Saturday, February 11, 2006

Armoured recovery Vehicles

The Churchill Armoured Recovery Vehicle Mark 2

It had a Bedford flat twelve engine and weighing 39 tons had a top speed of 15mph.
Reme used older tank chassis as recovery vehicles.
Units such as 662 Armoured Troops Workshops would recover vehicles from the battlefield and this often put them in front of the Infantry. It was a tactic learned from the Germans in the desert they held the battle ground and recovered any movable vehicles, this made the British think they had far more tanks than they actually had.

Joining up in 1947 we were still using the Wartime material including a lot of the old tank chassis as well as the normal recovery vehicles.
Frank Mee.Posted by Picasa


You will see in the comments that I originally thought that this was an ARV Mk I, rather than a Mk II, but I had completely overlooked that it had a dummy gun. Here are larger images of both versions:

Churchill ARV Mk I

Churchill ARV Mk II

(Copyright ©Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis 1969)


Blogger Peter G said...

All the evidence, Frank, indicates that the photo is that of a Churchill ARV Mark I, not the Mark II.

What is perplexing is that that photo appears at the REME Museum here, and that really should to settle the matter.

However, this identical photo is shown on this site as a Mark I. The caption to that same photo there reads Churchill ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle) MK I - This was a turretless MK I with a jib, while the ARV Mk II had a fixed turret/superstructure with a dummy gun.

So who do we believe? Common sense would seem to suggest that the REME Museum should know and should be believed. However, if we turn to the authoritative "British and American Tanks of World War Two", by Chamberlain and Ellis, there are eleven pages devoted to the Churchill with all forty variants discussed in detail and supported by 40 photographs. They leave no doubt whatsoever that the photo is that of a Churchill AVR Mark I.

Regarding these recovery vehicles, Chamberlain and Ellis say:

Churchill ARV Mk I: Churchill I or II with turret removed, stores carried in turret space, and fitted to carry demountable A-frame jib front and rear. Twin mount for Bren AA machine gun. Produced from February 1942. The caption to the photo reads Churchill ARV Mk I withA-frame jib erected. Note twin Bren MG mount. The photo is of an identical vehicle to the one you show, Frank, but from a closer and different angle.

Churchill ARV Mk II: Churchill III or IV chassis with turret removed and replaced by fixed box-like dummy turret and dummy gun. Fitted with demountable jibs, front and rear, earth spade at rear, and two-speed winch with 25 (long) tons pull. Produced in 1944 and used for many years post war. The caption to the photo reads Churchill ARV Mk II with front jib erected. Note earth spade at rear and dummy gun.

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Perhaps it goes to show how difficult it sometimes to correctly identify some things? Dare I use the term 'it is a minefield'?

Although it may not be particularly important about being a Mk I or a Mk II here, sometimes a slight inaccuracy in what is being depicted in a photo may change the whole context of an historical account.


Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

I have emailed the REME Museum about this. I bet the outcome will be that the museum has the Mk II with the dummy gun removed for post-war work, but they have used a photo of a Mk I variant on their website to depict it.

As Frank says, from his own experience, "Vehicles supplied as new were very soon adapted as the men using them knew what they wanted and being engineers promptly did it".

I await the REME Museum s's curator's reply with interest.

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

On reflection I now think it is a Mk II after all. I was too busy looking at end details and completely missed the dummy gun. Looking at trees and missing the wood.

I am sure that the REME Museum will confirm it as a Mk II, the Mk I had the machine gun mounts instead of the dummy gun.

My apologies.

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

My first thought on seeing this picture was that it was a Mk 1 inasmuch as it had the welded plate turret - the Mk 111 & 1V's had the cast turret which pre cluded the use of the 17 pounder as it was too short for that gun's recoil...but I am no expert, a real expert is Gerry Chester of the NIH who still awaits his invitation to join us , he has a complete history of the Churchill - even when it was due for demolition before Longstop in North Africa when a whole troop of B sqaudron managed the scale the heights much to the surprise of the enemy who had no anti- tank weapons up there. This feat ensured the on going production of the Churchill which went on to some 8 Marks. Gerry has some great pictures of this event.

Sunday, 12 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


It was your email to me regarding the turret and gun, which made you think it was a Churchill Mk I, which rang bells with me.

I had completely overlooked the gun, in fact the gun is a dummy which was fitted to the ARV Mk II. The 'turret' was a fixed structure and the 'gun' pointed to the rear.

Sorry for creating this wild goose chase, folks!

Sunday, 12 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

There were a whole series of these modified tanks.

The Churchill AVRE (AVRE: Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) This resulted from lessons learnt on the Dieppe raid, where it first became obvious that a tank recovery vehicle was needed. It was the result of an idea of Lt Donavan of the Royal Canadian Engineers. He proposed using an existing tank. Trials were carried out with both the Ram and the Sherman, but the choice went to the Churchill because it had a roomier hull and side escape doors. 180 Churchill Mk III and Mk IV were converted for the Normandy D-Day Landings, armed with a spigot mortar, called a Petard, of 29cm calibre and used by the 1st Assault Brigade of 79th Armoured Division. Subsequently another 574 vehicles were converted and contributed greatly to the NW Europe campaign.

The Churchill BARV (BARV: Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle) was a modified Churchill ARV Mk I. They had shingle plates fitted over the suspension arms and deep wading gear. Some of these had a box-shaped dummy turret. Only a few Churchill BARVs were produced, for recovering tanks on beaches, the Sherman proving better for this task.

The Sherman BARV that Frank mentions was the result of a late decision, made in October 1943. A Sherman ARV Mk I was converted with an added welded superstructure, bilge pump, and engine intake trunking for deep wading. It was tested in December 1943 and proved very successful, with the ability to work in nine feet of water; better than the Churchill BAVR. 21 Army Group requested 50, later upped to 66, and 52 were delivered for D-Day.

But unlike the Churchill BARVs these were towing vehicles only, since to simplify and shorten production the winches were omitted.

In post-war service the Sherman BARV was called Sea Lion.

Monday, 13 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

I have received the following information from the Brian Baxter, the Technical Historian of the REME museum:


I have just been presented with the correspondence between you, Pete Eldred and others on the subject of Churchill ARVs. The Museum's example is most definitely a Churchill ARV Mk 2.

The Mk 1 ARVs, Churchill, Sherman, Cromwell etc were all turretless hulls with the turret space plated over but with a hatchway and in most cases a twin Bren machine gun mounting mainly for air defence. These were virtually tugs in that they had no hull winch. The Mark 2 ARVs were developed to make good this deficiency.

The Churchill ARV Mk2 had a fixed box structure in place of the turret which housed the Bedford engine which powered the Croft winch and also those members of the crew other than the driver. There was a low fixed jib at the rear above the hinged spade anchor. A feature of the Mk 2 was the dummy gun barrel slightly angled so as not to foul the winch cable when this was rigged to pull from the front.

The basic distinction between a Mk 1 and Mk 2 is the presence or absence of this boxed structure in place of the original tank's turret. The dummy gun is only present if the winch housing is there to hold it. In practice some of the dummy guns were removed either accidentally or because they got in the way.

One identification problem with our example is that its rear spade is missing. The vehicle was recovered from a range where it had been used as a target and was cosmetically restored for display. We still need the spade to complete this restoration.

I hope this settles the debate.

Brian Baxter, Technical Historian.

Wednesday, 15 February, 2006  

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