Churchill Tanks in NW Europe 1944-45 (Part 2)

‘C’ Squadron, 9 RTR, 31st Tank Brigade, Normandy 1944

As if the lockdown weren’t already tedious enough, here I am again with the second part of my Churchill tank waffle!  And there was much rejoicing.  Yay.  If you’re still here, this time I’m looking in a bit more detail at organisations and vehicle markings.

As discussed in Part 1, there were three Tank Brigades in 21st Army Group (i.e. NW Europe from 1944-1945 – Normandy to Germany); the 31st Tank Brigade, 34th Tank Brigade and 6th Guards Tank Brigade.  Theoretically distinct from Armoured Brigades, the Tank Brigades were equipped with ‘Infantry Tanks‘, which were thickly-armoured and designed to provide close support to infantry in the assault over difficult terrain.  By 1944 this role was filled exclusively by the Churchill series (a.k.a. Infantry Tank Mk IV).  Armoured Brigades by contrast, were meant to be massed in Armoured Divisions and filled with ‘Cruiser Tanks‘ (which by 1944 meant the Cromwell series), designed to exploit the gaps in enemy lines and flow through en masse to exploit the enemy’s vulnerable rear.

In reality, the production of both Churchill and Cromwell tanks fell far short of the numbers required.  Only two Armoured Brigades were equipped with Cromwell (22nd Armoured Brigade & 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade) and only five Tank Brigades (the 6th Guards, 31st & 34th in NW Europe and the 21st and 25th in Italy) were equipped with Churchill.  The 1st Armoured Engineer Brigade were also equipped with a Churchill variant, the AVRE.  The Indian 254th Tank Brigade were also starting to re-equip with Churchill at the war’s end, though never saw action with the type.

The remaining 25 (or thereabouts) Tank & Armoured Brigades under Commonwealth command worldwide were equipped with American Sherman Medium Tanks (except for the 50th and 254th Indian Tank Brigades in Burma, still equipped with Lee/Grant Medium Tanks and the 4th Australian Armoured Brigade in the Pacific, still equipped with Grant Medium Tanks and Matilda Mk II Infantry Tanks).  The Sherman had much the same firepower as the Cromwell and Churchill, though had the potential to be upgraded to ‘Firefly‘ standard with the superb 17pdr gun.  However, like the Cromwell, it had mediocre armour-protection.  In terms of mobility the Sherman had superb mechanical reliability, though was slower than Cromwell and a lot faster than Churchill.  Nevertheless, the stoic Churchill could go places that other types simply could not (as amply demonstrated in the Battle of the Reichswald).

A pair of Churchill Mk VIIs belonging to 107 RAC push through the Reichswald mud, 1945

Five independent Brigades in 21st Army Group (2nd Canadian, 4th, 8th, 27th and 33rd Armoured Brigades) were equipped with Sherman and were therefore designated as Armoured Brigades, even though they were there to provide close infantry support and do the exact same job as the Tank Brigades…  The Armoured Brigades assigned to Armoured Divisions also often found themselves employed in the infantry support role…  It’s therefore safe to say that the doctrinal lines between ‘Tank’ and ‘Armoured’ Brigades became extremely blurred in the later half of the war.

Here’s a basic organisational diagram for a Tank Brigade (though I’ve only included the ‘teeth’).  Note that they would never fight as a unified brigade, but instead existed as a ‘holding formation’, allocating individual Regiments and Squadrons (sometimes as little as a Half-Squadron) to support infantry formations.  There was therefore no organic Motor Infantry, Field Artillery, etc.:

Notes on Tank Brigade Organisation

(a)  The 31st Tank Brigade differed slightly from this organisation, in that it had only two ‘normal’ Tank Regiments.  The third regiment was equipped with Crocodiles and operated on a semi-independent basis.  In September 1944 the brigade was reorganized as two Crocodile Regiments and in November 1944 was brought back up to full strength with a third Crocodile Regiment.

(b)  Command Tanks could be Churchills of any 6pdr or 75mm-armed type, but were increasingly upgraded to Mk VII. 34th Tank Brigade arrived in Normandy with 24x Mk VIIs, all of which were allocated to Regt, Sqn and (some) Troop Commanders.  In Crocodile-equipped Squadrons, Sqn HQ tanks tended to be Mk IV (75mm) or Mk VI.

(c)  OP Tanks were mainly Churchill Mk III or Mk IV.  They were armed with a 6pdr or 75mm gun and had an extra radio for the use of an attached FOO.

(d)  The Intercom Troop (sometimes known as the Liaison Troop) was equipped with Humber Scout Cars.  These would be embedded with neighbouring unit HQs, in order to provide a direct radio link and liaison officer.

(e)  Recce Troops were very large – 11x Stuart Light Tanks and almost the size of a Squadron in their own right and often referred to as the ‘Recce Squadron’ in many accounts.  The Recce Troops of 31st & 34th Tank Brigades were equipped with Stuart Mk III Light Tanks (M3A1), while 6th Guards Tank Brigade had Stuart Mk V (M3A3) and Mk VI (M5).  Some of these were ‘jalopied’ as the campaign went on. Details are difficult to obtain, but a typical pattern was to retain one turreted Stuart in each ‘Patrol’ of three (this was the system used by 7th Armoured Division).

(f)  Regimental Anti-Aircraft (AA) Troops were equipped with Crusader AA Mk II Tanks, armed with twin 20mm Polsten Guns.  However, the AA Troops were disbanded during the Normandy Campaign.  Nevertheless, some regiments retained one or two Crusader AA Tanks as part of the HQ Troop.

(g)  Close Support (CS) Tanks were all Churchill Mk V.

(h)  Two tanks in each Troop were typically armed with 75mm guns (Churchill Mk III*, Mk IV (75mm) or Mk VI, with possibly a Mk VII for some lucky Troop Commanders).  The third tank was armed with a 6pdr (Mk III or Mk IV).  There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some units of 34th Tank Brigade managed to retain enough 6pdr tanks to deploy to Normandy with the ratio reversed – 1x 75mm to 2x 6pdr.  However, heavy combat losses during Operation GREENLINE and the Battle of Grimbosq meant that the ratio soon settled out to the normal ratio and this is reflected in their 1st December 1944 strength return.

A Churchill Mk IV OP of 9 RTR’s HQ Sqn, together with a Humber Scout Car of the Intercom Troop.

31st Tank Brigade

The badge of the 31st Tank Brigade was a green ‘diablo’ (i.e. the up-ended bow-tie symbol shown above). Some units (such as 33rd Armoured Brigade, which had a green and black diablo sign) would paint a thin white line around the diablo to make it stand out against the olive drab, but 31st Tank Brigade do not appear to have done this. With their transfer to 79th Armoured Division in September 1944 they adopted the triangular Bull’s Head badge of that division (above), though some crews appear to have painted the green diablo on their tanks in addition to the Bull.

A Churchill Mk IV (75mm) or Mk VI of 7 RTR in Normandy (note the ‘991’ serial)

A Crocodile of 7 RTR after their incorporation into 79th Armoured Division.

The white diagonal slash through the Arm-of-Service sign, going from top-left to bottom-right indicates Army Group Troops (i.e. units and formations reporting directly to an Army Group Headquarters, in this case 21st Army Group).  The observant will have noticed that I painted mine wrong – from top-right to bottom-left, which actually indicates Lines-of-Communication Troops.  That SHOULD have taught me to stop relying on my faulty memory (or the Flames of War painting guide and Jean Bouchery’s ‘The British Soldier’ book, which both repeat the error), but articles on this blog clearly demonstrate that I have not learned my lesson…

* In September 1944, 9 RTR transferred to 34th Tank Brigade and was replaced in November 1944 by 1st Battalion, Fife & Forfar Yeomanry (1 F&FY), who adopted the markings formerly carried by 9 RTR.  Thankfully, they slotted into the same seniority slot, so 7 RTR and 141 RAC did not have to repaint their markings to make way for 1 F&FY.

A Crocodile of 141 RAC supporting US troops at Brest, September 1944.  This photo gives an excellent indication of the remarkable range of the Crocodile’s flame-projector (roughly 200 yards).

34th Tank Brigade

The white bar beneath the Arm-of-Service sign indicates Army Troops (i.e. units reporting directly to an Army HQ, in this case British 2nd Army.  A white bar above the AoS sign would indicate Corps Troops.

The vehicles of 34th Tank Brigade were painted with both the ‘mailed fist and mace’ badge of the brigade and with the shield of 2nd Army.

* In September 1944, 9 RTR transferred from 31st Tank Brigade to 34th Tank Brigade, replacing 153 RAC.  9 RTR now became the senior regiment in the brigade and therefore took the markings previously carried by 107 RAC (156 serial with red squadron signs).  107 RAC and 147 RAC were bumped down the pecking-order and similarly had to repaint their markings.

To explain the concept of ‘seniority’, regiments on parade line up in order of seniority and the same applies to brigade markings, as shown on this list (senior at the top, junior at the bottom):

1. Dragoon Guards (seniority by number)
2. Cavalry of the Line (Hussars, Dragoons and Lancers – seniority by number)
3. Regular RTR Regiments (1-12 RTR – seniority by number)
4. Yeomanry Regiments (i.e. Territorial Cavalry Regiments – seniority by date of formation)
5. Territorial RTR Regiments (40-51 RTR – seniority by number)
6. RAC Regiments (infantry battalions converted to armour – seniority by number)
7. Indian Cavalry Regiments (seniority by number)

Where the Foot Guards Battalions converted to armour fitted into all this is anyone’s guess, but thankfully they were never brigaded with anyone else, so seniority was as per the Foot Guards:

1. Grenadier Guards
2. Coldstream Guards
3. Scots Guards
4. Irish Guards
5. Welsh Guards

A column of Churchills of various marks in Normandy, being led by the No.7 Troop Leader’s Mk VII of ‘B’ Sqn, 147 RAC. Note the ‘157’ serial on the lower hull and the Troop number helpfully painted within the ‘B’ Sqn square on the canvas muzzle-cover.

6th Guards Tank Brigade

The Foot Guards had various unique, quirky and non-standard designations for companies and squadrons.  The 4th Grenadiers and 4th Coldstreamers each numbered their squadrons 1, 2 & 3, while the 3rd Scots opted for the rather bizarre ‘Right Flank’, ‘Left Flank’ and ‘S’ Squadrons.  This led to some strange conversations with officers from other regiments, who were easily (and understandably) baffled by statements such as “Right Flank Squadron is over there, on the left flank.”

A Churchill Mk IV of 3rd Scots Guards in Normandy (note the ‘154’ serial).

A Churchill Mk IV (75mm) or Mk VI of 4th Grenadier Guards (‘152’ serial) during the Winter of 1944/45.

A Churchill Mk III, IV, V or VI of 6th Guards Tank Brigade carrying US Paratroops of the 17th Airborne Division after crossing the Rhine in 1945.

Sometime shortly after the end of the Normandy Campaign, all independent Armoured Brigades and Tank Brigades were ordered to adopt the standard marking scheme shown here, which was already in use by the Armoured Brigades of Armoured Divisions.  However, this order was only sporadically obeyed.  There is photographic evidence to show that 6th Guards Tank Brigade obeyed the order, though kept the white ‘Army Troops’ bar beneath the sign.  I don’t know if 34th Tank Brigade ever obeyed the order.

31st Tank Brigade by that stage belonged to 79th Armoured Division and were no longer independent.  In any case, the 1st Armoured Brigade (Sherman Crabs) was already using this scheme within 79th Armoured Division.  31st Tank Brigade therefore kept their old markings, even though the diagonal stripe indicated Army Group Troops, which they had ceased to be since joining an Armoured Division.

A Churchill Mk IV of 3rd Scots Guards in 1945, displaying the new ’53’ serial (with white ‘Army Troops’ bar).

The Troop number was commonly painted inside the geometric squadron sign and was usually painted in the same colour.  White was also sometimes used.  Troop numbers were sequential through the regiment, so ‘A’ Sqn had 1-5, ‘B’ Sqn had 6-10 and ‘C’ Sqn had 11-15.  Sqn HQs typically used ‘HQ’.  Regt HQ tanks did not normally have anything within their diamond symbol, though there were unit exceptions (I’ve not seen anything specific for Churchill units).

Tanks within each troop were further differentiated by a callsign.  The Troop Commander would simply be identified by the troop number, while his two subordinate tanks would add the suffixes ‘A’ and ‘B’.  These suffixes were sometimes painted alongside the troop number within the squadron sign, but this was not common.  Callsigns were sometimes painted on the turret rear or on a removable plate attached to the turret rear.

Squadron signs were commonly in-filled with black while training in the UK, but this was rarely seen in NW Europe.

* This example was seen on a Churchill Mk III* of ‘B’ Sqn, 153 RAC in Normandy.

Wargaming Representation

In game terms, as a player of Battlefront: WWII, all my armies are organised at a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3.  A Churchill Squadron of 19 tanks therefore boils down to 7 models – five models each represent a Troop of three tanks and two models each represent a pair of tanks in the SHQ, like so:

1x Churchill Mk III*/IV/VI 75mm Command Tank
1x Churchill Mk V 95mm Close Support Tank
3x Churchill Mk III*/IV/VI 75mm Tanks*
2x Churchill Mk III/IV 6pdr Tanks*

* Alternatively, for 34th Tank Brigade in Normandy, the ratio of 75mm to 6pdr tanks could be reversed.

‘C’ Sqn 9 RTR, 31st Tank Brigade, before the arrival of Mk VII on 12th July 1944.

Following the introduction of Mk VII tanks, the squadron looks like this:

1x Churchill Mk VII Command Tank
1x Churchill Mk V 95mm Close Support Tank
1x Churchill Mk VII Tank
2x Churchill Mk III*/IV/VI 75mm Tanks
2x Churchill Mk III/IV 6pdr Tanks

‘C’ Sqn 9 RTR, 31st Tank Brigade, with Churchill Mk VII included

If you prefer to use a blanket 1:2 ratio, you could add another two tanks.

Models & Painting

All the Churchill models shown above are Flames of War/Battlefront Miniatures models, painted by me.  The Humber Scout Car is by Peter Pig.

All Churchills of the period were painted all-over in Standard Camouflage Colour (SCC) 15 Olive Drab.  You can find recipes for EXACT matches of this shade online and some paint-manufacturers are now producing perfectly-hued paint, but I’m a wargamer, not a modeller (I’m also a lover, not a fighter; which is ironic, as she doesn’t ‘alf put up a struggle…), so I find standard Humbrols to be a good enough match for me.

I start with a thin black undercoat, then paint the tank all over in Humbrol 75 Bronze Green.  I then do a second coat with Humbrol 159 Khaki Drab, leaving some Bronze Green in the deeper shadows.  I tend to find that the Bronze Green base deepens the final colour.  I then paint on the markings and do a final dry-brush with Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  I mentioned AVREs earlier, so I might talk about those next time…

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies, World War 2 - Netherlands & Germany Campaign 1944-45, World War 2 - Normandy 1944. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Churchill Tanks in NW Europe 1944-45 (Part 2)

  1. jemima_fawr says:

    I was going to edit this post to include a link to the excellent ‘Tank Tracks: 9th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment At War’ by Peter Beale, which used to be available for free, online at the Royal Tank Regiment Association’s website. However, the link is now dead. 🙁

    Nevertheless, the book is still widely available, so do go and buy a copy if you’re remotely interested in the subject. However, I did find this link to a page devoted to Sgt Trevor Greenwood of ‘C’ Sqn, 9 RTR, whose diary was published as the excellent ‘D-Day To Victory’:

  2. Mark says:

    Great article. I made up a trio of Churchills for Tunisia using PSC models. The PSC come with a good number of options to represent the various marks of Churchill.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Mark. Yes, I’ve got a box of PSC Churchills but only made one of them and never painted it due to my butterfly-mind wandering off somewhere else! 🙂 They’re great models (fit perfectly with my old FoW models) and perfect for doing them festooned in track-links. My one criticism however, is that the box-art shows a Mk VII, which is about the only version that CAN’T be made from the kit! 🙂

  3. Jonathan Smith says:

    A question about your info for the 6th Guards Brigade 3rd Scots Battalion, You have it listed as LF, RF and S Squadron, But the WD has it listed as LF, S Squadron and then RF. What information did you use?

    • jemima_fawr says:

      You’re absolutely right and I’ll amend it accordingly. I’ve no idea why I got that wrong, as the War Diary is quite clear. For example the orbat for Op BLUECOAT looked like this:

      Order of Battle at the start of the Caumont attack on 30 July 1944 (War Diary Appx C)

      Battalion Headquarters
      Commanding Officer: Lieut-Colonel CIH Dunbar
      Second in Command: Major SJ Cuthbert
      Adjutant: Captain VF Erskine Crum
      Intelligence Officer: Lieut PB Fraser
      OIC Bn HQ Tanks: Lieut DL Bankes

      Headquarter Squadron
      Squadron Leader: Major Sir CHF Maclean, Bt
      Squadron 2IC: Captain AJC Seymour
      Technical Adjutant: Captain ISR Bruce
      Liaison Officer: Captain RWO Burnett
      OC Recce Troop: Lieut RCG Pember
      Signal Officer: Lieut HW Llewellyn Smith
      OC AA Tanks: Lieut ECH Warner
      Quartermaster: Captain WJ Dorman MBE

      Right Flank
      Squadron Leader: Major the Earl Cathcart
      Squadron 2IC: Captain JP Mann
      Squadron Recce Officer: Captain DG Mathieson
      Troop Leader No 1 Troop: Lieut DW Scott-Barrett
      Troop Leader No 2 Troop: Lieut RAK Runcie
      Troop Leader No 3 Troop: Lieut H Laing
      Troop Leader No 4 Troop: Lieut AID Fletcher
      Troop Leader No 5 Troop: Lieut IL Thorpe

      “S” Squadron
      Squadron Leader: Major WSI Whitelaw
      Squadron 2IC: Captain WP Bull
      Squadron Recce Officer: Captain NW Beeson
      Troop Leader No 6 Troop: Lieut R Humble
      Troop Leader No 7 Troop: No 2692032 Sgt E Thorn
      Troop Leader No 8 Troop: Lieut EP Hickling
      Troop Leader No 9 Troop: Lieut CRT Cunningham
      Troop Leader No 10 Troop: Lieut ARG Stevenson

      Left Flank
      Squadron Leader: Major the Hon M Fitzalan-Howard
      Squadron 2IC: Captain CO’M Farrell
      Squadron Recce Officer: Captain PEG Balfour
      Troop Leader No 11 Troop: Lieut JM Barne
      Troop Leader No 12 Troop: Lieut HWS Marshall
      Troop Leader No 13 Troop: Lieut The Lord Bruce
      Troop Leader No 14 Troop: Lieut CJR Duffin
      Troop Leader No 15 Troop: Lieut G Cameron

      Attached Officers
      Chaplain: The Rev GTH Reid, CF, RAChD
      Medical Officer: Captain AT MacKnight RAMC
      EME: Captain CE Pring REME

      Fascinating to note that there is a future Archbishop of Canterbury, Defence Secretary and a few MPs in that list!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Updated! 🙂

      Thanks very much for the correction!

      • Colin Foster says:

        Of course, the frustration is that whilst the War Diary lists all of the troops, in another part (which is then repeated in Forbes’ book & then across the interweb & in other books), there’s a detailed tank by tank listing… frustratingly, three of the Troops are omitted from that list!
        I know that 13 Troop consisted of FORTH, TAY & CLYDE, but still trying to find details of the others

  4. Sue Coventry says:

    Hello! I have been doing research on my father, member of No 3 Squadron Grenadier Guards, 4th Tank Batt, 6th Guards Tank Brigade. Surprised and delighted to see that he features in one of the photos featured on your site. If you are interested in information about him, I would be happy to share details.
    good wishes

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Sue,

      Wow! Which photo? Please do post details. I’m constantly amazed and pleased at the sheer number of people who post here regarding their father’s war service. Thankyou! 🙂

    • Mike Talbot says:

      Hello Sue,
      What was your father’s name, and in which troop and tank did he serve?
      My dad was Dennis Talbot, 4th batt. Grenadiers, no 3 sq, 12 troop, tank Shrewsbury.
      Some of his killer comrades are buried in Brunssum and Mierlo cemeteries in the Netherlands where I live.

      Regards, Mike

      • Susan Coventry says:

        Hello Mike thanks so much for your message. Father’s name was John R Murray. He was in Churchills. I just happen to be in Helmond N Brabant right now with Dutch friends of my father. This morning I was at the Overloon museum. When I get back home I will see what other information I have about my dad
        Good wishes

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Gosh, I haven’t been to Overloon since 1987! I hear it’s changed a lot since then; most of their tanks were just wrecks, lying around in the woods. A lot of them have been restored since then and some are even running again.

          • Sue Coventry says:

            Hello Mike, I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. My Netherlands trip got quite complicated after EasyJet cancelled my return flight. It did distract a bit from my trip but I was able to attend the Helmond commemorations on 25 Sept. Didn’t get to Mierlo cemetery unfortunately. This is the info we have about my Dad:
            Name: John R Murray. 6th Guards Tank Brigade. 4th Tank Battalion Grenadiers. No 3 Squadron. He was in Churchills, but we don’t know his Troop details, and I’m not sure how we’d get that info. It seems very possible that he would have known your Dad. What do you think? regards Sue

  5. jemima_fawr says:

    My good mate Huw Davies (no relation) has just pointed out that the late Gerry Chester’s wonderful North Irish Horse website has been archived. This has a wealth of Churchill-related information and I thought it had been lost for good, so this is wonderful news! 🙂

  6. Sierd Tuinstra says:


    Really like your blog about Churchill’s in NW Europe. Came across it while doing research for my Italian front wargame and the use of Churchill’s in that theatre. So, while not exactly the kind of information I was after, it will come in handy when I finally get to play a NW Europe scenario.
    And as to my Italian plans, I did manage to retrieve most of Gerry’s website from the archives. So currently I’m quite busy building a wargaming force based on the the 25th armoured brigade, and especially the North Irish Horse.
    And another point which attracted me to your blog is that you’re Welsh.
    Of course where you’re at shouldn’t have anything to do with it, but Wales is my favorite holiday destination. The north, that is, but the south will do in a pinch… 🙂
    I’ve bookmarked your blog.!

    PS: I’m Dutch (well actually a Frisian).

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Diolch yn Fawr Sierd! 🙂

      I’m glad you managed to recover some of Gerry’s excellent old site. It did have a detailed breakdown of the tank types used by the NIH at various stages of the Italian campaign, so was that there?

      Please do come and have a game if you’re ever in the civilised half of Wales… 😉


  7. Sierd Tuinstra says:

    Hi Mark

    We’ve visited the south of Wales on several occasion, and the last time we had a holiday in Pembrokeshire was about five years ago. That time we stayed in a cottage a few miles north of Narberth, in the hamlet Cwm Miles. We could have had a game!
    As to my wargaming, I game in 20mm, and only WW2. Not because I’m not interested in any other periods, but more because wargaming is an extension of my primary hobby, building model kits. My favourites are building and collecting small scale military vehicles (and all things GWR in OO scale)
    Gerry’s website provides a wealth of information about the NIH, and together with some other sources I now have a reasonable idea about what kind of vehicles the 21st and 25th Aroured brigade fielded. If you’re interested, I’m could try and write something up.

    And as we would say in Frisia, Folle lok en seine.

    PS: Just having a look at the map, and our cottage was just over the border in Carmathenshire. So technically speaking we were not on holiday in Pembrokeshire… But most of our activities were in Pembrokeshire, I swear!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Excellent! Yeah, I know it well. My best mate’s parents own the farmland directly across the river! I live only a couple of miles from there (about half way between there and Narberth), so please do get in touch if you return this way! 🙂

      They keep moving the county border! We started out in Pembrokeshire, then found ourselves in Carmarthenshire and are now back in Pembrokeshire again!

      If you want to write something for the blog, that would be brilliant! Especially if you’ve got model photos to go with it. I don’t think I’ll ever get around to wargaming Italy, so that would be great, if you’re up for it?

  8. Sierd Tuinstra says:

    Yes, I’m up for it, but it might take a while.
    As to building models, I don’t have a blog of my own, but occasionally post on the Airfix Tribute Forum. This thread covers my wargaming plans and builds:

  9. Sierd Tuinstra says:

    You’d better not … 🙂
    But I do write something now and again, so will manage this…
    And as to writing, I even wrote something about Wales, the Gower for the Dutch pages of Visit Britain:
    In Dutch I’m afraid, but Google translate does a reasonable job .

  10. Hia my father came back from the war in Europe in 1946 with him he brought back various war department photo,s all of them showing churchill tanks of the 4th battalion coldstream guards armoured brigade of which my father was a driver all my father ever said of the photo,s was that was his mob, over the past few years I’ve been trying to work out the name of the tank he was the driver of and it’s increasingly looking like he was in seagull the adjutant tank in headquarter squadron and on closer inspection of war department photo B12186 it looks like my father’s face in the drivers port hole and his tank commander atop on the turret what I do know for sure is that the guy at the side of the tank commander is Vincent Hawkins who was a Hull gunner on EAGLE the headquarter tank he was actually in training with my father and probably new each other but was never mentioned having seen your knowledge on churchill tanks I wondered if you could help many thanks nick frost

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Nicholas, that’s really interesting and thanks for posting. 🙂

      Unfortunately I don’t know much about the 4th Guards Tank Brigade (a gap I need to fill in my knowledge), so can’t really help, though I will have a root around to see if there’s anything I’ve missed. Something I do know however, is that it was incredibly rare for a crew to stay together for very long once the regiment had been committed to action. To start with, there was the British Army’s Left Out of Battle (LOB) policy. This ensured that a proportion of the regiment’s personnel (selected on rotation) was always in the rear, thus ensuring that if there was a disaster, there would always be a cadre of men available to rebuild the regiment. Men would also be away on leave, courses or wounded and when they returned they were frequently posted to another tank, troop or squadron. On top of that there was the shuffling around of men caused by casualties, promotion and replacements.

      Although it discusses 9th RTR (31st Tank Brigade) rather than the Guards, the memoir of Trevor Greenwood (‘D-Day to Victory’, a free online copy of which is linked in one of these articles) details this sort of shuffling around within a regiment.

      Sorry that’s not much use, but I will have a rummage in the books.



  11. David Stringfellow says:

    I am Secretary of Cradley Heath Model Railway Club. We are currrently building a layout based on a station called burghclere which was on the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Line. We know this line saw significant movements of armoured vehicles moving to the South Coast ports in the run up to D Day.
    We are trying to put together a train of vehicles and so far have things in hand to produce 6 Warwell wagons each with a Churchill MK VII tank abourd. this we believe would represent two Troops.
    What we wish to find out now is what other ancillary vehicles would also be part of the of the make up of a unit like this. ie “soft skinned” vehicles, trucks etc.
    I have read that Humber Scout Cars would have been in the Recce regiment but these may not have travelled together.
    Can you assist?
    Also can you suggest a unit formation that we could be representing as we could then ensure we had the correct insignia, markings on each tank etc.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi David,

      Nice project! I’m not a railway modeller, but I do work for the railway and do appreciate a good layout. 🙂

      I’ll have a look through the books to see if I can find any units passing through that area. For Churchill tanks you’re looking at either 31st Tank Brigade, 34th Tank Brigade or 6th Guards Tank Brigade, as discussed in these articles. Stand by for a LARGE reply… 😉

      First the bad news: Yes, Churchill units had troops of three tanks apiece, but Churchill Mk VII were very much late arrivals in NW Europe. At the start of the Normandy campaign, no unit had them on strength EXCEPT 141 RAC (31 Tank Brigade), where they were all converted to Crocodile flamethrower tanks. The other regiments started to receive them from mid-July (31 Tank Brigade receiving the first 30 or so on 13th July 1944). However, they were never formed into full Mk VII troops (in contrast to the Churchill regiments in Italy, who formed what few Mk VII they received into full ‘heavy’ troops of Mk VII).

      A Churchill troop in NW Europe would typically have a pair of older tanks armed with 75mm guns (Mk III*, Mk IV(75) or Mk VI and one armed with a high-velocity 6-pounder (57mm) gun, such as the Mk III or Mk IV. From July onward, a troop commander MIGHT get a Mk VII if he was lucky (Regiment HQ and Squadron HQ usually got them first). There were five troops per squadron and the Squadron HQ had four tanks (two 75mm-armed tanks of whatever type and two 95mm-armed Mk V Close Support tanks), plus a Jeep as the Squadron Commander’s runabout.

      A Churchill Regiment then had three such Squadrons.

      The Regimental Tactical Headquarters consisted of four more 75mm-armed tanks, a command halftrack (usually an M14) and a Jeep.

      The Regimental HQ Squadron had a Liaison (or ‘Intercom’) Troop with eight Humber Scout Cars, an Anti-Aircraft Troop with 8x Crusader AA Mk II (twin 20mm cannon) and a Recce Troop with 11x Stuart Mk III light tanks (M3A1 in Americanese), though 6th Guards Tank Brigade had a mix of Stuart Mk V (M3A3) and Stuart Mk VI (M5 or M5A1). Some of the Stuarts (may have had their turrets removed and replaced with pintle MGs (a process known as ‘jalopying’.) The Humber Scout Cars weren’t recce as such, but were rather used to maintain a radio-link between the regiment and neighbouring units, so they’d be flying around, providing the RHQ with a direct radio-link wherever it was needed. They would also be assigned to provide officers with a fast, armoured runabout as required. Some units mixed the Humbers into the Recce Troop, but that wasn’t typical. The AA Troops were disbanded late in the Normandy Campaign (sometime around August 1944), but some regiments kept one or two Crusader AAs as part of the Regimental Tactical HQ.

      The Regimental Admin Echelon Had an HQ comprising a Humber Scout Car, four heavy 4×4 utility cars (such as the Humber FWD ‘Tilly’), 8c motorcycles, 6x Jeeps, 3x 15cwt trucks, 1x 15cwt van, 2x 15cwt water bowsers, 5x 3-ton lorries, 4x 3-ton ammunition lorries, 1x 3-ton mobile kitchen and 4x 3-ton petrol bowsers. These could be of various types, though Morris 15cwts and Bedford QL-series 3-tonners were the most common, though Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) types were becoming increasingly common (and popular, due to being 4×4 as standard).

      The three armoured squadrons were each supported by their own Squadron Echelon (who also reported to the HQ Echelon), each with 1x Jeep, 1x heavy utility, 3x 15cwt trucks, 1x 3-ton office lorry, 3x 3-ton petrol bowsers, 7x 3-ton ammunition lorries, 1x 3-ton mechanics’ lorry with compressor trailer and a 3-ton mobile kitchen with water bowser-trailer.

      The attached Signals Detachment had 1x M14 halftrack, 1x Jeep, 1x 15cwt truck, 1x 15cwt wireless van, a 3-ton lorry and a 3-ton box-body workshop lorry. The Signals Officers’ halftrack was normally co-located with the Regimental Tactical HQ. These were badged Royal Signals and had a white-over-blue marking with the same serial number as the armoured regiment, though painted red instead of white.

      The attached REME Light Aid Detachment had 2x motorcycles, 1x 15cw truck, 1x 15cwt Machinery, 1x 15cwt wireless van, 1x 3-ton lorry, 2x heavy breakdown cranes (Scammel, Mack or Diamond-T), 3x M14 halftracks and 3x recovery tanks. One halftrack and one recovery tank was normally co-located with each armoured squadron headquarters. All personnel were badged as REME and the vehicle marking was a blue-over-yellow-over-red square with the same serial number as the armoured regiment, or sometimes ’99’.

      The attached RAMC detachment had four halftracks – one fitted as a HQ for the Medical Officer (co-located with the Regimental Tactical HQ) and three fitted as ambulances (co-located with each Armoured Squadron HQ).

      How’s that? 🙂

      • Colin Foster says:

        Apparently the Crusader AA tanks weren’t particularly useful against their main target of the Luftwaffe (mainly because it didn’t appear much & when it did, was usually being entertained by swarms of Spitfires and/or Mustangs 😁). However, as the Churchill Tank units worked closely with infantry, they found that the twin 20mm guns were very effective against infantry hiding behind hedges or in buildings 😁
        Also, I’ve never understood why the MkVIIs weren’t given to the Sabre squadrons first as they were the ones most likely to encounter a large German gun.
        As to the order of travel, ive just looked through the copies of the war diaries I have of bothe 6GTB and also 3SG & there’s nothing in there, I’m afraid

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Yes, the Poles did massive damage with their Crusader AAs on Mont Ormel! 😈

          Popular wisdom has it that they were all withdrawn, but while the AA Troops were disbanded, the odd Crusader AA does appear in later photos (usually just a glimpse of track or rear view, to make it difficult).

          I’ve read that they were also used in their unmodified form as 17pdr tractors, but I’ve not seen any photographic evidence for that. There would also be no room for the ammo or gun crew (unlike the pukka Crusader Tractor).

        • jemima_fawr says:

          And thanks for the check in the war diaries! 👍

  12. Dear sirs further to my last enquiry and thankyou for your input on that subject its looking increasingly like my father was the driver of seagull the adjutant tank in headquarter squadron 4th battalion coldstream guards armoured having read my fathers tank commander memoirs he mentions he was responsible for finding safe places for tanks to later etc I also have found out they had a specialist radio operator in the crew does this sound like what the adjutant tank would be involved with any info appreciated cheers nick frost

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Nicholas,

      Yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing that the Regimental Adj would be doing when out with the Regimental Tactical Headquarters Troop. The Tac HQ Troop consisted of four tanks; these would typically be standard Churchill Mk III or Mk IV tanks, though the 3rd and 4th tanks (belonging to the Adj and RSM) were fitted as ‘Observation Post’ (OP) tanks. These had some of the main armament ammunition racks removed to make space for an additional radio set.

      In a normal ‘gun’ tank, the crew consisted of five men; Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver and Co-Driver, with the Co-Driver acting as the radio-operator (as well as operating the bow machine-gun). However, in an OP tank the Loader acted as a second radio-operator. The idea was that these OP tanks would be made available to any attached Royal Artillery Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) or RAF Forward Air Controllers (FACs). In Armoured Divisions, FOOs usually had their own OP tanks, but Churchill regiments supported Infantry Divisions, so the FOOs would only have puny Universal Carriers for protection. The OP tanks therefore gave them a better-protected observation platform that could better support the tanks (being an extremely valuable asset, they could also hide anonymously among all the other tanks and be less easily identified and picked off).

      Of course this meant that your father would often have to give up his mount and instead ride a scout car from the HQ Squadron’s Intercom Troop or even just a Jeep. The FOO meanwhile, would act as the tank commander (a role for which many had no training or experience!) and they would also often bring their own signaller, who would also have to take a crash-course in tank-operations.

      There were other types of OP tanks with the guns removed to make way for a map-table and with wooden ‘dummy guns’ fitted to conceal their true role, but those tended to go to Brigade and Divisional HQs, as well as artillery battery commanders. However, your father’s OP tank would have been fully armed.

      Does that help? 🙂


  13. Brian Cooper says:


    I’ve come across these fantastic posts on Churchills in NW Europe while researching the 6th Guards Tank Brigade in which we believe my grandfather, Joseph Wood served. He died sixty years ago and the info we have on his service is very limited.

    I was interested to see reference to a War Diary in the comments to this post and wonder if it would contain any reference to him. I’ve read Patrick Forbes book and my brother has been trying to find archive sources that might indicate which squadron he was in (and maybe even which tank) but struggling to find info. So I was wondering whether the War Diary might contain some relevant details.

    Can you provide any more information on the War Diary and where it could be possible to get hold of a copy?



    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Brian!

      War Diaries were held and maintained by all units and headquarters, being usually completed by the unit adjutant or daily duty officer. Sadly, they are usually very thin in terms of information, being generally just a daily paragraph of where the unit was, where it was going, what it was doing, changes of command, etc. If you’re lucky you might find some extra detail, such as a significant action or mention of casualties or heroism. However, they do serve as a starting-point for further research. What you won’t find are nominal rolls or detailed orders of battle; for that you’d need to dive deeply into the reams of documents associated with a particular unit. The War Diaries for all units are held at the National Archives in Kew, along with a treasure-trove of other documents, so that’s where you’d need to look, though The Tank Museum archives at Bovington might also have copies of a lot of those documents, plus other accounts, as might the individual regimental museums.

      The first thing you’ll need to do is identify exactly which unit he served with. There were three ‘fighting’ regiments in the 6th Guards Tank Brigade, but there was also the headquarters and all the supporting arms (REME, RASC, RAMC, RMP, etc), so you’d need to narrow your research down a bit by finding his regiment/corps and ideally a regimental number. Engraved medals are ideal, as are photos of him in uniform, which might reveal badges, buttons, etc. If you’re a direct descendant with a copy of his death certificate you can also request his service record.

      Anyway, some people have already done a lot of research for you, so here’s the War Diary for 3rd Scots Guards, woven through with more detailed accounts from other sources:

      If you have a search around on the same site there’s probably lots there on the 4th Coldstream Guards and 4th Grenadier Guards. From a cursory glance, there are lots of document references for war diaries that you can then use to request them from Kew.

      I hope that helps?


  14. Tim M says:

    Was googling US uniforms for NW Europe 44/45 to redo my Matchbox troops when I happily came across Monsieur Fawr’s site. Hope all if well.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hello stranger! 🙂 Yeah, all good here, mate. Painting mojo has dried up since New Year, but I’m playing a lot of my old board-games (I can even lose in a solo game…). I need to get a clear painting-objective sorted out… How’s things with you?


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