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Tank Crew Suits

 

Tank Crew Suits

The Canadian Army issued several types of Crew Suits - specialized garments for the crews of Armoured Fighting Vehicles - beginning in the Second World War.

The most common type of crew suit was a simple set of Overalls. These were utilized in warm weather or during training, and custom AFV Overalls were also issued to AFV crews (known as the "Denim Tank Crew Oversuit"), which were more complicated in design. Oilskins may have been worn by some crews as well. Also, while training in the UK, in addition to khaki Overalls, black overalls were used by AFV crews (black was considered the best colour by many nations for AFV crews as it tended to conceal dirt and oil stains). On the Continent, black Overalls were not used, as German AFV crews were also clad in black uniforms. The AFV helmet worn by Canadian tank crews also had a similar silhouette to German helmets, particularly Fallschirmjäger (parachute) helmets but also the standard stahlhelm.

The "Pixie Suit" was a garment similar to overalls, but with a padded lining and multiple pockets on the exterior. Officially a "Tank Suit" or "Tanker's Oversuit", this garment was issued beginning in July 1943, designed specifically for AFV crewmen, and was eventually produced in both light tan (khaki) and in camouflage material (no evidence has come to light to indicate that Canadian troops ever used the camouflage version). The suit was designed to be worn over Battle Dress in winter and tropical gear in warm climates. The garment fit loosely, and was lined with Angola wool. Some sources confuse the camouflaged version with a "Jungle Tank Suit"; the latter was actually in lightweight material in "jungle green", with a trapdoor on the backside of the garment to permit calls of nature. These were also not issued to Canadians.

Sergeant P. Harrison and Lieutenant J. Swainson with a Sherman Tank of The Fort Garry Horse. This vehicle was the first Canadian tank to enter Germany, in The Hochwald, 3 March 1945. Both types of commonly used cold weather clothing are shown here, the Pixie Suit at left and the Leather Jerkin at right. LAC Photo. Unidentified crewmen standing next to their Sherman tank during a lull in a combined armour and artillery exercise, England, 5-10 June 1943. The plain black overalls can be seen on soldier at right. Note also the vehicle markings on the Sherman. LAC Photo.
Denim crew suit, reconstruction photo courtesy of Ed Storey. Khaki "Pixie" suit in the collection of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) Regimental Museum. Camouflaged "Pixie" suit.

After the Second World War, the "Pixie" suits continued to be used, especially in Europe, until the mid-1960s. From that time, black Overalls were widely used, as well as US Air Force one-piece Crewsuits.

After Unification, a purpose-made Combat AFV Crew Suit was introduced in the late 1970s several AFV garments were issued, including:

  • AFV Overall in olive green for summer wear

  • Two piece AFV Crew Suit for winter wear, including a waist length padded jacket with attached hood and trousers.

Notes

Information for this page provided by Ed Storey.

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