History of our Priest

Our project concerns a complete ground up restoration of a M7B1 built in 1944. As experts under us possible already recognize, it’s not a M7B1 but a modified M7B1 named the M7B2.
Therefore we go on this page more into the backgrounds of this vehicle. If anyone has more information/photo's please E-mail me. Before we go further on some people I want to thank: Maurice Donckers, Peter Hoss, Hans_Georg Krause, Mr. Peter Lenaerds and Franz Plum

From the beginning:
Our Priest was build in December 1944 (cast number 4376) by Pressed Steel Company in New Jersey. In total 826 M7B1 are produced till February 1945. After delivery it was shipped to France. Further combat history is still unknown.


Second Life
In June 1962 our M7B1 was modified in France by ABS (Atelier de construction de Bourges) in accordance with the M7B2 specification under contract number No 38J 6-1962. In total ABS modified 127 M7B1 under this contract from the early sixties.

After the modification to M7B2 our Priest went into active service for the German Army in Augustdorf: 3rd Artillery Battalion 215. Our vehicle became canon number A (in total there were 6 M7B2 in this battalion A till F).
The German Army had the M7B2 in service from 1958 till 1966.

At the rear of our Priest we found these markings. Also you can see the German license late Y527 522

The parade drive in Augustdorf, I think this might almost be the last self propelled drive of our Priest. During 1966 our Priest went out of service and became a attribute at a shooting range/practice area near Gogh. During the cleaning operation we found a huge amount of training grenades and blanks in the hull. You can even suggest that the Priest was self powered driven to this area, because we found all parts back except for the batteries and there was even gasoline in the fuel tanks!Luckily it never became a hard target training object, then she wouldn't be in the current condition.

Scrap yard
In 1974 the German Army announced that the training area must be cleaned, and all wrecks must be removed. By tender a German company was awarded to take care for this operation (Franz Plum GmbH & Co. KG Alsdorf) and the vehicle was, after many years outside, transported to the Alsdorf scrap yard. Luckily Frans put the vehicle separate and never scraped it.

Here you can see our Priest at the Alsdorf Scrap Yard which was located very near to a coal mining area. Our Priest (right on the picture) was loaded with a huge turbine on the engine deck. Due to this overload the engine bulkhead became unfortunately heavily bended. Our Priest was at the Alsdorf yard for more than 10 years where it was been viewed by many visitors. One of them. Mr. Peter Lenaerds from Heerlen made during his visit the above pictures.

Restoration begins
On Tuesday 22 November 2005, we finally found our Priest. Our goal is to bring it back to its original WW-II condition as M7B1 in 2009.
Below an nice picture of it’s the arrival at our formal workshop. After the arrive we started with cleaning, a total of 3,5 ton dirt came out!

Some side information

After World War 2 the M7B1 is was partly left behind in Europe but most of them were set into service in the Korean War. During the specific combat conditions the problem appeared that the evaluation of the Howitzer was too limited.
This problem never showed up in the European front, however due to the hilly landscape of Korea and the specific conditions the crew often drove up a hill or made an artificial ramp to get more evaluation. This field solution however made it necessary to modify the vehicles installing the Howitzer higher on the chassis and add another ring in the pulpit.
Next to this also the vehicle floor was lowered to get some extra evaluation. This modification give a big advantage between the high mountains in Korea.
Sadly after this war most of the Priest as being used in Korea are melted in the '80 and' 90.

ABS stands for “Atelier de construction de Bourges”. This French company has rebuild and modified many vehicles in the '50 and' 60.
Next to our Priest many different WW-II vehicles (such as M10, Sherman etc. are rebuilt or modified.
After being rebuilt or modified they were put in operation in in various European armies (France, Germany, and Austria).
The Priest M7B1 has proven itself in the WW-II that’s why after the war many armies wanted this vehicle for the modernization of their army. Sadly as far as we found out ABS has not been able to rebuild a large quantity of M7B1/2. It’s also unclear if ABS modified the M7B1 to M7B2, or that this modification was executed in Germany.
In totally we found three M7B1’s that are modified or rebuild by ABS, due to the type plates on the chassis. These Priest had the type plates ABS No 4, 1961, ABS No 13, 1961, ABS No 38J 6-1962. The last one is also the one that we found on our vehicle. Funny thing to know is that the current formal owner was born in 1961.

The modification to M7B2
The M7B2 modification is for sure a post war upgrade. Next to raising the Howitzer and pulpit and lowering the floor and adding some extra rear armour many small details are changed. The modification was not possible as field upgrade and need a very professional well organized workshop.

German service
Our Priest has retired in the German Army.
After June 1962 is has been probably transported from France to Germany. On the ABS plates that were located on our Priest we found 38J 6-1962 which you can also find on the site of the Sherman record (Hanno Spoelstra thanks!).
Why the Priest was send to the German Army? After Germany lost the war the country and his army had to be developed because Europe became a new enemy: the Red Army.