The British unleashed these contraptions (pictured) on D-Day, June 1944. What were they known as?
Major General Percy “Hobo” Hobart (1885 – 1957) had an odd military career. It started conventionally enough in 1904 with a commission in the Royal Engineers, then military service in World War I and British India. Hobart was an early visionary of armoured warfare and so, in 1923, made a career switch into the Royal Tank Corps. He published extensively and among his foreign fans was the German General Heinz Guderian. Hobart eventually formed and trained the unit that, in World War II, became famous as the "Desert Rats.” But in 1940 he was sacked.
The War Office had not taken kindly to Hobo's "unconventional" ideas about armoured warfare. Finding himself in unwanted early retirement he joined the Local Defence Volunteers as a lowly lance corporal. His energy in organising the defences of his hometown became widely known; so, in 1941, Winston Churchill insisted that Hobart be recalled to the Army. He was eventually assigned to raise and train a new division, the 79th Armoured Division.
Hobart‘s unconventionality contributed significantly to the success of the 1944 Normandy invasion. He saw the need for specialised vehicles to cope with obstacles. The 79th assembled units of modified tank designs collectively nicknamed "Hobart's Funnies,” some of which are in the picture. Clockwise from top left are the flame-throwing Crocodile, the mine-busting Crab, the path-laying Bobbin and the swimming Sherman (the DD “Donald Duck” variant, also adopted by US forces).