Hobart's Funnies
Hobart's Funnies were a number of unusually modified tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s operated during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's 79th Armoured Division
79th Armoured Division
The 79th Armoured Division was a specialist British Army armoured formation created as part of the preparations for the Normandy invasion of 6 June 1944...

 or by specialists from the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

. They were designed in light of problems that more standard tanks experienced during the Dieppe Raid
Dieppe Raid
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter or later on Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 AM and by 10:50 AM the Allied...

, so that the new models would be able to overcome the problems of the planned Invasion of Normandy. These tanks played a major part on the Commonwealth beaches during the landings. They may be considered the forerunners of the modern Combat engineering vehicle
Combat engineering vehicle
Military engineering vehicles are vehicles built for the construction work or for the transportation of combat engineers on the battlefield. These vehicles can range from civilian equipment to purpose built military vehicles....

. They were named after their commander, Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Percy Hobart
Percy Hobart
Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE CB DSO MC , also known as "Hobo", was a British military engineer, noted for his command of the 79th Armoured Division during World War II...



The beginnings of the Funnies started with the need to create a series of modern siege engines to lead the assault on the beach defences of the French coast. A rapid sweeping away of the obstacles and defenders in the British sectors would be important as the lay of the land would favour a rapid counterattack by German armour. Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke
Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke
Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Alan Francis Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, KG, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO & Bar , was a senior commander in the British Army. He was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the Second World War, and was promoted to Field Marshal in 1944...

 made the decision in 1943 to create these new units. Responsibility for the build up of vehicles and the training of crews to use them was given to armoured warfare expert Percy Hobart
Percy Hobart
Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE CB DSO MC , also known as "Hobo", was a British military engineer, noted for his command of the 79th Armoured Division during World War II...

 after whom the collection was named.

Many of the ideas had already been tried, tested or were in experimental development both by Britain and other nations. For example, the Scorpion flail tank (a modified Matilda tank
Matilda tank
The Infantry Tank Mark II known as the Matilda II was a British infantry tank of the Second World War. It was also identified from its General Staff Specification A12....

) had already been used during the North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

n campaign to clear paths through German minefields
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

. Soviet T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 tanks had been modified with mine-rollers. Close-support tanks, bridgelayers, and fascine
A fascine is a rough bundle of brushwood used for strengthening an earthen structure, or making a path across uneven or wet terrain. Typical uses are protecting the banks of streams from erosion, covering marshy ground and so on.-Early military use:...

  carriers had been developed elsewhere also. However, the Funnies were the largest and most elaborate collection of engineering vehicles available.

By early 1944, Hobart could demonstrate to Eisenhower and Montgomery a brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 each of swimming DD tanks, Crab mine clearers, and AVRE (Engineer) tanks along with a regiment of Crocodile flamethrowing tanks.

Montgomery considered that the US forces should use them, and offered them a half-share of all the vehicles available, but take-up was minimal. Eisenhower was in favour of the amphibious tanks but left the decision on the others to General Bradley
Omar Bradley
Omar Nelson Bradley was a senior U.S. Army field commander in North Africa and Europe during World War II, and a General of the Army in the United States Army...

 who delegated it to his staff officers. None of the other designs were used, because it was thought that they required specialised training and an additional support organisation.


The majority of the designs were modified forms of the Churchill tank
Churchill tank
The Tank, Infantry, Mk IV was a heavy British infantry tank used in the Second World War, best known for its heavy armour, large longitudinal chassis with all-around tracks with multiple bogies, and its use as the basis of many specialist vehicles. It was one of the heaviest Allied tanks of the war...

 or the Sherman tank. Both were available in large numbers. The Churchill had good (though slow) cross-country performance, heavy armour, and a roomy interior. The Sherman's mechanical reliability was valued.

Among the many specialist vehicles and their attachments were:
  • Crocodile
    Churchill Crocodile
    The Churchill Crocodile was a British flame-throwing tank of late Second World War. It was a variant of the Tank, Infantry, Mk VI Churchill Mark VII, although the Churchill Mark IV was initially chosen to be the base vehicle....

    - A Churchill tank modified by the fitting of a flame-thrower in place of the hull machine gun. An armoured trailer, towed behind the tank, carried 400 Imperial gallons (1,800 litres) of fuel. The flamethrower had a range of over 120 yards (110 m). It excelled at clearing bunkers and it was a strong psychological weapon
    Psychological warfare
    Psychological warfare , or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations , have been known by many other names or terms, including Psy Ops, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds,” and Propaganda...

     (see Flame tank
    Flame tank
    A flame tank is a type of tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles...

  • AVRE - Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers was a Churchill tank adapted to attack German defensive fortifications. The crew of six were drawn from the Royal Engineers, except for the driver who came from the Royal Armoured Corps. One of the RE crew was a demolitions NCO sapper responsible for priming the "Flying dustbin" as well as leading or supervising when they dismounted from the tank (easily done through the side hatches) to place demolition charges ("Wade" charges). The AVRE had the main gun replaced by a Petard
    A petard was a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. The term has a French origin and dates back to the sixteenth century...

    Mortar (weapon)
    A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

    . This fired a forty pound (18 kg) HE-filled projectile (nicknamed the Flying Dustbin) 150 yards (137 m). The "Dustbin" could destroy concrete obstacles such as roadblocks and bunker
    A military bunker is a hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks...

    s. This weapon was unusual in that it had to be reloaded externally - by opening a hatch and sliding a round into the mortar tube from the hull. AVREs were also used to carry and operate equipment such as:
    • Bobbin - A reel of 10 feet (3 m) wide canvas cloth reinforced with steel poles carried in front of the tank and unrolled onto the ground to form a "path", so that following vehicles (and the deploying vehicle itself) would not sink into the soft ground of the beaches during the amphibious landing
      Amphibious warfare
      Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

    • Fascine
      A fascine is a rough bundle of brushwood used for strengthening an earthen structure, or making a path across uneven or wet terrain. Typical uses are protecting the banks of streams from erosion, covering marshy ground and so on.-Early military use:...

      - A bundle of wooden poles or rough brushwood lashed together with wires carried in front of the tank that could be released to fill a ditch or form a step. Metal pipes in the center of the fascine allowed water to flow through.
    • Small Box Girder
      Small Box Girder
      The Small Box Girder was a small assault bridge that could be used to span gaps of up to 30'. It was carried on the tank, a Churchill AVRE or similar and could be deployed without engineers being exposed to enemy fire. Used during the Normandy invasion of World War II....

      was an assault bridge that was carried in front of the tank and could be dropped to span a 30 feet (9.1 m) gap in 30 seconds.
    • Bullshorn Plough. A mine plough intended to excavate the ground in front of the tank, to expose and make harmless any land mine
      Land mine
      A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

    • Double Onion two large demolition charges on a metal frame that could be placed against a concrete wall and then detonated from a safe distance. It was the successor to the single charge device Carrot.
  • ARK - Armoured Ramp Carrier was a Churchill tank without a turret that had extendable ramps at each end; other vehicles could drive up ramps and over the vehicle to scale obstacles.
  • Crab - A modified Sherman tank equipped with a mine flail
    Mine flail
    A mine flail is a vehicle-mounted device that makes a safe path through a mine-field by deliberately detonating land mines in front of the vehicle that carries it. They were first used by the British during World War II....

    , a rotating cylinder of weighted chains that exploded mines in the path of the tank.
  • DD tank
    DD tank
    DD tanks , were a type of amphibious swimming tank developed by the British during the Second World War...

    - from "Duplex Drive", an amphibious
    Amphibious vehicle
    An amphibious vehicle , is a vehicle or craft, that is a means of transport, viable on land as well as on water – just like an amphibian....

     Sherman or Valentine tank
    Valentine tank
    The Tank, Infantry, Mk III, Valentine was an infantry tank produced in the United Kingdom during the Second World War. More than 8,000 of the type were produced in 11 different marks plus various purpose-built variants, accounting for approximately a quarter of wartime British tank production...

     able to swim ashore after being launched from a landing craft several miles from the beach. They were intended to give support to the first waves of infantry that attacked the beaches. The Valentine version was used only for training.
  • BARV
    The Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle is a British military support vehicle used for amphibious landings.There have been three different BARVs in British service since their introduction during World War II...

    - Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle. A Sherman M4A2 tank which had been waterproofed and had the turret replaced by a tall armoured superstructure. Able to operate in 9 foot (2.7 m) deep water, the BARV was intended to remove vehicles that had become broken-down or swamped in the surf and were blocking access to the beaches. They were also used to re-float small landing craft
    Landing craft
    Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

     that had become stuck on the beach. Strictly speaking, Sherman BARV's were not "Funnies" as they were developed and operated by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
    Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
    The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers is a corps of the British Army that has responsibility for the maintenance, servicing and inspection of almost every electrical and mechanical piece of equipment within the British Army from Challenger II main battle tanks and WAH64 Apache...

    , not the 79th Armoured Division.
  • LVT "Buffalo" - British version of the American LVT4: an armoured amphibious landing vehicle.
  • Armoured Bulldozer
    Armored bulldozer
    The armored bulldozer is a basic tool of combat engineering. These combat engineering vehicles combine the earth moving capabilities of the bulldozer with armor which protects the vehicle and its operator in or near combat. Most are civilian bulldozers modified by addition of vehicle armor/military...

    - A conventional Caterpillar D7
    Caterpillar D7
    The Caterpillar D7 is a medium bulldozer manufactured by Caterpillar Inc.. The first D7 appeared in 1938. The D7C came next in 1955. The D7D came in 1959. The 160hp D7E in 1961...

    A bulldozer is a crawler equipped with a substantial metal plate used to push large quantities of soil, sand, rubble, etc., during construction work and typically equipped at the rear with a claw-like device to loosen densely-compacted materials.Bulldozers can be found on a wide range of sites,...

     fitted with armour to protect the driver and the engine. Their job was to clear the invasion beaches of obstacles and to make roads accessible by clearing rubble and filling in bomb craters. Conversions were carried out by a Caterpillar importer Jack Olding
    Jack Olding
    Jack Olding of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England had a company , which specialised in the import and modification of tanks and tractors during the Second World War ....

     & Company Ltd of Hatfield
    Hatfield, Hertfordshire
    Hatfield is a town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England in the borough of Welwyn Hatfield. It has a population of 29,616, and is of Saxon origin. Hatfield House, the home of the Marquess of Salisbury, is the nucleus of the old town...

  • Centaur Bulldozer, a Cromwell tank
    Cromwell tank
    Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell ,The designation as the eighth Cruiser tank design, its name given for ease of reference and its General Staff specification number respectively and the related Centaur tank, were one of the most successful series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second...

     with the turret removed and fitted with a simple, winch operated, bulldozer blade. These were produced because of a need for a well-armoured, obstacle clearing vehicle that, unlike a conventional bulldozer, would also be fast enough to keep up with tank formations. They were not used on D-Day but were issued to the 79th Armoured Division in Belgium during the latter part of 1944.
  • Canal Defence Light
    Canal Defence Light
    Canal Defence Light was a British "secret weapon" of the Second World War.It was based upon the use of a powerful carbon-arc searchlight mounted on a tank. It was intended to be used during night-time attacks, when the light would allow enemy positions to be targeted...

    This was a powerful carbon-arc searchlight
    A searchlight is an apparatus that combines a bright light source with some form of curved reflector or other optics to project a powerful beam of light of approximately parallel rays in a particular direction, usually constructed so that it can be swiveled about.-Military use:The Royal Navy used...

     carried on several types of tank inside a modified turret. The name of the device was deliberately inaccurate in order to help keep it secret - its true purpose was to blind the defenders during a night attack and so help obscure attacking forces. An ingenious optical design allowed the light to flood out of a comparatively small slit in the armour, minimising the chance of damage by enemy fire. This was not used on D-Day, but was used during the attack on the Geilenkirchen salient
    Operation Clipper
    During the Second World War, Operation Clipper was an Allied offensive by British XXX Corps to reduce the Geilenkirchen salient in mid-November 1944...

     to create indirect artificial daylight.

Many of the prototypes and their auxiliary equipment were developed by AEC.

Post-WWII use

The Centaur bulldozer continued to be used by the British Army for some years after World War II and saw action during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. Also, small numbers of Churchill AVREs and Sherman BARVs were used until the 1960s when they were replaced with similar vehicles based on the Centurion Tank
Centurion tank
The Centurion, introduced in 1945, was the primary British main battle tank of the post-World War II period. It was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades...

. The Royal Engineers subsequently used modified Centurion and Chieftain
Chieftain tank
The FV 4201 Chieftain was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and heaviest armour of any tank in the world...

 tanks that are designed to fulfill the same roles in battle as the Funnies. The last examples of FV4003 Centurion Mk 5 AVRE 165 saw combat in the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 / Operation Granby
Operation Granby
Operation Granby was the name given to the British military operations during the Gulf War. 53,462 troops were deployed during the conflict. The total cost of operations was £2.434 billion of which at least £2.049 billion was paid for by other nations such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; £200...

 of 1991. The most recent vehicles in this line are the Titan and Trojan variants of the Challenger 2 tank.

Armoured bulldozers continue to be used by the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 and have been recently adopted by the US Marine Corps and the US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....


Surviving vehicles

This is an incomplete list:
  • Churchill ARK - A Churchill ARK is in South Africa, owned by the School of Engineering, Kroonstad
    Kroonstad is the third-largest town in the Free State province of South Africa, and lies two hours drive from Gauteng. In the 1991 census it had a population of 110,963...


  • Churchill AVRE - The collection of the Bovington Tank Museum
    Bovington Tank Museum
    The Tank Museum is a collection of armoured fighting vehicles in the United Kingdom that traces the history of the tank. With almost 300 vehicles on exhibition from 26 countries it is the second-largest collection of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in the world.The Musée des Blindés in France...

     includes a working Mark III Churchill AVRE. Another example is located in a hamlet of Graye-sur-Mer in Normandy; it is unusual in having been buried on D-Day in the shell-hole it fell into, and then being recovered later as a memorial. MkIV AVREs are at the Imperial War Museum Duxford
    Imperial War Museum Duxford
    Imperial War Museum Duxford is a branch of the Imperial War Museum near the village of Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England. Britain's largest aviation museum, Duxford houses the museum's large exhibits, including nearly 200 aircraft, military vehicles, artillery and minor naval vessels in seven...

    , the South African Armour Museum and the National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg. A MkVII AVRE is a Gate guardian
    Gate guardian
    A gate guardian or gate guard is a withdrawn piece of equipment, often an aircraft, armoured vehicle, artillery piece or locomotive, mounted on a plinth and used as a static display near to and forming a symbolic display of "guarding" the main entrance to somewhere, especially a military base...

     at the Allenby Barracks, at the Bovington army camp, headquarters of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry
    Royal Wessex Yeomanry
    The Royal Wessex Yeomanry is an armoured regiment of the British Territorial Army consisting of four squadrons, each of which bears the cap badge of an old yeomanry regiment:*B Squadron*A Squadron...

    ; another is at the Royal Engineers
    Royal Engineers
    The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

     museum at Chatham, Medway
    Chatham, Medway
    Chatham is one of the Medway towns located within the Medway unitary authority, in North Kent, in South East England.Although the dockyard has long been closed and is now being redeveloped into a business and residential community as well as a museum featuring the famous submarine, HMS Ocelot,...

    . Several more AVREs still exist as wrecks on gunnery ranges.

  • Churchill Crocodile - There is one example, without trailer, on display at the Bayeux Museum of the Battle of Normandy. A trailer is held at Bovington. Mark VII Crocodiles are owned by the Muckleburgh Collection
    Muckleburgh Collection
    The Muckleburgh Collection is a military museum sited on a former military camp at Weybourne, on the North Norfolk coast, England. It was opened to the public in 1988 and is the largest privately-owned military museum in the United Kingdom.-History:...

     in Norfolk, the Cobbaton Combat Collection in Devon, the D-Day museum
    D-Day museum
    The D-Day Museum is located in Southsea, near Portsmouth in Hampshire, England. Opened in 1984 by HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, it tells the story of Operation Overlord during the Normandy D-Day landings...

    , the Wheatcroft Collection, the Kubinka Tank Museum
    Kubinka Tank Museum
    The Kubinka Tank Museum is a large museum of armoured fighting vehicles in Kubinka, just outside Moscow. It has many famous tanks from World War I, World War II and the Cold War. The museum also houses many unique vehicles, such as the Panzer VIII Maus, Troyanov super-heavy tank and a Karl-Gerät...

     in Russia and the Museum of the Regiments, Calgary, Alberta. A Mark VIII is at the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Museum. Two (one in running order) are privately owned in the UK. One example at Fort Montbarey near Brest France where they were used in September 1944.

  • Sherman DD - Five Sherman DDs are in museums; one is nearly intact, four were sunken wrecks that were salvaged. See the main article
    DD tank
    DD tanks , were a type of amphibious swimming tank developed by the British during the Second World War...

     for details.

  • Sherman Crab - Sherman Crabs are displayed at the CFB Borden Military Museum
    CFB Borden
    Canadian Forces Base Borden is a Canadian Forces base located in Ontario.The historic birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force, CFB Borden is the largest training facility in the Canadian Forces...

    , Ontario, Canada; the Bovington Tank Museum, the Yad La-Shiryon
    Yad La-Shiryon
    Yad La-Shiryon is Israel's official memorial site for fallen soldiers from the armored corps, as well as one of the most diverse tank museums in the world. The cornerstone for Yad La-Shiryon was laid on...

     museum in Israel and the Overloon War Museum
    Overloon War Museum
    The National War and Resistance Museum of the Netherlands is located at Overloon, municipality Boxmeer....

     in the Netherlands.

  • Centaur Dozer - One is part of the collection at Bovington. Another is part of a private collection in the UK.

  • BARV - Three BARVS are held by museums in England and one by a museum in India. One, in running condition, is privately owned in the UK.

  • Canal Defence Light - The Bovington Tank Museum has a Matilda tank
    Matilda tank
    The Infantry Tank Mark II known as the Matilda II was a British infantry tank of the Second World War. It was also identified from its General Staff Specification A12....

     fitted with a Canal Defence Light turret. This is the only survivor of this type of vehicle.

  • Buffalo aka Amtrac LVT4 - The Bovington Tank Museum has an example.

See also

  • M4 Sherman tank
  • Allied technological cooperation during World War II
    Allied technological cooperation during World War II
    The Second World War was not won by one nation; the Allies had to cooperate while fighting on the ground, as well as by sharing technological resources and innovations...

  • 79th Armoured Division
    79th Armoured Division
    The 79th Armoured Division was a specialist British Army armoured formation created as part of the preparations for the Normandy invasion of 6 June 1944...

Further reading

  • Delaforce, Patrick. Churchill's Secret Weapons: The Story of Hobart's Funnies. (2007) ISBN 9781844154647

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.