Categories
Danish Armor

Hotchkiss Htk 46

Denmark (1917-23)
Armoured Car – 1 Built

The first armored vehicle which was built in and used by Denmark, the HtK46, is an obscure and widely unknown vehicle. It was constructed during the spring of 1917 but it performed very poorly. The vehicle was involved in an accident in 1920, and in 1923, the decision was made to scrap the HtK46. The vehicle was not built by or for the military, but it was a private gift for a civil guard unit.

The HtK46 in 1917, just after it was built. The vehicle is lacking several features, like headlights and a small shield-like armor plate that was mounted on the roof. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Civil Guard

The civil guard in question was the Akademisk Skytteforening (AS, Academic Shooting Club). It was founded in April 1861 with the purpose of familiarizing students with the firing and handling of guns. As a result of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, during which the Danish Kingdom tried to gain control over the Duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg but ended up losing them to the Prussian and Austrian Empire, civil guard units increased in popularity in Denmark. This led to the foundation of the Akademisk Skyttekorps (Academic Shooting Corp) in 1866, whose members not only practiced with firearms, but also received physical military training.

When World War I broke out in 1914, the neutral Danish Kingdom reacted by mobilizing the army, which took strategic positions near the border with the German Empire and manned the fortifications of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The Akademisk Skyttekorps was formed into a battalion as well and was stationed at the northern defense line of Copenhagen, where the unit had to erect field fortifications. Due to good training, the unit was soon regarded as one of the armies’ elite units.

Here the vehicle is seen from the front left. A Madsen light machine gun is placed in one of the notches. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

The Armored car

Maybe inspired by the stories about armored vehicles which appeared in Danish newspapers during World War I, one of the most renowned members of the AS, Director Erik Jørgen-Jensen, decided to gift an armored car to the battalion. Production of the vehicle commenced in 1917. As a base, a regular unmodified French Hotchkiss model 1909 car chassis was used.

Armor of an unknown thickness was added around the complete vehicle. The engine was protected by a trapezoid-shaped armored bonnet, the sides of which could be hinged open to access the engine. Two small hatches were located on the front, which could be opened to let air flow into the radiator, cooling the engine. If the vehicle was ever to see combat, the hatches could temporarily be closed to increase the protection of the engine, but never for too long, as the engine would overheat. This solution of small hatches was also utilized by the Belgian Minerva and British Rolls-Royce armored cars, among others.

From the bonnet, the armor plates were sloped upwards, protecting the front of the crew compartment. From there, the armor was kind of folded around the vehicle ending in a pointed shape at the rear of the vehicle. Although an armored roof was installed above the commander’s and driver’s position, the rest of the compartment was open-topped. Two visions slits faced forward, a third was located in the left side of the hull, and two others in the right side. The driver most likely sat on the right side, as that was the regular configuration in which Hotchkiss delivered their cars. Thus, the commander would have sat on the left.

The rear part of the crew compartment provided space for up to two gunners. Four notches were made in the side armor, two on each side, in which a Madsen light machine gun could be rested and fired. Later on, a low armor plate was mounted on top of the roof with two notches facing forwards, allowing the guns to be fired to the front as well. The vehicle was camouflaged in a grass-green color but received a camouflage pattern sometime during its service. Two headlights were mounted on the outside of the frontal plate of the compartment. On the right side of the crew compartment, a reserve tire could be carried.

The HtK46 during a later stage of its life when it received a camouflage scheme. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Into Service

It has to be noted that, although the HtK46 was the first Danish armored car, it was not the first attempt to produce an armored vehicle in Denmark. Already, during the spring of 1917, a Gideon 2-Ton truck was experimentally covered in plywood to resemble armor and was trialed successfully, but the request for its purchase with real armor was turned down.

During the second half of September 1917, construction of the vehicle was finished. A special armored car unit was founded within the structure of the AS battalion. Senior Lieutenant E. Gørtz was appointed as the commander of the vehicle, and Moltke-Leth was appointed driver. The vehicle received the registration number HtK46, according to Danish customs to use HtK-xx to register their military vehicles.

In October that same year, the vehicle was used during army exercises in North Zealand, an area north of Copenhagen. The performance was also observed by Jørgen-Jensen, the vehicle’s donor. During these maneuvers, the vehicle ditched itself but was successfully recovered.

It became apparent that the vehicle performed rather poorly because the car chassis was overloaded. It was unable to drive off-road and even driving on the road proved to be extremely difficult. In 1920, the vehicle was involved in an accident. An anecdote claims that the vehicle could not brake and it drove straight into a chicken coop. Although the vehicle was not very useful, it remained in service until 1923, when it was scrapped.


The only publicly known image of the HtK46 showing its actual registration plate. Also, note the spare rubber tire which hangs on the right side of the vehicle. Source: akademiskskytteforening.dk
A much clearer picture from roughly the same angle. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Conclusion

Being first does not always mean being best, and the HtK46 is a perfect example of that. Although it was the first armored car in the Kingdom of Denmark, it was one of the worst too. Nevertheless, the car remained in service for roughly five years. Fortunately for the Danes, it never had to prove itself in combat. The HtK46 was not the last domestically-built armored car in Denmark. During the early 1930s, several armored cars were designed, but these performed unsatisfactorily. Eventually, the Danish Army opted for several Swedish-built armored cars from Landsverk.



Illustration of the Hotchkiss Htk 46 produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Specifications

 

Crew 4 (Commander, Driver, 2 Gunners)
Propulsion 4-cylinder 2.200 cm3, 4-speed transmission
Suspension leaf spring
Armament: 1-2 x Madsen 8x58mmR light machine gun

Sources

Hotchkiss M 1909, Danish Army Vehicles.
Akademisk skytteforening Historie, Akademisk skytteforening.
Fyens Stiftstidende, En danks Panserautomobil, 13 September 1917
Esbjerg Avis, 10 October 1917.


Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

The third issue covers WW1 armored vehicles — Hotchkiss Htk46 and Schneider CA and CD in Italian Service. WW2 section contains two splendid stories of the US and German ‘Heavy Armor’ — T29 Heavy Tank and Jagdtiger.

Our Archive section covers the history of early requirements for the Soviet heavy (large) tank. Worth mentioning, that the article is based on documents never published before.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create a terrain for diorama. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of Northrop’s Early LRI Contenders — N-126 Delta Scorpion, N-144 and N-149!

All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
Buy this magazine on Amazon!


Categories
WW2 German prototypes WW2 Swedish prototypes

Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 (Landsverk 5)

Sweden (1928-33)
Light Tank – 6 Prototypes

An article by Wilhelm Geijer and Leander Jobse

The Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 (Eng: Wheel-Cum-Track Tank M28), also known as the Landsverk 5, was one of the first German tank projects after World War I. According to paragraph 171 of the Treaty of Versailles from 1919, the German Army and German companies were forbidden to develop tanks. However, nine years after the treaty was signed, the development of the M28 started in high secrecy. Five or six of these vehicles were built in various configurations and examined by both the German and Swedish Armies, but did not enter service with either of them.

Background

On 3 April 1926, graduate engineer (Dipl.-Ing.) Otto Merker, then working at the Schwäbische Hüttenwerke, part of the company Gutehoffnungshütte (GHH), filed a patent in France concerning designs of wheel-cum-track tractors. During the two following years, he would improve and refine his designs until 1928, when the wheel-cum-track vehicle (the Räder-Raupen Fahrzeug) was ready to be produced. It was designed to act as the basis for a tank intended to be produced by the subsidiary AB Landsverk in Landskrona, Sweden.

Two designs for a wheel-cum-track tractor, patented by Otto Merker in April 1926. Source: Brevet d’invention No. 631.839.

The full name of GHH was Gutehoffnungshütte, Aktienverein für Bergbau und Hüttenbetrieb (Eng: Joint Stock Association for Mining and Metallurgical Business), based in the city of Oberhausen (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) with a specialization in mechanical engineering. Landsverk, then known as Landskrona Nya Mekaniska Verkstads Aktiebolag (Landskrona New Mechanical Works Joint Stock Company), had originally been a foundry focusing on various civilian applications of metal works. By 1920, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Seeing an opportunity, GHH bailed them out and gained 50% of the company’s stocks in the process.

After 1920, GHH managed to acquire more stocks and owned 62.8% of Landsverk in 1925. These stocks were registered by another subsidiary, N.V. en Handelsmaatschappij Rollo, a Dutch company acquired by GHH in 1920. A Swedish law from 1916 prohibited foreigners from owning more than 20 percent of a company, but the Landsverk articles of association were based on an 1895 contract.

These factors allowed GHH, who also owned the majority of MAN AG at the time, to circumvent the limitations on tank development in Germany set by the Treaty of Versailles through setting up armored vehicle development in Sweden. This use of subsidiaries and foreign companies to circumvent the treaty, as well as the cooperation with the USSR, was already suspected by the Royal Swedish Army Materiel Administration’s artillery department in the early 1930s.

Name

The Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28, meaning ‘Wheels-Tracks-Fighting vehicle Model 1928’, is sometimes also referred to as ‘GHH-Fahrzeug GKF’. In Sweden and within Landsverk, it was known as the ‘Landsverk 5’, or L-5 for short. The idea of a wheel-cum-track system already emerged in Germany during the early 1920’s when Joseph Vollmer developed a system based on a Hanomag tractor, utilized by the Czechoslovak-built Kolohousenka. Merker could have been inspired by Vollmer’s system, although it is also possible that he was influenced by the British, who had started testing wheel-cum-track systems mounted on various vehicles around the same time.

Chassis equipped with the 77 hp engine and hydraulic wheel system. Note the presence of rear fenders and headlights. Photo: alternathistory.com

Swedish Tank Acquisition

In December 1928, Swedish authorities officially established requirements for a future tank:

  • Maximum weight of 12 tonnes
  • Armor to stop 37 mm cannon fire
  • Armament consisting of both a cannon and a machine gun
  • Good mobility in Swedish terrain, an average speed of 20 km/h on road and half that in relatively difficult terrain

By this point, Sweden’s entire tank force consisted of just ten strv fm/21s (alternatively known as strv m/21s), and a small number of foreign vehicles acquired for trials. Furthermore, military spending had been drastically reduced as a result of the defense resolution of 1925. For these reasons, acquiring the largest number of vehicles possible with available assets within a relatively short time frame was stressed. The Swedish government had previously granted SEK 400,000 for this purpose.

Based on international trips to tank factories and trials of foreign designs, it was realized that no foreign tank available on the open market was suitable for Swedish circumstances at the time. Moreover, indigenous tank production was seen as a major advantage in terms of readiness for a potential military conflict. As such, Sweden turned to its own industry. In 1930, there were three companies within Sweden that could provide the military with a new tank. These were Morgårdshammars Mekaniska Verkstad AB (Morgårdshammar’s Mechanical Works Joint stock company), AB Landsverk, and AB Bofors.

The first of these, Morgårdshammars Mekaniska Verkstad, could provide an indigenous design which had been in development since 1927. This development was headed by the Austrian Major and tank theorist Fritz Heigl, famed for his publication ‘Taschenbuch der Tanks’ (Eng: ‘Handbook of Tanks’). Bofors and Landsverk, on the other hand, relied on German companies for design work. These companies were Krupp AG and Maschinenfabrik Esslingen respectively. Both Landsverk and Maschinenfabrik Esslingen were subsidiaries of GHH at the time. Krupp was, via two decoy companies, the largest stockholder of Bofors and these arms manufacturers actively cooperated in the development of various projects during the interwar years. In the case of the Bofors proposal, the tank in question was actually Krupp’s Leichttraktor design. This was an evolution of the LK II which was in service with the Swedish Army as the lightly modified strv fm/21. The Leichttraktor was interestingly equipped with a turret produced by Landsverk, the competitor of Bofors and Krupp in this case.

One of the Bofors (Krupp Leichttraktor) prototypes as a monument – the fate of a vehicle without a future. Photo: Yuri Pasholok, via warspot.ru

Design

The design of the M28 was unconventional overall. The engine was mounted in the front left of the vehicle in a u-shaped frame. A cooler was placed in front of it. The driver sat directly to the right of the engine. In an elevated hatch, three visors were located. It could be folded open to the right side of the vehicle. The rolled homogeneous armor on the vehicle was of mixed construction, being both bolted and riveted. Its thickness is unknown, although it was most likely between 8 to 13 mm thick, as with the production models offered to Sweden. This would be adequate against small arms fire, but certainly not against cannon or anti-tank gunfire.

The vehicle could also be driven from the back by a second driver whose seat was located in the rear right. He was covered by an elevatable hatch, in which a machine gun was installed. Above the machine gun, three square-shaped visors were placed. On the left side of the back, an access door was installed.

The M28 which was sent to the secret Soviet-German Kama proving grounds for testing, the protrusion at the front left of the vehicle is an air intake. Photo: Landskrona minnesbanken

Engine

Either five or six vehicles, numbered 1-6, were built but differed a bit from one another. Whether the sixth vehicle actually existed or was even planned is uncertain due to contradicting sources (this is further detailed below). The first three prototypes, 1-3, were powered by a Benz-50-PS 4-cylinder gasoline engine and was fitted with a 70 l fuel tank. This engine had a displacement of 4160 cm3 and a compression ratio of 4.75. It consumed 14 kg of fuel and 0.4 kg of oil per hour at cruising speed. It had a maximum output of 52 hp at 1950 rpm.

The other three prototypes, 4-6, had a 70-PS-NAG-D7P 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an 85 l fuel tank installed. It had a displacement of 3620 cm3, a compression ratio of 5.5, fuel consumption of 18 kg per hour and oil consumption of 0,6 kg per hour at cruising speed. The maximum output was 77 hp at 3400 rpm. The gasoline was pumped into the carburetor by an electric IMCO-Autopuls-12-V-Pumpe (pomp). Besides the standard fuel tank, an additional reserve can with a volume of 30 l could be brought along.

A Typ K 45 gearbox produced by ZF Friedrichshafen AG was installed. This gearbox was equipped with a multiplication device, a so-called ‘Maybach Schnellgang’, which provided the vehicle with four forward and two reverse gears in total. Changing from forward to reverse gear took 4-5 seconds. Driving on wheels, the early vehicle could reach a speed of 46 km/h, but only 23 km/h on track. The cruising range was 180 km on wheels and 80 km on tracks.

From Wheel to Track and Vice Versa

Changing from wheels to tracks was performed by lifting devices on the sides of the tank. Vehicles 1-4 had an electric lifting system installed, together with four 12 Volt batteries, 5 and 6 had a hydraulic system installed. With these systems, the wheels could be lowered or lifted 36 cm, resulting in a ground clearance of 15 cm between the tracks and the ground. Total ground clearance between the hull and the ground in the tracked mode was 40 cm. For the later type with the revised lifting device, the transition from tracks to wheels or the opposite could be made in just 20 seconds.

Previous wheel-cum-track vehicles were generally designed in such a way that switching from wheels to tracks or the opposite took a considerable amount of time. By being able to perform this process in just a few seconds, and from within the vehicle, the wheeled mode could be employed not only in regions that were known to possess large amounts of good roads but instead anywhere suitable. The wheeled system could also function as a jack for the vehicle, something which could have been very practical for performing maintenance to the running gear or repairing a damaged track.

The wheel-cum-track system had the additional advantages of decreasing wear on the running gear while also lowering running costs by decreasing both maintenance work and fuel consumption. In addition to this, the increased speed and subsequent increased tactical, as well as operational mobility provided by the wheeled mode, was considered important in combat scenarios of the day as stalemates were sought to be avoided based on experience from the First World War. In addition to this, speed was considered to be more important in terms of protection than armor.

If the lifting system did not work, for example due to a technical failure, the wheels could also be manually lifted. When manually performed, lifting or lowering the wheels took four men around five minutes.

The presence of the wheeled system did, however, have its drawbacks in the form of increased overall width and weight, both of which would be troublesome in terrain, while also limiting hull width. In the case of the M28, the total width was 2.4 m but the distance between the outer edges of the tracks was only 1.6 m. This would limit the equipment and ammunition which could be carried. To partially address the width and weight issues, the wheeled units were designed in such a fashion that they could be removed in around six hours.

Front and rear photos of the M28 where the three rear vision blocks can be seen. Photo: zhuanlan.zhihu.com

Suspension

The wheels used cantilever springs. A cantilever spring is a flat spring supported at one end and holding a load at or near the other end. The suspension consisted of semi-elliptic leaf springs. Ten small road wheels were located on each side, gathered in two units of four and one unit of two. In order to reduce noise, some of the suspension components were covered by rubber and a type of coating from Ferodo, a British friction product manufacturer.

The metal tracks had a width of 20 cm, and a length of 12 cm. 66 track links were located on each side. The full weight of the vehicle was roughly 7 tonnes, which resulted in a ground pressure of 0.85 kg/cm2. The vehicle was maneuvered by a steering wheel via a special type of planetary transmission, a development of a Cletrac transmission. Rather than applying full braking force to the inner track during a turn, this transmission only reduces the power output to said track instead of completely cutting power. This resulted in the vehicle having a much smoother turning process than other vehicles of its day. A turn radius of 3 m within the inner track could be achieved using this system. If necessary, the inner track could be fully braked in order to perform tighter turns. The wheels were steered by a worm gear.

Braking while driving on the tracks was done with an outer-band brake, meaning that brake band is wrapped around the outside of a brake drum which will brake when tightened. While driving on wheels, an internal-band brake system was used, meaning that the drum is pressed on from the inside. The wheels were made of steel and equipped with pneumatic tires, although bulletproof tires seem to have been used as well. The wheelbase had a length of 2.8 m, while the complete chassis had a length of 4.38 m. On wheels, the chassis would reach a height of 1.48 m. As mentioned, the total width of the vehicle was 2.4 m, and the distance between the outer edges of the tracks was 1.6 m. The complete chassis of the early type without superstructure weighed 5.3 tonnes, the later type weighed 5.4 tonnes.

Turret

The commander and gunner were both seated in a centrally mounted turret. A six-sided cupola for the commander was installed on top with a visor in each side. This cupola could presumably be opened to the rear in order to provide increased visibility and access, just as on the mockup. Furthermore, two visors were placed facing upwards on top of the cupola. The commander and gunner could enter through a hatch in the back of the turret.

Armament

The primary armament of the M28 consisted of a 37 mm gun equipped with a semi-automatic breech. It had a depression of 10 degrees and an elevation of 30 degrees. To the left of the cannon, a coaxial 7.92 mm Dreyse machine gun was installed. It could be disconnected from the main gun which allowed for a depression of 15 degrees and an elevation of 35 degrees. Two optics were installed in the front of the turret, one for the main gun and one for the machine gun. An additional 7.92 mm Dreyse machine gun was installed in the rear driver’s hatch. This gun had a traverse of 20 degrees to each side, a depression of 5 degrees and an elevation of 77 degrees, potentially allowing it to be used as an anti-aircraft machine gun, although it is unclear if it was specifically designed for this purpose. The ammunition complement consisted of 200 37 mm shells and 2000 7.92 mm rounds in total. It should be noted that the primary armament seems to have never been installed, as all images depicting the front of the turret lack the 37 mm gun. The large protrusion at the front of the turret appears to be a shroud of some sort, presumably present to protect the gun from damage.

M28 with the rear driver’s hatch and machine gun at high elevation. Photo: valka.cz

Building and German Testing

A total of either five or six vehicles were built between 1929 and 1930 by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen. In order to retain secrecy, this production was labeled as farming equipment. A full-scale mockup was also constructed in affiliation with these vehicles. One of the early models with a complete armored body and turret was sent to Kama tank proving grounds in the USSR in 1930. The Kama proving grounds were located near Kazan. The name Kama was a combination of Kazan and Malbrandt, Malbrandt being chief engineer and responsible for the trials taking place at Kama. The proving grounds were a result of the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1922 between Germany and the then SFSR, which was not only intended to improve economic cooperation but military cooperation as well. The existence of these proving grounds was kept top secret as it did violate the Treaty of Versailles from 1919.

Designs like the WD Schlepper, Großtraktor, and Leichttraktor were tested at Kama, and so was the M28. During the tests, it became clear that it was underpowered and the suspension overloaded, which caused problems with the reliability of the systems, so the armored superstructure and turret were removed. After that, it performed reasonably well, but the Germans had lost their interest in this vehicle. When the collaboration between the USSR and German army ended in 1933, the vehicle was taken back to Germany and scrapped shortly after. What happened to the other vehicles is unknown, but it is highly unlikely that any chassis survived past the Second World War.

Demonstrations for Swedish Delegations

The first information regarding the M28 reached Swedish military authorities in the form of a confidential message to a lieutenant Elliot at the Royal Army Materiel Administration’s artillery department. It was reported that only a chassis had been produced so far. The fact that Germany was banned from tank production by the Versailles Treaty was well known. While the matter was subsequently shrouded in secrecy, captain Gösta Bratt, who was experienced with engines, was allowed to inspect and drive the tank in Germany.

The L-5 chassis, as it was referred to, was demonstrated to Swedish representatives on a number of occasions between 1930 and 1931. Demonstrations were primarily held with the later 77 hp engine and hydraulic system equipped chassis, without the hull and turret. Mobility was found to be more than sufficient and steering was easy to perform, even in sharp downward slopes. In the wheeled mode, a maximum speed of 80 km/h (49.7 mph) forward and 25 km/h (15.5 mph) backward could be attained. Additionally, upward slopes of around 40 degrees could be traversed without using full engine power. This was of course without the additional weight and instability brought by the armored body.

The running gear was generally liked, but the effectiveness of the semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension was not seen as sufficient, although improved suspension types were already being considered by this point. The construction of the wheeled units was regarded as being sufficiently robust for field use. Other features that were particularly acclaimed were the effective transmission, powerful engine, and silent running. The designer considered the advanced transmission, which allowed for reduced power output to the inner track during a turn, to be overly complex and that it would be advantageous to not include this feature in the production model. The Swedish delegation, on the other hand, viewed it as a significant advantage in Swedish terrain. While the pneumatic tires which were demonstrated were seen as suitable for peacetime conditions, their suitability for combat was doubted. For combat use, other types could replace the pneumatic tires. Semi-solid tires, which were offered by Landsverk for the production models, or bulletproof ones were considered for this purpose.

The previously mentioned issues with total and hull width respectively were however constant concerns. At the time, the maximum width of a tank suitable for Swedish terrain was considered to be 2 m, 0.4 m less than that of the displayed chassis. There was however consideration made on this point, namely that such a width would still be suitable for Swedish forests. A protecting framework could be fitted which would have protected the wheeled units, although this would not automatically increase mobility in dense terrain. Moreover, the 1.6 m distance between the outer edges of the tracks meant that stability could also become an issue in uneven terrain.

Another problem was the lack of armor protection in the opinion of Swedish officials, only 13 to 15 mm of frontal armor in the case of the projected designs. This could be addressed in the case of the fully tracked vehicle, as the weight saved by removing the wheeled units could be used to increase the frontal armor to 25 mm. Some statements doubted whether armor protection below 30 mm for the most vital areas was even acceptable and that the armor of the fully tracked variant should be improved without increasing the total weight of the vehicle beyond 9.5 tonnes.

Firepower was also criticized, despite meeting the original requirements, as only one weapon could generally be used to engage a target at a time. While the hull machine gun was an exception to this, as it would not be operated by the turret crew, it could only provide a limited arc of fire.

Despite these negative factors, the displays resulted in mostly positive reviews. The general performance of the tank was considered to meet and in some cases exceed the previously mentioned requirements and the vehicle was seen as a modern tank at the time.

Profile view of the M28 in its wheeled mode. Photo: valka.cz

Swedish Consideration

Landsverk’s offer to Swedish authorities actually differed from the L-5 in the state that it was demonstrated. Two variants were offered, both a wheel-cum-track design as well as a fully tracked model. These were known as BT.150 I and OT.150 I respectively. They differed from the original in a number of ways, among them, that they would use a rear-mounted 150 hp Maybach engine. A Scania-Vabis model was originally planned, but no suitable engine from this manufacturer was available. The vehicle would be around 0.5 m longer and some steering systems were to be altered. The tracks would be wider and the leading wheel would be placed higher up while the suspension system would be improved. Total weight of this projected type was 8.4-8.9 tonnes. Both of the offered designs moved the fourth crew member from the rear of the vehicle to the front, next to the driver. The fully tracked vehicle was intended to be equipped both with a hull mounted machine gun as well as radio equipment, whereas the wheel-cum-track design would feature either a hull machine gun or a radio. These projected characteristics generally align with what the development process resulted in, namely the L-10 and L-30 designs.

By 1931, the envisioned organization of a Swedish tank company consisted of 18 tanks, a number which Sweden did not possess. Moreover, what tank types were available, such as the strv m/21-29 (upgraded strv fm/21) and strv fm/28 (Renault NC27), were mostly obsolete by this point. Because of these factors, the tactical requirements and capabilities of modern tanks could not be properly assessed. This stressed the acquisition of a fully developed and modern vehicles within a short time frame.

As a result, only acquiring the fully tracked model was seen as an attractive option. Acquiring only this variant would have also allowed for a wider hull to be used while decreasing the overall width as the wheeled system would not be protruding beyond the sides of the hull. This would have increased stability as well as cross-country mobility while allowing for increased armor protection. The enhanced tactical and operational mobility provided by the wheel-cum-track design was however appreciated and purchasing one vehicle in this configuration would allow for extensive field trials and consideration to be performed with this type of vehicle. The potential to use the same vehicle model both as a fully tracked tank and as a vehicle with mixed propulsion was also seen as advantageous.

The increased speed but decreased protection of the wheel-cum-track design meant that a different tactical approach would be applied to the wheel-cum-track model. There were suggestions to use mixed units with fully tracked versions as the first line of an advance, while tanks in the wheeled mode would follow as guard tanks, and as such, be better able to react thanks to their higher top speed, like massing on a strong point or performing a local counter-attack. The wheel-cum-track tanks would also be able to support flanking recon or combat units or protect columns on the move. A tank with mixed propulsion was also considered suitable as a command tank. As the direct combat value of the wheel-cum-track design was not significantly worse than that of a fully tracked vehicle, they would be able to perform conventional combat roles as well. Moreover, as the wheeled units could be removed, it was possible to negate the issues with weight and total width which otherwise hinder this type of wheel-cum-track design.

More radical approaches were also explored, where tanks with mixed propulsions systems were seen as a potential replacement for armored cars. This built on the fact that the tracked system would allow cavalry units to pass difficult terrain and road obstacles while at the same time being more potent in the combat role. Logistical services like repair work and maintenance would also be aided by the fact that cavalry and tank units would share the same vehicle types. These advantages would, of course, be offset by the considerably increased cost of wheel-cum-track tanks compared to conventional armored cars. This view of mixed propulsion designs generally aligns with the opinion of Hauptmann Streich, who acted as a spokesperson for the Kraftfahr division of the German Waffenamt. He stated that a wheel-cum-track vehicle would be more suitable as a reconnaissance vehicle, rather than as a conventional tank.

The Sixth Vehicle – Author’s Theory

In historical writing and documents, there seems to be an inconsistency as to whether five or six vehicles were built. While German sources always seem to mention six vehicles, Swedish Army documents sometimes mention that only five vehicles were built.

The German-Soviet military cooperation was highly secret. This could mean that a sixth vehicle could have been kept secret from the Swedish Army and sent to Kama without them knowing. That would not only explain why the Swedes talked about five vehicles, but also why they never tested the vehicle with installed armor and armament. It is never even mentioned in Swedish sources that armor and armament existed. As such, it is very likely that the only vehicle that received armor and armament was secretly sent to Kama, with the Swedish army left unaware of its existence.

Conclusion

The greatest feat of the M28, or L-5, was serving as the catalyst of Swedish tank development, which would be headed by Landsverk until the 1950s. Trials of this vehicle proved largely positive and directly influenced the decision of the Royal Army Materiel Administration to place an order for the further evolved L-10 and L-30 designs in October 1931. While the purchase of a prototype of the newer type was considered, the limited funds and time frame rushed the acquisition process, resulting in a full purchase of the new designs. As for the competing tanks, the Bofors design proved to possess certain inherent design flaws. The Morgårdshammar design on the other hand, while displaying some positive features, could never be presented in physical form, and its head designer had by this point passed out due to disease. Meanwhile, the L-5 could mostly satisfy and in some cases exceed the requirements set up by Swedish authorities in 1928, and was thus the logical project to invest in. The development of these Landsverk designs would continue in Sweden as Otto Merker was employed at Landsverk directly in 1929, being tasked with creating a tank development division. He was appointed head of this division the following year. The establishment of a foreign subsidiary in the form of AB Landsverk allowed the German industry to gain experience with armored vehicle design throughout the 1930s in relative secrecy. Said experience was subsequently applied to help create the German armored force and its advanced designs as they existed in the lead up to the Second World War.

Drawing of the Landsverk BT.150 II from ~1930, one of the evolutionary stages between the L-5 and the following L-30. Photo: Krigsarkivet, special thanks to Karl Blomster for providing the photograph.


Illustration of the Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 or ‘Landsverk 5’ produced by Andrie Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Specifications

Dimensions 4.38 x 2.4 m (with wheels, 1.6 m body) x 1.48 (chassis only, on wheels) meters
Total weight, battle ready Aprx. 7 tonnes
Propulsion (TE and TM) (1-3) Benz-50-PS, 52 hp. (4-6) 70-PS-NAG-D7P, 77 hp.
Speed (road) 46 km/h (wheels), 23 kph (tracks)
Armament 37mm Gun
2x MG Dreyse 7.92 mm
Total Production 5 – 6

Sources

Die gepanzerten Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945. Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, 2002. p.94-99.
Safehaven: The Allied Pursuit of Nazi Assets Abroad, Martin Lorenz-Meyer, 2007, University of Missouri Press, p.10-11.
Paul Reusch und die Gutehoffnungshütte: Leitung eines deutschen Großunternehmens, Christian Marx, Wallstein Verlag, 2013.
The Secret School of War: The Soviet-German Tank Academy at Kama, Ian Johnson, MA thesis, Ohio State University, 2012.
Treaty Of Versailles, paragraph 171.
Merker, O. (1926). French patent No. 631.839. Paris, France: Ministère du Commerce et de l’Industrie.
Krigsarkivet, Arméförvaltningen, Artilleridepartementet, Konstruktionsavdelningen, Vol: F I:5
ASJ Landsverk, Lars von Rosen, Löddeköpinge: Sprinter AB/Maskinskyddarna, 2005, p.84
PANSAR Nummer 2 2014, Christer Badstöe
PANSAR Nummer 3 2014, Christer Badstöe
PANSAR Nummer 3 1982, Putte Hallberg
www.landskronaminnesbanken.se


Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Opel-Darracq Kriegswagen für höhere Truppenführer

German Empire (1906) Armored car – 1 built

The Opel-Darracq Kriegswagen für höhere Truppenführer (Staff War Car) was first presented to the public in early 1906 at the automobile show in Berlin. At this show, the newest vehicles and trends in automobile building were presented to the world, including this open-topped armored car. Built by an Opel workshop in Berlin, it was one of the first (partially) armored cars made in Germany, closely followed by the Ehrhardt Ballon-Verfolgungsfahrzeug. Production of one vehicle took place in 1905 and it was offered to the German War Office.

Period artwork of the Car. Photo: Motorbuch Verlag

Early Armored Car Development

The idea of an armored carriage or vehicle to be used during battle dates back to the Middle Ages, but remained imagination until the invention of the internal combustion engine and the following emergence of commercial automobiles. With chassis becoming more durable, and engines more powerful, it was finally possible to mount armor on a self-propelling vehicle without too many limitations. Early examples are Simms’ War Car and the Austro-Daimler Panzerwagen, however, the function of these vehicles in combat was still to be discovered during the years preceding the First World War. Various roles were considered, like armored machine gun platforms and self-propelled (Anti-Balloon) guns. Anti-balloon was an important feature as they were used for artillery spotting and similar tasks. The Opel Kriegswagen, on the other hand, was developed to explore what role an armored car could have as a command car.

The Opel Company

Opel built its first automobile in 1899, but production did not get off the ground. It became more serious in 1901, when a contract was finalized with the French car manufacturer Darracq, and Opel received permission to build Darracq vehicles under license. A year later, Opel used Darracq chassis to built their own built bodies and advertised these vehicles as Opel-Darracq.
Opel also started to develop more powerful engines, and in 1903 it successfully built its first 4-cylinder engine. The first 4-cylinder engines were designed at the very end of the 19th century and were still an important novelty in 1903. In 1905, a service center and showroom opened its doors in Berlin and in this service center, the armored car was assembled. It was based on a 40-PS-Opel-Darracq-Fahrgestell. The vehicle was designed by Ing. Emil Aug. Schmidt.

The Opel 35/40 PS Luxus Doppel Phaeton, using the same chassis as the Kriegswagen was based on. Photo: opelmodellautos.de

Design

The layout of the Kriegswagen resembles commercial Opel-Darracq cars and seems to be based on the 35/40 PS Luxus Phaeton, possibly the doppel variant, with the engine in the front, the driver’s compartment in the center, and the passenger compartment in the back. Due to the vehicle being open-topped, a foldable canvas roof was installed. The vehicle was painted in a light color, probably light yellow or grey. A German Army eagle was also painted on the front and sides.
A covered spare wheel was mounted on the back of the vehicle and a luggage rack was mounted below it. The vehicle also carried a toolset for field repairs.

Technical Specifications

The vehicle was rear wheel driven and powered by a 4-cylinder Opel engine, producing 40 hp (29,8 kW) at 1500 rpm with a volume of 6.8 liters. The engine was water cooled and a ‘beehive’ cooler and fan were also installed. The engine power was transmitted using a four gear transmission. The fuel tank volume was around 40 liters. The wooden spoked wheels were equipped with pneumatic tires and suspended by semi-elliptical leaf springs.

Armor and Armament

The Commercial Motor Magazine from 15th February 1906, states that the armor, made of Spezialstahl (‘special steel’) and produced by the Krupp firm, had a thickness up to 2.362 inches (60 mm), but this is an error and should be 0.2362 inches (6 mm). The surface was designed with as few extensions as possible to increase the chance of bullets glancing off.
The armament consisted out of two quick-firing Mauser guns, which had a fire rate of 100 rounds per minute, and four Mauser C96 pistols. The guns were not mounted in a fixed position so they were hand-held by the crew and could be used in any position. When the vehicle was displayed at the show in Berlin, one gun was placed through one of the front vision ports.

An artist impression of the Opel Kriegswagen during action. Photo: Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift 1906


Illustration of the Opel-Darracq Kriegswagen für höhere Truppenführer produced by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Crew and Officers

A total of six seats were mounted in the vehicle. Two were meant for the general in command and his personal assistant. A further two revolving seats were meant to be used by staff officers while the two seats in the front were reserved for the driver and an attendant, who operated the front machine gun.
On each side of the passenger compartment, a telescope was installed. These could be used by the officers and were mounted on immovable stands. Two desks were mounted inside the vehicle that could be used for laying out maps or other similar equipment, used by officers. Two small electric lamps were also installed to allow vision when dark.
Other special arrangements, made for the officers, were the addition of two cases to store maps, two provision cases, one chronometer, a compass, and two sword sheaths.


The vehicle at the Berlin exhibition in 1906. Photo: The Commercial Motor Vol.11, No.49.

Fate

In 1905, the armored car was ordered by the German War Office and bought for an unknown amount of money. The exact date of when the vehicle was finished is unknown, but it was before the exhibition at the Berlin Automotive Show in February 1906. After the vehicle was inspected, the War Office was not satisfied with the vehicle, and no more vehicles were built.
During the same year, the company Ehrhardt developed and built a fully armored self-propelled anti-balloon vehicle (the first of its kind) but this vehicle was also rejected by the German War Office. Only in 1908 did interest in armored vehicles reappear, and several armored vehicles were used during the army maneuvers in 1909, including two French-built Charron Girardot & Voigt armored cars.

Specifications

Crew 2 (driver, attendant)
Passengers 4 (Officers)
Propulsion 40 hp, 4-cylinder engine
Speed 40 km/h
Armament 2x Mauser quick-firing guns, 4x Mauser C96 pistols, 2 swords
Armor 6 mm (0.24 in) all over
Total production 1

Links & Resources

Second report of the Berlin Show, 15th February 1906. From Commercial Motor, Vol. 11, No. 49.
Opel Militärfahrzeuge 1906-1956, Eckhart Bartels, Karl Müller Verlag, 1999.
Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift, 1906.
Pkw-Modellprogramm 1899-1995, Opel-Motorwagen 35/40 PS, page 18.
Opel History

Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Ehrhardt Ballon Abwehr Kanone (BAK)

German Empire (1906) SPAAG – 1 Prototype

The beginning of the twentieth century saw the emergence of the first armored car designs. The first vehicles were partially armored, like the British Simms’ War Car and the French Charron, Girardot & Voigt (CGV) of 1902. Fully enclosed vehicles started to appear in 1905, like the armored car from CGV and the Austrian Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil. Inspired by these vehicles, German engineer Heinrich Ehrhardt started to develop an armored car as well, but he had a new idea in mind; exploiting it as an anti-air vehicle.

Contemporary artist impression of the Ehrhardt BAK acting as infantry support during an attack. Source: Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad

Heinrich Ehrhardt

Heinrich Ehrhardt was a German entrepreneur and industrialist. He was born in 1840 in the town of Zella-St. Blasius (Zella-Mehlis). Ehrhardt founded several factories, including the well-known Rheinmetall factory in 1889, located in Düsseldorf, as well as several car factories. In 1903, he founded the Gustav Ehrhardt Automobile AG in his hometown, which started producing both civilian and military trucks. From 1906 onwards, the factory started to produce trucks for the military only. During the First World War, these factories played quite a big role in the German war effort, with their most famous vehicle probably being the Ehrhardt E-V/4 armored car. Ehrhardt died in 1928, at the age of 88.

The Balloon and its Opposition

The development of the Ehrhardt BAK is not only connected to the development of armored cars in the early 20th century, but is also related to the development of military aircraft, especially balloons, during the same period. The 19th century saw the rise of a new weapon, the balloon. Its potential strategic and tactical use for military operations, like observing the battlefield, was well-recognized, especially in Germany, the home of Zeppelin. However, a new weapon also required a new weapon to fight it.

Development

Already in 1905, Ehrhardt experimented with the idea of an anti-air gun on a car chassis, when he mounted a small-caliber gun on an Ehrhardt-Décauville 16/20 PS chassis. Although the pivot design was inspired by anti-air guns made by Friedrich Krupp since the Franco-Prussian war from 1871, the elevation system and the gun itself were made by Rheinmetall, the company founded by Heinrich Ehrhardt.

The Ehrhardt-Décauville from 1905, equipped with a Rheinmetall gun. Source: Stanislav Kirilec
During 1906, Ehrhardt designed and built the Ehrhardt BAK. It was ready in time to be presented at the VII. Automobil Ausstellung (Car Exhibition) in Berlin at the end of 1906. It was the biggest car exhibition in Germany at the time and was also visited by the German Emperor Wilhelm II. He also inspected the Ehrhardt. It was the second time an armored car was exhibited at the show, as Opel already presented their Kriegswagen during the previous exhibition in early 1906.

Name

Like many early armored vehicles, the Ehrhardt BAK does not have an ‘official’ name. The most common designation: Ehrhardt Ballon Abwehr Kanone (Anti Balloon Gun), BAK for short, is also used in this article, but the vehicle often goes under different names like Panzerautomobil (armored car), Panzerkraftwagen (armored truck), Ballon Verfolgungsfahrzeug (balloon suppression vehicle), or Ballonabwehr Automobil (anti balloon car). Essentially, these different names are all descriptions of what the vehicle really is, an armored self-propelled anti-air gun, the very first of its kind ever produced.

The Ehrhardt being inspected by the German Emperor (x) at the VII. Car Exhibition in Berlin. Note the 5 cm shells standing on top of the engine compartment. Source: Public domain

Design

The Ehrhardt BAK was based upon a conventional chain driven light lorry, with rear wheel drive, the engine in the front, and driver compartment in the middle. The vehicle was protected by 3 mm thick armor all around and louvers were made on the front and sides of the engine for sufficient cooling. The armor thickness was criticized by military experts as they rightfully noted that the armor was too thin to stop enemy fire, and so it was only an unnecessary ballast and waste of precious resources.
The driver’s compartment offered space for the driver on the right and a commander on the left side. Both had one vision slot facing forwards and the complete front armor plate could be folded upwards for better vision but should be closed in case of direct combat. Doors were installed on both sides of the vehicle.
Although no official documentation is known about the color of the vehicle, a visitor of the Exhibition in Berlin notes in a Dutch newspaper that the armored car was grey. On pictures of the Exhibition, the Ehrhardt seems to be painted in a light color which suggests a lighter shade of grey.

A retouched image showing the vehicle with a half-opened front plate and gun in lowest depression of 5 degrees. Source: Contemporary newspaper


Illustration of the Ehrhardt Ballon Abwehr Kanone, produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Engine and Performance

The vehicle was powered by a 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 50-60 hp which powered the back wheels by means of a chain-drive. The vehicle, complete with five men crew, fuel, and 100 shells would weigh 3,200 kg. Mobility was sufficient to be able to cross muddy roads and it could take slopes up to 22 degrees (40%). The wheels were shod with solid rubber tires. According to the official specifications, the vehicle could reach a speed of 45 km/h (28 mph) on roads, but this was heavily contested by military officials as they did not believe a vehicle on solid rubber tires could reach that speed without heavily tearing the engine or suspension.

The 5 cm gun which was the main armament of the Ehrhardt BAK. Source: Österreichische Illustrierte Zeitung

Gun

The vehicle was armed with one 5 cm Rheinmetall gun which fired shrapnel rounds weighing 2.4 kg at a velocity of 450 m/s. The round contained 40 g bursting charge, 128 hard cast lead bullets of 8 g, and 36 hard cast lead pieces of 9 g. A total of 100 shells could be carried, having a combined weight of 240 kg, which were stored in the back of the vehicle.
The maximum horizontal firing range was 7,800 m with an elevation of 43 degrees. The maximum elevation was 70 degrees which would result in a shooting distance of 3,800 m. The gun could depress 5 degrees and turn 60 degrees, 30 degrees to each side. The limited turning radius was one of the most criticized aspects by contemporary military officials, as it would limit the utility of the vehicle significantly. It would not only reduce the vehicle’s flexibility against air targets but also severely limit the vehicle’s capability to defend itself against close land targets.

The armored car with a fully elevated gun. Note the man sneakily looking through the left vision hole. Source: Österreichs Illustrierte Zeitung

Further Development

After the vehicle was rejected, Ehrhardt did not give up on the concept. He took the main criticism into account and presented a new vehicle which shared the same chassis, crew layout, and gun, but without the big armored superstructure. Only the lower half remained armored, which meant that weight was reduced, the ‘useless’ armor was done with and the gun now had a much better effective firing range. It was this simpler concept that was further developed during the following years leading up to the First World War. When Ehrhardt presented this vehicle remains a bit unclear, as dates range between 1907 and1909.

The new vehicle without the armored superstructure. The registration plate (IZ-4259) indicates that the vehicle was registered in the Rhine Province, home of Rheinmetall. Source: Bain Collection

Legacy

In the end, the Erhardt was both a breakthrough and a failure. The armor was too thin, the effectiveness of the gun was limited, and the vehicle was not mobile enough. Nevertheless, it was an important milestone in armored vehicle development as it fulfilled a role which is still in use today. The vehicle was to be followed by many anti-air vehicles produced in Germany, either armored or unarmored, which were developed before the war and extensively used during the war.

Specifications

Total weight, battle ready 3,200 kg (7,055 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, two assistants)
Propulsion 4-cylinder petrol, 50-60hp
Speed 45 km/h (28 mph)
Armament 5 cm Rheinmetall gun
Armor 3mm (0.12 in)
Total production 1

Sources

Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Militaire Spectator: Tijdschrift voor het Nederlands Leger jrg. 67, B. ten Broecke Hoekstra, January 1, 1907.
Автомобили-зенитки Первой мировой войны. На передовой «войны моторов», Станислав Кирилец [Stanislav Kirilec], Яуза [Yauza], 2018.
“Brieven uit Berlijn. Mondain.”. “Leeuwarder courant”. Leeuwarden, 12-11-1906. Consulted on Delpher.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armoured Cars

GMC Improvised Armored Cars

The Netherlands (1931-34) Armored Car – 3 Built

In the early 1920s, the Netherlands did not feel a need to acquire any armored vehicles. Nevertheless, the army had plans to buy one Renault FT tank and was already operating one armored car, based on an Ehrhardt Kraftwagen-Flugabwehrkanone taken from the Germans in 1918. These vehicles only served the purpose of familiarizing the army with the use of armored vehicles. For the same purpose, an improvised vehicle, made to look like an armored car, was built in 1924 in a local army workshop.

The turreted vehicle during exercises on the Veluwe in 1925. Note how it is covered in a smokescreen. Photo: Image Library Dutch National Archives.

Construction

The improvised vehicle was constructed by the Regiment vestingartillerie (Regiment Fortress Artillery), based in the city of Naarden. A GMC lorry was taken and a 37 mm gun was installed in the back on a pivot. The cabin and gun were enveloped in steel, tin, and wood, made to look like armor. The gun stood out above the roof and a wooden dome-shaped turret was placed around it. The spoked wheels were also covered with steel plating.
When the vehicle was put into service, it was quickly found that the added weight was far too much and the lorry could not drive faster than 24 km/h (~15 mph). Due to the thin armor and use of tin, the vehicle received the nickname blikken pantserwagen, (Eng: ‘tin armored car’). In 1927, the vehicle was slightly adjusted and the structure was reinforced to resolve the weight problem, after which it was put into service with the Korps Rijdende Artillerie (Corps Horse Artillery, abbreviated ‘KRA’). Somewhere during this time, it was repainted and also received a new registration number, M27012, and tactical number 702.
The vehicle was used in exercises, the last time being in 1931 when the superstructure and gun were dismantled by the KRA. The lorry was then used to transport newly acquired Carden Loyd tankettes.

Picture showing the first vehicle after it got adjusted and was put into service with the KRA. Note the wooden turret and the (either red or blue) cloth strung around the headlights. It indicates to which army it belongs during war games. Photo: Image Library Dutch National Archives.

A Different Design

Five years after the initial vehicle was built, the army wanted to acquire a foreign armored car and 12,000 guilders were made available, worth US$114,120 in 2016 money. Negotiations with multiple manufacturers including Citroën and Škoda failed, so First Lieutenant A.L.W. Seyffardt decided to design an armored car himself. Apparently, the construction of eight vehicles was planned, and they were to be assigned to the Recce sections of the divisional groups and to the Bicycle Battalions, although some sources contradict on that matter. However, eventually, three vehicles were built. These three armored cars were built by the Korps Motordienst (Corps Motor Service) located in the city of Haarlem. The armor was taken from various gunshields and they were quickly nicknamed Kippenhok, (Eng: ‘Chicken Coop’).

A GMC Kippenhok during the Jordaan Riots in July 1934. Photo: Image Library Dutch Military Archives.
The vehicles were built in 1931. Some features were a sheet iron roof, two oil lamps inside, and front and side armor with vision slots covered by armored glass. Three gunports were made, one in each side and one in the front. They could all be covered by an armored plate if necessary. The spoked wheels were covered by steel plates and had solid tires. Each vehicle received a black-green-yellow camouflage scheme.
The armament consisted of three 6.5 mm Lewis M.20 machine guns. The cars also featured double-steering with a driver in the front and in the back. A carbide searchlight could manually be raised from within the car and provide light when necessary. The front armor plate could be folded down completely, giving both the commander and front driver a vulnerable position but a clear view in return. The crew consisted of seven people, one commander, two drivers, three machine gunners, and one signaller. Despite being built in 1931, the vehicles were still based upon an outdated chassis and, in that sense, already obsolete when they were built. However, they formed the inspiration for the more modern Morris armored cars, of which three were built in 1933.

Both deployed vehicles are visible in this image. The commander and driver positions are clearly visible. Photo: Image Library Dutch National Archives.


The turreted improvised armored car as it would have appeared during exercises on the Veluwe in 1925. Illustration by Jaroslaw ‘Jarja’ Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Jordaan Riots, 1934

After completion, the three vehicles were assigned to the Second Company Police troops stationed in Amsterdam. With these troops, the vehicles would see their only operational use when, in July 1934, riots broke out in the city district Jordaan. Due to the economic crisis started by the Wall Street Crash in 1929, there was a high unemployment rate across the country. Many unemployed people lived in the city of Amsterdam, and when news came that the social benefits would be lowered by ten percent, riots broke out. The police responded by asking the military for help and also tried to deploy its own armored cars.

Image of one armored car during the Jordaan Riots in July 1934, Willemstraat Amsterdam. Photo: Image Library Dutch National Archives.
However, when the obsolete armored cars were deployed on July 6th, one of the cars suffered an immediate breakdown. The other two could be deployed but it was feared that the front axles could break due to the heavy overload. For this reason, the vehicles were only deployed together. When the newer Morris armored cars arrived, the GMC’s were pulled back from action. They were taken out of service and scrapped the very same year.
Although the riots became known as the ‘Jordaan Riots’, disturbances also took place in other city districts and in other places throughout the country, but these were not as violent. In the Jordaan, streets were broken up and barricaded. The riots were violently suppressed by the police and military. According to the police, five people were killed, while 56 people were heavily wounded, among them were eight policemen and one member of the military police.

A shot of the two vehicles on the move during the riots in Amsterdam. Note the searchlight hatch in the roof. Photo: Aviarmor.net

Specifications (1931 Model)

Total weight 3500 kg (7716 lbs)
Crew 7 (commander, 2 drivers, 3 machine gunners, signaller/searchlight operator
Top speed 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
Armament 3x 6.5mm Lewis M.20 machine guns

Links & Resources

J. Giesbers, A. Giesbers, R. Tas. Holland paraat! Volume 2, Giesbers Media, 2016.
C.M. Schulten, J. Theil. Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2
Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

The second issue of the Tank Encyclopedia magazine covers the fascinating history of armored fighting vehicles from their beginnings before the First World War up to this day! This issue covers vehicles such as the awe-inspiring rocket-firing German Sturmtiger, the Soviet SMK Heavy Tank, the construction of a replica Italian Fiat 2000 heavy tank and many more. It also contains a modeling section and a feature article from our friends at Plane Encyclopedia cover the Arado Ar 233 amphibious transport plane! All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and period photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!

Buy this magazine on Amazon!

Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Treffas-Wagen

German Empire (1916-1917) Wheeled Tank – 1 Prototype

After the British Army introduced the Mark I tanks on the battlefield for the first time in September 1916, the German War Ministry responded by ordering several German firms to design and produce a prototype for a similar war machine. One of the approached firms was Hansa-Lloyd based in the city of Bremen, which came up with a working design. Ten prototypes were planned to be built. The engineers of Hansa-Lloyd, having no experience with designing either armed or armored vehicles, came up with a big-wheel design which they called Treffas-Wagen. A single prototype was completed on February 1, 1917.

The Treffas-Wagen seen from the left front. The armament is not installed. The rear wheel is turned. Source: Landships

Hansa-Lloyd

The company Hansa-Lloyd Werke A.G. was set up in 1914 as a merger between Hansa-Automobil GmbH, established in 1905, and Norddeutsche Automobil- und Motorenwerke Aktiengesellschaft (NAMAG), established in 1906, which owned and produced the Lloyd car brand. The firm was located in Bremen in the Hastedt subdistrict, part of city district Hemelingen. Producing cars, trucks, and tractors, the firm had no experience with building any kind of armored vehicles when they were approached by the German War Ministry in September 1916 to build one. The director of Hansa-Lloyd, Robert Allmers, was part of the A7V committee in which several other representatives and leading experts of the German industry were seated.

Design

The vehicle is easily recognizable by its two wide and large front wheels, with a diameter of roughly 3 meters. Between these two large wheels, an armored fighting compartment was located which extended to the back in a tail-like shape. At the very end of this tail, a castor like steering wheel was attached which gave the vehicle a tadpole tricycle layout. The engine delivered enough power to reach the maximum speed of 10 km/h. The fighting compartment housed a crew of four; a commander, a driver, a gunner, and a loader. The armament installed during initial tests consisted of two Panzerbüchsen (AT rifles), which were capable of penetrating the British Mark I tank’s frontal armor.

What guns these were is a bit unclear, with sources either mentioning a Mauser type or 2 cm TuF guns. After some tests, the armament was removed. An alternative design, although never executed, saw the use of a 5.7 cm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun, the same gun as used in the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank.

A design drawing of the Treffas-Wagen which is called ‘Version I’, armed with a 5.7 cm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun, the same as on the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank. This drawing differs from the built prototype in the design of the ‘tail’. The pipe above the tail is the exhaust pipe. Source: Landships

Testing

When the vehicle was subjected to thorough tests in February and March of 1917, many fundamental problems were encountered. The guns had such a powerful recoil that, after firing just a few shots, the gunner could not continue shooting due to significant head and shoulder pains, which raised grave concerns over the vehicles operational ability. Another issue was the center of gravity which was too far forward. When driving over a ditch, there was a high chance the vehicle would flip itself, which actually happened during a test in the summer of 1917. The vehicle dug itself in, got stuck, and eventually flipped itself over.

All issues combined, this vehicle had serious engineering problems caused by the design, which is not so strange given that this vehicle was one of the first of its type and the first armored vehicle designed by Hansa-Lloyd. On May 14, 1917, a demonstration was held which included the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V wooden mock-up, the Orion-Wagen, the Dür-Wagen, and the Treffas-Wagen. After these trials, the OHL (Oberste Heeres Leitung – Supreme Army Command) concluded that the Treffas was unfit for combat use and rejected the design. Besides the fact that the vehicle did not perform very well, a reason for the rejection was the better alternative design, the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank, built by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, which went into serial production in October, the same month in which the Treffas was dismantled.


The back of the vehicle, taken in the same area as the other picture. The height of the vehicle can be appreciated when compared to the man standing next to it. Source: Motorbuch Verlag


The Idea of Big Wheel Tanks

The idea of armored big wheel tricycle vehicles emerged in other countries as well, most notably the Tsar Tank from the Russian Empire, although this vehicle was developed from a rather different perspective, and had different design problems. A vehicle, a bit more similar to the Treffas, was the Steam Wheel Tank developed in the US, although this vehicle had a delta tricycle configuration instead of a tadpole tricycle. The Steam Wheel Tank in itself is said to be a development of the Big Wheel Landships designed in Britain in 1915.
There were two main reasons why big wheels were thought to be practical, the first being that larger wheels make more ground contact which could reduce ground pressure, improving off-road maneuverability. The other reason was that large wheels can more easily overcome obstacles.

The Wargel LW 3

Although the Treffas-Wagen was the only Big Wheel vehicle built during the First World War and interwar period in Germany, during World War Two, a similar vehicle was built by Lauster, called the Wargel LW 3. Although the vehicles were not related, they do show similarities.

The Lauster Wargel LW 3, commonly confused with the Treffas-Wagen. Although showing similarities, it has no connection with the Treffas. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

Baffled by the introduction of the tank, the German War Ministry hastily ordered several armored war machines. Although looking promising on paper, the Treffas-Wagen turned out to be a failure due to fundamental flaws in the design. The vehicle was scrapped in October 1917 and the experience gained by designing and testing the vehicle was never used in future projects. The Treffas-Wagen was one of many armored vehicle projects that never passed the blueprint or prototype stage in the German Empire during the First World War.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-H) 6 x 3 meters
Total weight, battle ready 18 tonnes
Crew ~ 4 (Commander, driver, loader, gunner)
Armament 1x 5.7 cm Maxim-Nordenfeldt or 2x smaller guns
Speed 10 km/h (6.2 mph)
Total Production 1

Sources

German tanks in World War I, Wolfgang Schneider & Rainer Strasheim, Schiffer publishing, 1990.
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht, und Bundeswehr, Werner Oswald, Motorbuch Verlag, 1982.
Bremen1914.de, 18 untaugliche tonnen stahl, Max Polonyi.
Landships.info, Treffaswagen, Tim Rigsby.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2
Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

The second issue of the Tank Encyclopedia magazine covers the fascinating history of armored fighting vehicles from their beginnings before the First World War up to this day! This issue covers vehicles such as the awe-inspiring rocket-firing German Sturmtiger, the Soviet SMK Heavy Tank, the construction of a replica Italian Fiat 2000 heavy tank and many more. It also contains a modeling section and a feature article from our friends at Plane Encyclopedia cover the Arado Ar 233 amphibious transport plane! All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and period photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!

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Categories
WW1 German Armor

Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-MULAG

German Empire (1916) Armored Personnel Carrier – 1 Built

The Gepanzerte Mannschaftstransportwagen (Eng: Armored Troop carrier) was, as the name suggests, an armored personnel carrier, built by the company Mannesmann-MULAG in 1916 on their own initiative with the German Army in mind as a potential buyer. Not much is known about this vehicle, but it would remain the only attempt of the company to build an armored vehicle. It is also one of the earliest examples of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and the first of its kind designed in Germany.


The front of the vehicle. This image is sometimes published in a mirrored version, however, the eagle has its head turned to the left, indicating that this is the correct perspective. Source: Motorbuch Verlag

The Company

In 1900, the Fritz Scheibler Motorenfabrik AG (Aktiengesellschaft: joint-stock company) was founded, based in the city of Aachen. In 1909, it fused with the Maschinenbauanstalt Altenessen AG which led to the new name Motoren und Lastwagen AG (Eng: Motors and trucks), shortened to ‘MULAG’. After one year, in 1910, the company was taken over by the brothers Carl and Max Mannesmann, who renamed the company in 1913 to Mannesmann-MULAG. Their main business was building cars and commercial vehicles. The company was disbanded in 1928, and taken over by Büssing.
During the First World War, the company repaired a variety of army vehicles, as well as aircraft engines. It also produced lorries for the army, referred to as Heeres-LKW (Eng: Army-lorry), based on a commercial model from 1913, with a 42 hp engine. In 1916, work started to build an armored vehicle based on this chassis. The drive shaft connected to a differential on the rear axle. The wheels, shod with solid rubber tires, were suspended on semi-elliptical springs at the front and rear.


The chassis of a Mannesmann-MULAG LKW, preserved at the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany. Source: Wikimedia

Why an APC?

The fact that this vehicle was specifically built as an Armored Personnel Carrier is very important as it would mean that this is one of the very first examples of such a vehicle. The design was a private project by Mannesmann-MULAG, which did not come from army doctrine, although the Supreme Command (OHL) had realized the potency of armored cars already at the end of 1914. By 1916, the Western Front had changed into a stationary war and no man’s land was transformed into a moon landscape, impassable for wheeled vehicles.

The armored car development, then going on in Germany, was slowed down by the fact that armored cars were nearly useless on a static front and only at the very end of 1915, the first three armored cars were ready. It would take several more months until these vehicles, built by Büssing, Ehrhardt, and Daimler were organized in an active unit. This unit was initially sent to the Western Front, but could not be used due to the terrain so, consequently, they were pulled back and transferred to the Eastern Front where they were rather successfully used against Romanian troops.

The Mannschaftstransportwagen shares some clear similarities with the other three armored cars, like the way machine gun ports are designed, which indicates that it was at least inspired by these cars. However, if the Mannschaftstransportwagen design was based on experience gained by the operational use of those armored cars is not clear and yet impossible to prove, especially given that no exact dates are known when work started on the vehicle or when it was completed, all that is known is that the vehicle is from 1916.
A wheeled APC could have been very effective on the Eastern Front which saw much more mobile warfare than the Western Front. On this front, the Germans sometimes used unprotected trucks carrying infantry to flank enemy troops. Although this worked, an APC would have provided much more protection for these troops.

Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-Mulag
Illustration of the Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-Mulag by Yuvnashva Sharma, Sponsored by our Patreon Campaign.

Design

The Mannschaftstransportwagen retained the same layout as the truck it was based on with a 42 hp engine in the front, cab in the middle, and transport area in the back, but now completely armored. Louvers were installed in front of the engine for air-intake. The engine itself could be reached by opening hatches mounted on top of the engine compartment. One big headlight was located in front of the engine compartment and attached to it with three connections allowing it to be turned. Another light was mounted on a rotatable mount at the rear of the vehicle.

The cab could be entered through two doors, one at each side of the vehicle. There was a place for two crewmen, one being the driver and the other being an attendant or maybe a commanding officer. They each had one hatch to their disposal in front of them, consisting of two parts folding sidewards. In each part, one vision slit was located which were used when the hatches were closed in a combat situation.

A total of five shooting hatches were made in the sides of the passenger compartment (two per side and one in the rear) so when attacked, the soldiers could defend themselves by using their hand weapons or possibly machine guns. How many soldiers were supposed to fit in the vehicle is not specified, but probably about ten men. These men could enter through a door at the back of the vehicle. The shooting hatches were in a similar style as to those on other German armored cars like the Büssing A5P or Ehrhardt E-V/4 with two parts folding sidewards.


Only two images of this vehicle are known, indicating that it did not see (much) active service. Source: Motorbuch Verlag

Operational Use

Very little is known about any operational use of this vehicle. Built in 1916, it could have been used both at the Eastern and Western Front, however, if it actually did is unclear. The author Walter Spielberger mentions that it was used for delivering replenishments and for security tasks, but when or where is not specified. If used, the Mannschaftstransportwagen would be the only purpose-built APC in German service during the First World War.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of information, it is hard to say whether the vehicle was used by the army or not. However, the vehicle does not seem to be used during the revolution in Germany after the war ended, which indicates that the vehicle was already scrapped during, or at the end of the war.

Specifications

Crew 2 (driver, attendant)
Passengers 10
Propulsion Unknown 42hp
Total production 1

Sources

Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918, B.T. White, Blandford Press London, 1970.
About the company on rheinische-geschichte.lvr.de

Categories
Modern German Other Vehicles Modern Swiss Armor

AEV 3 Kodiak

Switzerland/Germany (2002)
Armored Engineering Vehicle – 43

The AEV 3, nicknamed ‘Kodiak’, is an armored engineering vehicle currently in service with four armies in modest numbers. The vehicle, being based on the Leopard 2 MBT chassis, offers a high level of protection, combined with good mobility. With the use of different modules, the Kodiak has a variety of uses, including breaching minefields and destroying or erecting obstacles. It was the Swiss Army which initiated the development process and a consortium was set up between the German company Rheinmetall Landsysteme and the Swiss company RUAG Defence. The first prototype, funded by both companies, was well received and ordered by Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The vehicle is still marketed, with current Leopard 2 users as potential buyers.

The AEV 3 Kodiak prototype during a demonstration using the excavator arm. Source: Rheinmetall Defence Press

The Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank was developed by Krauss-Maffei during the 1970s and succeeded the Leopard 1. The tank, armed with a 120 mm gun and powered by a V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, is currently in service with eighteen countries. Since the first tank entered service in 1979, it has seen many upgrades and improvements. Over time, the Leopard 2 chassis was used to develop other vehicles as well, like an armored recovery vehicle and an armored vehicle launched bridge. An armored engineering vehicle was not initially developed, however, around the turn of the century, several armies started to feel a need for such a vehicle.

The first prototype under construction. Source: Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift

Early development

The development of the Kodiak started in April 2002 when Switzerland initiated its Armored Engineer Vehicle 3 (AEV 3) program. The strategic technology partner of the Swiss Army, RUAG Defence, committed to a consortium with Rheinmetall Landsysteme, based in Kiel, Germany. Rheinmetall, with future sales in mind, nicknamed the project ‘Kodiak’ for marketing purposes, referring to the Kodiak bear, one of the two largest bear species. A team of experts from both companies worked closely together developing and manufacturing the new vehicle. The prototype was developed and completed using private industrial funds.
After Armasuisse, the procurement agency of the Swiss Army, handed over a surplus Leopard 2 chassis from Swiss army stock, construction of the prototype could be initiated. It would be completed shortly after, in May 2003. The vehicle was ready for its first trials and handed over to the Swiss Army for a two month trial period. The vehicle passed these tests successfully. In 2004, the AEV was shown at Eurosatory in Paris Nord-Villepinte, France, a biennial Defense and Security Exhibition. The vehicle sparked interest by several Leopard 2 MBT operating armies, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, so the vehicle underwent trials with these countries. An important series of trials was conducted at a Spanish Army base in Zaragoza, where the vehicle proved to be well capable of operating in a warmer environment than northwest Europe.
In early 2005, the AEV3 prototype was sent to Sweden and leased to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk) to be tested at Boden in northern Sweden in harsh winter conditions. Beforehand, a Swedish crew was trained by Rheinmetall employees. The tests confirmed that the vehicle met Swedish requirements for an armored high-performance multiple purpose engineering system. After the successful trials, the vehicle was returned to Rheinmetall and the test results were shared with the International AEV Coordination Group which then consisted of Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain. This group was specifically established to harmonize national AEV requirements and programs. Despite the successful trials, Spain backed out of the program and chose to acquire the domestically-built Pizarro CEV instead. Denmark backed out of the program as well, deciding it did not need an AEV yet, but later went to acquire the Wisent 1 AEV/ARV based on the older Leopard 1 chassis.

Design

Powered by the MTU-MB873 V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, producing 1475 hp, the Kodiak can reach a top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph). Weighing in at 62 tonnes, the vehicle falls in the MLC 70 class (Military Load Class, NATO vehicle classification system based on weight) and has a power to weight ratio of 23.8 hp/t. The weight is spread over seven road wheels on each side and the tracks are guided by four return rollers. The tracks can be tensioned with the idler wheel at the front and are driven by the drive sprocket at the rear.
Although a large part of the chassis remained unchanged compared to the Leopard 2, the front armor plate and turret were removed to make place for a superstructure. This superstructure, with a heavy slope on the front and slight sloping on the sides and rear, extends to roughly the middle of the vehicle. The superstructure is split in two, to accommodate the hinged-arm excavator being placed front center, unlike many other AEVs which have their excavator arm located on the side of the vehicle. A centrally placed excavator, however, offers a major advantage to the crew as they have a better view of what they are doing. Furthermore, it eases operation in confined spaces.
The excavator bucket has a volume of one cubic meter and, when in continuous use, it can move up to 200 cubic meters of earth per hour. The arm has a horizontal operational range of 9 meters and a range of 8.2 meters vertically. The arm can also be used to lift objects up with a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes (2.6 tonnes when the bucket is attached). These objects include things like logs and fascines. The bucket is attached to the arm with a hydraulically actuated quick coupling device, so it can easily be detached and replaced by another kind of tool. These tools include a universal gripper, a hydraulic hammer, an earth drill, a fascine launching system, and a concrete crusher. Two of these tools can be transported on the rear rack of the Kodiak, above the engine deck, while additional ones can be transported separately by a truck. The crew can perform all these actions without having to exit the vehicle.
Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with two capstan type Rotzler winches which can pull 9 tonnes each at a speed up to 90 meters per minute and with a cable length up to 200 meters. Although the vehicle is primarily designed to be used during military operations on the battlefield, it can also be used during disaster relief or civil-military operations due to its wide array of equipment.

A Dutch Kodiak crushing a car with its excavator arm. Source: Defensie

Crew

The vehicle is manned by a crew of three: a commander, a driver, and an engineer, but the vehicle is also fully operable when only manned by the commander and driver. As the crew compartment consists of two halves, the crew members are separated from each other, with the commander sitting in the right half, the driver in the left front, and the engineer behind him. The chairs, equipped with 4-point belts, are mounted on the roof so, when the vehicle is hit by an explosive charge like a land mine or Improvised Explosive Device (IED), less of the force of the blast is imparted to the crew. Together with a reasonable amount of space and air conditioning, the crew conditions are rather good.
Six cameras provide a panoramic surrounding view which allows the crew to fully operate the vehicle with no problems.

Armament

To defend itself against near threats, the Kodiak is equipped with a weapon station on top of the right side of the superstructure. This station, which can be operated both manually and remotely, is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun, but can also be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with a smoke grenade launcher system which is mounted on the front.

The Pearson mine plow, seen from above, mounted on a Dutch Kodiak. Source: Defensie

Mine Plow Capabilities

Besides the conventional dozer which has a width of 3.42 meters or 4.02 meters with side extensions, the Kodiak can be equipped with a mine plow. This mine plow was developed by the British company Pearson Engineering and is marketed under the name Full Width Mine Plough (FWMP) which clears mines and explosives down to thirty centimeters underground. With this mine-breaching method, a path of 150 meters can be cleared within a minute. It also features an integrated electromagnetic system, meaning that explosives with electrical ignitions explode immediately. When equipped, the plow adds 4 meters to the total length of the vehicle.
To mark the breached path, the Kodiak is also equipped with a Pearson Lane Marking System. This system features two devices per side, containing fifty marker poles each. They are pneumatically fired into the ground at either timed or distance based intervals and have enough power to penetrate asphalt as well. The poles are equipped with LEDs so that a breached path can also be recognized during bad weather or nighttime.
Both systems are not unique to the Kodiak, for example, they are also used on the American M1150 ABV and the British Trojan AVRE, among others.

One of the Singaporean Kodiaks with its crew. The Army of Singapore was the latest customer of the Kodiak. Source: Singapore Army


A Swedish Kodiak taking part in Bison Counter 2016. Photo: European Defence Agency

Swiss Order

On January 9, 2007, Rheinmetall announced that the Swiss procurement agency had signed the first contract for the delivery of twelve Kodiak AEV 3, in Swiss army parlance known as Geniepanzer. The deal had a value of CHF 95 million (US$76 million), an earlier CHF 129 million (US$103 million) offer had been rejected in 2005 by the Swiss parliament. The first vehicles were planned to be delivered over the course of 2009. Construction was to take place in Switzerland by RUAG, assisted by Rheinmetall Landsysteme Gmbh in Kiel, a subsidiary of Rheinmetall AG of Düsseldorf. Production took longer than anticipated, and the delivery date was postponed to the end of 2010, however, this was further delayed.
A further setback was encountered in January 2011 when it became apparent that the hydraulic arm became heated up within a short time of use, which meant that it had to cool down before returning into action. Fortunately, the issue could be resolved, but the last AEV was only delivered just before the end of 2011. Although twelve vehicles were ordered, only six Pearson mine-clearing modules were ordered. The twelve Leopard 2 chassis, designated Panzer 87 in Swiss use, came from Swiss army stocks with turrets removed. Since delivery, the vehicles are in use with the Panzersappeurbataillon 11, 11th Battalion Combat Engineers.

One of the Swiss Kodiaks during production at the RUAG works. Source: Moritz Hage

Swedish-Dutch Cooperation

In 1999, Sweden initiated a procurement program for a combat engineering vehicle and after deciding against using the Leopard 1 chassis as a base for this new vehicle, the Leopard 2 chassis, in Sweden known as the Stridsvagn 121, was chosen. To reduce costs, the Swedish procurement agency tried to collaborate with other agencies participating in the coordination group. An initial collaboration with Switzerland was set up but had to be terminated in December 2001 due to lack of funding from the Swedish government. While production of the Kodiak prototype started in Switzerland, Sweden was approached by Denmark, but during the final negotiations, Denmark backed out of the program altogether. After these initial difficulties, Sweden eventually initiated their AEV 3 S program in 2005, with the Dutch Army joining in 2006. In the Netherlands, the need for a new AEV had already emerged during the mid-’90s. On January 16, 2008, the procurement agencies of both Sweden and the Netherlands placed a combined order for 16 vehicles, six for Sweden and ten for the Netherlands for a total amount of €100 million (US$147 million, roughly €60 million from the Netherlands and €40 million from Sweden or US$88.2 million and US$58.8 million respectively). As a result, costs could be reduced by 20% because it created the possibility to substantially reduce non-recurring costs and brought advantages in production and purchasing. Delivery period was set for 2011-2012.

The first Kodiak that was shipped to Sweden already painted in a Swedish camouflage scheme. Source: Rheinmetall Defence

Delivery to Sweden

Sweden provided six Stridsvagn 121 chassis for conversion. Their turrets were removed by Markverkstaden in Skövde and the chassis were upgraded to Stridsvagn 122 standards. After the preparations were completed, the chassis were shipped to Germany after which they were converted into AEV 3 S (Swedish). In November 2011, the first out of six AEV3 S Kodiaks was handed over to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk). The symbolic keys were handed over during an official ceremony in Kiel, the home base of Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH. Known in Sweden as Ingenjörbandvagn 120, the vehicles are operated by the two Engineering Battalions which received three vehicles each.

Delivery to the Netherlands

The Netherlands used Leopard 2A4 chassis from their own stocks as well. Ten vehicles were completely overhauled by Instandhoudingsbedrijf Landsystemen (Conservation company Land systems) in Leusden, and the turrets were removed as well. After these were converted in Germany and delivered, the vehicles were intensively tested. During these tests, several teething problems were resolved, including some major issues with the hydraulics. At the end of 2017, the vehicles were banned from driving on roads because a control cable had snapped in one vehicle. Eventually, on May 31, 2018, the vehicles could finally be transferred into active service, as all problems had been resolved. The ten vehicles replaced fourteen Leopard 1 engineer vehicles, which were heavily worn out. Its projected service life is set to be around thirty years. In 2019, some Dutch Kodiaks were made available to be used by the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) of NATO.
The Swedish and Dutch Kodiaks are roughly 95% percent identical to each other, with differences being the camouflage patterns, markings, the smoke grenade discharge arrangements, some tools, and the Dutch vehicles feature a bomblet protection package.

Operation by Singapore

When the Army of Singapore decided to buy Leopard 2 MBTs, a total of fourteen Kodiaks were ordered and delivered in 2014-2015, replacing the aged US-built M728 CEVs. The Kodiaks, in Singapore Army parlance mainly known as L2-AEV, are operated by the 38th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (38 SCE), together with the Leopard 2 AVLB. This armored engineer battalion is specifically trained to operate together with other armored forces. The vehicles are painted in a green color and feature a white on black registration plate on the front left side.

One of the Singapore Army Kodiaks during a parade pictured from above. Source: unclear

The future of the Kodiak

The Kodiak is still marketed by Rheinmetall and RUAG. It also is Rheinmetall’s entry in the competition to supply the German Army (Bundeswehr) with a new armored engineering vehicle. Its main competition will probably be the more recently developed Wisent 2, an AEV/ARV developed by the German company FFG, also based on the Leopard 2 chassis and already in use with the Canadian and Norwegian armies and on order by the Army of Qatar. Whether Rheinmetall will manage to secure future sales of the Kodiak remains uncertain, but potential buyers include Austria, Chile, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey, as these countries all operate Leopard 2 MBTs and are either operating older or no armored engineering vehicles. Countries which are most likely not going to operate Kodiaks, while fielding Leopard 2 tanks, are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Qatar, and Spain, as these countries are already operating, or going to operate, other modern AEVs.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 10.2 (14.02m with plow, 11m with dozer blade) x 3.54 x 2.6 meters
Total weight, battle-ready 62,000 kg, MLC70
Crew 2-3 (Commander, Driver, Engineer)
Propulsion MTU-MB873 diesel engine, 1,100 kW (1475 hp).
Maximum speed 68 km/h (42.3 mph)
Suspensions High-hardness-steel torsion bars with rotary shock absorbers
Armament 12.7 mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher
Ballistic Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex A/level 4
Mine Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex B/level 3B and 4A
Production 43

Sources

AEV 3 Kodiak – Technology for Combat Engineers, RUMAG Brochure, PDF.
World’s first Leopard 2-based armoured engineer vehicle, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, May 8, 2003. (LINK)
AEV 3 Kodiak stands up to extreme Arctic conditions in Sweden, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, March 23, 2005. (LINK)
Swiss Army orders new Armoured Engineer Vehicle from Rheinmetall, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 9, 2007. (LINK)
Rheinmetall to supply Kodiak armoured engineer vehicles to Sweden and the Netherlands, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 17, 2008. (LINK)
Converted Leopard with claws, FMV press release, March 14, 2008. (LINK)
Rheinmetall transfers first Kodiak armoured engineering vehicle to Sweden, Press Release Rheinmetall Defence, PDF, November 21, 2011.
RUAG supplies Leopard Armoured Engineer and Mine-Clearance vehicles for the Swiss Armed Forces, Press release RUAG Defence, December 23, 2011. (LINK)
Trotz Panne fliegen die Funken, Berner Zeitung, January 14, 2011.
Ingenjörbandvagn (Ingbv) 120, Jan Forsberg, Pansar Nummer 1, 2012, PDF.
En tysk försvarsjätte, Slagfjädern Nummer 4, 2012, PDF.
Wehrtechnischer Report, issue 2/2015.doz
Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift Band 169 Heft 5, 2003, Andreas Renker, p.16-17, Neuer Geniepanzer auf der «Leo-2»-Plattform.
Defensie Krant, Prototype genie-/doorbraaktank doorstaat testen, January 17, 2008, Dutch Ministry of Defence.
Defensiebeer beschermt bemanning tegen explosieven, Materieel Gezien 04, May 22, 2014.
Nieuwe Kodiaktank van de Landmacht krijgt rijverbod, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November, 2017. (LINK)
Een beer van een tank als grommende gereedschapskist, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November 2017. (LINK)
Landmacht krijgt krachtpatser met Kodiak-geniedoorbraaktank, Dutch Ministry of Defence press release, May 31, 2018. (LINK)
The Kodiak on the official Dutch Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Swedish Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Singapore Defence website and Facebook.
Full Width Mine Plough description on Pearson-eng.com
Numbers of delivery on SIPRI trade Registers.



A Swedish AEV 3 Kodiak in its standard configuration with a dozer blade at the front.


A Dutch AEV 3 Kodiak equipped with a Pearson mine plow and lane marking system.

These illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WW1 Austro-Hungarian Armor

Burstyn Motorgeschütz

Austria-Hungary (1911)
Tank Design – Concept Only

“The claim that the Kampfwagen is an English invention – the term ‘tank’ should be avoided, being a foreign word and technically incorrect, – appears in the various newspapers and journals. This claim is completely wrong. The Kampfwagen, which is no more than an armored and equipped tracked vehicle is as less an invention as the armored car. This judgment was made by the authority in this area, the Patent Office, when I, in 1911, applied for a patent for the Kampfwagen -Back then I called it Motorgeschütz-. I had to revise my patent and could only patent the obstacle crossing device.”

This piece, part of a larger column, was written by Austrian officer Günther Burstyn in 1924, in which he opposed the conception that the tank was an English invention, and explains why he is not the inventor either, although he specifically notes that his idea was at least earlier than the English ideas he knew of.

Günther Adolf Burstyn during the 1900s. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Günther Burstyn

Günther Adolf Burstyn was born on July 6, 1879, in Bad Aussee, a town in the geographical center of Austria. He went to gymnasium in Vienna, after which he joined the Pionierkadettenschule (Engineer cadet school) located in Hainburg an der Donau, a town to the west of Bratislava. In 1899, Burstyn joined the Eisenbahn- und Telegraphenregiment (Railway- and Telegraph regiment) of the Austro-Hungarian Army. From 1902 until 1904, he served in the military harbor of Pola as commander of the local Fortress Telegraph Squadron. After this position, he followed a ‘higher engineering course’, which he completed in November 1906 and was promoted to Oberleutnant. He then was attached to the Engineer Staff of the Engineers Directorate in the city of Trient (Trento, Italy).

The Emergence of the Motorgeschütz

During his service in the harbor of Pola, on March 15, 1903, Burstyn was invited by his cousin, who was a Marine officer, to join him on a torpedo boat trip. During this trip, impressed by the ship’s speed, power, and protection, the idea arose in Burstyn’s mind for a ‘land torpedo boat’ and he wrote: “Like this, we have to approach the enemy on land as well.” Burstyn realized that such a vehicle should be armored, capable of off-road maneuvers, as well as being able to cross trenches. He thought about the gasoline engine as the propulsion of the vehicle.
In March 1906, he was confronted with his idea again. While following the higher engineering course, he visited the 6th National Automotive Exhibition in Vienna. There, he saw the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, development of which was initiated in 1904 and had been completed in 1905, being one of the very first armored cars in history. He immediately realized the potential of this four-wheel driven vehicle, which in some way matched his idea, although he saw the four small wheels as a huge limitation, as it did not allow the use on rough and muddy terrain, due to the high ground pressure, and it could not cross trenches and ditches either. As such, he sought a way to overcome these limitations in off-road mobility.
After he completed his course and was promoted, he moved to Trento where he was stationed from November 1906 until 1908. There, he saw how the wheels of heavy guns were equipped with ‘plate chains’ to reduce ground pressure. That made him think about how to apply this kind of chain around several wheels, creating a ‘band chain’. He called this chain of metal plates ‘Gleitbänder’. Unaware of the tracked tractor built by the firm Holt in the USA, designed by the English company Hornsby, and patented in Austria in 1911, he finalized his own design, resolved issues, and in October 1911, he sent his design to the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry hoping that they would have interest in such a vehicle.
He called his vehicle ‘Motorgeschütz’, meaning motorized gun. This term had already been occasionally used before 1911 to describe an armored vehicle in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For example, an edition of the Allgemeine Sport Zeitung (General Sports Magazine) from 1906 refers to the French CGV armored car as ‘gepanzerte Motorgeschütze’.

The Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, an inspiration for Burstyn when he first saw it in March 1906. Source: Public Domain

Design

It is impossible to describe the design of the Motorgeschütz in much detail because the details do not exist. As Burstyn was not allowed to patent the complete design, nor the suspension, he only patented the arms, which meant that he had to leave out many of the design details, resulting in a brief patent. So, apart from the arms, the design of the vehicle is relatively obscure with many important details missing.
The Motorgeschütz featured a box-like armored structure. The lower glacis was placed vertically while the upper glacis was heavily sloped, behind which the curved base for the round turret was located. The turret could not rotate 360 degrees, as it was blocked by the compartment behind the turret, and had a maximum rotation of approximately 300 degrees. The main armament, a quick-firing gun, was located in this turret. Although the gun has often been interpreted to be a 37 mm gun, it remains unclear which caliber gun Burstyn envisioned to use. Inside the turret, two crewmembers were located whose seats were located on the left and right of the main gun. Secondary armament is said to have consisted of two machine guns, which probably were meant to be fired through the several vision ports.
The third crew member sat in a compartment behind the turret with three vision ports facing to both sides and the back. The question how the crew was arranged (commander, driver, gunner) inside the turret has been speculated on, with the driver in the back, and commander and gunner in the turret, however, the final layout is unknown, especially since the patents provide no definitive answer either. Give the amount of available space, the engine was most likely to be mounted in the back of the vehicle, it is assumed that this would be an already existing regular truck engine, which at the time, produced on average 60 hp. The vehicle, without arms, had a length of 3.5 m and width and height were both 1.9 m. The turret had a diameter of 1.3 m.
Patent dated 28 February 1912 for the Burstyne Motorfahrzeuge
Patent dated 28 February 1912 for the Burstyne Motorfahrzeuge

Comparison between the design of 1911 and 1912. The main differences are the differently positioned road wheels and the addition of two wheels, one on each end, to which the arms are attached.

The Arms

The most distinctive features of the Motorgeschütz were the four movable arms, two on the front and two on the rear. The arms were to assist the vehicle in overcoming obstacles. They featured a small wheel on the end so the arms would not suddenly get stuck in the ground. The arms pivoted on the very front and rear wheels. They were vertically adjustable by moving a beam that was mounted on the arm on one side and attached to a crosshead with a spindle, which could slide back and forth in a special casing. The spindle did not rotate but was moved back and forth by a bevel gear which in turn was powered by the engine. How the engine was to power the bevel gear is not specified. The patent drawings also seem to include a hand crank device with which the bevel gear could be operated manually, but if this would have worked is doubtful.
The arms could not be operated from one central position. The rear arms were operated by the crewmember in the rear compartment, while the front arms were operated by the crew in the turret. If the turret was turned to a side, the operating handle of either one of the front beams would become very hard to reach, if not unreachable. Setting the problems concerning power and handling aside, the question remains whether the arms would actually help to cross obstacles. Lifting of the vehicle would mean that the ground pressure was to be greatly increased as all the weight had to be transferred through the small wheel on the beam and a small part of the tracks. The tracks would also lose most of their traction which would increase the chance of the vehicle getting stuck in muddy terrain.

Model of the Motorgeschütz, photographed during the 1930s, showing the function of the beams by crossing obstacles. Source: Radio Wien


Illustration of the Burstyn Motorgeschütz by David Bocquelet, modified by Leander Jobse

Rejection of the Motorgeschütz

After Burstyn submitted his design and scale model in October 1911, three months later, in January 1912, the War Ministry sent a response: “The project at hand has to be assessed primarily from the automotive point of view, because it introduces a new kind of motor vehicle construction intended for driving in the terrain. It does not matter at first whether the wagon is being used to transport a gun or for any other purpose.” Due to this opinion, Burstyn’s submission was sent to the head of the Automotive Sector of the Army. Who reacted: “Based on this opinion, the project in question is not suitable to form the subject of a trial at the expense of the Army Administration. It is therefore requested to inform the proponent that the realization of his project cannot be done at the expense of the army administration.”
In other words: the Ministry did not want to fund the new project as it did not have enough faith in the new design to invest in it. If Burstyn wanted the vehicle to be built, he had to use private funds, which he did not have. This was a major setback for Burstyn who had expected better from his nation. Interestingly, the head of the automotive sector, who had the final say in accepting or discarding the vehicle, was Lieutenant Colonel Robert Wolf. However, it was Wolf who can be credited most for the design of the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil from 1905 which was a significant design in armored vehicle history. Wolf, familiar with armored vehicle design, looked at the Motorgeschütz as nothing more than another armored car and probably influenced by his own experience, the Austro-Daimler had been rejected as well, decided that there was no future for the Motorgeschütz.
Burstyn did not give up his design directly. He filed another patent in the German Empire and approached the German War Ministry, but they turned down the design as well. Burstyn did not offer his design to other countries but instead went to the press. He wrote an article for the second Streffleurs Militärische Zeitung (Military Magazine of Streffleur) of 1912 and furthermore his design was described and positively evaluated by German Major Blümer in the ninth Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift (Military Technical Magazine) of 1912. But his idea was not picked up, there came no support.
The conservatism of the German and Austro-Hungarian war ministries is often blamed for not accepting the Motorgeschütz but, although this is true, the other major issue was the vagueness of Burstyn’s design. Not only the descriptions from the patents are very brief, but the model did not have much detail and many details were not specified, like the type of engine, type of gun, and sturdiness of suspension.
Coincidently, by the time Burstyn submitted his design, the first Holt caterpillar tractors arrived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its design had been patented in Austria-Hungary in 1911. It is important to stress that the Motorgeschütz was not based upon the Holt tractor design. When Dr. Leo Steiner from Budapest first gained interest in the vehicle he ordered it to be tested in Austria-Hungary. Tests were conducted since January 1912 in Felixdorf, a town north to Wiener Neustadt. These tests were successful and sixteen were ordered. They formed the Automobilabteilung 24 Spezialautolenker (Car Unit 24 Special car drivers) of the engineering troops. In case of need, it was envisioned to use the tractors to tow 30.5 cm mortars if used in rougher terrain.
The Holt tractor was to become the inspiration for several tracked armored vehicles during the First World War, and the chassis served as the base for the first operational French tanks. At the same time, however, the British rejected the Holt chassis as useless for an armored vehicle.

Drawings of the Motorgeschütz by Burstyn, included in his German patent. Source: DE patent 252815

Legacy

In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Army went to war without a single armored vehicle. Burstyn would have liked to bring his invention under the attention of the War Ministry once again, but the thought that his idea would once more be rejected withheld him from doing so. Apart from a few armored vehicles, the Austro-Hungarian army never fielded any tanks.
After the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved at the end of WWI in 1918, Burstyn continued his military career in the Austrian Army. He retired in 1934 and became general baurat. He kept his interest in tanks and anti-tank defenses. In September 1935, he filed a patent for a tank trap. After Germany annexed Austria in 1938, he offered his service to the German War Office and he made several designs, including an armored raft for amphibious operations. For this effort, he was awarded the War Merit Cross 1st and 2nd class in November 1941, which he received from General Alfred Streccius. In April 1945, Burstyn took his own life, in fear of being taken prisoner by the Soviet Army.

A tank trap, patented by Burstyn in September 1935. Source: AT patent 146573

Scale Models and a Full-Size Replica

Two scale models of the Motorgeschütz were constructed, of which at least one was made by Burstyn, and were exhibited in museums, one in the Pionier Museum in Klosterneuburg and another in the Technischen Museum in Vienna. In 2011, the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) hosted a temporary exhibition of military inventions made in Austria over 500 years. As part of this, a full-size replica of the Motorgeschütz was created and placed in front of the museum. After the exhibition was over, the vehicle was moved inside and is currently on view in the Panzer gallery.

The replica in front of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, photographed in 2011. Currently, it is on display in the Panzer Gallery. Note that the wheel spacings are based upon the scale model which is constructed slightly different than the patent drawings. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

Although this statement is sometimes made too easily, the Motorgeschütz was, even with its shortcomings, truly ahead of its time. However, this was only the indirect reason why it never came further than the drawing board. The main reasons were the lack of support from both the Prussian and Austro-Hungarian ministries and Burstyn having no contacts in the right places who would argue for his case.
Its combination of off-road mobility, armor, and weaponry meant it was the very first example of an armored vehicle that matched the general characteristics of tanks that were to come later. One can only speculate what would have happened if the Motorgeschütz was actually built. There is no doubt it would have brought the Austro-Hungarian forces an advantage during the early days of the war, but if it would have changed the outcome of the war is a question impossible to answer and there is no need for an answer either because the Motorgeschütz never became reality. The tank was destined to be a child of war, not a child of peace.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.5 x 1.9 x 1.9 meters (without arms)
Crew 3 (Commander, Driver, Gunner)
Propulsion 50-60 hp engine (type unknown)
Speed 30 km/h on road, 8 km/h off-road
Armament 1x small caliber, quick firing gun, 2x machine guns

Sources

DE patent 252815, issued February 28, 1912
AT patent 53248, filed March 1, 1911, issued April 25, 1912)
AT patent 146573, filed September 18, 1935, issued March 15, 1936
Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer des österreichischen heeres 1896 bis heute, Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, 1976.
Der erste Kampfpanzer der Welt: Günther Burstyn und sein Motorgeschütz, Helmut W. Malnig, Truppendienst 309, 2007.
Tactics and Procurement in the Habsburg Military, 1866-1918: Offensive Spending, John A. Dredger,
Waffen Revue nr. 4, March 1972.
Danzers Armee Zeitung, January 25, 1924
Radio Wien, July 5, 1935
Innsbrucker Nachrichten, August 14, 1936
Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung, September 18, 1940
Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung, November 20, 1941
Das Burstyn Motorgeschütz aus 1911, doppeladler.com.
Note: The author is still looking for Streffleurs Militärische Zeitung (2. Heft 1912) and Kriegstechnischen Zeitschrift (9. Heft 1912), if you can help him, please leave a comment.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armoured Cars

C.P.I.M. Improvised Armored Car

The Netherlands/Shell (1929) Armored Car – 2 Built

In 1929, Venezuelan revolutionaries performed a successful surprise attack on a Dutch fortress on Curaçao in order to capture the fortress’ arsenal. The goal was to use these weapons to overthrow Caudillo Juan Vicente Gómez in Venezuela. The Dutch governor and the military commander of the island were both taken prisoner. During the chaos, the director of the oil refinery on the island ordered the construction of two armored cars which would be used to defend the refinery against a potential attack by the revolutionaries.


One of two armored cars, note the crude fitting of the metal sheets.

Short history of Curaçao

Curaçao is a 144 km2 island which is part of the Lesser Antilles and located above the coast of Venezuela. In 1499, the island was discovered by a Spanish expedition which enslaved most of the native Caquetio people, who were later sent to the island of Hispaniola. Together with the small neighboring islands of Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao (the ABC islands) was considered ‘useless’ by the Spanish, as there were not many natural resources, such as gold deposits. Furthermore, the soil was not suited for agricultural exploitation, but cattle thrived on the island. In 1634, only around 30 Spaniards remained on the island, when it was successfully invaded by the Dutch West-Indische Compagnie (West India Company, WIC for short).
The island was quickly fortified to defend it against a potential Spanish attack.

The Spaniards indeed tried on one occasion to recapture the island, but due to the wind heading in the wrong direction, they could not land, and a renewed attempt was never made. As such, the island remained in Dutch possession. In the meantime, the population grew steadily, plantations were built, and the island became an important trading post due to its deep natural harbors and close proximity to the Venezuelan coast. Slave trade began in 1665 and, in 1674, Curaçao became a free-trade zone, increasing its position in the international trade network. However, during the 18th century, French and English colonial possessions in the Caribbean, became more and more powerful, decreasing Curaçao’s role in trade with revenue dropping and, in 1791, the WIC had to file for bankruptcy.

The island became an official Dutch colony and property of the Netherlands. In 1800, due to the French occupation of the Netherlands, Curaçao was invaded by the British. They were expelled from the island by the local inhabitants in 1803, but returned in 1807 and kept control of Curaçao until it was returned to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1816. The economy mostly depended on trade (the slave trade was abolished in 1863), agriculture, and fishing. After 1816, the island was defended by a garrison of nearly 370 men with the primary task of defending against a surprise attack and the secondary task of preventing domestic unrest, but their number dropped over time.


A map of Curaçao, including its surrounding area, roughly 70 km from the main coast of Venezuela. Source: hubpages

Oil Reserves

The economic situation would make a drastic turn after 1914 when oil deposits were discovered. Within a year, the Curaçaose Petroleum Industrie Maatschappij, (Curaçao Petroleum Industry Company), CPIM for short, a subsidiary company of Royal Dutch Shell, settled on the island. After a century of standstill, there was a sudden increase in employment opportunities, which attracted many workers from the Caribbean, as well as people from Venezuela. The sudden increase of the working class also meant an increase in unrest, mainly in the capital Willemstad. The civilian police corp could not cope with the problems and two slums on the island were no-go areas for any law enforcement.

To deal with these problems, the Dutch government decided in 1927 to replace this police corp and the garrison, which had been gradually scaled down to around 80 men, with 150 men from the Korps Politietroepen, a military police unit from the Netherlands. So, unlike the previous garrison, this unit had as a priority the maintenance of order, and only secondary to defend the island against an attack. The unit arrived during 1928-1929. Nevertheless, the two slums on the island, Rio Canario and Suffisant, were still no-go areas for the police.


Rafael Simón Urbina (right) and Gustavo Machado Morales (left). Source: Maritiem Digitaal

Venezuelan Revolutionary Rafael Simón Urbina

It was in those two slums that the Venezuelan revolutionaries, Rafael Simón Urbina, Gustavo Machado Morales and Miguel Otero Silva, managed to gather a great following among the Venezuelan workers. Although they united to overthrow Caudillo (a military president-dictator) Juan Vicente Gómez in Venezuela, they had different motives. Some, including Urbina, where part of a group of patriots who wanted to liberate Venezuela from Gómez, the others, including Machado, were communists and wanted to establish a communist regime.
After causing too much unrest on Curaçao, Urbina was expelled from the island in 1928, but he managed to return in 1929 under a different name and with a Mexican nationality, which had been given to him by the Mexican consul in Panama. The group of revolutionaries led by Machado had already made extensive plans for an attack on the fort to capture the fortress’ arsenal when Urbina returned on June 1. For unclear reasons, he was directly appointed the leader of the group.

The Attack

On Saturday night, June 8, between 21:15 and 21:30, two trucks with 45 men drove at full speed into the fort. Because the fort also functioned as a police station, the gates were always opened. One group of revolutionaries, armed with two automatic pistols and machetes took the guards by surprise, killed the officer and wounded two other policemen. Simultaneously, another group entered the messroom, where they fatally wounded a Sergeant. A third group, led by Urbina, went to the dormitory, while a fourth group went to the arsenal. At the moment of the attack, the fort was manned by 26 policemen and 9 soldiers. Three soldiers were killed and six other people were wounded. The alarmed Commander in Chief of the military police, Captain A.F. Borren, was taken prisoner when he arrived at the fort.

The loot consisted of 197 rifles, 4 machine guns, 1 binocular, 38 pistols, 75 klewangs (bladed weapons of Indonesian origin), 7,000 cartridges, some machetes, leather clothing, and a reasonable amount of money. After the fort was secured and sealed off from the city by the revolutionaries, Urbina came in contact with the governor of the island, L.A. Fruytier. Threatened by Urbina that the petrol depot would be set on fire, the governor agreed for a free retreat. Just after midnight, 154 revolutionaries (other sources state up to 250) boarded the American freighter S.S. Maracaibo, taking the governor, commander, and several policemen as hostages with them, as well as their loot.

During the early morning of June 9, the revolutionaries unboarded at La Vela del Coro (the capital of Falcón State and the oldest city in the northwest of Venezuela), using the ships’ lifeboats. The Maracaibo was allowed to return to Willemstad with the former hostages, who were humiliated up to the bone when they arrived during the afternoon. If it was up to Urbina, they would have been killed, but Machado prevented that from happening. In the meantime, Urbina’s followers who had stayed on the island were still in large control of Willemstad. The remaining 90 policemen, assisted by civilian volunteers started to recapture the city. Reinforcements were sent during the following days in the form of 40 KNIL soldiers from Suriname, later followed by more marines and KNIL soldiers. The voluntary civilian support would be formed into the Vrijwilligers Korps Curaçao (VKC), 143 men strong.


One of the barricades made by employees of the CPIM. Source: Royal Tropical Institute


Illustration of the C.P.I.M. Improvised Armored Car by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Defense of the C.P.I.M.

Going back to the night of the attack, when the director of the CPIM heard about the attack on the Waterfort, he realized that the refinery was a potential target as well. He immediately arranged defenses in the form of sandbags, iron plates, and similar kinds of obstacles behind which the employees could take defensive positions. He also ordered the construction of armored cars. They were made by adding steel plates to postal trucks, which were largely available at the company. A small attack did indeed occur on that same night, which was successfully dealt with, but the armored cars were not finished yet. A second attack never came, so when the armored cars were ready the next morning, there was no need for them anymore.

One of two armored vehicles near a CPIM building. Note how the mudguards are visible through the gap and the crude way how the armor is cut. Source: Royal Tropical Institute

The second vehicle, the main differences from the other are the installation of the front armor plate, the protection of the headlights and the removal of the canvas roof. Source: Curacao in Ansichten, derived from Overvalwagen.nl

The Armored Cars

In several newspapers and the like, there are mentions of several postal trucks being converted (specific model unknown). Based on photo evidence, there indeed appears to be at least two vehicles converted. It is clearly visible that the vehicles were very hastily assembled, in fact, they were completed in one night. Firstly, steel plating was added over the engine compartment which then folded over the mudguards down to roughly 10 centimeters above ground, protecting most of the wheels, shod with pneumatic tires. Another trapezoid shaped piece folded down over the front, in which two holes were made for the headlights. Another rectangular plate was added below to protect the lower part of the chassis and the front of the wheels. An opening was left so that the front of the mudguards were still visible.

The front of the driver’s compartment was protected by one large sheet of metal with one large horizontal vision slit. The sides of the vehicle were covered in one large plate on each side which was slightly curved at the front. A total of eight shooting holes, four on each side, were also made. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the back of the vehicle, but it can be safely assumed that the doors were in the back. The roof was not armored, as the canvas roof of the original truck was retained.


The postal trucks of the CPIM, two of which would be temporarily converted into armored cars. Source: Royal Tropical Institute

Aftermath

How long the vehicles remained active is unknown, but given their improvised state, they were probably dismantled soon after the threat of an attack was gone. The vehicles were the first armored vehicles ever built in the Dutch colonies, which is made more impressive by the fact that they were built by a private company and not ordered or used by the Dutch government.

The aftermath of the embarrassing attack on the fort was mainly felt by the governor, Fruytier, who got fired in November, and the commander-in-chief, Borren, who was sentenced to one day of prison. However, it was also acknowledged that it could also have been prevented if there was a larger Dutch military presence, which led to an increase in this regard in the area. Only during World War II would armored vehicles serve on the island again, in the form of the Marmon-Herrington CTLS tank, meant to defend the large oil refinery which was a vital oil supplier in the American war effort.

This was the third attempt by Urbina to overthrow Caudillo Gómez, but like the previous two times, he failed. After the Dutch hostages were freed to return to Curaçao, they immediately sent a message to the Venezuelan government in Caracas with information about the number of revolutionaries and their weapons, which allowed the government troops to respond and sent a force to defeat Urbina and his revolutionaries. Both Urbina and Machado managed to escape. Urbina would again try to overthrow the Venezuelan authorities in 1931 and would be involved in several other plots and coups until his assassination in 1950 after a failed kidnapping.

Sources

In de West de Nederlandse Krijgsmacht in het Caribisch gebied, Anita van Dissel, Petra Groen, Van Wijnen, 2010.
De rijke geschiedenis van Curaçao Indianen, de WIC en invasies, Jack Schellekens, Carib Publishing, 2012.
“De overval op Willemstad.”. Haarlem’s Dagblad. 09-08-1929. Consulted at Delpher.
“De blamage van Curacao. Hoe Willemstad in staat van verdediging werd gebracht.”. Haagsche courant. 11-07-1929. Consulted at Delpher.
“De verdediging van de C.P.I.M.”. Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant. 10-07-1929. Consulted at Delpher
Overvalwagen.nl and Overvalwagen forum