The Snake is similar in principle to the Bangalore Torpedo except that it is pushed into place by a tank. It consisted of a long cylinder of explosives, made up of a number of sections of iron pipe. It was detonated electrically. The Kruschen trials used Snakes of 400 ft in length – trained men could assemble a Snake this long within an hour. The Snake was packed with 800 lbs of explosive which could blow a gap in an obstacle (destroying wire and detonating mines) of 100 ft in depth, the width in the gap being about 30 ft.
Although trials at Tunstall the previous year had shown it was possible to push a Snake over an anti-tank ditch, the Kruschen trials found that as the Snake carried over the ditch, its weight caused it to buckle as it was suspended over the ditch and it could be pushed no further. At first two sappers were sent into the ditch with pitchforks in order to lift the Snake and allow it to pass over the ditch, but it was rightly realized this would be an unpleasant job and would likely lead to the loss of a lot of engineers. The solution was a device, fitted to the nose of the Snake, and designed during the trials. This was the Davidson Nose, named after the Chief Engineer involved with the exercise. It had an automatic dropping device which cocked its nose, allowing it to ride up the opposite side of the ditch. It also allowed the Snake to be pushed up escarpments.
During the trials, two premature bursts occurred, caused by either machine gun or shell fire, which showed the vulnerability of the Snake.
Snakes was carried in the stores of 1st Armoured Engineer Brigade RE, 79th Armoured Division, and were used in the assault against Le Havre in September 1944.
Left: Snake being pushed
accross anti-tank ditch, Exercise
Kruschen. The Davidson Nose
can be seen in this image.
Right: Artwork of Exercise
Kruschen showing Snakes being
The Ronsosn was the name given to a flamethrower mounted on a Universal Carrier. The first Carrier flamethrower, known as the “Adey-Martin Drain Pipe”, was designed as a means of defending anti-tank ditches in the 47th Div area of Southern England in October 1940. The go ahead was given in July 1941 to continue further experiments under the War Office with a new design – the “Ronsosn”. The Ronson consisted of a flame projector mounted on the front left hand side of the gunners compartment of a Universal Carrier. The flame fuel was fed by an external pipe on the left side of the vehicle, connected to two cylindrical pressure containers mounted on the rear of the carrier. The Ronson only had a range of about 40 yards which led to doubts about its suitability. It was superseded by an improved design – the “Wasp”.
A platoon of the Princess Louise Fusiliers supplied the Ronsons for Exercise Kruschen. The War Diary of this unit gives a fascinating insight in to how the Ronsons were used in Battle Drill, with an account of a demonstration at Headley Heath on 5th Feb 1943 of an attack on an enemy company position. A squadron of tanks led the breakthrough of an obstacle of wires and mines and took up a covering position with the Ronsons following closely behind. The demonstration was reported as being so successful that 88% of the straw sacks placed in slit trenches and pillboxes were burnt out. The drill sounds very similar to that practiced at Kruschen, perhaps straw sacks were also used in the Kruschen pillboxes and slit trenches to assess the outcome of ‘attacks’?
Above: Left and middle - Ronsons on exercise in the UK during 1942. Right - artwork of Exercise Kruschen showing Ronsons crossing anti-tank ditch.
The first design for a flamethrower Churchill tank, adapted to carry Wasp flamethrower equipment, was rushed through so tanks could take part in the Dieppe Raid (all three used in the Raid were sunk in their landing craft). Work was then delayed on developing tank flamethrowers in September 1942 as it was felt that tanks would not have sufficient protection for close range flamethrower work. The smaller, more mobile Carrier was thought to be preferable. However work did continue and the first prototype of what became known as the Crocodile was ready in January 1943. Brigadier Wales managed to borrow this prototype tank for Exercise Kruschen.
The first Crocodile was built on the Churchill IV with the Wasp Mk I flamethrower equipment. The flame range was 130 yards. The flame fuel was towed in a 9-ton armoured trailer with a capacity of 400 gallons. The volume of each shot was approximately 7 to 8 gallons of fuel and fire could be maintained up to 100 seconds in a series of short bursts. The trailer could be jettisoned after it was empty and the tank could fight on as a normal tank.
Right - Crocodile in action, 1944 and a surviving
tank that can be seen at Camp Eden, Yorkshire
This was carried by one man. In Brigadier Wales opinion it was not worth considering as it was heavy, was quickly expended and very dangerous for the operator if something went wrong. However others taking part in the Exercise considered it a useful weapon to keep in reserve when the infantry made the actual assault on the pillbox itself.
Right - Manpack flamethrower being demonstrated
in the UK, 1944
The fascine was first used by tanks for crossing ditches in the Great War. It proved to be one of the quickest and most efficient ways to cross an anti-tank ditch. According to Brigadier Wales the best design of a fascine was chestnut paling rolled around tubular scaffolding, making a kind of “sausage role”. About 40 of these could be lashed together and carried by a tank. It was held in place on a sloping bracket on the front of a tank. The turret had to be turned round to make room for the fascine. It was secured by ropes which could be cut from inside the tank to release the fascine.
Above: Left - Churchill tank crossing anti-tank ditch by use of a fascine. The tank is also carrying a fascine and a Snake can be seen in the foreground. Middle - Churchill tank 'SATAN' using a fascine to get up an escarpment. Both images are from the final demonstration of Exercise Kruschen, 8th May 1943. Right - artwork of Exercise Kruschen showing fascines being assembled.
R.E Armoured Sledge
This was a small sledge that was towed behind a tank. It could be used to carry spare fascines, Bangalore Torpedoes (incase the “Snake” did not work), other explosive charges and tools etc. A modified version was also used in the Exercise to tow infantry through the breach in the obstacle. The purpose of the Infantry Sledge was to carry a section of infantry, to be towed behind the support echelon of tanks, to increase the speed of the infantry advance and give protection against fire. It consisted of a normal R.E sledge with two steel runners and the addition of front and side armouring of 7mm I.T. 100 armour plate. The sides could be let down with a quick release lever, which could also cast the sledge free from the tank. The low profile of the sledge in certain types of county made it very hard to see at a distance of more than 100 yards. The dimensions of the sledge were:
Length – 12 ft
Width – 6 ft
Height (to top of armour) – 2 ft 8 ins
Height of armour – 1 ft 9 ins
Weight 14 cwt (7 cwt sledge, 7 cwt armour)
It was easy to construct, except for the armour which would require work shop facilities.
Trials showed that it was immune from normal small arms fire but against armour piercing bullets it was only immune at long ranges and oblique impact. It was questioned if the armour was of any value, seeing most German troops would be equipped with armour piercing bullets. But the trials also showed that the armour would stop shell fragment and bullet ricochets off the tank towing the sledge, and this along with the fact that it was immune from normal small arms fire and would stop a proportion of armour piercing bullets lead to the conclusion that the armour was necessary.
Right - the armoured Infantry Sledge