Churchill Crocodile, the flamethrower tank
An armoured nightmare on the battlefield
a diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
The British Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank could throw it’s burning fuel up to 150 yards (137 m), though 80 – 100 yards (73 - 91 m) was more realistic in combat circumstances.
The Crocodile was invented by a British research group called the Petroleum Warfare Department, which came up with some genuinely horrific weapons.
One of these inventions
led to the Crocodile.
The Churchill Crocodile Mark VII was a variant
of the A22 Infantry Tank Mk. IV Churchill.
The tank was towing a six and a half ton;
armoured trailer which carried 400 imperial
gallons (1,800 l) of fuel as well as compressed
The trailer could be ejected from within
the tank if necessary.
No tank driver likes to tow a trailer, particularly
one as lethal as this.
In action, the trailer had to be shielded from
enemy fire by the tank itself, and it had to be
used with care.
The flame-gun had to be 'pressured up' before
action by turning on the gas and unless it is used
within 30 minutes most of the pressure leaks
The Crocodile was not only a flamethrowing
beast, it was also able to function as a gun tank
with its turret mounted 75 mm gun.
Of the 800 Crocodiles produced, 250 were held
in reserve for possible operations against the
The remainder was sufficient for producing three
regiments of tanks as well as training and
replacements for battlefield casualties.
The Crocodile was used in Europe under and
the Normandy invasion in 1944
It was an effective assault weapon whose threat
could induce enemy troops to retreat or
surrender after the first ranging shots.
The flame projector was a potent psychological
weapon; there is at least one recorded instance
for crews of disabled Crocodiles to be executed
on the spot as revenge for their attacks.
The Churchill Crocodile was often found at the
very front of an advancing British column,
serving as infantry-support.
Few Allied weapons struck fear into the
hearts of the German infantrymen more
than the fearsome Churchill Crocodile.
The flamethrower was one of the deadliest
weapons in the British Army’s arsenal as they
fought through Europe during the latter stages
of the WWII..
When facing a stubborn enemy bunker or
position, the Crocodile would lay some flame in
visual range to showcase its deadly breath.
Should the position continue to stand, the
accompanying AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal
Engineers) would crack it open with a mortar
The Crocodile would then proceed to cover the
breached area in the flaming liquid which would
then flow into the position and burn anyone
inside to death.
One can only imagine the dread felt by the
Germans who were being stared down by the flaming nozzle of the Crocodile and the mortar of the AVRE.
The Crocodile saw widespread service during the Allied push through Italy and North-West Europe.
The Royal Armoured Corps put their Crocodiles to bare on the first day of the Normandy invasion.
British Crocodiles supported the U.S. Army in the Normandy bocage, at the Battle for Brest, and during Operation Clipper, the Anglo-American assault on Geilenkirchen, and the attack on s-Hertogenbosch in October 1944.
In Italy, the Crocodiles saw action with the 25th Armoured Assault Brigade.
The success of the Crocodile was also its curse.
Once the German army learned how to identify a Crocodile, all available anti-tank fire was often concentrated on it to stop the fire-breathing monster.
The diorama - the sketch
will show a Crocodile engaging a German bunker
outside a bombed-out Normandy village.
British troops following close to the flamethrowing tank.
The Crocodile are sending a blast of burning fuel next to
the bunker, and no surprise, the German crew are
coming out, waiving the white flag.
Better to be POW than roasted to death!
Building the Diorama
As a base for the diorama, I used a 120 x 40cm (40 x 16in) OSB board.
I had sketched how the diorama should be (see above), and I tried to keep as close to the sketch as possible when building.
I planned to build the following elements:
- The Crocodile.
- The ruined village and the surroundings.
- The German bunker
- The troops (British and German)
- A burned-out German tank
- The burning beam from the Croc to the bunker
- The burning fuel next to the bunker.
Building the Crocodile
The kit was the 1/35 from Tamiya.
In my opinion. The kit is very good.
A lot of details and very few problems.
The tracks look very detailed and are easy to assemble.
The only problem is that there is no interior if you want to have the
For me, that was not a problem because I planned to place the commander in the turret.
The trailer was easy to build, and together the tank and the trailer
made a very impressive sight!
The only problem for me was the marking on the Crocodile.
The kit had only decals for the 79th and 34th Armoured Division.
The diorama is supposed to
in Normandy, after the invasion,
which means that it should be part of the 141 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (The Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment).
The tank I placed in the diorama was therefore marked as from
Squadron A of the 141st.
The diorama was built on a 110 x 40 cm (44 x 16 in) OSB board.
I thought that would be big enough,
but in the end, I had to add 15cm
(6 in) behind the bunker, so I ended
up with a 125 x 40 cm (50 x 16in) diorama.
The first I did was to place the prop
on the OSB board and draw the ground plan.
Then I sculpted the terrain with Paper Mache, glued the buildings and the other props in place and painted everything with acrylic.
I needed some grass, bushes and trees to make the terrain more
The grass was made by using the applicator for electrostatic grass.
A 9V battery operates the applicator. By pouring clear glue on the ground, placing nails in the wooden board
and connection the nails with the 9V battery in the applicator, the grass
that is sprinkled over the ground will stand straight up in the glue thanks
to the electrostatic effect.
Very easy and very effective.
In the picture (to the right) with the applicator, you can clearly see the added base behind the bunker.
The bunker was made of foam- and cardboard. It was half buried in the terrain and therefore a somewhat
The idea was that the Crocodile should spray the first shot of burning fuel next to the bunker to show what awaited them if they stayed in the bunker.
The German knew exactly what a terrible weapon the Crocodile was
and did the sensible: Running out waving a white fabric.
To the right of the bunker, I made a support for the burning beam from the Crocodile.
The village, at least the part shown in the diorama, was heavily damaged and the houses mostly in ruin.
I decided to make at least one of the houses and used a 10mm foamboard to cut out the Café Normandie.
The ruined Cafè was built by cutting the foamboard using a ruler and a sharp scalpel.
The structure on the front was made by pressing a metal rod against the surface.
Window frames, window gaskets, shutters and gutters were made of bits and pieces from my scrap box.
The café sign was printed on my printer and glued on the façade.
Bits from foam- and cardboard made all the rubbish (bricks etc.) around the ruined houses.
Everything was painted with acrylic colours.
The other house, the Pharmacie du Centre, was made of a kit from MiniArt.
Most of the accessories (lamp post, fences etc.) were made from the kit “House Accessories” from MiniArt
The burned out tank
The diorama was on a very long
base, and I had to find ways to fill
the gaps between the Crocodile and the bunker.
I decided to place a burned-out tank next to the Cafè and used the
German Panzerkampfwagen (Sd.Kfz.121) because this was a
The building of the tank was only to throw together the main parts, do some damages and add some debris outside. Then everything was painted black/grey.
To make the British soldiers, I used
a mix from the Tamiya “British Troops” and the “British Paratroops” from Bronco.
The German was made by some old figures in my scrap box. There was
no one with the arms in the air, so I had to make some correction to get them the way I wanted.
The Crocodile spits out a solid jet of flame fuel, and I was planning on building the beam of fire with some kind of light inside.
It had to be a long (60 cm / 24in) and thin ray, and I tried all the light sources I could think of; Fibre Optics, Fibre Cable, LED Wire, Neon Light, Car Flexible tube, LED Strips to mention some.
It gave either too little light, or too much light, had a too large diameter
or did not give an uninterrupted light beam.
In the end, I put all the fancy stuff away and went back to the basic:
A brass rod, some clear glue and some Kapok Fibre Filling.
Usually I would have used cotton, but this time I would like to try the Kapok, which by the way was a pleasant acquaintance.
It was easy to sculpt, easy to airbrush, and did not have the lumps which
you often find in cotton.
I used a hot glue gun to put some unevenness on the beam.
Then I painted the beam yellow
before I glued Kapok on the rod.
The beam would therefore not include lights.
But, in the end it looks like the real thing, even without light.
The Burning Fuel
This was made by the well-proven cotton-on-a-chicken-cage method.
I had made room for LED bulbs in the filling next to the bunker.
These and some cellophane would create the fire.
The smoke from the fire would be airbrushed very dark.
The background was painted on a cardboard.
I made the sky overclouded and
dark; this was after all a war
scenario, and the and the atmosphere should be a little gloomy.
Between the background and the village, I placed pictures of a couple of houses to make depth to the village scene.
The length of the burning beam from the Crocodile to the bunker is unrealistic short which means the Croc is dangerously close to the German bunker.
In the diorama, the flames from the Croc is 60cm (24in) which means 21m (70ft) in a 1/35 scale.
At that distance, the Germans would easily have knocked the Crocodile out with a Panzerfaust.
The Crocodile could throw the burning fuel up to 137 meters (150 yards), but the practical range in a battle situation would be between 73 - 91 meters (80 – 100 yards).
This means that if I had made an authentic diorama, the base would have been about three meters long, the action would have been more or less non-existent, and the Germans would probably not have surrendered.
If they believed they could not fight the British troops and the Crocodile, they would probably have retreated into the woods through the bunker’s back door.
I hope you understand why I choose to make it more compact. Call it artistic freedom.
And here is the diorama:
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