Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle
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The British BARV (Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle) was designed, developed and operated by the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) as a recovery vehicle for use during amphibious landings in high surf. Their job was to rescue vehicles stranded in the surf and to remove any objects blocking the landing craft such as broken down or wrecked vehicles.
A secondary function was to push landing craft off of the beach after they had unloaded. Over fifty BARVs were ready on D-Day, June 6, 1944, where they proved to be quite valuable during the Normandy landings. IWM photo above shows a Sherman BARV towing a disabled Bedford articulated lorry and trailer off the beach on June 14, 1944.
Waterproofing the Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle
The BARV was developed from the M4A2 Sherman tank which was readily available and had a welded hull. The turret was replaced with a watertight boat-shaped framework which added increased height and a bilge pump and engine intake trunk was added for waterproofing (deep water wading). These additions allowed the BARV to work effectively in water up to 9 feet deep.
According to Philip Trewhitt in Armored Fighting Vehicles (p10), “This vehicle was fully sealed and equipped with periscopes and breathing apparatus for the crew. It came as a severe shock to the Germans when it made its debut, as they had been trying to perfect a similar vehicle for considerable time.”
Shortcomings of the Sherman BARV
Although it played a vital role in the Normandy landings, the BARV was not without shortcomings. To produce the BARV more quickly, and because of difficulties involved in waterproofing, no winch was included. So the BARV’s crew of five included a diver who connected the towing cable to the vehicle, at a point which was often underwater.
As with all tanks, visibility would have been poor, and when not in combat the hatch would typically have opened to increase the field of view. For the most part, the commander would have been up top giving orders to the driver. In combat the hatch would be secured and the driver would use a small vision slot or periscope – the slot affording a slightly wider view than the periscope. In the Imperial War Museum photo to the right, note side catwalks with hanging ropes to assist crewmen mounting the tank in the surf and the small rectangular view slots on the BARV can be seen.
In at least one case, a BARV on a Landing Craft Tank destined for Sword Beach carried two motorcycles (one on each side) lashed atop the catwalk for delivery to the beach. Also note the large wooden bumper mounted on the front in the photo above, in this case with an added cushion, for pushing unloaded landing craft back off of the beach. The BARV is being driven by 13th/18th Royal Hussars.
The Sherman BARV is often referred to as one of Hobart's Funnies, however, since it was not developed or operated by the 79th Armoured Division it is technically not one of the Funnies.