Did you know the British liked their clergy with a big bang?

A Bishop, the first British “ecclesiastical” artillery piece, at a formerly German-held airfield in Sicily (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The British military was well-known for choosing highly thematic names for their vehicle designs in World War II, and not even the clergy managed to escape the naming practices. In 1941, a stopgap design for a self-propelled artillery piece, made by putting a 25-pounder (87.6 mm) howitzer gun on a Valentine tank chassis, was named the Bishop, as the oversized superstructure reminded someone of a bishop’s miter.

The name stuck, and the British decided to run with the theme for other self-propelled guns. A small, 6-pounder (57 mm) on a truck was named the Deacon, and the American “105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7” earned the name Priest in British service, both to uphold the tradition and because its machine gunner’s position looked like a priest’s pulpit. Some Priests had their guns removed and used as armored troop transports in Normandy, nicknamed Defrocked Priests or Holy Rollers. A Canadian artillery piece, based on locally built versions of the M3 Lee and M4 Sherman chassis, was named the Sexton. (A sexton is charged with the maintenance of Church buildings and the surrounding graveyards.) Another addition to the ecclesiastical family was the Cold War-era Abbot self-propelled gun, though it never saw combat. Despite the Abbot’s apparent pacifism, it still looks like the British liked their clergy to lay down some heavy fire!

An M7 (“Priest” in Britain) with the pulpit-like machine gun position next to the main gun (Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont)

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Soldiers of the 463rd Combat Engineers near the German border observe Christmas in 1944; note K-ration cans as ornaments  (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)
Surprise your loved ones with an unforgettable trip to historic places where American soldiers fought for our freedom. Get a 15% discount on our select tours by paying only the registration fee by December 26, 2022 and transferring the rest of the list price until January 31, 2023. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it cannot be combined with other special promotions. The offer excludes those three tours in 2024 which include the 80th anniversary D-Day commemorations in Normandy.
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