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Churchill AVRE Personal Stories

Our battle tanks began to arrive, proper AVREs at last. However they were without machine-guns or Petards. These arrived in dribs and drabs later on. The Petard ammunition did not arrive until just before D-Day.

Tank Museum photo No. 2116/A/5 At the end of April Captain Grant told me to take my tank and reel in some of the derelict signal cable which was running across the heath. We had reached the middle of the heath when an explosion occurred, just behind the turret; we had run over a mine. The area had been used by the flails to practice flailing live mines, they must have missed this one.

Before my tank could be repaired the formation for D-day was decided. Two Landing Craft were available for each Troop. The bridge and fascine tanks required a lot of room and with the flails and an armoured bulldozer there was only room for five AVREs. One from each troop would have to be left behind.

Lance Sergeant Wells RE, 80 Assault Squadron.

Tank Museum photo No. 2116/A/5


Tank Museum photo No. 0341/D/6The first job was to train the individual crew members in the separate skills of tank commander, driver, co-driver, radio operator and demolition NCO (the last named being a lance corporal) thus making up a six-man crew for the Churchill which was , originally, a five-man tank. So the demolition NCO had a very blind and cramped position but was responsible for all the explosives.

The Royal Armoured Corps drivers at first thought that they were just to help with training but were soon surprised and shocked to be compulsorily transferred to the Royal Engineers. Although they wore our badge they were very reluctant to give up their black berets!

Major R E Ward, 42nd Armoured Engineer Regiment.

Tank Museum photo No. 0341/D/6


Tank Museum photo No. 1779/A/5I was trained at Catterick in the Royal Armoured Corps on Churchill tanks. When it came to be posted some of us were told that we were to join a Royal Engineers unit in Suffolk. We started training with crews made up of Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Engineers. The Royal Engineers were in the crew to take care of explosives when necessary.

We started training with Landing Craft and would make landings around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales, getting ready for D-Day. We were always the first to go in on landings.

Driver W E Beeton, 79th Armoured Engineer Squadron.

Tank Museum photo No. 1779/A/5

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