79th Armoured Division was created
in September 1942; Major General Percy Hobart was
appointed to command, having recently raised and trained
the 11th Armoured Division.
chose a symbol of a charging bull for 11th
Armoured Division and retained the theme for the 79th,
with this stylised bulls head design. Shown
is the cloth badge, or shoulder flash worn on a soldiers
arm. The same badge would be painted on 79th
Armoured Division vehicles and it soon became one
of the best known, and most popular divisional signs
among the Allied armies.
General P. C. S. Hobart.
The 79th was raised as
a conventional armoured division. Its three armoured
Royal Dragoon Guards.
formed 27th Armoured Brigade while its infantry came from battalions
of three famous regiments;
Kings Own Shropshire Light
Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
formed 185 Infantry Brigade.
In addition the division had the
normal complement of Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers
and other branches attached. For the next six months
the 79th, based mostly in Yorkshire, underwent training
for war just like any other, regular armoured division.
In April 1943 79th Armoured
Division was nominated for an entirely new role. With
the forthcoming invasion of occupied France in mind
it was decided to form a spearhead armoured division
that would employ specially modified armoured vehicles
that could smash though the hard crust of the German
defences and prepare a way for regular forces to follow
This meant that 79th
Armoured Division would become a unique formation
with a unique role. Nothing like it had ever existed
before, nothing quite like it has been created since.
However its very originality was also a liability.
It was not just a question of accepting the new equipment;
it had to be tested and improved, combat drill had
to be devised and techniques worked out for the best
way to use it. There was also the problem of selling
it to the rest of the army. Many people were cautious
until they understood while others waited until the
division, and its equipment, was able to prove itself
As 27th Armoured Brigade
was already part of the division it was converted
to Duplex Drive amphibious tanks. It was joined by
35th Tank Brigade, which operated Canal
Defence Light searchlight tanks and later by 1st
Armoured Engineer Brigade, Royal Engineers,
that would operate the Churchill AVRE, or Armoured
Vehicle, Royal Engineers. In December 1943 79th
Armoured Division took on responsibility for operating
flail mine-clearing tanks, known as Sherman Crabs,
which were issued to the three regiments of 30th
A Grant Canal Defence
Light on a night exercise.
The 35th Tank Brigade,
with their CDL tanks were based at Lowther
Castle, near Penrith in Cumbria while 27th Armoured Brigade
would be dispersed to coastal; sites around the country.
Drive tanks on an amphibious exercise.
Meanwhile a separate organisation, the Anti-Tank Experimental
Establishment (ATEE) was renamed the Obstacle Assault
Centre (OAC) and, as part of the Royal Engineers experimented
with different devices to blow up concrete obstacles
and other traps. Based at Hankley Common, near Farnborough it would play an increasingly
important part in the saga of The Funnies.
a Goat demolition device on a Churchill Tank at Hankley
There would be changes and more
additions but these were the brigades that formed
the division before D-Day. Over the next few months
we will take a closer look at the regiments involved,
the fascinating equipment they developed and some
of the personalities associated with 79th