Sunday, February 03, 2008

A British tank of WW2

Photograph of a British WW2 tank
(Photograph by J. Ritson)

This tank is part of the collection at the Memorial Museum for the Battle of Normandy at Bayeux, Calvados, France. The Germans nicknamed them 'Tommy Cookers', because of the tendency to burst into flames when hit by one of their shells. There was very little time for the 'Tommies' (the British soldiers inside the tanks) to escape.


Blogger Tomcann said...

Not quite correct to call a Mk 7 Churchill(75mmGun) a "Tommy Cooker" as this phrase was usually applied to the American Sherman - or the "Ronson Lighter"( they lit first time) as the British tank Crews called them owing to the fact that the first shot usually saw any Sherman burst into flame.

The Churchill was made of sterner stuff and had to be hit more than once to get all fired up - or direct into one of the two 90 gallon petrol tanks - why most crews were burned to death was that they were invariably hurt when the shot went through the turret and so disabled them from getting out in time.

An 88mm shot or long barrelled 75mm on the PZmk4 and PZmk5 Panthers- could go right through a Sherman turret - and out the other side like cardboard from a mile away !

Our six pounder in a Churchill had what was known as an APBC round which was a soft cap of aluminium which virtually melted on the angled side of a tank presenting a flat surface for the smaller ( just bigger than a half inch bullet) Ballistic missile to penetrate the armour and tear around inside the Turret boring holes in the crews.

Main trouble with that shot was we couldn't get near enough to a Panther or Tiger to know if it was effective - we were assured that it was ! By close to the end of the war - as always - we had the sabot shot which really penetrated and caused havoc inside any tank !

Ron with his topless Kangaroo - didn't have to worry about having anything penetrate his turret - he didn't have one - more fun that way I guess!

Monday, 04 February, 2008  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

I take your point regarding the 'Tommy Cookers', Tom. Inside the museum this term is rather applied to all the tanks of this period.

Having learnt about WW2 (at least as an academic study) I sometimes have to think hard about specialist terms as used in English, particularly when I have learnt about them in France. However, I know that in Normandy the Allies did have the advantage of air superiority, with aircraft used to support the tank crews. Also in the early days of the campaign the 'Big Guns' of the warships standing offshore were directed fire on the German positions in support of the Allied Armoured divisions. One of these battleships was HMS Warspite. In 2005 I had the honour to meet one of the crew of HMS Warspite at the Cumbria WW2 Victory Parade.

Not having come from a military background I sometimes find it difficult to get to grips with is when people refer to weaponry or miltary expressions when relating their stories. I have various reference books or my own notes I have made over the years which I can refer to later, but it is not the same as having it all ingrained into your thoughts like some of the senior contributors to the 2WW Blog!

Monday, 04 February, 2008  
Blogger Peter G said...


This does look like a Churchill Mk VII. The turret was redesigned on the Mk VII to take the British version of the successful American 75mm gun.

However it is unusual to see one without the full track covers which were fitted from the Mk IICS onward.


Monday, 04 February, 2008  
Blogger Tomcann said...

.... and for the third time ....yes it is indeed the Churchill MK V11 sans covers on tracks....we found that the central six foot covers tended to get shot up and invariably jammed the turret - so we removed them prior to battle.

This led to my friend Frank Alison spending two weeks in hospital as a co driver - he spent one day as gunner and as we moved into laager that night - he stepped out onto the now missing central cover when the traack wa till moving -

his screams could be hear for miles as his knee and thigh parted company with the skin and muscles.

didn;t bother him later as he finally retired as Chief Detective Inspector of the Staffs. police -

there was always excitement and fun in Tanks - ask Ron - he knows !

Tuesday, 05 February, 2008  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Thinking about Frank Alison - and his leg - and recovering from laughing -
when the Tank was finally halted - they tried to pull his leg from under the front cover - screams reached a higher pitch - removing the cover would have taken yonks - so they put the tank in reverse !!!!! That worked !
as I said - there waa always some excitement and fun !

Tuesday, 05 February, 2008  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
on re reading your comments on the Air superiority and their support of the Armoured Divisions - what most people forget is that we had only three Armoured Divs in the NW Europe campaign - the 7th Desert rats - the 11th Commanded by an old desert rat from 3rd RTR -"PIP" Roberts - and the Guards Armoured div - with three or four Tank brigades fending off at least 7 + German panzer Divs - so it says much for the tenacity of the Infantry and Artillery that they were victorious - as we had at least five Armoured divs in Italy along with four Tank and Armoured Bdes - which gave Gen Leese the opportunity to boast that he has 2000 Tanks of which he could afford to lose 50% - and he nearly did !

Wednesday, 06 February, 2008  

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