Here's a Churchill tank named Bushmills

Bracken Anderson writes about 'Bushmills' Churchill Tank WWII Ulster's only surviving Cavalry is the North Irish Horse.

Wednesday, 5th May 2010, 1:36 pm

Of the 18 Cavalry regiments in action during World War 11 only the NIH were issued Churchill tanks.

Tanks were allocated names of Irish towns. Names were painted on tank sides in white and orange letters. When the "Horse" arrived in North Africa in Feb.1943 one of B Squadron (HQ F) tanks was named BUSHMILLS.

"Bushmills" was a Close Support Churchill of early obsolescent design. It had two 3 inch (75mm) howitzer main guns, one in the turret, and one in the hull or nose.

These early Mk.1 tanks had limited tactical use on the WW11 battlefield and the NIH didn't really want them, or have need for them.

In Tunisia "the Horse" was senior regt. in 25th Tank Brigade, fighting Rommel's Panzer Armee Afrika. Whirling dust made life unpleasant for tank crews, tank commanders had difficulty observing ahead, many commanders were killed by German snipers or mortars whilst peering out of hatches.

German Panzer 111 tanks however, had commander's all round vision cupolas, allowing safe vision through 360 degree periscopes.

There was a lot of knocked out Panzer111's in Tunisia. An NIH officer took measurements from one and it was believed salvaged panzer cupolas could be welded onto Churchill commander hatches to relieve the problem.

REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) successfully welded cupolas to all 6 Churchill Mk.1 tanks (2 tanks per squadron). The cupola addition to the Churchills proved successful, however it is not known if any other British tank regiment followed this idea of "using bits of German armour." Fortunately,there is also no record of any NIH tank commander emerging from his German cupola giving the Nazi salute!!

"Bushmills" and its 5 man crew survived the rigours of North Africa and in April 1944 with the rest of the regiment, landed at Naples, Southern Italy. "Bushmills"and its crew fought, with B Sqn NIH (by now part of the 8th Army), up through the bloody Hitler Line battle near Monte Cassino, then Rome and on up through Italy to the heights overlooking the historic town of Florence. As an obsolescent Close Support tank it was finally phased out by September 1944. It is remarkable, this odd looking tank, a throwback in tank design to 1916, survived in service, as long as it did!