Adcock's Funnies

Adcock’s Funnies Adcock’s Funnies:
A 15mm Tribute to Hobart’s Funnies
with Neil Smith and Tim Adcock

For some of the German defenders, staring out across the Normandy beaches at the immense armada of enemy ships on 6 June 1944, the prospect of an allied beach landing might not have been as daunting as it appeared. After all, the Allies did not have a great track record of amphibious landings in this war. A few may even have been present at Dieppe in 1942 when a joint Canadian-British landing turned into a turkey shoot for the Germans as the Allied soldiers tried desperately to get off that beach.

Left: Tim Adcock, hard at work during his lunch-break, converting up his 1/100th scale Hobart’s Funnies.
The Allies too were well aware of their shortcomings at Dieppe and they had been busy attempting to solve the beach problem. Indeed, no event in history had ever been more thoroughly prepared than the D-Day landings. In 1943, the British turned to Major General Percy Hobart to develop ideas to get the men off the beaches quickly and provide paths for armoured support to land, giving immediate and on-going assistance. Hobart got down to business, designing, testing and developing a wide array of odd vehicles to carry out specific tasks. The peculiar assortment of vehicles assembled for the invasion of Europe was collectively named after their designer: Hobart’s Funnies. The Americans did not fancy them for various reasons, but probably wished they had: the German defenders probably wished they had never seen Hobart’s Funnies at all.
Below (left to right): The Bobbin, The Fascine, and The Plough - all ready for some glorious D-Day Landing action.
Adcock’s Funnies
When planning an amphibious landing-themed edition of Wargames Illustrated, it was obvious that D-Day would have to be included. And any consideration of the British assault required some attention to Hobart’s Funnies. Fortunately WI’s parent company Battlefront Miniatures employ a rather talented modelmaker in the form of Tim Adcock, and we asked him to follow in Hobart’s footsteps; take some perfectly good Churchill tanks from the Flames Of War range and turn them into something that could clear tabletop beaches. Then we asked him to tell us about the project.
The Cast Of Funnies
Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE)
- is the title given to a series of armoured vehicles operated by the Royal Engineers for the purpose of battlefield engineer support. These vehicles were either purpose-built or modified post-
production versions of existing tank-based armoured vehicles.

Crab – A Sherman tank with a flail attached up front to detonate mines and create a path through deeper minefields.

ARK – A Churchill tank with ramps forward and aft that when deployed allowed following vehicles to drive
over the ARK across ditches or other impassable obstacles.

Box-Girder – A tank with a thirtyfoot bridge attached to the front that could be dropped across a gap to allow progress to continue uninterrupted.

Double-Onion – A tank that carried two large demolition charges that were placed against walls to blow holes in defences.
Adcock’s Funnies
Adcock’s Funnies
Adcock’s Funnies
Bobbin – A carpetlayer vehicle that carried its carpet rolled round a bobbin mounted on the front of the tank. When landed, the Bobbin advanced, rolling the carpet out in front, under then behind itself to create a temporary road across the sand and clay for following vehicles.

Plough – Plough blades were attached to a Churchill tank to sweep mines out to the side for disposal by following sappers.
Fascine – A Churchill tank that carried a large fascine at the front that would be jettisoned to fill any trenches or shell-holes on the beach.

DD Tank – A Sherman or Valentine tank fitted with a watertight canvas bag to allow them to float and thereby support the landing from the sea and on land.

Bulldozer – A conventional bulldozer vehicle with armour plates attached. They could clear obstacles but also fill in holes and conduct repairs to roads once off the beach.
Canal Defence Light – A powerful searchlight was mounted on a tank chassis to illuminate enemy
positions. While not used on the beach, the use of these for night assaults maintained allied momentum as they pushed inland.

Crocodile – A Churchill with a flamethrower installed instead of its hull-mounted machine gun. It could
hit targets over the length of a football field away and was instrumental in destroying field positions and scaring the defenders silly!

And the most ridicules of them all? The Great Eastern – a rocket- propelled bridge-layer!
Tim Adcock: Hi, I’m Tim Adcock and I have been involved in the toy soldier industry for nearly 20 years. Before which I worked as an industrial modelmaker.

Neil Smith: How long have you been with Battlefront?
Tim: About three years. I have been making masters for the Flames Of War ranges, as well as helping out on various plastics projects. 2014 is going to be a big year in plastics for us.

Neil: Have you always worked with vehicle models?
Tim: I have always been involved with straight-line modelling…

Neil: For the novice, what does “straight-line modelling” mean?
Tim: Hard-edged models basically; vehicles, war-machines, artillery pieces, and stuff like that.

Neil: Of course what you’ve done for us with the Funnies is conversion work right?
Tim: Yes, I’ve taken existing Flames Of War models and added bits to them. Using plastic-card, mainly, although I’ve also used wood, brass and green stuff for these conversions. Unlike my day job, I’ve not had to worry about the constraints of production – as these are all one off models.

Below: Pages about Hobart’s Funnies from Tim’s family collection of Military Modelling magazines.
Adcock’s Funnies
Neil: Tell us a bit more about the Funnies, what are these things and why were they needed?
Tim: In 1942 we got kicked back into the sea at Dieppe, Northern France. After landing there, the British and Canadians tried to force their way off the beach but couldn’t. One of the major problems for the infantry was lack of armoured support, even though the Churchill tank was debuted there, the armour was unable to get off the beach. A crude carpetlayer-Churchill was designed for the Dieppe raid (to throw hessian carpet over barbed wire to get troops off the beach), but it was a failure, the tracks didn’t work and everything got bogged down on the beach.

After that experience, the British decided to look into ways to create support vehicles for their engineers. They knew there would be certain obstacles laid down, as a part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, and agents were sent out once the Normandy landing sites had been determined, to find out what was waiting for them. Vehicles were then designed specifically to get troops and armour off the beaches.

The task of designing and creating these specialist vehicles was given to Hobart and the 79th Armoured Division. They came up with a number of vehicle designs to tackle the problems presented by the beach landing sites.

The basic concept with the design of the Funnies was to take an existing vehicle and convert it for a specific task by adding attachments, for example. a bridge, a plough, fascines, propellers.

Neil: Can you give us some specific information on the three vehicles you modelled?
Tim: The Fascine carrier concept came from World War I, developed to combat the basic problem of trench crossing. Tanks sometimes had difficulties getting over the larger trenches, so they dropped fascines into a trench so the vehicle could pass across safely. Sometimes the AVREs (Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers) would carry a sled with a second/spare fascine.

The Bobbin was created because the Allies knew the soft sand on the  Normandy beaches would be a problem
for heavy vehicles to traverse, so the AVRE Churchill Bobbin would lay it’s hessian and metal-reinforced temporary track for it, and other vehicles, to pass over.

The Mine Plough was developed specifically for the beaches. Although there was a Sherman Flail tank that was sent to areas with harder ground, there was concern over mines in soft sand that would leave huge craters. So the Mine Plough pushed mines aside creating a clear channel. The swept mines could then be dealt with by sappers. All three had exhaust and air intake extensions so that the tank could operate a bit deeper out to the sea, though that can’t have been a pleasant experience, sitting in a 38-tonne tank that wasn’t exactly watertight.

Below: Tim drills out holes for the top of the engine air intakes modelled on this Fascine.
Adcock’s Funnies
Neil: I notice from all the evidence around you that Military Modelling magazine has been a useful tool in your work on the Funnies?
Tim: My father has always been a keen modeller and when I was a nipper, Dad used to buy Military Modelling. When it started in the 1970s, Military Modelling was one of the few places where you could find information on these vehicles. George W. Futter produced a series of articles over nearly two years on the Funnies. They included plans, conversion ideas for model kits, and some brilliant technical drawings which I used for my models. I remember my dad making some of these models himself.

Neil: Did you use other sources on this project?
Tim: Yes, I used a book called Vanguard to Victory by David Fletcher, which includes lots of great photographs, and I also referred to a series of magazines from the MAFVA (Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicles Association) group.

Neil: So how did you get from the plans to the models?
Tim: I should point out that all three models are conversions of 15mm Flames Of War Churchill VIIs (using the stub nosed gun as a petard) - BR080. I took each plan from the relevant issue of Military Modelling and rescaled it to 1/100th to fit the Churchill model. That model was then cleaned up to make it ready for the conversion, including taking off any unnecessary features such as the shovels at the back and tow cables on the sides. Then I sat down and broke the job into little chunks.

Below: Tim's Bobbin.
Adcock’s Funnies
Wading Kit
Tim: Like most of the Funnies, the three vehicles I chose to model were fitted with a ‘wading kit’. In order to construct one of these I needed to add extended covers to the existing air intakes, designed to stop water going into the engine. To do this I used flat pieces of plastic-card cut to size and stuck over the existing sides and rear engine air intakes. Then I got a small drill and drilled out the top of the extended air intakes. I then added a little detail in the form of micro-rod, which represented the wires that held the extended intakes in place. On the back I then made extended exhaust pipes using 1mm brass rod, which I bent into shape (bit tricky this bit – in fact I was a bit slack and only did
this on the plough and fascine models because it was so tough!).

Hard Points
All of the models feature ‘hard points’ on their side. These were used for connecting the attachments, like the bobbin cradle. The original ‘Funnies’ were fitted with these, regardless of their initial ‘Funny’ fitout. The hard points allowed them to be be repurposed once the Allies had pushed inland. I made these hard poins from plasticard cut to size and stuck in about the right spots.

The Bobbin
For the Bobbin I used a circle cutter to create my bobbin ends. The secret here is to make sure you always cut in the same direction. Sometimes instead of moving the cutter, move the card underneath. If you can’t get all the way through, turn it over and cut from the other side, then push it, snapping it out. I then created the cradle for the bobbin using plasticard, which I affixed to the side of the Churchill.

The hessian track, was made from paper cut to the right width, then rolled round the bobbin, before finally adding micro strip to represent the reinforcing spars.
Below: Tim's Fascine.
Adcock’s Funnies
The Facine
The Fascine carrier/ramp was made using square 40x40 micro-strip, cut to length. The fascine itself was made by wrapping twigs around three supporting plastic tubes, which I tied with thin wire. The fascine was loosely attached to the top of the turret with micro-rod, enabling it to be taken on-and-off the model

Below: Tim's Plough.
Adcock’s Funnies
Adcock’s Funnies Adcock’s Funnies
The Plough
For the front plough attachment, I used plastic strips to make the frame. I then attached plasticard to form the plough blades, which were bent to shape using a pair of round-nosed pliers.

Neil: What made you choose these three?
Tim: Firstly, because they look silly, fancy going to war and laying a carpet! Also they appealed because I know they would be fun modelling projects and some light relief during my lunch-break, without taking too much time.

Neil: That’s great. Thanks very much for sharing your secrets with us.

~ Neil & Tim.