Percy Hobart – Biography – Battle of Normandy

Major General Percy Hobart


Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart was born in Hobo, India, on June 14, 1885. Passionate about history and literature during his youth, he chose to join the army and joined the Royal Military Academy in Wollwich where he graduated. 1904 to join the engineering school.

He participated in the First World War (during which he was decorated twice) in France, Mesopotamia and Palestine. Very quickly, he became interested in the development of armored cavalry and requested his transfer there in 1923. The same year, he was appointed instructor at the Staff School of Quetta until 1927.

In 1934, he took command of the only British armored brigade of the time, the 1st Tank Brigade, then became the inspector of the Royal Tank Corps. In 1938, a year after his appointment as Major General, he set up a mobile force in Egypt, which gave birth a few months later to the 7th Armored Division, the famous Rats of the desert. But his comrades officers, very conservative for the most part, do not look favorably on the development of tanks: like General de Gaulle in France, he is much criticized for his ideas (especially in Egypt) and he is pushed to retire earlier than planned, in 1940.

When World War II broke out, General Hobart joined as a first-class soldier the local militia units (Local Defense Volunteers, which give birth shortly thereafter to the Home Guard): he received a mission to secure the village where he resides, Chipping Campden. Meanwhile, his sister marries General Montgomery, future commander-in-chief of Allied Ground Forces during the Battle of Normandy.

His early retirement is not unanimous and Percy Hobart receives the support of Liddel Hart, former British soldier and became a famous conflict theorist, who publishes an article in the newspaper Sunday Pictorial in favor of his return to the army . The consequence is immediate: in part under pressure, Prime Minister Winston Churchill Hobob found his place in 1941 and he then charged to prepare the 11th Armored Division.

Limited to the formation of units, he does not order them on fire, officially for health reasons. Subsequently, he took charge of the preparation of the 79th Armored Division (79th AD).

Feedback from the various combat engagements of the British army reveals a certain lack of adaptation of the English armored vehicles, which are quickly blocked by multiple and various obstacles (this is particularly the case during the Allied landing of Dieppe in August 1942, which ended in failure). Percy Hobart then took advantage of the 79th AD operational condition in April 1943 to conduct a series of tests: new tanks were developed to ensure not only fire support missions, but also missions to support mobility and counter-mobility, particularly during an amphibious assault. These tanks are then called “Funnies” (literally “funny”).

Several tanks are then produced for the landing of Normandy, using the basic chassis of the British Churchill and the American Sherman:

– The Avre is a tank equipped with a 290 mm mortar that uses the Churchill chassis. Its purpose is to provide substantial fire support for the benefit of land forces. Its structure serves as the basis for most of the other “Funnies”.
– The Ark is responsible for filling the antitank ditches with its own chassis and ramps so that other vehicles can cross.
– The Bobbins, also called Carpet-Layer, is a tank equipped with a canvas mat deployable on the sand to facilitate the progression of infantry and vehicles.
– The Bullshorn Plow, equipped with a plow to extract the mines without detonating them.
– The Crab, equipped with chains that dredge the ground and trigger mines located at the front of the tank.
– The Crocodile, equipped with a flamethrower particularly effective to fight against opponents entrenched in casemates.
– The Duplex Drive, an impervious skirt system that surrounds the tank with propellers, so that the armored vehicle floats.
– Fascine, used to fill ditches and trenches with planks of wood on which infantrymen can progress.

Used during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, these vehicles remained in service at 79th AD until the end of the Second World War. In total, nearly 7,000 modified armored vehicles are integrated into this unit which is dissolved on August 20, 1945, after the end of the war in Europe. Hobart definitely returns to retirement in 1946.

He died on February 19, 1957 in Farnham, at the age of 71. – Partial or total reproduction prohibited – Contact