Hobart's Funnies

Hobart's Funnies

Amphibious DD tanks await blowing of breaches in the sea wall on Utah Beach. This photo was taken shortly after H Hour.
Type Modified tank variations
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1944–1945
Used by 79th Armoured Division or by specialists from the Royal Engineers
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer various
Designed 1941–1944
Manufacturer various

Hobart's Funnies were a number of unusually modified tanks operated during the Second World War by the 79th Armoured Division of the British Army or by specialists from the Royal Engineers.

They were designed in light of problems that more standard tanks experienced during the amphibious Dieppe Raid, 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 were forerunners of the modern combat engineering vehicle and were named after their commander, Major General Percy Hobart.


Plans to invade continental Europe were completely revised after the failure of the raid on Dieppe in 1942. Allied units in Normandy would need to overcome terrain, obstacles and coastal fortifications if the invasion was to succeed. General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff decided in 1943 to create special units and assigned responsibility to armoured warfare expert Percy Hobart for the development of vehicles and training crews to use them in action.

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) had already been used during the North African campaign to clear paths through German minefields. Soviet T-34 tanks had been modified with mine-rollers. Close-support tanks, bridgelayers, and fascine 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 each of swimming DD tanks, Crab mine clearers, and Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers - AVRE (Engineer) tanks along with a regiment of Crocodile flame-throwing tanks.

Montgomery considered that the US forces should use them. A third of the "funnies" were offered to the Americans of all the vehicles available, but take-up was minimal.[1] Eisenhower was in favour of the Duplex drive (DD) amphibious tanks but left the decision on the others to General Bradley. None of the other designs were used, because it was thought that they required specialised training and an additional support organisation. Also, the Americans were reluctant to make use of funnies based on the Churchill tank as they did not want the logistical complexity of adding another tank model to their inventory.[2]

In the light of operations during the US landing on Omaha beach, Bradley's decision has been criticised as it was felt that use of the range of "funnies" would have saved American lives.[3] After D-Day, American forces did make limited use of the Sherman Crab mine-clearing tank.[2]


The majority of the designs were modified forms of the Churchill tank 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:


Many of the prototypes and their auxiliary equipment were developed by AEC.[4]

Post-Second World War use

The Centaur bulldozer continued to be used by the British Army for some years after the Second World War and saw action during the Korean War, as did the Churchill Crocodile. 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. The Royal Engineers subsequently used modified Centurion and Chieftain 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/Operation Granby 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 and have been recently adopted by the US Marine Corps and the US Army in Iraq.

Surviving vehicles

Sherman Crab mine-clearing tank displayed at the CFB Borden Military Museum, Ontario, Canada.

This is an incomplete list:

See also


  1. Haycock, D. J. (1 August 2004). Eisenhower and the Art of Warfare: A Critical Appraisal. McFarland. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-7864-1894-7. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 Zaloga, Steven (2012). US Amphibious Tanks of World War II. Osprey. p. 19.
  3. United States Army Center For Military History (26 March 2006). "Omar Nelson Bradley: General of the Army". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 8 Jun 2009.
  4. Contribution to victoryarchive.org. Pages 32, 67 The Associated Equipment Co. Ltd. Accessed 2010-08-11

Further reading

External links

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