A Churchill AVRE Mk. IV tank stands near the 41st Royal Marine Commando Monument.
A plaque placed next to the tank reads:
“6 June 1944 – 6 June 1994
CHURCHILL TANK OFFERED BY GENERAL SIR IAN HARRIS
WHO COMMANDED THE INFANTRY BATALLION ON D-DAY
2nd R.U.R. (ROYAL ULSTER RIFLES)”
Churchill tank – AVRE series
The AVRE or in full: “Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers” was a Churchill III or IV tank equipped with the 290 mm Petard Spigot mortar. It’s projectile was nicknamed “Flying dustbin”, because of it’s unaerodynamic characteristics, weighing about 18 kg. The mortar could fire the projectile with its 28 pound high explosive warhead over a distance of around a 100 meters. The weapon was used for the quick leveling and breaching of bunkers and fortifications.
The loading of the Petard on the Churchill tank was rather unusual. By traversing the turret to the co-driver’s hatch, the co-driver could open the Petard barrel, push the projectile in and close it. During this procedure, the co-driver’s hands were briefly exposed to the outside, making it a risk full job.
The AVRE was designed after the failed landing raid at Dieppe, France. The tank could also be equipped with various other attachments, such as mine flails, fascine rollers, explosive placers, etc. The six men crew were drawn from the Royal Engineers, except for the driver who came from the Royal Armoured Corps. One of the Royal Engineers crew was a demolitions NCO sapper responsible for priming the “Flying dustbin”.
For the D-day invasion of France in June 1944, a 180 Churchill tanks were converted to AVRE’s.