Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicles (BARVs for short) were among the first vehicles to land in Normandy on D-Day. They were used to recover damaged and broken down vehicles from the sea and the beach so they did not become a hazard to other landing craft. A key part of Allied success on D-Day was the momentum with which vehicles could disembark and the BARV was key to keeping things moving.

The Museum’s BARV, currently located in our World War Two gallery, was among those used during the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. 1963.578.

BARV was adapted from a Sherman M4A2 tank. Design began in mid-1943, initially trailing the Churchill before the Sherman was settled on. The REME engineers, tasked with developing this cutting edge vehicle, added an armoured superstructure and innovated waterproofing technology that allowed the BARV to operate in deep water. They chose the M4A2 because, unlike other Sherman models, it was powered by a diesel engine. They believed this would function better with the sudden temperature changes caused by immersion. The BARV is a towing rather than winching vehicle – there was no time to perfect a method of keeping the winch cable aperture sealed from water to prevent water ingress.

Prototype BARV sea trials in the run up to D-Day, 1943-44. A:1975.1363.368, A:1975.1363.385 and A:1975.1363.401. © Unknown.

The BARV was crewed by a driver, commander and, unusually, a diver. The driver was unable to see much when the BARV was operating in deep water and so relied on the commander to direct. The commander would sit at the top of the vehicle looking out. Trained in shallow water diving, the diver would go into the water to attach a towing cable to the stranded vehicle. It was very difficult for the diver to get in and out of the BARV in their diving suit. Divers were known to abandon their suits, strip down to their underwear and hold their breath.

The Museum’s BARV came from Fording Trials Branch REME, later renamed Amphibious Trials and Training Unit, Royal Marines. It is one of the oldest vehicles in our extensive and unique collection.

The Museum’s BARV, soon after it was parked at our new premises in Lyneham, 2016.

Find out more

Watch some old footage of a BARV in action in deep water on our YouTube channel.

Read more about the Sherman BARV's development and operation on Tank Encyclopedia, the web's digital tank museum.