MAP CONTROLS: Use slider or mousewheel to zoom, and hold down left mouse button
KEY: Location markers are coloured from Green meaning exact to Red meaning
gone or unknown (details here)
Click here or on the image for this location's profile page
In preparation for the Allied invasion, and as a response to the failed Dieppe landings of 1942, a large number of specialised vehicles were produced by modifying conventional tanks. They came to be known as the ‘Funnies‘ and were designed to help conventional forces in the initial assault on the German defences, and also to provide particular specialised help. One such vehicle was the Churchill Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE). This was based on the Churchill tank Mark III or IV but with a large number of changes, including the replacement of most of the ammunition stowage with engineers’ stores.
The most visible modification to the standard vehicle was the replacement of the standard 6pdr gun with a massive, stubby spigot mortar known as the Petard. This fired a large explosive charge descriptively nick-named the ‘Flying Dustbin’. The mortar was loaded externally, by breaking the barrel like a shotgun, so special sliding hatches were fitted in the roof of the fighting compartment in front of the turret. The results of the mortar fire could be devastating, with a single shot bringing down a house, or a series of shots shattering the strongest bunker.
It was decided in 1944 to form three RE regiments as armoured assault regiments for the invasion and they were equipped with the first AVREs. They formed the 1st Assault Brigade, RE, of 79th Armoured Division. A total of 180 Churchills were modified into AVREs by divisional workshops in the two months prior to D-Day, and a further 574 were converted by the end of the war. As well as standard demolition and engineering work, the AVRE was capable of being used for many specialised tasks and for carrying special equipment such as bridges, fascines, anti-mine rollers and ploughs, and mat-laying devices.
here or on the image for this tank's profile page
“1C” painted on rear turret stowage box so referred to as “One Charlie”. Previously carried the name “AVENGER” painted on the side air intakes.
This AVRE is on display to the west of Graye-sur-Mer, near Courseulles-sur-Mer. It was recovered from the beach where it had foundered during the invasion landings and been buried under the sand. During the recovery in November 1976 it was revisited by RE veterans including Bill Hawkins, the demolitions NCO in the AVRE, and George Dunn, its driver. Items recovered from it included an intercom hand microphone, a safety razor, a tin of corned beef and an emergency chocolate ration (for more information contact the RE Museum, Brampton Barracks, Chatham). The vehicle was later restored by the French Army workshops in Caen and put on display on a concrete plinth by the beach exit road. It was unveiled as a permanent memorial on 15 October 1977. It is in remarkably good condition considering its history. A plaque in front of it reads as follows:
|CHAR CHURCHILL A.V.R.E.|
26 ASSAULT SQUADRON ROYAL ENGINEERS
7 CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE
|DEBARQUE PAR CETTE BRECHE LE 6 JUIN 1944|
CE CHAR FUT IMMOBILISE
A 100M. AU SUD DE CE SITE
ET DEMEURA EN TERRE PENDANT 32 ANS.
RESTAURE EN 1977, IL COMMEMORE LE SOUVENIRE
DES MEMBRES DE SON EQUIPAGE
ET DE TOUS CEUX QUI ONT DONNE LEUR VIE
POUR LA LIBERTE
|THIS TANK LANDED ON GRAYE SUR MER BEACH|
AT H-HOUR ON D-DAY
AND WAS STOPPED ON ITS WAY INLAND
100 METRES SOUTH OF THIS SPOT
THE MEMBERS OF ITS CREW WERE KILLED
OR BADLY WOUNDED
IT REMAINS AS A MEMORIAL
TO ALL THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES HERE
6 JUIN 1994
On D-Day a Sherman Crab flail tank and an AVRE were drowned in a crater in the dunes near Courseulles. Another AVRE pushed the fascine off the first one and then lowered a Small Box Girder Bridge over the top to allow the advance to continue. The drowned AVRE is believed to be this same one now preserved (source: Sherman Register).