The Funnies of D Day


Always a favourite at TD Towers, the Imperial War Museum have a great collection if if images, a short extract of which are below

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Major-General Sir Percy Hobart though trained as an engineer , first being in the RCE transferred over to the RCT and founded the first permanent armoured brigade. His tank warfare ideas were dismissed by the still influential Calvary cadre (this the 1930’s, horses are very useful patrolling the Khyber pass but not the fighting on fields of Europe!) however Guderian took note and liked what he wrote. He was also in the idea of the armour being the quick metal fist to burst through enemy forces and push into their rear areas closely followed and supported by mechanised troops. He got to put this into action in Egypt in 1938 in a unit which became the Desert Rats. His ideas were still considered ‘unconventional’ to the point Wavell (Commander-in-Chief Middle East) pushed him into retiring (he was 55) . After a brief posting as a Lance corporal in the Home Guard (he retired as a Brigadier!) Churchill reinstated him and protected him from his detractors in the Army. Eventually posted as commander of the new 79th. Almost disbanded due to a lack resources (read tanks) it was reassigned as a specialised armour unit of his old alma Mata the Royal Engineers neatly side stepping his old enemies ,even his brother-in-law ,Montgomery , was relatively powerless to stop his detractors but he did bypass them by going directly to Eisenhower who supported the need for such a unit. The rest is history.

Just re-read Iron Fist by Bryan Perrett who’s Chapter 9 covers Hobo’s Funnies.
This man was very similar it seems to his brother-in-law and did not have lets say a great deal of tact and patience for those that did not share in his beliefs :-)
He deserves a lot more recognition than what he has received who against strong opposition from within persevered and got the job done creating the modern form of tank warfare.

Ace Rimmer

I like the funnies, it demonstrates the unconventional genius of Hobart. Unfortunately, they also demonstrate the conventional stupidity and ignorance of successive thinkers. Vehicles like these generally are phased out after major conflicts, only to be ‘re-discovered’ after the next one has already begun.

One example which springs to mind are mine rollers, which were demonstrated on Mk V tanks just after WWI, they were used in WWII to great effect and I’ve seen pictures on the web of Saracen APC’s deployed in Aden with them in the 1960’s. Fast forward to Iraq and Afghanistan, where were they? The mine roller system for the Humvee wasn’t deployed to Iraq until March 2007.

Exactly which part of the military psyche forces us to suffer the same mistakes for each successive conflict?

A somewhat frustrated Ace…

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Ace Rimmer – Can all too easily happen during a war as well – the 79th Armoured Brigade box of tricks was much in evidence within UK and Canadian formations…but very little used by the Cousins as far as I can recall…


The cousins were having trouble dislodging the 35,000 Germans defending Brest , the German commander had reinforced the towns old defences with 20mm and 40mm cannons , 105mm guns ,wire , tank traps , a moat , minefields and the odd buried 300lb naval shell wired to remote detonators! General Bradley asked for assistance and some Churchill Crocodile flame thrower tanks and supporting gun only Churchill’s were sent. After two days of heavy fighting the Crocodiles flaming everything in sight helped bring about the German surrender.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Monkey – interesting – am I right in believing that the Cousins were offered funnies of their own but declined them? I have a family connexion with this campaign, in that my Dad was a Recce Subaltern with 11th Armoured Division until wounded (sniper, or possibly trigger-happy gunner!). Whenever we visit Bovington, Boy pats the Cromwell in memory of the Grandfather he knows only from the photo taken when he was Commissioned in 1943…


The cousins refused all types accept the DD Sherman at Utah of 30 tanks launched @ 3000 yards and 29 arrived and Omaha 29 launched @ 6000yards and but only 2 arrived. The loss of tank support on Omaha made for an all ready very difficult assault against the fixed emplacements of the Germans almost impossible. In the Pacific though flail tanks, flamethrower tanks etc were all used.
The Canadians used Hobarts funnies though using the Kangaroo shown above in an interesting way .Two bomber streams would fly separated by a mile plus gap either side of an armoured assault column. Above the enemy lines they would carpet bomb the enemy protecting the assault column’s flanks. The kangaroos protected the infantry supporting the tanks from bomb fragments allowing them to keep up with the tanks then dismount once the bomber streams had finished .