The War Museum's latest: The tank that launched Canada's Armoured Corps

Before restoration: Canadian War Museum's M1917 tank
BEFORE: This First World War M1917 tank was doing duty as a logging tractor near Bracebridge, ON before the Canadian War Museum acquired it in 1997.

The Canadian War Museum today unveiled the latest edition to its excellent LeBreton Gallery, the garage-like space in the building’s southeast corner that houses a very cool collection of military vehicles, artillery and one large jet plane. The latest edition is a restored M1917 Six-Ton Tank, one of only two such machines thought to exist in Canada from the 950 manufactured by the Americans at the end of the First World War. The tanks came off the line in the United States too late, though, to see any action in Europe. Nonetheless, this tank played a key role in the developed of Canada’s armoured capabilities in the Second World War:

Here’s the background from the folks at the War Museum:

In 1940, Canada had almost no tanks of its own and needed to train tank crews for its rapidly growing army. Colonel F.F. Worthington, a long-time advocate for a Canadian armoured fighting capability and the de facto founder of the Canadian Armoured Corps (now Royal Canadian Armoured Corps), arranged for the acquisition of approximately 250 M1917s as “scrap metal” from the then-neutral United States for use as training vehicles. They were used to train members of the newly formed Canadian Armoured Corps at Camp Borden (now Canadian Forces Base Borden), earning the M1917 a special place in Canadian military history.

Only a small number of these tanks are still known to exist. The War Museum’s M1917, one of only two in Canada, was used to train Canadian tank crews at Camp Borden. After being sold as surplus, it was heavily modified and used as a logging tractor near Bracebridge, Ontario. The Museum acquired the vehicle, incomplete and in very poor condition, in 1997.

AFTER: The restored M1917 tank at the Canadian War Museum
AFTER: The restored M1917 tank in the Lebreton Gallery at the Canadian War Museum. Look closely and you'll see Canadian Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk, a former tank commander himself, to the right. (Photos: Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum)

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