Major General Percy Hobart

'Hobart's Funnies': Eccentric Officer's Improvised D-Day Weapons Shown In New Exhibition

Major General Percy Hobart commanded the 11th Armoured Division and later the 79th Armoured Division.

Major General Percy Hobart

Major General Percy Hobart (left) commanded 79th Armoured Division during World War Two (Picture: The Tank Museum).

The unconventional methods of an eccentric British Army officer who played a major role in the success of D-Day 75 years ago are being celebrated in a new exhibition.

Major General Percy Hobart commanded the 11th Armoured Division and later the 79th Armoured Division.

The First World War veteran pioneered the use of specialised tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, and also trained other units to be ready for D-Day.

The methods included tanks designed to clear mines and destroy wire on landing beaches, flame-throwing tanks, mortar tanks that could destroy concrete bunkers, as well as track-laying and bridge-laying tanks.

Among the other items on display at the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, is a homemade pike, made from a piece of scaffolding with a 1913 Remington bayonet welded to it.

The pike was issued to Hobart when he served in the Home Guard as a corporal after being sacked from his command in North Africa in the early stages of the Second World War.

David Willey holding Major General Percy Hobart's pike
The museum curator holding Maj Gen Hobart's pike (Picture: The Tank Museum).

Museum curator David Willey said:

"The pike with which he was issued shows what a desperate state Britain was in during the summer of 1940, and what sort of lengths we'd go to in order to repel an invasion.

"After the disaster at the Dieppe raid in August 1942 there was a realisation that more specialised armour would be needed to assist the D-Day assault.

"By his drive and the force of his personality he created a formidable array of innovative vehicles which were highly successful on D-Day.

"He also trained men to use them.

"As we approach the anniversary of the invasion it is worth remembering how close we were to defeat and how mavericks such as Hobart made a huge difference in the course of the war".