News, United Kingdom, WWII

Rare DD Sherman Tanks Found in India

Friend of TankHistoria, and Sherman-tank owner Mick Wilson has shared with us a very special find he has made in India.

In 2016, Mick was perusing Google Earth in the hunt for tanks, when he came across an image uploaded by a local caption “abandoned army tank”. Looking at this image, Mick quickly spotted that this wasn’t just any tank, it was a Mark III Sherman DD – a rare type of Sherman that could float in water.

These vehicles were most famously used on D-Day, where they were able to swim directly onto the Normandy beaches under their own power. But what was this example doing in India?

One of the DD Shermans.
One of the Sherman DD’s in India. Note the skirting around the hull – this is where the canvas screen was attached.

Today just a handful exist, and only one still retains an original canvas screen.

Mick began researching, and learned that 86 Sherman DDs had in fact been shipped to the India in June 1945, for use in Operation Zipper. Operation Zipper was a British plan to invade Japanese-held Malaya (now Malaysia).

However, the end of the war meant the operation was no longer needed, and thus was cancelled.

Watch the lost Sherman DDS

Working with Indian private investigators, Mick was able to locate six DDs in total. This year (2023), Mick’s sons, Mark and Connor, travelled to India to visit, document and film these rare vehicles.

They will share their findings in a YouTube film, which will be uploaded to their channel here.

They also kindly shared some of the images from this trip with us.

What is a Sherman DD?

The “DD” in Sherman DD stands for Duplex Drive, which represents the two means of propulsion the vehicles has; tracks, and propellers.

DD Shermans were designed by Britain to enable a Sherman to float and propel itself through water. This would be extremely useful for seaborne invasions, and crossing obstacles such as lakes and rivers.

This was made possible by a canvas screen that surrounded the entire upper-hull of the Sherman. The canvas screen would be raised up above the turret, forming a “tub” that displaced more water than the tank weighed, enabling it to float.

Sherman DD in water.
A Sherman DD in water. Note the turret, visible behind the screen. As you can tell, most of the tank itself is actually below the water line.

The canvas screen was erected by inflated rubber hoses that were filled with compressed air. After reaching land, the canvas could be dropped and the tank could go into action immediately.

The Sherman was particularly desirable for a DD tank because its gun did not overhang the hull. This meant the turret could remain pointing forward, even when the screen was raised.

Sherman DDs moved through the water by a pair of propellers at the rear. These were driven by the tank’s rear idler wheels, which were fitted with sprockets that meshed with the tracks. Because of this, Sherman DDs appear to have four drive sprockets.

While they were not the first tanks that could swim, they are arguably the most famous and successful.

Operation Zipper

Operation Zipper was Britain’s plan to invade Malaya, set to take place in August 1945. By this point Japan’s military was severely depleted, and a shadow of its former self earlier on in the war.

By capturing Malaya, Britain would be in a better position to take Singapore.

The opening assaults would take place at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang), and then troops would work their way inland. 100,000 troops were slated to be involved in the invasion, including four Indian divisions and British paratroopers and commandos.

DD Sherman in bush.
Some of the tanks are rather overgrown.

It was to be supported by naval vessels and over 500 aircraft from the RAF. The end of the war meant the full-scale invasion was not needed, and instead Allied ships simply sailed directly into Singapore unopposed.

On the 12th of September, 1945, Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender of Japan’s Southern Army Group in Singapore.