Jump to content

Challengers in Normandy

Recommended Posts

I just received two back-ordered issues of 'After the battle' magazine, one of which describes the battle for the Falaise pocket. In it there is a pic of a British tank column rolling thru Flers on August 17th, with a small group of French civilians waving them on. What is really interesting is the lead vehicle in the column - a Challenger tank. There is no mistaking it in the photo, the tank following behind is a standard Cromwell, and is much squatter looking. The Challengers turret is far bigger, and for a second I thought I was looking at a Bishop.

How common were Challengers in Normandy, and what lucky formation got them? According to a map in the magazine, it was the Brit 3rd infantry div that captured Flers. What Cromwell / Challenger equipped unit supported the 3rd ID?

Link to comment
Share on other sites


That was probably a Challenger of the 15/19th King's Royal Hussars, the Armoured Recce Regiment of the British 11th Armored Division. The 11th Armoured Division made attacks in and around Flers on or about 16-17 August 1944. "The Black Bull", Patrick Delaforce's history of the 11th, has a number of photos of Challengers in service with the 15/19th Hussars -- although none during that period.

Challengers were initially issued the same way that Sherman Fireflys were: one vehicle per tank troop; therefore, the 15/19th Hussars had full-strength tank troops consisting of three Cromwells and a Challenger. I believe that there would have been only three British armoured regiments that used Challengers in Northwest Europe: the 15/19th Hussars [11th Armoured Division], 8th Hussars [7th Armoured Division], and 2nd Batttalion (Armoured) Welsh Guards [Guards Armoured Division]. All of these units were the armoured recce regiments for their respective divisions. I believe that the Poles also had Challengers in NWE, probably in the same sort of formation & issued in the same way as the Brits.

Here's a question that I've never seen satisfactorily answered: when the 11th Armoured Division turned in their Shermans and Cromwells (from 15/19th Hussars) for Comets in March of 1945, did the 15/19th Hussars also turn in their Challengers for Comets?


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Krzysztof Barbarski's "Polish Armor 1939-45" (Osprey) has a photo of a Polish Challenger on page 23. The pictures caption reads:

"Challenger of 2 Sqn., 10th Mounted Rifles, moving forward with men of the 3rd Rifle Bde. in Holland, November 1944. The regiment received the Challenger early in that month, in sufficient quantities to equip one platoon of each squadron."

So much for "tank troops consisting of three Cromwells and a Challenger"! :-D

The 10th Mounted Rifles was the armoured recce regiment of the 1st (Polish) Armoured Division.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Buq-Buq:

That was probably a Challenger of the 15/19th King's Royal Hussars, the Armoured Recce Regiment of the British 11th Armored Division.

You are right. The same map shows the 11th AD just north of the 3rd ID, so it would seem likely the former added some tank support to capture the city.

In another section of the mag (great mag, this 'after the battle') there is description of the battle for St. Lambert-sur-Dives as told by Major Currie. During the battle the Major called in artillery fire on his position, and was surprised to receive 4.5" instead of the expected 18 pdr. Was the 18 pdr still in use in Normandy, or was he confusing it with the more common 25 pdr?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...