Like most of the Allied nations at the start of World War 2 (1939-1945), Canada saw itself with an outdated armor corps which was made up of mostly World War 1-era equipment passed on to them by the United States and elsewhere. With Britain firmly entrenched with fighting the Axis powers in Europe, and needing all of her own production efforts and America still sat on the sidelines, it fell to Canadian industry to take upon itself locally-production of a modernized combat tank. The American M3 "Lee" / "Grant" Medium Tank series was offered as a possible solution for mass-production but its sponson-mounted main armament was deemed quite antiquated when compared to turreted designs witnessed in the fighting in Europe.
With that, only the hull and powerplant of the American M3 were selected for production ahead of the whole M3 design with an entirely Canadian-originated turret to be set upon the hull.
At this point in the World War, Canada had little production infrastructure to speak of, especially when it came to producing heavy-duty military hardware, so the locomotive industry was charged with changing its production lines to accept the building of the new machine. The tank was initially required to showcase a 75mm main gun - itself a quite powerful caliber for the time though not the standard Allied tank gun of the war just yet. A smaller-caliber, readily-available 2-pounder (40mm) anti-tank gun was selected instead with the prospect of updating this armament to a 57mm caliber weapon later on. The first series tank appeared as "Cruiser Tank Ram Mk 1".
Externally, the Ram was a very conventional design for its time: it borrowed some of the design elements of the American M3 while the cast armor turret gave the Ram its own unique profile. Armor protection was respectable and offered up to 3.5" at the thickest facings. A crew of five operated the steel beast and power was derived from a single Continental R-975 radial gasoline-fueled engine producing 400 horsepower. The Continental engine provided up to 25 miles per hour speeds on road while covering some 125 to 145 miles of ground. The system weighed in at just under 30 tons and offered up decent off-road capabilities.
For armament (beyond the main gun fit), two 0.30 caliber machine guns, one bow-mounted and the other co-axially-mounted) completed the armament and these served primary as anti-infantry weapons. A third 0.30 machine gun could be installed at the turret for Anti-Aircraft (AA) defense. The Cruiser Tank Ram Mk II followed with the larger 57mm main gun (6-pounder).
Unfortunately for this homegrown Canadian tank design of World War 2 and those involved in bringing her to fruition, the availability of M4 Shermans due to the American commitment to conflict made the Ram venture expendable. The Sherman stocked the tank inventories of Britain and Australia as well and, in time, became the standardized combat tank of the Canadian Army. this move relegated Ram to crew training at home and in the UK. As such, no Ram tanks saw combat in the whole of the war.
Not completely abandoned, the Ram design went on to be converted into some turretless designs as a make-shift Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) providing tracked passenger travel under armor protection. The Ram chassis also served as the platform for the 25-pdr "Sexton" Self-Propelled Gun (detailed elsewhere on this site) and became one of the more recognizable SPG systems of the war. Another RAM-inspired form existed as the "Ram OP / Command" artillery observation post vehicle and these retained their turrets but were given "dummy" main guns to hide their true battlefield purpose. The tanks were also given additional communications gear in the form of two Wireless Set No.19s.
In all, some 2,150 Ram tanks made their way off of Canadian assembly lines during World War 2 - a considerable number for an indigenous design.
Special thanks to Matthew N. via email for corrections to this article.