Sometimes lost in the celebratory telling of the 1940 rescue of British forces from Dunkirk’s beaches is the devastating amount of war materiel the British Expeditionary Force had to leave behind in France. Along with artillery, guns, and vehicles of all sorts, the British lost about half of all the tanks in their inventory to the Germans.
Canadians, wanting to both resupply the British and meet their own defense needs, began plans to produce a domestically built tank. They at first considered licensing the new American M3 Lee medium tank, but in March 1941 settled on a hybrid design, combining the M3’s chassis, engine, and drivetrain with a redesigned cast-iron hull. Just as production was ramping up, the Allies chose the American M4 Sherman as their principal frontline tank, and the Ram was consigned to a training role. Canadian and other Allied troops in England trained extensively in Rams from 1942 to 1944.
But the Ram contributed in other ways as well. Several variants saw action in Europe as gun mounts, flamethrowers, and armored personnel carriers. The best-known variant was the Sexton, a self-propelled 25-pound gun built on a Ram chassis.