The British general-purpose infantry weapon that served on D-Day and beyond

Tanks, soft-skinned vehicles, bunkers and buildings, the PIAT could handle them all.

The PIAT – Searchlight, Infantry, Anti-Tank – was a British weapon which proved itself during the Normandy Landings.

It was introduced in 1943 and was first used in Tunisia, but saw good use in France and, despite its name, was a truly versatile weapon.

The PIAT also has the distinction of having been used by the only man to receive the Victoria Cross on D-Day.

Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis, in one of many actions on June 6, 1944, used a PIAT in an attack on a German field gun.

Unlike its contemporaries, the American Bazooka or the German Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust, the PIAT, being a tipped mortar, had no return blast.

This meant it could be fired from enclosed spaces without risk of killing or injuring the shooter or nearby friendly forces.

But it was heavy, required special technique to prepare for the next shot, and required a solid 90-degree hit on the target to detonate the bomb.

It also required the shooter to get closer to an enemy vehicle – sometimes up to 25 meters.

Unlike its rivals, it fired a bomb rather than a rocket, and although it was designed for use in the anti-tank role, it could also be used as a mortar, providing indirect fire.

In the video above, Jonathan Ferguson, Keeper of Firearms at the Royal Armories Museum, explains how this weapon works and how it was used in combat.

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