Oke

The Oke was a Churchill II tank armed with a flamethrower.1

The Oke was named after its designer, Major J.M. Oke. The basic design was a standard Churchill tank fitted with "Ronson" flame-throwing equipment, including a rear mounted flame fuel tank, which was piped to the hull machine gun position, where a flame gun nozzle replaced the Besa machine gun. The flame equipment was originally un-armoured, but the vehicles at Dieppe had the flame equipment encased in an armoured box.

Three such vehicles were built and all were transferred to the 14th Canadian Tank Regiment for use at Dieppe. The maximum range of the flame gun was 40 to 60 yards. The vehicles embarked on TLC-3; Bull, the troop commander's tank, launched in 10 feet of water and drowned 100 yards offshore, near the junction of RED and WHITE Beaches. Boar made a rough landing and knocked the fuel reservoir off its deck but penetrated to the promenade near the Casino. The tank remained mobile throughout the morning, then became immobilized on the beach during the withdrawal.2

After Bull landed first in deep water, the boat reversed, damaging the ramp and doors in the process. Approaching shore again, a shell destroyed the wheelhouse, killing the crew of the landing craft. Boar, the second vehicle on the landing craft, was forced to exit without a ramp, ten minutes later, causing its own rough landing. Third off the Tank Landing Craft was Beetle, which started up but refused to move forward. The crew reversed, crushing two wounded men. The left track chock had been left in place, the men responsible for removing it probably having been hit. Beetle also made a hard landing from the rampless craft, blowing out the lighting system and having to run on its emergency system. Following a general radio transmission that there was a place to cross the sea-wall near the Casino, the tank's commander, Lieutenant Gordon Drysdale, ordered a turn which broke the right track because of a build up of chert rocks in the track. The tank remained in place as a pillbox, firing at muzzle flashes from the west headland and sheltering dismounted tank crews, including Drysdale himself, who tried to engage targets with a Bren gun, drawing heavy return fire from machine guns and mortars in response.3

There does not appear to be any record of the flame equipment having actually been employed at Dieppe.


British Oke flamethrowing tank; eventually transferred to the Canadians, this vehicle landed at Dieppe as Boar. Bovington Tank Musum photo.


Beetle, one of three Oke flamethrowing tanks of the 14th Canadian Tank Regiment (The Calgary Regiment) to land at Dieppe, lies abandoned on the beach. The armoured box for the flame-throwing equipment can be seen on the hull rear. Bundesarchiv photo.


 The flame gun of the Oke is visible on Beetle, at right. Bundesarchiv photo.

Canada operated several other flame vehicles subsequent, including the Wasp variant of the Universal Carrier and later the Badger. The Oke concept was followed in the British Army by the Crocodile, a very successful flame tank based on the Mark VII Churchill and employed extensively by the British Army in Italy and North-West Europe, including on occasion in support of Canadian operations.

  1. Three Churchill Mk II (Special) tanks were modified, but some sources indicate that T32049 was a Mark III Churchill while T31862 and T68875 were both Mark IIs.

  2. Tonner, Mark W. The Churchill Tank and the Canadian Armoured Corps (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2011) ISBN 978-1-894581-66-00 p.79

  3. Henry, Hugh G. Dieppe: Through the Lens of the German War Photographer (After the Battle, London, UK, n.d.) ISBN 0-900913-76-2pp.23-25


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