Most WW2 gamers have heard of the Ram Kangaroo, but there were Kangaroo (improvised APC) versions of several different vehicles, including the Sherman tank. With a really simple conversion I’ve “Kangarood” one of my Rubicon Shermans.

 

Kangaroo?

The fighting in Italy was an infantryman’s war, with the armour often struggling slowly up steep muddy tracks following the advancing infantry, or relegated to static positions providing indirect fire support. Towards the end of the desert war 2nd NZ Div had reorganised itself as a Mixed Division by converting one of its three infantry brigades into a tank brigade with new Sherman tanks. This was an experimental mid-war idea to create an allied unit equivalent to a German panzergrenadier division. Once it got to Italy and found itself slogging up and down hills Eighth Army decided it had more tanks than it really needed, so it converted some into APCs.

 

Sherman Kangaroos loaded with NZ infantry in the Spring Offensive of 1945.

The Sherman Kangaroo was an ordinary Sherman tank. The workshops simply pulled off the turret and turret basket and ripped out the ammo stowage bins. Obviously the three crew positions in the turret went with it, but the driver and lap gunner’s positions remained. The latter became the vehicle commander’s seat, and the hole left by the turret and ammo bins became a troop compartment capable of holding about 8-10 infantry. Seating seems to have been whatever the fitters managed to install, wooden benches or ammo boxes if you were lucky, otherwise nothing. It was probably pretty unpleasant being inside one off road. The infantry piled out through the open turret ring, and presumably a tarp was slung over the hole in bad weather. The radio from the turret was moved into the hull.

Converting the kit

The infantry are some spare Warlord plastic Brits I had left over from doing my infantry. I just hacked the little blighters in half with a razor saw like I did for my dug in infantry and stuck them to a little floor. That was made from a 25mm plastic base from the Warlord British sprue which happens to fit perfectly into the Rubicon turret ring. I glued some lengths of sprue at the front and rear to slot into the notches.  The front one went under the Bren gun, so was pretty well concealed, you can see the rear one but it’s pretty unobtrusive. I toyed with the idea of making a plasticard ring around the whole lot to represent the turret’s bearing surface, but I’m not sure that they weren’t just painted over, and it would have been fiddly. If anyone has pics of a Sherman kangaroo from above showing how the turret ring was left I’d love to see them. I know they plated over them for the ARVs, but pics of the kangaroos from above are pretty thin on the ground.

I’ve used a Rubicon Sherman for this conversion, partly because the hole in the turret isn’t so deep. If you’ve got a Warlord plastic Sherman you’ll have a deeper hole to deal with.  No reason you could use a resin or even a die cast kit if looks OK without the turret.

The Sherman Kangaroo in Chain of Command

The vehicle is already on my list for the Kiwis in Italy, but they were used by other Eighth Army forces in Italy so you could include them in British, Canadian, Polish, Gurkhas, Indians,  or even some of the odd stuff like the Jewish Brigade and post-switcheroo Regio Escercito. It sits on List 3 as a support option, has armour 7 and average speed just like a normal Sherman tank, and counts as an “open turret” should the Germans get close enough to lob explody things into it. The hull MG is the only armament, except of course for the heavily armed blokes riding around in it.

Three of them were assigned to an infantry platoon (so a bit of a squeeze). Tactically they were used to get infantry across prepared killing grounds in to front of German defences and into cover where the infantry would debus and fight on foot. The kangaroos would retire after the infantry dismounted; it’s not a fighting vehicle, but will do a bloody good job of moving an infantry section rapidly through a hail of bullets. It’s got fairly thick armour but like all AFVs it’ll be a lot more survivable if it operates with friendly supporting fire and hugs the terrain. By the time the kangaroos appeared the Germans had panzerfausts and panzerschrecks, so they can definitely kill it, as could most German AT guns, except for the little PAK-36s the fallschirmjagers and gebirgsjagers used. Move fast, use smoke and support weapons on overwatch and drop your infantry section somewhere your enemy doesn’t want them to be.