Churchill Octopus

The Churchill Octopus was produced in an attempt to clear a safe path across minefields, using turretless Churchill tanks to detonate mines and as the basis of a causeway.

The project was developed at Ottariano in Italy. A series of redundant Churchill tanks had their turrets removed and long hinged ramps installed in line with the top of the tracks. The first Octopus would drive into the minefield. When it hit a mine and was disabled the ramps would be lowered and a second Octopus would take its place. Eventually a line of disabled tanks would produce a safe route across the minefield, forming a causeway if the minefield was very dense, or a series of stepping stones in more scattered minefields.

The idea was theoretically sound, but rather less useful in practice. If any tank crossing the causeway was disabled the entire route would be blocked. Every tank crossing an Octopus would become a conspicuous target, looming above the battlefield. Under fire it would be difficult for the driver of the sacrificial tank to escape, and so he would have to sit in his damaged tank while a series of other vehicles drove over his head.

The Octopus was quickly abandoned as an anti-mine device, but it was then adapted to cross deep anti-tank ditches and other similar obstacles. In this use it was renamed as the Churchill ARK, apparently because the flat turret-less deck looked like an aircraft carrier.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 December 2015), Churchill Octopus , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_churchill_octopus.html

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