Churchills in Normandy

Overlord

Churchill tanks in Normandy

By Richard Chambers

THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN

Churchill tanks were amongst the first armoured vehicles to land on the beaches of Normandy in support of the Allied invasion of France on 6 June 1944. These were the specialised tanks of the 79th Armoured Division. Known as ’Hobart’s Funnies’, these first tanks ashore were specialised Churchill AVRE tanks developed to perform combat engineering tasks, not the standard Churchill’s of the Infantry Tank Brigades.

The first proper Churchill tanks into combat, the 31st Tank Brigade (consisting of 7th and 9th Battalions, Royal Tank Regiment), landed at Juno Beach on 19 June. Later they were heavily involved in Operation Epsom, expanding the beachhead, and then Operation Jupiter, which sought to retake the infamous Hill 112.

In these operation the brigade fought with 15th (Scottish) Division, 43rd (Wessex) Division and 53rd (Welsh) Division. The 31st Tank Brigade later fought in Operations Totalize and Tractable that took it to Falaise.

The 31st Tank Brigade’s third regiment, the 141st (The Buffs) Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps had been converted to have Churchill Crocodile flame-throwing tanks, prior to the invasion.

Churchill VI, 31 Tank Brigade

As such it was permanently attached to the 79th Armoured Division, and like all the other regiments of that division, was allocated out to different units along the front as the situation required.

The 34th Tank Brigade (consisting of 107th (King’s Own), 147th (Hampshire) and 153rd (Essex) Regiments, Royal Armoured Corps) arrived in Normandy in early July and its first action was Operation Greenline on 15 July (a series of diversionary attacks to distract the Germans attention from Operation Goodwood) with the 15th Division. The raids also assisted in tying down the Panzer divisions to the British sector of the front, so they were unable to interfere with the planned breakout from the American sector. 

Churchill Crocodile The 6th Guards Tank Brigade (consisting of 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards, 4th Battalion Coldstream Guards and 3rd Battalion Scots Guards), landed over Gold and Juno beaches on 20 July. Their first action was Operation Bluecoat, which sought to take Hill 309 on the Caumont-l’Evente ridge from the German 326th Infantry Division, which would interfere with any attempt by the enemy to contain the American breakout. The attack proceeded well, but in the heavy Bocage country the tanks quickly began to outstrip their attendant infantry and in the end the plans were modified into what became the most concentrated infantry tank action of the war.
In the course of a day the Churchill tanks covered six miles through terrain that would have stopped any other tank, before taking Hill 309.

This was despite three heavy Jagdpanther tank-hunters from 654th schwere Panzerjägerabteilung ambushing ‘S’ Squadron, 3rd Scots Guards, destroying eleven Churchill tanks for the loss of two Jagdpanthers in the space of a few minutes.

Churchill tanks from all three tank brigades participated in the battles the followed the capture of Caen and supported the infantry attacking the Falaise Pocket and the advance to the River Seine. The brigades were then given the opportunity to rest, retrain and restructure as the faster Armoured Divisions undertook the pursuit of what was left of the German Army in France.

Churchill VI advancing across the bocage

Normandy Churchill Markings and Names

3rd Scots Guards, 6th Guards Tank Brigade
Regimental Headquarters (named after Scottish Mountains) 

Commanding Officer
2nd in Command
Intelligence Officer  Adjutant
CAIRNGORM
BEN LAWERS
BEN MACDHUI
BEN NEVIS
Churchill OP
Churchill OP Churchill OP Churchill ARV
BRAE RIACH
BEN LEDI
LOCHNAGAR
KINDOM OF FIFE

A Squadron (named after Scottish Towns)

Squadron Commander
Squadron 2iC
Chruchill ARV
 
GREENOCK
PERTH
OBAN
 
1st Platoon
2nd Platoon
3rd Platoon
4th Platoon
1 EDINBURGH
1A DUNDEE
1B AYRE
2 LOCHINVAR
2A INVERNESS
2B DUNKELD
3 STIRLING
3A ELGIN
3B KIRKCALDY
4 MONTROSE
4A ST ANDREWS
4B GLASGOW

B Squadron (named after Scottish Islands)

Squadron Commander
Squadron 2iC
Chruchill ARV
 
COLL
TYREE
LEWIS
 
7th Platoon
8th Platoon
9th Platoon
10th Platoon
7 IONA
7A RONA
7B CANNA
8 SKYE
8A UIST
8B BARA
9 JURA
9A ISLAY
9B BUTE
10 STROMA
10A STAFFA
10B ARRAN

C Squadron (named after Scottish Rivers)

Squadron Commander
Squadron 2iC
Chruchill ARV
 
ESK
TWEED
TUMMEL
 
11th Platoon
12th Platoon
14th Platoon
15th Platoon
11 DEE
11A DON
11B DERVON
12 ANNAN
12A BEAULY
12B FINDHORN
14 SPEY
14A CLYDE
14B GARRY
15 LYON
15A LEVEN
15B LOCHY

4th Coldstream Guards, 6th Guards Tank Brigade
Regimental Headquarters 

Commanding Officer
Adjutant Churchill ARV  Churchill ARV
EAGLE
SEAGULL
CYGNET
OSTRICH

Reconnaissance Troop

SNIPE PEREGRINE HAWK KITE
FALCON OSPREY FLYCATCHER MERLIN

A Squadron

Squadron CO Churchill CS
Chruchill CS Chruchill ARV
 
EQYPT
BAROSSA
PENINSULAR
LOOS
 
No. 1 Troop
No. 2 Troop
No. 3 Troop
No. 4 Troop
No. 5 Troop 
1 ALMA
1A AISNE
1B ARRAS
2 MARNE
2A MALPLAQUET
2B MODDER RIVER
3 SOMME
3A SUAKIN
3B SEVASTOPOL
4 TANGIERS
4A TALAVERY
4B TEL EL KEBIR
5 NIVE
5A WATERLOO
5B GIBRALTAR

B Squadron

Squadron CO Chruchill CS Chruchill CS Chruchill ARV  
TIGER
JACKAL
JAGUAR
OX   
No. 6 Troop
No. 7 Troop
No. 8 Troop
No. 9 Troop
No. 10 Troop
6 BUFFALO
6A BISON
6B BEAR
7 CHEETAH
7A CARIBOU
7B COUGAR
8 ELK
8A ELEPHANT
8B ELAND
9 LION
9A LEOPARD
9B LYNX
10 PANDA
10A PANTHER
10B PUMA

C Squadron

Squadron CO Chruchill CS Chruchill CS Chruchill ARV
 
REVENGE
RENOWN
RESOLUTION
RESOURCE
 
No. 11 Troop
No. 12 Troop
No. 13 Troop
No. 14 Troop
No. 15 Troop
11 BANDIT
11A BUCCANEER
11B BULLDOG
12 DREADNOUGHT
12A DEFIANT
12B DAUNTLESS
13 MINOTAUR
13A MINERVA
13B MEDUSA
14 TRIUMPH
14A TERROR
14B THUNDERBOLT
15 VINDICTIVE
15A VALIANT
15B VENOMOUS

9th Royal Tank Regiment, 31st Tank Brigade
Regimental Headquarters 

Commanding Officer
2nd in Command Intelligence Officer  Adjutant
IRON DUKE
IRONSIDE
IRON RATION
IRON CLAD

A Squadron

Squadron CO Squadron 2IC
Chruchill ARV  
 
INVERNESS
INVERGORDON
IRON LUNG
   
1st Platoon
2nd Platoon
3rd Platoon
4th Platoon
5th Platoon 
1 IMPUDENT
1A IMP
1B ?
2 ?
2A ICENI
2B ?
3 ?
3A IRATE
3B IMPETUOUS
4 ?
4A ILLUSIVE
4B IBEX
5 IRAQ
5A ISMAILIA
5C INDIA

B Squadron

Squadron CO Squadron 2IC Chruchill ARV  
 
IROQUOIS
IMPERATOR
?
    
6th Platoon
7th Platoon 8th Platoon 9th Platoon 10th Platoon
6 INTACT
6A ?
6B ?
7 INVINCIBLE
7A IMPUNITY
7B IMPERIAL
8 INFERNAL
8A INFERNO
8B INFIDEL
9 INSPIRE
9A IMMUNE
9B IMPULSE
10 INTERCEPT
10A IMMORTAL
10B IMPRINT

C Squadron

Squadron CO Squadron 2IC Chruchill ARV   
 
INCREDIBLE
ICH DIEN
?
 
 
11th Platoon 12th Platoon 13th Platoon 14th Platoon 15th Platoon
11 INCISIVE
11A INTENSIVE
11B IMPASSIVE
12 IBN EL KELB
12A INFAMOUS
12B IBN SAUD
13 IMPENITENT
13A INDEPENDENT
13B IMPERTINENT
14 INDOMITABLE
14A INDEFATIGABLE
14B IIMPREGNABLE
15 ILFORD
15A ILKLEY
15B IRLAM

31st Army Tank Brigade
Created: 15 Jan 1941

NW Europe Campaign: 16 June 1944 to 31 August 1945 – In September 1944 the brigade was equipped with special vehicles and assigned to the 79th Armoured Division.

Units  
990 – Brigade HQ
991 - 7th Battalion, The Royal Tank Regiment
992 - 9th Battalion, The Royal Tank Regiment
993 – 141st Royal Armoured Corps
(7 RTR leaves Brigade 17 October 44)
(9 RTR leaves Brigade 31 August 44)
(141 RAC leaves Brigade 21 June 44)

Commander: Brigadier G.S. Knight

31st Tank Brigade Markings

34th Army Tank Brigade
Created: 1 Dec 1941

NW Europe Campaign: 3 July 1944 to 31 August 1945.

Units  
155 – Brigade HQ
156 – 107th Royal Armoured Corps
157 – 147th Royal Armoured Corps
158 – 153rd Royal Armoured Corps

5th Battalion Kings Own Royal Regt
10th Battalion Royal Hampshire Regt
8th Battalion Essex Regt (Replaced on 4 September 44 by the 9th RTR)

Commander: Brigadier W.S. Clarke

34th Tank Brigade Markings

6th Guards Tank Brigade
Created: 15 Jan 1943

NW Europe Campaign: 18 July 1944 to 16 June 1945.

Units
151 – Brigade HQ
152 – 4th Tank Battalion, Grenadier Guards
153 – 4th Tank Battalion, Coldstream Guards
154 – 3rd Tank Battalion, Scots Guards
Commanders: Brigadier G.L. Verney
Brigadier Sir W. Bartellot Bart, 3 August 1944, killed 18 August 44
Brigadier W.D.C. Greenacre, 18 August 1944

6th Guards Tank Brigade Markings

Rifleman and a Churchill Crocodile NORMANDY TANK SQUADRON

The heart and soul of your tank squadron is the British-designed and built Churchill tank. Like the great man himself, the Churchill tank has had its fair share of problems, but these have been overcome and the tank is now a reliable fighting machine. In fact, the latest versions are the most heavily-armoured vehicles available to the Allies.

As infantry tankers, however, you are there to support the ‘Poor Bloody Infantry’. They look to you when they come up against dug-in Jerries, machine-guns and even the Panzers. 

You look to them to keep Jerry’s Panzerfausts and other tank hunters at a safe distance and to help you seize and hold the objectives.

You are part of a unique, highly professional, integrated team, who having rehearsed this combined style of warfare safely in Britain, and are now putting the lessons you’ve learned into practice against the Hun. 

To field them in Flames Of War see Overlord.

More on Churchill Tanks... 


Last Updated On Thursday, July 4, 2013 by Blake at Battlefront