September 21st, 2018

Heritage in the Hat: Clanky and Duffy

By Medicine Hat News on November 11, 2017.

Clanky and Duffy Sherman are two oldtimers with quaint names who have made the Hat their permanent home. Both are M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman tanks on display, the former at Patterson Armoury and the latter in Riverside Veterans Memorial Park. These tanks were manufactured in early 1945, assigned to the South Alberta Light Horse in 1954 and brought to Medicine Hat in 1960 when our city became the headquarters for SALH.

The Sherman tank, officially the M4 medium tank, was produced in many variations during the Second World War and saw service in the Korean War as well. The Allies essentially agreed to standardize on this platform and for the first part of the Second World War, the M4 was considered superior to any of the Axis medium tanks. The Firefly version mounted with a British 76mm high velocity gun was particularly effective. Later in the war, it was outclassed by heavy German tanks but by then the Allies had the advantages of numbers of tanks and air support. The HVSS refers to a much wider track and better suspension, the Horizontal Volute Spring System, to handle the heavier gun and thicker armour of later versions.

Clanky was named after Major David Currie’s tank, which saw service in Europe during the South Alberta Regiment’s advance from the beaches of Normandy through Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany. Major Currie earned the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Falaise Gap. When the tanks became obsolete by the late 1960s, George Ross of the Ross Ranch, Honourary Colonel of the SALH, arranged for it to be placed in front of the Stampede office. It now sits at Patterson Armoury on the sandstone sign from the old Armoury building (later the police station) on First Streeet S.E.

Another tank was placed in Riverside Park in 1967, dedicated by General F. F. Worthington along with Lieutenant Colonel Reid Ainscough, commanding officer of the SALH. About 11 years ago, it was repainted by BATUS at CFB Suffield and relocated within the park. However, it was only this year that the name Duffy was attached to this tank.

Danny McLeod was a Medicine Hat boy who joined the South Alberta Regiment in the Second World War. He was commissioned during the war, having finished top of his class at Sandhurst (and the first Canadian). Danny’s best friend growing up, Duffy Gendron, also joined the SAR but was blown up by an 88 anti-tank shell and is buried in France. In 1944, during the liberation of Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands, then Lieutenant McLeod commanded the first tank into town and he became a celebrity there. He created strong ties between the town and the SALH.

McLeod was inducted into the Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame in 2011 for his contributions to amateur sports. After he died in 2014, some of his ashes were buried in Bergen op Zoom during the 70th anniversary of liberation. Supposed to be a big secret, it was on the front page of the national newspaper the next day.

The tank in the park was recently repainted in the authentic colour for tanks of the Second World War era. McLeod’s tank did not have a nickname but Sheila McLeod, widow of Danny, suggested the name Duffy to commemorate her husband’s friendship with his comrade-in-arms.

We will remember them.

Malcolm Sissons is the chair of the Heritage Resources Committee of the City of Medicine Hat.

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