Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers)

Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers)


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Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers)

The Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle, Royal Engineers) was developed after the Dieppe raid in an attempt to make combat engineers less vulnerable while they were attempting to destroy enemy defences.

The AVRE was developed from a suggestion made by Lieutenant J. J. Denovan of the Royal Canadian Engineers, but attached to the Special Devices Branch of the Department of Tank Design. His idea was for a tank with as much of the standard internal equipment as possible removed and replaced with storage space for the sapper's equipment, tools and explosives. The Churchill was chosen because of its combination of a large interior, thick armour and side access door, and a prototype was developed for the Department of Tank Design by the 1st Canadian M E Company.

A demonstration on Hankley Common on 25 February 1943 showed what the engineers had in mind. A Churchill tank with the internal ammunition storage removed and a new side door that unfolded to become an armoured screen was driven up to a concrete wall. The sappers emerged from the tank, placed and lit General Wade explosive charges on the wall, and then retreated in the tank. The resulting hole was large enough to drive a tank through.

The 290mm muzzle loading mortar was developed separately, by Colonel Blacker, the designer of the Blacker Bombard, a spigot mortar built for the Home Guard. He was asked to design a version of the mortar that could be mounted on a tank, and produced a mortar that could fire a 40lb high explosive shell known as the Flying Dustbin. A massive spring soaked up the 20 tons of recoil and used the energy to recock the mortar. At the Hankley Common demonstration this mortar was mounted to a Churchill tanks. After using shells fused for air burst to clear a 28ft wide gap through a minefield, the mortar then fired twelve shells directly at a 6ft thick concrete wall, creating a gap wide enough for a tank.

The two designed were merged to create the AVRE. Around 700 were produced by converting Churchill Mk IIIs and IVs, of which 180 had been completed by the D-Day landing, where they were used by the 1st Assault Brigade of the 79th Armoured Division. The AVRE was given standard attachment points that could be used to carry a wide range of specialised equipment, including fascine carriers that could drop their brushwood bundles into ditches or at the base of barriers, a variety of mine sweeping devices, a Small Box Girder bridge, 'bobbin' carpet laying tanks and the 'Goat' explosive device.

The AVRE played an important part in the success of the British and Canadian landings on D-Day, where their spigot mortar was especially valuable, destroying a number of German strong points, the most famous being the Sanatorium at Le Hamel. They continued to operate successfully during the campaign in north-western Europe, and later versions of the AVRE tank remained in use long after the Churchill had been retired.


1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers

The 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers was a specialised armoured formation of the British Army active in the Second World War. It was formed in mid-1943 and its structure was three Assault Regiments of the Royal Engineers. It was assigned to the 79th Armoured Division in preparation for the Normandy invasion of 6 June 1944. The unit comprised armoured vehicles modified for specialist roles (also known as Hobart's Funnies), intended to assist with the landing phase of the operation.

1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers
Active1943–1945
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchBritish Army
TypeEngineers
RoleArmoured Engineers
SizeBrigade
Part of79th Armoured Division
EngagementsOperation Overlord
Operation Infatuate
Operation Blackcock
Operation Plunder


Churchill AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers)

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Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.


Contents

World War One [ edit | edit source ]

The first vehicle that can be considered to be an AVRE is the Heavy RE tank developed shortly after World War I by Major Giffard LeQuesne Martel RE. Ώ] This vehicle was a modified Mark V tank. Two support functions for these AVREs were developed - bridging and mine clearance. The bridging component involved an assault bridge, designed by Major Charles Inglis RE, called the Canal Lock Bridge, which had sufficient length to span a canal lock. Major Martel mated the bridge with the tank and used hydraulic power generated by the tank's engine to manoeuvre the bridge into place. For mine clearance the tanks were equipped with 2 ton rollers.

2 Churchill ARKs bridging a difficult obstacle

Between The Wars [ edit | edit source ]

Between the wars various experimental bridging tanks were used to test a series of methods for bridging obstacles and developed by the Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE). Captain SG Galpin RE conceived a prototype Light Tank Mk V to test the Scissors Assault Bridge. This concept was realised by Captain SA Stewart RE with significant input from a Mr DM Delany, a scientific civil servant in the employ of the EBE. MB Wild & Co, Birmingham, also developed a bridge that could span gaps of 26 feet using a complex system of steel wire ropes and a travelling jib, where the front section was projected and then attached to the rear section prior to launching the bridge. This system had to be abandoned due to lack of success in getting it to work, however the idea was later used successfully on the Beaver Bridge Laying Tank. Ώ] ΐ]

World War Two [ edit | edit source ]

Once World War Two had begun the development of armoured vehicles for use by engineers in the field was accelerated under Delaney's direction. The EBE rapidly developed an assault bridge carried on a modified Covenanter tank capable of deploying a 24 ton tracked load capacity bridge (Class 24) that could span gaps of 30 feet. However, it did not see service in the British armed forces and all vehicles were passed onto allied forces such as Australia and Czechoslovakia. Ώ] Α] A Class 30 design superseded the Class 24 with no real re-design, simply the substitution of the Covenanter tank with a suitably modified Valentine. Ώ] As tanks in the war got heavier a new bridge capable of supporting them was developed. A heavily modified Churchill used a single-piece bridge mounted on a turret-less tank and was able to lay the bridge in 90 seconds this bridge was able to carry a 60 ton tracked or 40 ton wheeled load. Ώ] The first bridge to equip an AVRE Churchill was the Tank Bridge, Box Girder. This equipment bridged gaps of 30 feet, but could also be used to cross 12 foot seawalls or other similar obstacles. The Churchill ARK (Armoured Ramp Carrier) was a flexible design, where the tank itself was the "bridge". Multiple vehicles could be used to span gaps in both the vertical and horizontal. The tank had the turret removed and trackways fitted to the hull. Ramps were attached at each end of the trackways extending the bridging potential and allowing its use in difficult terrain. The tank would need recovery after its use was no longer required. Ώ]


Churchill AVRE

The Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers) was a modification of the Churchill infantry tank used during World War II. Developed in response to the disastrous Dieppe Raid , the AVRE was one of several in a series nicknamed Hobbart's Funnies which were specialised engineering vehicles intended for obstacle clearing during beach landings. The AVRE was equipped with a 290mm spigot mortar dubbed the "Flying Dustbin" which could launch high-explosive charges for destroying barricades, bunkers and minefields. The vehicle saw action during and after D-Day .


The Churchill AVRE

The Churchill AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) was a modified Churchill tank armed with a 290mm spigot mortar for demolishing obstacles. The following statement was written in support of a claim by Lt J. J. Denovan to the postwar Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors with regards to his efforts in developing the AVRE.

Churchill AVRE of 617th Assault Squadron Royal Engineers
near Geilenkirchen, 19 November 1944. © IWM (B 11963)

Statement by Lieutenant Colonel George Clive Reeves, a retired Regular Officer, until August 1950 Chief Instructor at the Royal Armoured Corps School of Tank Technology, Chobham Lane, Chertsey, Surrey, and now resident at 3036 St Sulpice Road, Montreal, Canada

1. From March 1942 to April 1943, I was Assistant Director in command of the Special Devices Branch, of the Tank Design Department, Ministry of Supply.

2. On the 19th August 1942, I accompanied the Calgary Regiment (a Canadian Armoured Regiment) in the raid on Dieppe by the Allied Forces. During the raid, I noticed that owing to obstacles, the sea wall and the difficulty of negotiating the shingle, the tanks had great difficulty in getting off the beach. In fact, as far as I am aware, only three tanks succeeded in doing so.

3. On return to my Headquarters at Special Devices Branch, Tank Design Department, I called my staff and attached officers together to a Conference and explained to them the difficulties encountered during the raid on Dieppe. I set them the problem of exploring the possibility of developing devices to enable obstacles to be surmounted by a tank or be destroyed by a tank crew without them being exposed to enemy fire.

4. As the result of the conference Lieutenant Denovan’s initial experiment was to mount a Bombard Spigot (fixed) on the front of a tank, but this did not prove successful since though the destruction of the obstacle was achieved, the spigot when rigid mounted was damaged by the shock of discharge.

5. Subsequently, Lieutenant Denovan submitted to me a description (dated 27th August 1942) and drawings of his idea of an Engineer Tank. These documents I have identified on the file 160/0/155 of the Department of Tank Designs, Ministry of Supply.

6. The idea of an Engineer Tank, as suggested by Lieutenant Denovan, appeared to me to be a novel and effective way of meeting all the difficulties that I had mentioned at the conference, with the exception of shingle negotiation. In order that a tank could be obtained to try out the suggestion, I sent the documents submitted by Lieutenant Denovan to the War Office and subsequently I attended with Lieutenant Denovan at the War Office (E.Ops) to discuss the matter with Lieutenant Colonel Gardale and other officers. On conclusion of, and as a result of these discussions, E.Ops representatives stated that as far as they were concerned an official requirement existed for the Engineer Tank and that action would be taken to have this confirmed through the relevant official channel, this being E.Ops to Engineer-in-Chief, the War Office, to Director General Fighting Vehicles, to D.F.V.D.L. to myself (A.D.T.D.(S.D.), Ministry of Supply.
It was of course the responsibility of D.G.F.V. to ensure that none of his departments or branches were overloaded with work, and in consequence of this D.F.V.D.L. SECRET minute dated 22nd December 1942 was addressed to me, instructing me that the activities of my branch in connection to the Engineer Tank were to be solely of an advisory nature. …

7. Upon receipt of the SECRET minute referred to in paragraph 6 above, I discussed the Engineer Tank project with Lieutenant Denovan, and I was fully in sympathy with his determination to proceed with it at all costs. I had however to instruct him:-


Brigade Units [ edit | edit source ]

  • AVRE - Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers was a Churchill tank adapted to attack German defensive fortifications. The crew included two Royal Engineers who could easily enter the tank through its side hatches. The AVRE had the main gun replaced by a PetardSpigot Mortar. This fired a forty-pound (18 kg) HE-filled projectile (nicknamed the Flying Dustbin) 150 yards (137 metres). The "Dustbin" could destroy concrete obstacles such as roadblocks and bunkers. 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-foot-wide (3.0 m) 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 itself) would not sink into the soft ground of the beaches during the amphibious landing.
    • Fascine - 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 was an assault bridge that was carried in front of the tank and could be dropped to span a 30-foot (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 mines.
    • 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.

    Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers) - History

    AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers、またはAssault Vehicle Royal Engineers) は、イギリス陸軍 王立工兵隊 (英語版) で運用される戦闘工兵車の呼称である。

    この作戦の失敗の後、カナダ軍工兵部隊は前線での作業中に工兵を防護する装甲工兵車両の開発を戦車開発部 (Department of Tank Design, DTD)に提案した。開発はディエップ作戦の戦訓に基づいて行われ、試作車両はチャーチル歩兵戦車、M4シャーマン中戦車、ラム巡航戦車から開発された。これらのうち、最も性能の良かったものがチャーチルをベースにした工兵車両であった。チャーチルの車体側面には昇降用ドアが付いており、これは純粋に戦車として見れば装甲防御力の低い弱点となるのだが、工兵車として見た場合、工兵が前線で身を隠し、また展開するのに使える非常に便利なものであった。また車体の大きいチャーチルには、工兵用の機材を搭載可能な十分なスペースがあった。

    1942年10月にはチャーチルをベースとした工兵車両の発注が行われ、同時にこの車両はAssault Vehicle Royal Engineersと命名された。チャーチルAVREの本格的な試験は1943年から行われた。

    1944年から、チャーチルMk.IIIおよびMk.IVをベースとしたチャーチルAVREの量産が開始され、 第79機甲師団 (英語版) 隷下の 王立工兵第1突撃旅団 (英語版) の3個の突撃連隊に配備された。これらの車両はこの部隊で運用された何種類かの特殊車両のベースとなり、これらと合わせてホバーツ・ファニーズと呼ばる事となった。

    AVREの名称については、開発された当初は情報秘匿のために"工兵戦車" (Engineer Tank)と称されており [1] 、その後1943年頃までは少なくとも"Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers"が正式名称であったが、これを略した"AVRE"という語が普及し、ある時点からAVREの元である本来のフルネームが"Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers"となった、という事と考えられている。


    A dditional uses for the AVRE

    External fittings could be used on the AVRE that allowed it to be used for a wide variety of other purposes such as, fascine carrier loaded with bundles of wood, box girder bridge layer, bobbin layer for use in placing carpet (mat) over soft ground, or for placing demolition charges with devices. The charges and their devices were known by unusual names such as Bangalore Torpedo, Jones Onion, and Goat. To extend its abilities even further, a sledge could be loaded with combat stores and towed behind. The AVRE became known as one of Hobart's Funnies a variety of specialized vehicles. Imperial War Museum photo above, right, shows a AVRE fascine carrier.


    Contents

    World War One

    The first vehicle that can be considered to be an AVRE is the Heavy RE tank developed shortly after World War I by Major Giffard LeQuesne Martel RE. [1] This vehicle was a modified Mark V tank. Two support functions for these AVREs were developed: bridging and mine clearance. The bridging component involved an assault bridge, designed by Major Charles Inglis RE, called the Canal Lock Bridge, which had sufficient length to span a canal lock. Major Martel mated the bridge with the tank and used hydraulic power generated by the tank's engine to manoeuvre the bridge into place. For mine clearance the tanks were equipped with 2 ton rollers.

    Between The Wars

    Between the wars various experimental bridging tanks were used to test a series of methods for bridging obstacles and developed by the Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE). Captain SG Galpin RE conceived a prototype Light Tank Mk V to test the Scissors Assault Bridge. This concept was realised by Captain SA Stewart RE with significant input from a Mr DM Delany, a scientific civil servant in the employ of the EBE.

    MB Wild & Co, Birmingham, also developed a bridge that could span gaps of 26 feet using a complex system of steel wire ropes and a travelling jib, where the front section was projected and then attached to the rear section prior to launching the bridge. This system had to be abandoned due to lack of success in getting it to work, however the idea was later used successfully on the Beaver Bridge Laying Tank. [1] [2]

    World War Two

    Once World War Two had begun the development of armoured vehicles for use by engineers in the field was accelerated under Delaney's direction. The EBE rapidly developed an assault bridge carried on a modified Covenanter tank capable of deploying a 24 ton tracked load capacity bridge (Class 24) that could span gaps of 30 feet. However, it did not see service in the British armed forces and all vehicles were passed onto allied forces such as Australia and Czechoslovakia. [1] [3]

    A Class 30 design superseded the Class 24 with no real re-design, simply the substitution of the Covenanter tank with a suitably modified Valentine. [1] As tanks in the war got heavier a new bridge capable of supporting them was developed. A heavily modified Churchill used a single-piece bridge mounted on a turret-less tank and was able to lay the bridge in 90 seconds this bridge was able to carry a 60 ton tracked or 40 ton wheeled load. [1]

    The first bridge to equip an AVRE Churchill was the Tank Bridge, Box Girder. This equipment bridged gaps of 30 feet, but could also be used to cross 12 foot seawalls or other similar obstacles. The Churchill ARK (Armoured Ramp Carrier) was a flexible design, where the tank itself was the "bridge". Multiple vehicles could be used to span gaps in both the vertical and horizontal. The tank had the turret removed and trackways fitted to the hull. Ramps were attached at each end of the trackways extending the bridging potential and allowing its use in difficult terrain. The tank would need recovery after its use was no longer required. [1]


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