Mortar (weapon)

mortarmortarsspigot mortar
The 290 mm petard mortar used on the Churchill AVRE by Britain in World War II. The 320 mm Type 98 mortar used by Japan in World War II to some psychological effect in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Anti-tank launchers. The Blacker Bombard and PIAT anti-tank launcher used by Britain in World War II utilised a spigot mortar type of launcher. Anti-submarine launchers. The Hedgehog launcher, used from the deck of a ship, used 24 spigot mortars which fired a diamond pattern of anti-submarine projectiles into the sea ahead of the ship.

Royal Engineers

Corps of Royal EngineersRoyal EngineerRE
AVRE. British Garrison Berlin 1945–1994, "No where to go", W. Durie ISBN: 978-3-86408-068-5. Follow the Sapper: An Illustrated History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Colonel Gerald Napier RE. Published by The Institution of Royal Engineers, 2005. ISBN: 0-903530-26-0. The History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners: From the Formation of the Corps in March 1772, to the Date when Its Designation was Changed to that of Royal Engineers, in October 1856, by Thomas William John Connolly. Published by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1857. History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Whitworth Porter, Charles Moore Watson. Published by Longmans, Green, 1889.


In World War II the use of fascines continued as a gap crossing device and within the British Army these were launched from the Churchill AVRE - a Royal Engineer derivative of the standard Churchill tank (40 tons). The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) pre-positioned fascines made of metal pipes across the Khalkha River (between Japanese held Manchuria and Mongolia, the USSR's protectorate,) in advance of the IJA's 1939 foray into Mongolia. The use of hollow pipes had been predicated on their ability to allow water flow; the pipes were secured such that they were awash, and the river's unimpeded flow initially hid the fascines from Soviet reconnaissance aircraft.

Operation Overlord

Battle of NormandyNormandyNormandy Campaign
The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVREs) were modified for many tasks, including laying bridges and firing large charges into pillboxes. The Duplex-Drive tank (DD tank), another design developed by Hobart's group, was a self-propelled amphibious tank kept afloat using a waterproof canvas screen inflated with compressed air. These tanks were easily swamped, and on D-Day many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted Operation Bodyguard, the overall strategy designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings.

British Army

ArmyBritishBritish troops
Specialist engineering vehicles include bomb-disposal robots and the modern variants of the Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers, including the Titan bridge-layer, Trojan combat-engineer vehicle, Terrier Armoured Digger and Python Minefield Breaching System. Day-to-day utility work uses a series of support vehicles, including six-, nine- and fifteen-tonne trucks (often called "Bedfords", after a historic utility vehicle), heavy-equipment transporters (HET), close-support tankers, quad bikes and ambulances. Tactical communication uses the Bowman radio system, and operational or strategic communication is controlled by the Royal Corps of Signals.

M4 Sherman

ShermanSherman tankSherman tanks
British variants (DDs and mine flails) formed part of the group of specialized vehicles collectively known as "Hobart's Funnies" (after Percy Hobart, commander of the 79th Armoured Division). The M4 Sherman's basic chassis was used for all the sundry roles of a modern mechanized force: roughly 49,000 Sherman tanks, plus thousands more derivative vehicles under different model numbers. These included the M10 and M36 tank destroyers; M7B1, M12, M40, and M43 self-propelled artillery; the M32 and M74 "tow truck"-style recovery tanks with winches, booms, and an 81 mm mortar for smoke screens; and the M34 (from M32B1) and M35 (from M10A1) artillery prime movers.

Armoured vehicle-launched bridge

AVLBArmored vehicle-launched bridgebridgelayer
Besides leading to the advent of self-propelled artillery/assault guns, mobile anti-aircraft and armoured personnel carriers/cars, it became clear that functions like vehicle repair, mine-clearing, and the like would have to be carried out by armoured vehicles advancing along with tanks. Moreover, these forces would have to be able to cross all forms of terrain without losing speed, and without having to concentrate their thrusts over certain bridges (and the rising weight of armoured vehicles meant that fewer and fewer bridges could support these massed crossings).

Small Box Girder

Hobart's Funnies. Box girder bridge. M60 AVLB. M104 Wolverine. M1074 Joint Assault Bridge.

Gold Beach

GoldGold landing beachGold Assault Area
Its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00, when a modified Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) tank fired a large Petard bomb into its rear entrance. A second casemated emplacement at La Rivière containing an 88 mm gun was neutralised by a tank at 07:30. Meanwhile, infantry began clearing the heavily fortified houses along the shore and advanced on targets further inland. The British Commandos of No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando advanced on Port-en-Bessin and captured it on 7 June in the Battle of Port-en-Bessin.

Dieppe Raid

DieppeOperation Jubileeraid on Dieppe
Most notably, Dieppe highlighted: As a consequence of the lessons learned at Dieppe, the British developed a whole range of specialist armoured vehicles which allowed their engineers to perform many of their tasks protected by armour, most famously Hobart's Funnies. The operation showed major deficiencies in RAF ground support techniques, and this led to the creation of a fully integrated Tactical Air Force to support major ground offensives.

Mine flail

Sherman Crabflailflail tank
The Tank Museum, Bovington, has a Churchill Flail FV3902 "Toad" in its collection. Another Toad was restored to full working condition in England and in May 2008 was acquired by Jacques Littlefield's Military Vehicle Technology Foundation in California. In 2014, the foundation sold it at auction for US$80,500. A Minenräumpanzer Keiler is displayed at the German Tank Museum (Deutsches Panzermuseum) near Munster, Germany. Aardvark JSFU. Bionix Trailblazer. Sisu RA-140 DS. Digger DTR. Demining. Hobart's Funnies. Mine plow. Mine roller. MineWolf Systems. Pookie (vehicle). du Toits British patent., Du Toit's patent for the Mine Flail, filed August 31, 1945, issued November 1949.

Military engineering vehicle

combat engineering vehicleAEVCEV
Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers. Hobart's funnies. Sapper. Bulldozer. Caterpillar D9. Terrier armoured combat engineer vehicle. Australian Provincial Reconstruction Team - Afghanistan. Kodiak Armoured Engineer Vehicle.

Invasion of Normandy

Normandy invasionNormandyBattle of Normandy
British 79th Armoured Division. U.S. V Corps, U.S. 1st Infantry Division and U.S. 29th Infantry Division. U.S. VII Corps, U.S. 4th Infantry Division, U.S. 101st Airborne Division, U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. By the end of 11 June (D + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies. By 30 June (D+24) over 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles, and 570,000 tons of supplies.

Landing Vehicle Tracked

The "Specials" were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division (which operated all specialist assault vehicles), that also provided Buffalos fitted with "Bobbin" carpets to create temporary roadways over the mud. The US Army used LVT-2s and LVT-4s in Europe in small numbers in 1944-45 for river crossing operations. LVT-2s and LVT-4s were used by US troops on the Roer River crossing in 1945. US Army LVT-4's were also used by 752nd Tank Battalion to ferry 88th Infantry Division troops across the Po River in Italy in April 1945. Five LVT-4 were supplied through Lend-Lease to the Soviet Red Army, which used them when assaulting the well-defended west banks of the Oder and Danube rivers.

East Lancashire Royal Engineers

42nd Assault Regiment42nd (East Lancashire) Divisional Engineers42nd Divisional Engineers
On 1 November 1941 it was converted into 42nd Armoured Division, with the divisional RE reorganised as follows: On 17 October 1943 42nd Armoured Division was disbanded, but the divisional RE was converted into 42nd Assault Regiment, RE, in 1st Assault Brigade, RE, of 79th Armoured Division. The regiment was equipped with the Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE), and had the following organisation: Although the regiment trained hard in its new role for the Allied invasion of Normandy, (Operation Overlord), it was not until April 1944 that the first production Churchill AVREs arrived.

Cromwell tank

CromwellCentaur tankCentaur
Issued to the 79th Armoured Division in Belgium during the latter part of 1944. Hull types ranged from Type A to Type F. Each type applied a different package of changes to the hull design to different marks of tank. Changing the vehicle type allowed the introduction of changes without changing the overall offensive capability.

World War II

Second World WarwarWWII
British discontent over the Norwegian campaign led to the appointment of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister on 10May 1940. On the same day, Germany launched an offensive against France. To circumvent the strong Maginot Line fortifications on the Franco-German border, Germany directed its attack at the neutral nations of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Germans carried out a flanking manoeuvre through the Ardennes region, which was mistakenly perceived by Allies as an impenetrable natural barrier against armoured vehicles.

Matilda II

Matilda tankMatildaMatilda tanks
The Churchill Mark III also had a 54-inch turret ring but was armed with a 6-pounder and that might have offered an alternative route. It was also somewhat expensive to produce. Vickers proposed an alternative, the Valentine tank, which had the same gun and a similar level of armour protection but on a faster and cheaper chassis derived from that of their "heavy cruiser" Cruiser Mk II. With the arrival of the Valentine in Autumn 1941, the Matilda was phased out by the British Army through attrition, with lost vehicles no longer being replaced.

Mine plow

mine ploughmine sweepsplough
The first recorded combat use is by a "Bullshorn" plow on a Churchill tank of the British 79th Armoured Division, on Sword Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy (this was one of "Hobart's Funnies" specialized vehicles). The "Bullshorn" was just one of various designs of plow that were tested and used by the British. The mine plow is still in use by many Combat Engineer units.

Normandy landings

D-DayD-Day landingsOperation Neptune
Its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00, when a modified Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) tank fired a large petard charge into its rear entrance. A second casemated emplacement at La Rivière containing an 88 mm gun was neutralised by a tank at 07:30. Meanwhile, infantry began clearing the heavily fortified houses along the shore and advanced on targets further inland. The No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando moved toward the small port at Port-en-Bessin and captured it the following day in the Battle of Port-en-Bessin.

Westminster Dragoons

2nd County of London Yeomanry2nd County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons)1/2nd County of London Yeomanry
In May 1942 the brigade transferred to 42nd Armoured Division, and then in October 1943 to 79th Armoured Division under Major-General Percy Hobart. This division was equipping with specialist armour ('Hobart's Funnies') for the planned Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord), and 30th Armoured became the Flail tank brigade of the division. The Germans planted over four million mines along the French coast to hinder the Allied landings in 1944. To break through these defences at the start of the Normandy Invasion, the British produced a number of novel armoured fighting vehicles under Hobart's ingenious direction, including the Sherman Crab.

Flame tank

flamethrower tankflamethrower tanksMatilda Frog
Churchill Oke: Churchill Mk II with fixed "Ronson" flamethrower. Three were part of the 1942 Raid on Dieppe but were put out of action before the equipment was used. Churchill Crocodile: Churchill Mk VII equipped with a kit including an armored fuel trailer that used compressed nitrogen for pressure. The flamethrower replaced the hull machine gun leaving the main armament unaffected. Eight hundred conversion kits were produced. Operating under the organization of the 79th Armoured Division, as with other specialised vehicles, it was deployed following the June 6th 1944 Normandy landings in north-west Europe and in the Italian campaign.

Churchill Crocodile

CrocodileCrocodile flame throwersCrocodile" flame-throwing tanks
The Churchill Crocodile was a British flame-throwing tank of late Second World War. It was a variant of the Tank, Infantry, Mk VI (A22) Churchill Mark VII, although the Churchill Mark IV was initially chosen to be the base vehicle. The Crocodile was introduced as one of the specialised armoured vehicles developed under Major-General Percy Hobart, informally known as "Hobart's Funnies". It was produced from October 1943, in time for the Normandy invasion. From early in the war, there had been experiments with mounting flamethrowers on British vehicles; leading to vehicles such as the Cockatrice, Basilisk and the Wasp (the latter being a flamethrower on a Universal Carrier).

Juno Beach

Junoa Lower Normandy BeachCourseilles-Sur-Mer
Nan Sector would be assaulted by the Regina Rifle Regiment of 7th Brigade, as well as the North Shore Regiment and the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, while tanks of the Fort Garry Horse provided armoured support; a squadron of specialized Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) from the British 79th Armoured Division would land on each beach sector as well. The 8th Brigade was to capture Bernières and the western edge of Saint-Aubin, then push south into Normandy. The operational plan also called for the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers to be deployed to Juno as reinforcements within 4 to 6 hours of the initial assault.

Sword Beach

Swordone of the beaches
These were the amphibious DD tanks of the 13th/18th Hussars; they were followed closely by the 8th Infantry Brigade, and by Royal Engineers in AVREs and the various odd-looking, specialized vehicles that had been nicknamed 'Hobart's funnies'. The engineers set to work clearing mines and obstacles under a steady hail of small arms fire and artillery fire from Périers Ridge just south of Hermanville. Resistance on the beach was initially fairly strong, with wrecked vehicles piling up and casualties mounting; however, with most of their armoured vehicles successfully landed, the British were able to quickly secure the immediate area.