Churchill Crocodile

The Churchill Crocodile was a flamethrower tank based on the Churchill infantry tank, with the flame fuel towed in a separate trailer. It was used extensively in north-western Europe in 1944-45 and was even sent to Korea in 1950-51.

In March 1942 the Petroleum Warfare Department and the Ministry of Supply flame thrower teams were merged. Each had produced their own flame thrower designs, but the Petroleum Warfare Department's gas pressure system was superior, and after tests with the Valentine tank was selected for further development.

By the end of 1942 a prototype using a Churchill tank had been produced. The flame fuel and gas bottles were stored in a separate towed trailer, after it became clear that there wasn’t enough space within the tank. The fuel pipe ran under the belly of the tank and the flame projector replaced the hull machine gun.

Tests with the first prototype showed that it could project a flame up to 200 yards, a great improvement on earlier prototypes. Tests early in 1943 showed that the trailer didn't cause many problems, and six prototypes were ordered. The decision was also made to produce all A22F Churchill VIIs with the equipment needed to be converted to the flamethrower role.

Production Crocodiles could fire up to 80 one second bursts with a range of 80-120 yards.

The successful trials were followed by an order for 250 Churchill Crocodiles, with thinly armoured fuel trailers. They were to be built using Churchill IVs. In October 1943 the Churchill VII was chosen instead. Plans were put in place to issue some to every unit that used the Churchill Mk VII. This plan was later altered to bring all of the flamethrower tanks together into specialist regiments with the 79th armoured Division.

Eventually 800 were produced, with 250 allocated to the Far East.

The Crocodile performed very effectively in combat in north-western Europe and in Italy. The biggest vulnerability was its tendency to catch fire if hit near the flame projector. It was also often the target of concentrated enemy fire, and was a much feared weapon.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 November 2015), Churchill Crocodile , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_churchill_crocodile.html

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