THE unconventional methods of an eccentric Army officer who played a major role in the success of D-Day 75 years ago are being celebrated in a new exhibition.

Major-General Percy Hobart commanded the 11th Armoured Division and later the 79th Armoured Division.

The First World War veteran pioneered the use of specialised tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, and also trained other units ready for D-Day.

They included tanks designed to clear mines and destroy wire on landing beaches, swimming tanks, flame-throwing tanks, mortar tanks that could destroy concrete bunkers, as well as track-laying and bridge-laying tanks.

Among the other items on display at the Tank Museum in Bovington is a homemade pike, made from piece of scaffolding with a 1913 Remington bayonet welded to it.

The pike was issued to Hobart when he served in the Home Guard as a corporal after being sacked from his command in North Africa in the early stages of the Second World War.

He joined the Chipping Camden Local Defence Volunteers, the precursor to the Home Guard, and was promoted to corporal.

Friends wrote to newspapers arguing that it was a waste of such a talented trainer of men, a message that prime minister Winston Churchill was made aware of.

Churchill intervened and Hobart was given a new command.

Museum curator David Willey said: "This pike is a wonderful example of the desperate state of Britain in 1940.

"Men like Hobart were expected to defend this island if the Germans had invaded with a bayonet welded to a scaffold pole - and I have no doubt they would have tried to use it.

"The pike with which he was issued shows what a desperate state Britain was in during the summer of 1940 is and what sort of lengths we'd go to in order to repel an invasion.

"After the disaster at Dieppe raid in August 1942 there was a realisation that more specialised armour would be needed to assist the D-Day assault.

"The division developed or pioneered all manner of innovative vehicles and tanks, a number of which we have at the museum.

"The pressing need for urgent development meant Hobart raced around the country in a fast car to meet the scientists and engineers tasked with turning his concepts into reality.

"He was also famous for taking advice and opinion from anyone - he would ask his driver or a nearby corporal his opinion of some new proposal.

"By his drive and the force of his personality he created a formidable array of innovative vehicles which were highly successful on D-Day.

"He also trained men to use them.

"As we approach the anniversary of the invasion it is worth remembering how close we were to defeat and how mavericks such as Hobart made a huge difference in the course of the war.

"Had Churchill not intervened, we would have wasted one of our greatest talents."

Sir Percy Hobart, also known as Hobo, was born in India in 1885 and joined the Army in 1904 and during his military career he was Mentioned in Dispatches nine times.

In 1928 Hobart married Dorothea Field.

His sister, Elizabeth, married Bernard Montgomery.

Hobart died in 1957 aged 71.

His daughter presented the pike to the Tank Museum in 2014.