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Special purpose bridging - SBG & ARC

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Mobile bridges for the invasion of Normandy

SBG Churchill

SBG Churchill tn Small box girder tn

Click thumbnail to see larger image.

As the British planned for the D-Day invasion, one of the problems addressed was a means to bridge ditches, tank traps and cross seawalls. Hobart's 79th Armoured Division, in charge of developing armor for special purposes, designed and built equipment such as the Churchill ARC (Armoured Ramp Carrier) and the SBG (Small Box Girder) for bridging purposes for which fascine placement would not be adequate. These and other creations of the Division came to be known as Hobart's Funnies.


SBG (Small Box Girder)

Designed with open girders to make a light but strong bridge, the small box girder bridge could be mounted and transported on the front of a Churchill AVRE. These bridges were used by the assault teams during the Normandy landings for crossing the sea walls and other obstacles which needed bridging. The illustration above, shows a small box girder bridge mounted on a Churchill tank. For D-Day, the SBG bridges were mounted on Churchill tanks and delivered to the Normandy beaches in LCTs (Land Craft, Tank) and LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) along with other armoured vehicles.


According to Nigel Duncan in his book 79th Armoured Division - Hobo's Funnies, in at least one case, a German artillery shell damaged a small box girder on an LCT causing it to fall upon a flail tank, blocking the exit of all of the vehicles onboard. Click thumbnail to view second photo which shows a small box girder (center) on D-Day, bridging a sea wall on the Nan White area of Juno Beach. Canadian Department of National Defense photo. These portable assault bridges could be deployed from inside the tank.


Churchill ramp carrier

Ramp carrier tn Churchill arc (ark)

Click thumbnail to see larger image.

ARC (Armoured Ramp Carrier)

Developed in 1943, the ARC (also spelled ARK) was and was based on the Churchill tank. In place of the turret, the tank was fitted with a ramp which was mounted just above the hull, and an additional, hinged ramp was added to either end.


With a crew of four, the Churchill ARK was driven with the two hinged ramps in a vertical position until it reached the obstacle which need to be bridged. It could then be driven into a void or near a sea wall, depending on the situation, where it positioned its two hinged ramps to create a bridge, in order that the vehicles which followed, could drive across the obstacle. Imperial War Museum photos.


If the void proved too deep for one ARC, another could be driven over the top of the first ramp carrier. Click thumbnail to view second photo of two ramp carriers bridging the River Senio in Italy in 1945. Note Sexton 25 pound self-propelled gun traveling across the ARC in second photo.


Armoured ramp carrier

The earlier version of the ARC had trackways approximately 2 feet wide. To accommodate vehicles with a narrower wheel base, the width of the left trackway was increased to 4 feet in later versions as can be seen in the IWM photo to the right.


Reportedly no Churchill ARCs were used on D-Day, but soon proved very successful as the advance continued across France. Usually no attempt was made to recover the ramp carrier after the vehicles crossed over it. Other developments in British mobile bridging equipment during World War II, included the Churchill bridgelayer.


This turretless tank could carry and launch a bridge by means of a hydraulic arm. It was also possible for the bridgelayer to later recover the bridge for further use.

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