has Canadian style headlamps and a horn cover. (Toronto Star Image)
A fording demonstration of a Canadian Army Valentine. In this image the standard exhaust routing and Canadian DND registration number location on the drivers hatch can be seen. this tank is still missing all of its vision blocks and armament due to the supply shortage experienced in 1941. (DND image)
An image of a Valentine being used to demonstrate a Canadian Engineers anti-tank ditch created using explosives at Camp Borden on 15 August, 1941. This tank has considerable wear to the road wheels and features hooded Vickers periscopes of a type not seen on Canadian manufactured examples, indicating that it may be one of the British built tanks sent to Canada in 1940. (Toronto Star Image)
A recently delivered Canadian Army Valentine seen at Camp Borden in summer 1941. (1st Hussars Museum)
A Canadian Army Valentine parked in front of rows of M1917 Six-Ton tanks at Borden in early spring 1942. Note that the tank is still missing its 2 Pdr. main armament. (Ontario Regiment Museum)
A late spring 1942 image of the “No. 4” tank assigned to the A9 CAC(A)TC at Camp Borden. (Courtesy AlliedArmour)
Two armed Valentines following a CMP Field Artillery Tractor at Camp Borden in wintertime. (Canadian War Museum)
A well worn Canadian Valentine with number 16 above the drivers vision port seen at Camp Borden. Note the damaged road wheels on the deck of the tank in the background. (Courtesy Mary Ann Zubick)
Two tanks assigned to the A9 CAC(A)TC at Camp Borden with No. 11 Radio sets fitted. The tank in the foreground is marked “No.5” (Courtesy Bill Wigley)
A troop of 5 Canadian Valentines maneuvering in the training area. (Archives of Ontario)
Detail of Valentine at Camp Borden. Note the damaged roadwheel on the tank in background.(Archives of Ontario)
Visible in this image is the DND number 41-12934 and the partial 1942 Ontario Licence plate. (Archives of Ontario)
A Valentine working with Infantry in the advance at Camp Borden. (Archives of Ontario)
Training at Camp Borden in 1942. Note the tank on the left has a square unit sign featuring a “Rhomboid” tank on the lower bow plate and the tank on the right has the Besa coaxial gun fitted. (Archives of Ontario)
A Troop Leaders tank at speed in the snow. (Courtesy AlliedArmour)
A Canadian Army tank seen at Camp Borden with No. 22 stenciled above the drivers vision port. (Courtesy MilArt)
A troop of 4 Canadian Valentine tanks seen in a large group of vehicles including Otter LRC’s and Ram tanks. These tanks are marked with a “rhomboid” tank design formation sign on the bow and what appears to be a bridge class marking. The tank at front left is no.7 (Courtesy Murray Lundberg)
A similar image to that above but a different troop of 4 Valentines of “A” squadron HQ of the A9 CAC(A)TC from Camp Borden. Imaged in “Riverside Park” possibly Guelph, Ontario. The tank closest to the camera is No.7. (Unknown Source)
A troop of 4 Canadian tanks maneuvering. Note the troop leaders tank (with pennant) has a square unit sign featuring a “Rhomboid” tank on the lower bow plate (Library and Archives Canada)
a group of 3 tanks from the image above with radios fitted. The troop leaders tank has a square unit sign featuring a “Rhomboid” tank on the lower bow plate. (Library and Archives Canada)
A stunning image of the markings on this 1945 dated image of DND 41-1-3583. Note the graffiti swastika on the exhaust shield. This image was taken at Camp Petawawa in June 1945. (Unknown Source)
The sad remains of a Canadian Army Valentine on the anti-tank range at Camp Petawawa in 1959. Still visible is the early style bow plate and turret ring. There were up to 5 Canadian Valentines on the ranges at Petawawa until the late 1980’s but all appear to have been scrapped since that time. (Courtesy John Raske)
The sole survivor of the 30 Canadian Built Valentine Mk.VI tanks used by the Canadian Army during the Second World War when it was displayed at CFB Borden in Worthington Park. The tank has since been moved indoors as part of the CFB Borden Museum collection. (Unknown Source)

Sources

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/