bookThe Skink in Canadian Service
by Roger V Lucy.
Canada's Weapons of War Series, WOW012
A5 size softback, 24 pages
ISBN: 1-894581-29-6
Service Publications,

Review by Peter Brown

The physical and psycological effectiveness of the German Luftwaffe in the ground support role during the early campaigns in WW2 led to the development of several types of armoured, self-propelled antiaircraft vehicles to protect tank units. One of the more unusual was the Skink which carried four 20mm guns in a powered, armoured, fully-enclosed turret. Designed to be fitted to the Grizzly which was the Sherman M4A1 built in Canada, it was also capable of being fitted to other Sherman chassis. Unfortunately for those who worked on the design, by the time it was ready for use the air threat it was intended to guard against was gone and it was simply no longer needed.

Despite that it remains an interesting vehicle to study. Its development history is covered well here, from early concepts though production of a wooden mock-up turret to an all-metal welded version and the final cast design. Accounts of tests and trials are included, as is the delay in development caused by the high-level decision to not field the original Hispano-Suiza cannons it was to carry which meant a rapid redesign to use the Polsten gun. Production contracts were drawn up, changed and eventually cancelled when it was realised the system would not be needed as the Allied air forces had more than coped with the German airforce before Skinks could be made and put into the field, and the integral AA vehicles in tank units had for the most part been withdrawn from use.

As it turned out, two complete Skinks were produced and one was shipped to the United Kingdom for trials. Although there were some minor problems it performed well and offered several advantages over the British Crusader and Centaur AA tanks, not least being its heavier armament with four guns against the two in the other designs. This Skink was then shipped to Europe where it was demonstrated to Canadian armoured units in early 1945 and used in limited actions with some success.

While it was not the most widely-used vehicle of the war, a Skink would make an interesting model based on an M4A1 kit with suitable modifications and a new turret. Photos of the vehicle included in this book showing it from various angles along with original drawings and 1/35 plans should be more than enough for a reasonably skilled modeller to produce one. Conversion kits have been available in the past though they may be hard to find nowadays, and may need work to produce a good result.

For those who are more interested in history and design, the text gives a complete account with details of possible use, production and trials with details of the fate of some of the parts produced for the programme. As with other Service Publications books, new light is shed onto a neglected subject and while Skink may not be unknown it has not been given such good coverage before. Congratulations are due to the author for his work in bringing all the threads of the story together in one place.

Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.

Page created January 18, 2006