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Churchill AVRE Fascine Carrier

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Fascine Carrier, one of Hobart's Funnies

Churchill AVRE with fascine

When planning the Normandy landings, the British Ministry of Defense 1 (MD1) faced many difficulties for which they hoped to overcome by designing new weapons and equipment for use in unique combat situations. These special tanks and equipment were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under General Percy Hobart and became known as Hobart's Funnies.


One of the problems to be overcome by the MD1 (also known as Churchill’s Toyshop), was the fact that once on land, the vehicles would encounter trenches, ditches and tank traps with which they would need to deal in order for the Allies to advance. This problem was addressed by the creation of a multipurpose armoured vehicle, the Churchill AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers), which could be equipped with a fascine carrier. IWM photo above shows Churchill AVRE carrying a fascine during practice exercises in 1943. The tank is in the process of crossing a tank trap that has already been filled with facines.

One of the unanticipated uses of the fascine carrier was to fill in the large craters created by Allied battleship guns and heavy bombers. Some of these projectiles and bombs were a thousand pounds each, containing high explosives which created immense craters that could swallow as many as two or three tanks.


Brushwood fascines

Facine loaded on Churchill AVRE

Fascines were a group of sticks (brushwood), which were wired together into large bundles. Approximately 6 feet to 8 feet in diameter and approximately 11 feet wide, metal pipes could be placed in the center of a bundle to act a as a culvert. A special rack (cradle) was used to carry the fascine on the hull deck of an AVRE, in front of the turret. Secured in place by hawsers, the fascine could be released into a ditch or other void, to fill the space. Additional fascines could be towed by the AVRE on a trailer.


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Unfortunately, the fascine obscured the driver's view, making it necessary for a crewman to be outside the AVRE to pass on driving directions. It also created problems if it were necessary to fire the AVRE's Petard spigot mortar. Despite these problems, the AVRE fascine carrier was quite successful in filling German tank traps and other voids, allowing it and the remaining Allied vehicles to cross over and advance. Once free of the fascine and rack, however, the AVRE could carry on as a conventional armored vehicle. IWM photo shows fascine in place on Churchill AVRE with cradle visible. 1943.

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