Churchill 'Crocodile', Sherman 'Grizzly, M10 & others
Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum, Bayeux
Location and info
Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum, Boulevard Fabian Ware, 14400 Bayeux
Located on the south west side of Bayeux on the D5 ring road surrounding the town. Near to the British Bayeux War Cemetery.
This excellent museum in Bayeux has one of the largest collections of armour in Normandy with tanks and guns both inside and outside - it's well worth a few hours walking around.
Some of the vehicles have a chequered history and many were saved from scarp yards to be put on display in the town as a memorial to the liberators.
The rare Churchill MkVII Flamethrower tank outside is known as a ‘crocodile’ – a beast which could project a jet of flame over 100m to help assault troops clear bunkers and trench systems.
Used by the British 79th Armoured Division, it was one of the many specialised forms of tank developed for the D-Day landings and christened “Hobart’s Funnies”, after the military engineer Major-General Percy Hobart who commanded the division.
Designed to support infantry at the pace of marching troops, the tank was a remarkable assault weapon. Despite its relatively weak gun, armour that was too heavy for its inefficient engine and frequent breakdowns, this lumbering armoured vehicle acquired a terrifying reputation, feared by the enemy for the infernal power of its flame-thrower.
The flame-thrower was mounted in the position of the original machine gun, and could project a jet of flame, propelled by compressed nitrogen, almost 110 metres long in less than two seconds.
It was supplied by a lightly armoured trailer which carried 1,800 litres of flammable liquid and gave the tank the ability to produce up to 80 successive jets of flame.
Although Winston Churchill said of the Crocodile “This tank has even more faults than I”, the tank continued its service in the British army until 1952.
This example was acquired by the town of Bayeux from a scrap merchant in Portsmouth, England in the early 1980s.
Next to the Croc is US built M10 Tank Destroyer – a vehicle designed to give artillery support to the advancing allied forces as they fought their way through Europe from France to Germany.
The M10 was based on the M4 Sherman tank and packed a 76.2mm M1A1 main gun plus .50 calibre machine gun and was manned by a crew of five – a commander, gunner, loader, driver, and co-driver/gunner.
With a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute, its gun was able to pierce armour 120mm thick at 900 metres – a formidable development on the battlefield.
Although it shares DNA with a Sherman, the M10 can be recognised by its hull sloping at an angle of 40 degrees to protect the crew from deflected shells, and by its pentagonal open-topped turret.
On the battlefields of Normandy, some crews installed extra protection for the turret as this observation post, sometimes equipped with a machine gun, left them extremely exposed.
These makeshift forms of protection ranged from simply rigging up tent canvas against bad weather to installing a sheet of armour plating against various projectiles.
Its V12 diesel engine could power the vehicle up to 45kmh with a range of over 300km on one tank of fuel.
Over 6,700 were built and this example was acquired by the town of Bayeux from a Portsmouth scrap merchant in the early 1980s.
Outside the entrance to the museum you can walk around a Canadian-built M4A5 assault tank, a very rare model known as a “Grizzly”.
Looking similar to the famous American M4A1 Sherman tank, nearly 200 Grizzlies were built at the end of 1943 and were produced at a low cost.
The Grizzly was used very little during the Normandy campaign and the liberation of the rest of Europe, and served above all for training in Canada.
Given the marks remaining from impacts and internal fire, which probably occurred during the campaign in Germany, this Grizzly seems to have been re-fitted with parts used for American armoured vehicles including the turret and widened tracks with rubber pads.
This example is on display outside the Battle of Normandy museum in Bayeux and joined the museum’s collections following the closure of an American military base in Germany at the beginning of the 1990s.
At the exit to the museum is a 'German' tank destroyer. The vehicle is a bit of an enigma. It’s on display outside the Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux, but most believe this type of tank destroyer – sometimes known as a ‘Hetzer’ never actually fought in France.
In fact, this vehicle is a much later version of the original Czech designed and built Jagdpanzer 38.
At the end of the war the Czech army recovered almost 400 Hetzers, of which some were subsequently sold to the Swedish army, and 158 units to the Swiss army which used them until the early 1970s under the name ‘Panzeriäger G13’.
This example was presented to the town of Bayeux by the Swiss army in the mid-1980s.
Over 2,88 Jagdpanzer 38s were produced between March 1944 and May 1945, and they featured a 75mm Pack 39/2 L/48 gun plus an MG34 machine gun on top which could be remotely controlled by the crew of four inside.
Often believed to be a fast vehicle, it was actually pretty slow when compared to other armoured vehicles and the 158 horse-power engine could only manage 10mph across country and 25mph on roads.
It would win an award for the crazy camo pattern it was finished with though!
One of the rarest guns to be found in France is the German SKC 33 two-piece 105mm-calibre gun which was designed to complement or replace the 88mm gun. It was first developed in 1933 as an anti-aircraft gun on board the Reich’s heavy naval cruise ships.
From 1940 onwards it was modified to function as a land-based anti-aircraft defence for cities and strategic sites in Germany, and then for use in occupied territories including the major war ports of western France.
At that time it was produced in several mounted versions, notably twinned under an armoured turret or concrete casemate.
This example, with no protective housing, comes from Lorient (in Morbihan) and its history is not yet fully known. After the war a number of weapons were used to re-arm ships of the French navy although it was not always possible to piece together the roles they had played during the Second World War.
This example stands outside the Battle of Normandy museum in Bayeux.
Inside the museum you can get up close to a Sexton Self-Propelled Artillery Gun, a US D7 Caterpillar bulldozer, and the remains of a German Wespe 105mm Self-Propelled Gun, and a Flakpanzer anti-aircraft gun vehicle.