As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day we’re exploring the history behind some of the incredible machines used by the allies during the Battle of Normandy. #DDayMachines

Horsa Gliders

Hundreds of Horsa Gliders capable of carrying troops, jeeps and even a 6 pounder anti-tank gun weighing more than a tonne, were used during the Battle of Normandy and over 3,600 were built in total for use during the Second World War. Measuring 20m long, the Horsa Glider was incredibly sturdy despite being constructed almost entirely out of wood. Piloted by members of The Glider Pilot Regiment, formed of volunteers from other sections of the army, Horsa Gliders were towed into enemy airspace by RAF powered aircraft before being released to glide at speeds of up to 100mph.

Sherman DD

The Sherman Duplex Drive (or Sherman DD) was an amphibious tank developed during the Second World War, based on the US built M4 Sherman tank. The vehicle achieved buoyancy using a collapsible canvas screen which increased the vehicle’s freeboard (distance between the water level and the top of the tank) and was able to manoeuvre through the water by using two propellers powered by the main engine. These magnificent machines were deployed from Tank Landing Craft on D-Day, launching a couple of miles from the shore to swim to the beaches where they would in theory overpower German defences.


On D-Day the AVRE was used to breach defences, making use of their many bizarrely named attachments, which included the ‘onion’, ‘snake’ and ‘roly poly’. The tools which mounted to the front of the vehicle via a standard attachment point performed many tasks including the placement of framed explosive charges, mine clearance, bridging and carpet laying. The picture below shows an AVRE using a bobbin for carpet laying, where reinforced fabric matting was rolled out over soft ground to create a roadway where vehicles (especially tanks) might have sunk if their weight was not distributed across a wider area.