Mk VIII Tanks to Canada?

 This article inspired by an email discussion between Bill Kirk and Barbara Taylor, who works at Ft Meade.

 MK VIII - A Brief History



The Mk.VIII was the first production heavy tank built in the United States. It was originally planned as a joint venture between the US and Great Britain during W.W.I.  Unfortunately, the MK VIII would not see significant production until after the war.  The original plan called for the US to provide the engine and drive train, while the British would provide the armor, armament and remaining structure.  By the end of the war approximately 100 sets were produced.  These were assembled in the US at Rock Island Arsenal.  The British assembled a further seven Mk VIIIs (One of which is at Bovington?).




Known as the Anglo-American Tank, The International Tank, the Mark VIII Heavy Tank, and the Liberty Tank, these vehicles were used by US for training until the late 1930s.  Most were assigned to the 67th Infantry (Tank) Regiment.  They were primarily used in an infantry support role.

  The Mk VIIIs were eventually retired from service the late 1930s.

 The Canadian Controversy

 In 1940 the Canadian Army found itself without any armor to speak of.  The blitzkrieg of France and the Low Countries gave Canada and the world a new respect for the tank.  They began a search for tanks to train with.   

Noted Canadian Army historian, Colonel Charles P. Stacey, once wrote of the U.S. Army's suggestion "…that Canada might purchase at junk prices 500 light two-man tanks and 98 heavy tanks for training purposes."

 The availability of surplus American M1917's first became known in mid 1940.  In August of that year, Canada’s General Worthington would travel to the U.S. to inspect them.  The tanks were being stored at Rock Island Arsenal.  Worthington identified 250 tanks for acquisition at a price of $240.00 each. The tanks eventually arrived at Camp Borden in company with several tons of 'scrap metal', which was in fact, spare parts for the M1917's.  The tanks themselves were listed as ‘scrap’ to get around the US neutrality laws.  The ‘scrap’ was immediately salvaged and pressed into use as training tanks.  Though out-dated, the six-tonners gave the Canadians real tanks to ‘cut their teeth on’ before they shipped out for Britain.  As of spring, 2000 one of the M1917s survives at Borden, inside the museum annex.

 In the book "BRITISH AND AMERICAN TANKS OF WORLD WAR II" by Chamberlain & Ellis page 178 there is a picture with the caption "MK VIII tanks, shown on delivery to Canada, September 1940". There appears to be at least 15 Mk VIII tanks. The location seemed to be Camp Borden. There is no mention of the Mk VIII in the text. There is no mention of the Mk VIIIs in the Corps history either.

 In the book "TANKS OF THE WORLD 1915-45" by Chamberlain & Ellis. On pages 168 they state TWICE that the Mk.VIIIs were sent to Canada in 1940 for training the Fort Garry Horse. However, all the more reliable current sources make no mention of MK VIIIs, and refer only to the six-tonners that did arrive.

 Given the evidence at hand, I suspect the M1917s and the Mk VIIIs were intended to be sold to Canada as ‘scrap’.  Either General Worthington, turned down the Mk VIIIs upon his inspection, or upon reaching Camp Borden, it was determined to salvage only the M1917s and the Mk VIIIs became scrap for real.




If anyone has any further on the Mk VIIIs or the M1917s of Borden, please email me - Tim