The Royal Canadian Legion in Olds is making a tank swap in the interests of history.
Sometime before Christmas, the legion hopes to trade the Sherman tank they have owned for nearly 20 years for a version that has a much closer connection to the community’s veterans.
Through a deal worked out with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Museum in Calgary, the legion will get a 1945-built Sherman that is the same kind of tank that would have been used by the Olds-based B Squadron of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment between 1955 and 1968.
In a straight trade, the legion will give up the Sherman it bought from a U.S. seller in 1993 and has stood vigil in Olds ever since.
While impressive, the existing tank was not the kind any Olds tankers would have used.
In fact, the tank has quite an exotic pedigree.
It was sold to the Israelis, who heavily modified it for use in the Six-Day War with Syria in 1967.
The American-built Shermans were the workhouse of the Allied tank forces in the Second World War with more than 50,000 built in dozens of different variants.
Warrant officer Ted MacLeod, curator at the Strathcona’s museum in Calgary, said the Sherman coming to Olds was originally built to be given to the Russians as part of lend-lease agreements during the Second World War.
When the war ended, the tanks weren’t needed and sat until the Canadian Army bought them.
When the regular forces replaced their Shermans, they were passed on to the reserves for training. Four were based in Olds with the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, which also had squadrons in Calgary and Gleichen.
“I’d like to tell you it’s probably one of the (King’s Own) Shermans but no record was kept of where they went. But there’s a chance.”
The legion’s tank is currently sitting in a hangar in Edmonton. It once sat in front of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse headquarters in Edmonton, but has since been replaced by more modern Centurion and Leopard tanks.
MacLeod said he is doing some research at The Military Museums in Calgary, of which his museum is part, to determine what markings the B Squadron tanks would have had. The tank has been offered to the legion free of charge.
Legion president Mark Swanson said he’d love to have the tank trade made in time for Remembrance Day ceremonies, but that may be a little soon and will depend on weather among other things.
There is already some anticipation among veterans. “We had a gentleman who served in the King’s Own Calgary Regiment who had served in Olds. He said, ‘Really the tank is just coming home.’”