Funnies was a collective noun for tanks that had
been adapted to do something more than just fight
in the regular way. It might be to clear mines, or
destroy concrete defences or even swim. It might involve
laying carpets across soft ground, dazzling the enemy
with a bright light or terrifying them with a flame-thrower.
Once again this was nothing new. By 1918 the Royal
Engineers in Britain had tanks that could do many
of these things but further development was stifled,
for financial reasons between the wars. Yet similar
schemes soon surfaced in World War II.
Long before plans were laid for D-Day dozens of
experiments were taking place. Mine clearing tanks
were operating in the desert while experimental searchlight
tanks were being tested in the Cumberland hills. Amphibious
tanks could be found swimming in many suitable locations
and an organisation called the Anti-Tank Experimental
Establishment was working out ways that tanks could
demolish obstacles. The trouble is, much of this was
being done in isolation.
Special articles on all of these fascinating tanks,
linked to our exhibits, will feature over the following