WW1 French Armored Cars

Autocanon de 47 Renault mle 1915

France (1914-1918)
Armored Car – 4 Built


Since its foundation in 1899 by Louis Renault and two of his brothers, the Renault company was pioneering in the rapidly growing automotive industry.

Despite rejecting the armored car concept before the Great War, French military interest in this type of weapon reappeared at the start of the war in 1914. Already in September, armored cars were planned to be used for a plethora of roles, mainly as protection against aircraft and for targeting enemy observation balloons.

Thus, the “Renault Autoblindée mle. 1914” was accepted into service and production began in the city of Lyon. It was followed the next year by the production of a Renault 2.5-tonne lorry as the basis for a 47 mm rapid firing gun, creating a vehicle that was going to be used for motorized naval infantry.

Studied after the hard experience of the fighting on open ground in the autumn of 1914 in Artois and Flanders, these powerful mobile guns were designed above all to take advantage of the useful range of the gun, of 4,500 m.

Side view of the Autocanon de 47 mm Renault. Source: The encyclopedia of French tanks and armored vehicles 1914-1940


When it comes to building armored cars, the French had developed two theoretical concepts before 1914. The first one was creating armored cars that were completely enclosed in armor, making them impervious to enemy small arms fire and having them equipped with turret-mounted armament. The second concept, and an opposite to this ‘fully-enclosed’ armored car’ idea was initially proposed by Captain Genty. He suggested making use of light unarmored cars putting more emphasis on speed and rapid movement while also carrying the armament on a pillar mounting. It was this second concept which initially prevailed, partially thanks to the military efforts of Captain Genty and the influence that he had.

In 1904, the army assigned Captain Genty a Panhard & Levassor 24 hp car which could be used as a reconnaissance vehicle because its high chassis enabled it to travel over rugged terrain. Its impact-resistant reinforced-wood frame gave it flexibility and solidity and it could travel at a speed of up to 70 kph. He had the idea of adding a machine gun and fitting out the vehicle accordingly. A swivel stool next to the driver allowed the gun to be fired from any position. The Panhard-Genty armored car was the first in a long line of Panhard army vehicles. Thus, in 1906, some Panhard reconnaissance vehicles were armed and were adopted by the French armed forces. By the beginning of the First World War, a handful of these vehicles were put to use.

Starting from the first weeks of the war, roughly 200 touring cars were retrofitted with armored plates and were designated according to their armament either as ‘autos-canons’ (English: cannon-armed armored car) or ‘autos-mitrailleuses’ (English: machine gun-armed armored car). None of these had a dedicated military chassis, thus the need for something more sophisticated appeared.
The concept of a lorry-mounted gun was probably first used by British Commander C. R. Samson, who mounted a 3-pounder on an L.G.O.C. ‘B’ type chassis. That vehicle was constructed for the Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) by the French shipyard Forges et Chantiers de France at Dunkirk in October 1914. In November 1914, while the war was still raging on the Western Front, the French Army commanders began to seriously consider further mechanization. The initial success of armored vehicles (Panhard, Peugeot, and Hotchkiss models) was undoubtedly great due to their speed and their ability to be used for multiple purposes, but the ground troops lacked more powerful fire support. This led to the demand for fighting vehicles equipped with rapid-fire guns.
Thanks to General Gallieni who showed bold initiatives during 1914, many armaments could be designed and developed. This was in stark contrast to the usual passivity and fatuity of the generalissimo, barely capable of ‘conceiving armored vehicles’. In a few weeks, Gallieni, granting his confidence to enterprising soldiers and engineers, thus developing a variety of offensive armament from bombs and machine-guns, armoured trains, long-range naval components, chemical projectiles, and most importantly in this context, armored cars. The primary purpose of all these means was to harass the enemy far ahead of the entrenched camp of Paris’ (Camp retranché de Paris/CRP) fortification lines. Here they were to thwart, harass, or otherwise hinder enemy operations and to prevent the deployment of their fearsome heavy artillery in great numbers.

Map showing the Entrenched camp of Paris alongside its fortifications


The development for this vehicle started during 1914-1915, with several prototypes shown. The most common were those on the chassis of the Peugeot commercial trucks. However, a very successful ‘car cannon’ on a Renault chassis was produced in limited numbers. The initiator of this design was Lieutenant Villeneu-Bargemont, who in a short time, prepared a project based on a 2.5-tonne Renault truck chassis. The first prototype of the Autocanon de 47 mm Renault was presented on 15th August 1915. Its performance during tests was quite encouraging, but, by this time, both warring sides were firmly entrenched, and the use of road-bound vehicles like these was proving difficult under the new circumstances. Adapting to the changed situation, no large order was placed for cannon-armed vehicles of this type. Apart from the prototype, three other serial machines were built. They were sent to the front and used repeatedly until November 1918.
The first assembly of a 47 mm gun model 1885 on a so-called ‘automatic recoil mount’ is made on the chassis of a 3-ton Renault EP truck, probably on direct order of the CRP dating from September 1914.

Three-quarter rear ¾ side to rear view of the 47 mm Autocanon. Source:

The equipment was studied by Renault with Lieutenant Hergault. The pedestal was bolted on the platform of the truck which rests directly on the vehicle tyres. The first tests took place at Satory, near Versailles on 12th October 1914 in the presence of General Clergerie, Gallieni’s Chief of Staff. Here, some 30 shots were fired at a range of 1,200 m within the limits of the firing range. It turned out that these shots were very accurate and that the automobile chassis withstood the recoil forces from the gun whilst firing in all directions. However, the assembly was found to lack stability and the gun mounted on its pedestal to be too high compared to the platform. A note from 16th October 1914, proposed the deployment of 47 mm naval guns in the flat regions of Northern France. This would allow for better long-range engagements against enemy troops (up to 4,500 m). The approval for such projects was given on the 18th November by General Gallieni.
This equipment nevertheless appears all the more interesting to General Louis de Maud’Huy, commander of the 10th Army, who pointed out that the Autocanon recently put into service could be used for firing against aircraft since they were very capable as support weapons. Their capabilities could be improved in terms of firepower by ‘substituting 47 mm guns for 37 mm guns’. At that time, the Minister of War announced the existence of 90 quick-firing 47 mm guns, taken from coastal defenses and supplied with 500 rounds.

At the end of October 1914, General Gallieni had twelve of these 47 mm guns at the Grand-Palais; he suggested using this equipment for anti-aircraft fire on the automobile platform studied by Renault. All these suggestions initially remained unanswered, since the Vincennes park (French: Parc de Vincennes) reported on 21st December that the “ninety-two 47 mm guns in storage had not been used either by the ground forces, the air force or the armored cars”. The park only had 17 mountings for this equipment, ten of which have two recoil buffers, and seven have only one recoil buffer. It is certain that the automatic recoil mount was more suitable for mounting on a car chassis, to absorb the recoil of the 47 mm gun as much as possible.

However, after reflection, the Minister of War decided in November 1914, to entrust the military government of Paris to experiment with the construction and organization of four armed cars and a supply car, the vehicles would be crewed by naval personnel thus naval instructors for the usage of the armaments were also needed. The studies were coordinated by Lieutenant-Colonel Cordier, Commander of the Grand Parc Automobile de Réserve reserve fleet (GPAR) in Vincennes, in liaison with the manufacturer Renault and Captain Renaud. It was agreed to reduce the height of the piece in relation to the platform by placing the gun on a centrally rotating carriage, with a low support, requiring the gunner to fire in a kneeling position. The front of the chassis, the engine, and the radiator, were fully armored.

Frontal View of the Autocanon. Source: Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

The construction, initially planned within 25 days after receiving the order, was delayed, especially as contradictory discussions began about the use of these 47s. General Gallieni wanted two 47s to be assigned to each of the 15 groups of the existing 37 Autocanon, thus implying the construction of 30 machines.
The Governor of Paris was also considering assigning two 47s to the 14th and 15th Groups and them as soon as the four pieces of equipment ordered ‘as an experiment’ were completed. As was to be expected, the Minister’s response, after consulting General Joffre for his opinion, was negative. The Minister did not authorize any new construction of the 47 Autocanon because the General in charge considered that there would be a disadvantage in bringing together 37 and 47 guns within the same group, for logistical and practical reasons.

In these conditions, the future of the four 47 mm Autocanon built became uncertain, especially as the users’ reports underlined the defects of the equipment. Ensign Pouyer, Commander of the 47 Autocanon section since 1st February 1915, was very critical of the equipment. The main defect he noted was the prohibitive weight of the Autocanon, which reached 6,500 kg, and the underpowering of the truck. This led the manufacturer to make its engines run 200 revolutions faster than their normal speed, i.e. 1,300 revolutions/minute instead of 1,100, by tampering with the regulator. Moreover, the wheelbase of 3.85 m made maneuvers difficult, especially with the large rear overhang which brought the length of the vehicle to 5.80 m.

Ensign Pouyer, taking into account the experience of the battle of the Autocanon in Belgium, feared that the 47’s equipment could not maneuver on the narrow roads of Flanders and that traversing in order to hide from enemy fire was particularly difficult. On 8th March 1915, he reported on the very difficult march of the two 47s to Fontainebleau five days earlier from Billancourt with two 37s and two Saurer trucks, one of which carried a 75 mm gun, to carry out firing tests.

During the first 27 kilometers, the 47s were outpaced by the other vehicles and were dragging themselves along at an average speed of 12 km/h. The Renault drivers had to remove their regulators, even though they were set at 1,400 rpm, which allowed them to drive the last 36 kilometers at an average speed of 22.5 km/h, at the cost of engine fatigue and high radiator water temperature. On the other hand, the shots fired at Fontainebleau – 46 shots per piece at distances varying from 2,100 to 2,300 m showed the equipment’s ability to fire accurately in all directions, with the exception towards the front. During the return march to Billancourt, the drivers pushed the Autocanons to more than 50 km/h (instantaneous speed) at 3,700 rpm. During tests undertaken at Renault on 5th March, it appeared that the speed with the regulator set at 1600 rpm could not in practice exceed 20 km/h. In these conditions, the dispatch to the armies was postponed, which left time to define exactly the composition of the unit.

The Autocanon de 47 mm alongside its crew. Source:

It is also worth mentioning that four armored Autocanons were made into one ‘Groupe’ which will later be referred to the 1st Group while there was a second Group of Autocanons which was composed of the same vehicles but these were completely unarmored. This second group also had 4 armed vehicles but alongside it was also operating two 47 mm guns on mounts that were deployed on the ground and not on vehicles. They were also deployed alongside the 1st Group for anti-air purposes at the entrenched camp of Paris (CRP). After some studies, it was decided by the ministry that both the 1st and 2nd Group would be moved to the positions betweenDammartin and Le Plessis-Belleville in northern France.

Vehicles and guns of the 2nd group of 47 mm Autocanons probably during winter of 1915- 1916, probably near Amiens, perhaps in Dury, in protection of general Foch’s HQ. Souce: Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113


Overall Design

The vehicle was intended to be used for direct fire support for the infantry on the battlefield, thus crew protection was going to be needed. The driver’s cab and bonnet were fully armored, with the top armor plates installed at a steep angle. The armor was made from 7 mm thick plates that were supplied from Saint-Chamond, probably by the manufacturer “Compagnie des forges et aciéries de la marine et d’Homécourt” (FCM) (English: Company of marine forges and steelworks and of Homécourt). The armored Autocanon of the 1st Group were equipped with the 47 mm gun model 1885 mounted on a so-called automatic recoil mount, with two side recuperators, on a special type of support, most probably using components of the regulation mount model 1887, modified to reduce the height of the trunnion axis.

The mounts were then fitted with a fork-shaped mount known as the Fauconneau (a ‘Fauconneau’ was a small type of medieval cannon), allowing shooting against aircraft up to 70 degree angle. At least for a while (spring 1917 according to photographs), the Autocanon “1” kept the primitive mount, intended mainly for firing at full tilt up to 13 degree while the other three “2”, “3” and “4” were equipped with the Fauconneau mount. While the 2nd Group was equipped with the 47 mm model 1885 with a great diversity of mountings. For the first section created (on standard Renault EP standard), one Autocanon was equipped with the automatic recoil mount model 1887 with support and the other with the recoilless mount with support like the one used with coastal artillery and on certain small old ships of the navy. The latter, whose recoil is more violent on an automobile platform, received later, a Fauconneau mount to improve the conditions of the shooting against aircraft. At an unknown date, the two of the vehicles received a shortened support base (shaped like a chandelier-like structure) intended to decrease the shocks of the shooting by decreasing the height of the piece compared to the automobile platform.

Sketch showing the Fauconneau Mount. Source: Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

To improve the protection of the gun crew on the armored vehicles of the 1st Group, the gun mount was protected by a U-shaped armor plate with a roof. The traverse was about 270 degrees, and the ammunition was stowed in a compartment behind the driver’s cab. The gun was mounted low between the rear wheel arches in the body of the vehicle. The only disadvantage of this lower mounting was that the gun did not have a forward field of fire, because the driver’s cab was in the way. The first prototypes were completed by the end of January 1915. Tests showed that the heavily armored vehicle was too heavy, and the speed too slow, and no more than four were manufactured.

Close up shot of the Autocanon with its crew. The markings signifies that this was the 4th vehicle of the 1st Group. Source:


The armament that was chosen for the vehicle was the Hotchkiss 47 mm model 1885. The specific model was chosen because it had more than double the range of the alternative, the 37 mm that was produced by Hotchkiss. It was designed and manufactured by Hotchkiss et Cie (French: Société Anonyme des Anciens Établissements Hotchkiss et Compagnie). The weapon was used in three different types with the main difference between them being the height of the trunnion axis and the weight of the mount. The most common type of ammunition that was fired from this gun were steel (model 1892 and 1911) and lyddite. The steel shells (not to be confused with cast iron shells) were very similar to the British common pointed shells, since they were also filled with gunpowder and a base percussion fuze. The only difference between the two was that the tip of the shell resembled a British AP (armor-piercing) shell. The latter meant that the body of the projectile held less powder and the solid section (penetrator) was longer. Similarly to the gun itself, the ammunition was also designed for naval use. The Lyddite (equivalent in French ‘melinite’) shells were the first form of high explosive shells, using the shrapnel they created after they exploded to cause damage to the surrounding area in order to maximize the destructive capability of the shell. A delayed fuze was needed until the shell had penetrated its target. Other shell types included cast iron shells (model 1892 and 1902) and canister shot (model 1886) containing 76 steel balls weighing 17 gr each.

Image showing the 47mm cannon alongside a 47mm shell. Source: Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

The armament with the initial mount was able to achieve a depression of just +13 degrees while the ones equipped with the much better Fauconneau were able to achieve +70 degrees. It is also worth mentioning that there were some minor variations between the gun with the difference being between the weight and the length of the trunnions.

Diagrams of the cannon barrel(Top) and some of the shells that the gun was able to fire.
From left to right

    1. Steel shells mode l1888


    1. Cast iron shells model 1888


    1. Canister for grapeshot model 1886


    1. Complete cartridges of 47 mm


    1. Cartridges with cast iron shells model 1885


Source:Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

Gun table of data
Designation Hotchkiss 47 mm M1885
Caliber 47 mm
Weight of the barrel 237 kg
Weight of mount 380-538 kg
Barrel length 2.35 m
Muzzle velocity 600-610 m/s
Elevation +13°, -10°/ +70° , -10°


The drivetrain was a 4×2, with spoke wheels with rubber tires. The vehicle featured a leaf-spring suspension which, due to the nature of this type of suspension, allowed for better vertical weight handling and distribution. Leaf-springs had much better response time after a vertical flex in the suspension, thus making for a much more controllable car. A 16 hp 4-cycle Renault petrol engine was placed under the bonnet, which was clearly insufficient for a heavy vehicle, giving the armored car a top speed of roughly 20 km/h and a 5 hp/tonne power to weight ratio.


These Autocanon were manned by naval personnel ‘Fusiliers Marins’ and were ready for action, organized in sections of two, in June 1915. Each vehicle was manned by a crew of 4 (commander, driver, gunner, and loader). They seem to have been mainly used as anti-aircraft operations, but were also used as mobile light artillery, moving along the lines, attacking any targets when an opportunity arose. The First Autocanon Group was equipped with the only four vehicles that were produced and they were also given four machine gun cars from the same manufacturer. The Group was placed near Dunkirk.

The 1st Group of 47s of the Navy in Flanders

At the end of its laborious tests and after a request from General Foch, the group of ’47 Autocanons set off on 15th June 1915 from Paris to Dunkirk, in four stages at Beauvais, Amiens, and Thérouanne. It is likely that its commander was able to pass on a message to General Foch’s staff, about the lack of a telemeter or a telemetric binocular, since General Weygand, Chief of Staff of the Northern Army Group, GAN), asked the Navy to supply a Barr and Stroud rangefinder, on the grounds that the Autocanons were to be used especially for firing against aircraft.

  • Τhe group was given three types of missions:
    Defense against aircraft, even though the low vertical depression of the 47 mm guns did not initially allow for optimum performance.
  • Defense of the North Sea coasts; indeed,despite the superiority of the Allied fleets, incursions on the coastline were still to be feared, especially behind the lines of the Nieuport front. As a result, many station points guarding the seafront were defended on the coastline.
  • Finally harassment and destruction of the enemy front line defensive works by taking advantage of the accuracy and range of the 47’s cannon.The way that the Autocanon would achieve that was by quickly occupying suitable firing positions ,fire against enemy fortifications and then withdraw to avoid enemy reactions.

In the latter role, the 47s were to be of great service when they were placed at the disposal of the Nieuport group in the autumn of 1915. This sector was then occupied by the 38th Division, whose Commander, General Rouquerol, was keen to keep the enemy on his toes. By making excessive use of artillery and Autocanons to increase the number of local attacks by his troops.

The 1st Autocanon Group took part in the following operations:

  1. On the 5th of November 1915, a section of two 47 mm Autocanon fired 160 shells on the southern flank of the Grande Dune of Nieuport.
  2. On 22nd November, traveling on the Nieuport-Ville – Nieuport-Bains road, the Autocanon destroyed two forts on the coast with 150 projectiles.
  3. On 27th December, 10th and 26th January, and 8th February 1916, shots were fired at the Grande Dune.
  4. On 17th January, shots were fired at the Groote-Bamburg work.
  5. On 6th April, shots were fired at the roads and crossroads north of Lombartzyde
  6. On 23rd March, and 3rd and 22nd May 1916, the defensive works of the Villa Crombez were heavily shelled, particularly on the last day when 598 rounds of 47 mm ammunition were fired.

In the service of the Navy

There is no doubt that in the conditions of trench warfare, the Autocanon provided more service than the regular stationary guns. General Rouquerol regretted the departure of the 1st Group of 47 Autocanon of the navy, ordered by the GQG (Grand Quartier Général) on 22nd May 1916. In fact, in order to meet the demands of submarine warfare, at the beginning of 1916 the naval staff requested the recall of all its personnel employed at the front, with the exception of the marine gunners and some specialist units. Lieutenant de Villeneuve-Bargemon, supported by Commander Goybet, inspector of the navy’s Autocanon groups, pleaded for the maintenance of his unit since they could not trust cavalry or infantry men to operate properly the weaponry of the AC. The conduct of indirect fire with the naval cannons required knowledge and practice that his crews possessed and he needed to keep this knowledge. On 26th May 1916, General Rouquerol greeted with emotion the departure of the 47 navy Autocanon group and more particularly that of the navy officers and pointers, thus underlining the value of these personnel. The navy group was officially disbanded on 31st May 1916.

The Autocanon during exercise. Source:

Defense against the tanks

After the failure of the spring 1917 offensives, the 1st Group was used essentially for flak on the 6th Army’s rear and a new mission was added to the previous one. Indeed, since the end of 1916, the GQG feared that the enemy would build and use tanks in turn, as concordant intelligence tends to indicate.

In these circumstances, the 1st Gun Group could play an important role defending against tanks. General Franchet d’Espérey, commanding the North Army Group, considered in July 1917 that the 1st Group of 47s should be used for flak against low-flying aircraft during the stabilization period and, during active operations, as ‘road tanks’ from a stationary point involving relatively little movement. By the end of August 1917, the group was defending the town and station of Villers-Cotteréts, but its situation was soon to change once again.

On 4th January 1918, both the 1st and the 2nd Group of AC were ordered to move to the Trilport – Isle-les-Meldeuses line, a major railway junction. The first big night raid of the German air force on Paris took place during the night of 30th to 31st January. The 47s fired no less than 986 shells that night. A supply of 2,000 rounds was then provided for the Autocanon alone and orders were given to deliver 360 explosive shells to them so that they would be in a position to give possible assistance to the ground defense of the CRP. On 8th March 1918, another major German air raid passed over their positions; they fired 1,800 shells during the night. In these conditions, the Ministry of Armament was asked to manufacture 14,000 47 mm shells in order to maintain the group’s initial supply of 500 rounds per piece and to build up a reserve of at least 10,000 rounds. The great German offensives of spring were accompanied by the continuation of the campaign of night bombardment of Paris and its region by the Gotha bombers, Friedrichshafen, and the giant Riesenflugzeuge planes.

Photograph showing the Unarmored vehicles of the 2nd group. Source:Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

From the end of May 1918, the enemy planes encountered a powerful flak in the north and east of the Parisian agglomeration. From then on, the black cross bombers tried to bypass Paris by the south and to reach the heart of the capital by the region of Corbeil – Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. In the summer, the evolution of the military situation forced the German air force to give up attacking the capital where the last raid was recorded on the night of the 15th/16th September 1918. The 47s were then out of breath and had no further opportunity to engage the enemy. The signing of the armistice led to the rapid demobilization of many anti-air units, essentially composed of old and wounded personnel who were unfit for service at the front. In February 1919, The 21st Gun Group to which the 47 AC were attached was transferred to Arnouville for disbandment. The final fate of the equipment is not precisely known.

Photo showing two armored cars with their crews, probably during a training exercise. The ammo storage is also visible. Source:


Even though the Autocanon de 47 mm Renault was used in a role that was not very well covered by other military means during the First World War (mobile infantry support / anti-air) its overall design was lackluster and it was technically unsound. The drastic change in the way the war was fought led to a more static battlefield, which was completely ill-suited for mobile armored cars. This meant that the Autocanon had to rove up and down the battlefield looking for targets, peek up, fire and quickly get out to avoid retribution. This only exacerbated the fact that the vehicle was already considered slow, thus resulting in its overall replacement by other armored cars that were better designed for their respective roles.

Sketch of the armored car. Source:
Autocanon de 47 Renault mle 1915. Illustration by Freezer.
Autocanon de 47 Renault mle 1915 in camouflage paint. Illustration by Freezer.
Autocanon de 47 Renault mle 1915 Specifications
Dimensions Length: 4.7 m
Width: 1.7 m
Height: 1.7 m
Crew 4
Propulsion 16 hp 4-cycle Renault petrol engine
Suspension Leaf-Spring
Armament Hotchkiss 47 mm L/50 M1902
Armor 7 mm thick armor plates
Production 4


The encyclopedia of French tanks and armored vehicles 1914-1940 from François Vauvillier (Histoire et collections) ISBN 10:2352503221

Early Armoured Cars (Shire Albums) by E. Bartholomew ISBN 10: 0852639082

Histoire de guerre, blindés & matériel No.113

Cold War Cypriot Armor

Valentine Mk.II Improvised Tank in the Cypriot National Guard

Republic of Cyprus (1963-1964)
Improvised Tank – 1 Built

An island at Arms

Cyprus is an island located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In the 1960s, when the Zürich and London Agreements came into effect (16th August 1960), the island nation was granted independence from Great Britain, thus allowing its population to govern the island. Due to the composition of the population (77.1% Greeks and 18.2% Turks), the power struggle caused by the ethnic division and the constitution soon resulted in legal impasses and discontent from both the Greeks and the Turks. Soon enough, nationalist militants started training, with military support from Greece and Turkey, respectively. In 1963, violence erupted, mobilizing the militants and gearing them up for war.


During the Inter-Communal Violence of 1963-1964, the Greek-Cypriot armed militants were called to arms, as shootings were becoming more frequent and violent. The lack of real armored vehicles pushed the fighters into the creation of their own armored tanks. Such a vehicle was based on a Valentine Mk.II chassis. Even though it did not have any anti-materiel capability, it was more than enough for the purpose of infantry suppression and as a morale boost.

The unsinkable aircraft carrier

Cyprus during the Second World War

When Great Britain declared war on the Third Reich on 3rd September 1939, Cyprus also entered the war as a Crown Colony. A few days later (8th September), a force of 500 Cypriots was formed by the Governor of the island, William Denis Battershill, to fill secondary roles like drivers, mechanics, and cooks. In February 1940, the Cyprus Regiment and the Cyprus Volunteer Force were formed as the first fighting forces of Cyprus to face potential Axis aggression. After the end of the battle of Crete, Cyprus was in serious danger, since it was an important air and naval base, allowing access to the important supply routes through the Suez Canal and to the Middle East. As well as those benefits, the location also allowed the British to harass the Italian holdings on the Aegean sea and send reinforcements to Egypt and North Africa. Thus, the British High Command decided that the island should be protected and sent in more forces to reinforce the island, most notably the 7th Australian Division’s Cavalry Regiment. The main job of the force was one of deception and to lure the Germans into thinking that more troops were stationed on the island than there actually were and to thereby dissuade an attempt to seize it. As air raids by the German Luftwaffe and the Italian Regia Aeronautica increased, in order to deter the attackers from actually invading, patrols of light tanks, machine gun carriers, and trucks of the Regiment were taking place all over the island.

From a miner to a fighter

After the end of the Second World War, mining operations, specifically for important copper supplies, continued normally. As the island was still a British Crown Colony, the administration gave foreign companies more territorial rights. Since this was a booming industry, heavier machinery and equipment was going to be needed to carry heavy stones and assist in the mining operations. This is where the Valentine comes into play, since it was a mass-produced vehicle and, by 1945, an obsolete tank. It was, however, the perfect candidate to be used as mining equipment. It is not clear whether it was bought from the British government or if it was given to the colonial authorities for free. The tank had its turret removed, since it was not going to be used for military operations, but for civilian purposes. As such, it was little more than a heavy-tracked tractor that could be used for moving various heavy objects.

When the relations between the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriots reached a boiling point, the turretless tank was recovered from an abandoned quarry (the vehicle was used not just for copper mining) and was restored to working order. The improvised vehicle was given the designation «ΕΦ 19». This comes from the Greek «Εθνική Φρουρά 19», which translates to ‘National Guard 19’. The number 19 is the number of the vehicle, since the Cypriot National Guard at that time used many improvised vehicles.

Possible origin of the tank on the island

The usage of the tank for mining purposes when more dedicated equipment could be used and bought makes its transportation from the UK or other colonies to Cyprus for this explicit purpose unrealistic. A more logical explanation is that the tank was already on the island when the war ended and it was decided to use it at the mines as a recycling alternative. Some Valentine tanks were transported to Cyprus, alongside some Cruiser Mk.II tanks, during 1940-41, when the Allies were afraid that, after the battle of Crete, Cyprus was next. The exact number of vehicles transferred is not clear but, at the end of 1941, most of the Allied forces in Cyprus left the island with their equipment. A photo exists that depicts some Cruiser MK.II tanks alongside a training Valentine MK.II. It is possible that either this, or some other Valentine was left on the island to be used for training for the Cyprus Regiment. As time passed and it became obsolete, instead of transporting it somewhere else, it was simply repurposed for mining operations.

Valentine II and Cruiser Tank Mk.IIA used as training tanks, Cyprus, May 1942. Note that the Valentine has had the gun removed.

Valentine MK.II chassis

The Tank Infantry, Mk.III / Valentine Mk.II was an infantry tank produced by Great Britain during the Second World War. During its production life, it saw many changes, having many variants, all of them characterized by one single trait: its reliability. It was also supplied to the USSR and built under license in Canada. The Mk.II was the first version of the tank to use a diesel engine. The turret was manned by a crew of two with the 2-pounder gun as the primary armament of the vehicle and had a coaxial 7.92 mm Besa machine gun. The Mk II was built in 1940-41. Around 700 were built and the tank saw combat in multiple theaters, since it was used by the Soviets and the British Commonwealth forces in places such as North Africa, the Western and the Eastern Fronts.

The chassis of the Valentine tank could provide sufficient protection from small arms fire and light anti-tank guns. To be more specific, the glacis was 60 mm (60°) thick and the lower part 20 mm (20°) thick. The sides were 60 mm (90°) thick, the rear 17 mm (30°) thick and the bottom of the tank 7 mm thick. The engine used for this specific model was the AEC A190 diesel which had a maximum output of 131 hp at 1,800 rpm. The regular tank had a power-to-weight ratio of 8.1 hp/ton and a fuel of capacity of 164 liters. The vehicle was 5.41 m long, 2.63 m wide and roughly 2.3 m – 2.5 m tall (with the box turret).

Front view of the vehicle
Rear view of the vehicle, showing the box superstructure and the designation “ΕΦ 19”.

The modification

Being a turretless tank, this vehicle could not provide sufficient cover for the crew and it could not be used offensively. The Greek Cypriots decided to build a rectangular superstructure with a truncated pyramid roof. It had multiple gun ports to allow the gunner to provide cover all around the vehicle. The installation of the box was made possible by the EOKA (Greek: Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston, English: ‘National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters’) fighter Sophocles Potamitis.

Photo of Sophocles Potamitis, an EOKA fighter from 1955 to 1959 . He died on 23 March 2016.


The weapons fired through the slits of the vehicle were a Bren gun or other small arms, such as the Sterling or Sten SMG. The improvised turret had two trap doors, one on the front upper part and one at the back, in the upper part. These were made so that the crew could have access to the vehicle. The box was made from 8 mm thick steel plates that were welded together. It was roughly 1.5 meters tall and 2 meters wide. Other less noticeable modifications were the removal of the periscopes that were located above the driver’s hatch. The driver’s vision port had no cover/plug and thus a piece of metal was welded above the vision port to provide as much cover as possible. The water deflectors and headlights usually located on the upper plate were also missing, as well as the side skirts that could be found on a lot of Valentine Mk.IIs.

The improvised Valentine on a parade on 1st April,1964 at Limassol. Here, the modifications can be seen clearly, as well as the Cypriot coat of arms that is missing from the vehicle nowadays. The two Greek-Cypriot soldiers are posing with a United Defense M42 / Marlin gun and a Bren light machine gun.

Source: “Τα τεθωρακισμένα στην Κύπρο εξέλιξη και δράση”

A closer view of the Cypriot coat of arms. The background color is copper-yellow, symbolizing the large deposits of copper ore on the island. The two-part wreath represents the two ethnic groups, the Greeks and Turks. The number 1960 represents the year of independence from British rule.


The Inter-Communal War of 1963-64

After Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, there were multiple problems relating to the constitution. This forced the President, Archbishop Makarios III (Greek: Μακάριος Γ΄, born Michael Christodoulou Mouskos, Greek: Μιχαήλ Χριστοδούλου Μούσκος), to submit some suggestions for changes to the constitution to his counterpart, vice president Fazıl Küçük (Greek: Φαζίλ Κιουτσούκ) on 30th November 1963. These changes were also sent to the Governments of Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey. Makarios himself said that the current constitution contained multiple sections that undermined democratic values and created friction between the two culturally different ethnicities. Makarios made the suggestions with the intention of bringing the Turkish side to the diplomatic table so that a new constitution could eliminate the causes that created friction between the Greeks and the Turks.

However, the Turkish population refused to negotiate, since they felt that these suggestions completely undermined the 1960s constitution. The refusal to come to the negotiation table and the fact that both sides were preparing paramilitary groups that were mostly acting independently from their political representatives resulted in the brutal fights that followed in December of 1963.

The fighting mainly began when the Greek side received information that the Turks were going to transport 300 automatic rifles to areas outside of Nicosia. This led to Greek police officers starting to enact car searches, something that the Turks did not agree to. The Turkish population was instigated to refuse and resist any kind of search conducted by Greek police officers. On the 21st of December 1963, at 2:30 a.m., Greek police officers tried to search the car of a Turkish couple but things quickly got out of hand. Both sides called for reinforcements, resulting in the death of the couple and one Greek police officer getting wounded. Despite the best efforts of both Makarios and Fazıl Küçük for peace and cooperation, the hidden fortifications of both sides got manned and violence and fighting started across the whole island. As the situation was becoming worse, the British commissioner’s office asked Makarios to allow him to intervene in order to maintain peace.

Makarios refused this suggestion at first, but when the Greek government agreed, he also accepted this suggestion. On the 26th of December 1963, a three-part peacekeeping force was formed. This resulted in what is called “The Green Line”, which, according to Makarios, “was a practical solution in order to maintain peace at that given time to maintain a cease-fire agreement”. The Green Line separated the Turkish and the Greek populations in the big cities of Cyprus.

Photos of archbishop and President Makarios III and vice-president Fazıl Küçük.


The tank was deployed and used in the city of Limassol, which is located on the southern coast of Cyprus and is the capital of the district with the same name. The vehicle served with the 7th Regular Group of Volunteers of the National Guard. It was used successfully during the clashes of February 1964 at Limassol. As a result, Limassol was one of the few big cities that was not divided since the forces there managed to eliminate all of the Turkish resistance.

On 4th February, the Turkish part of Limassol was attacked by Greek-Cypriot forces. Greek-Cypriots manage to fully capture the port of Limassol by destroying large amounts of Turkish property. It was advised that there were 150 casualties at Limassol, where the Greek Cypriot police was firing heavy explosives into the Turkish quarter. On 9th and 10th February, there had been sporadic firing in the city and serious fighting in the nearby villages of Asomatos and Episkom. The cease-fire arrangements did not provide for the establishment of a cease-fire line and a consequent restriction of inter-communal movement. As a result, the Limassol residents of both communities continued to have daily contact with each other, especially on the 13th and 14th of February. Another possible engagement during which the tank might have been used was in the fight that took place on 7th March, when a large armed Greek-Cypriot force from Limassol entered the village of Mallia (Greek: ‘Μαλλιά’, Turkish: ‘Malya’) and attacked the Turkish-Cypriot quarter, which had attracted a large Turkish refugee population from other nearby villages and were outnumbering the Greek-Cypriots ten to one, being roughly 200 people. The government used the Greek-Cypriot force to disarm the Turkish-Cypriots.

When the fighting began, the entire Turkish-Cypriot population retreated into the community’s school and was placed under siege. British troops intervened and a cease-fire was accepted on 10th March, after the Turkish-Cypriots agreed to surrender their arms to the Greek-Cypriots. After these battles, the vehicle could be spotted during the 1st April military parade at Limassol. This was meant to boost the local population’s morale. It was later kept in storage at the police station of Limassol, alongside other improvised vehicles, probably due to being obsolete and replaced by other more mobile armored vehicles.

The Valentine tank during the clashes of February 1964 at Limassol.

Source: “Τα τεθωρακισμένα στην Κύπρο εξέλιξη και δράση”

The Valentine in storage at the police station of Limassol, alongside other improvised vehicles.

Source: “Τα τεθωρακισμένα στην Κύπρο εξέλιξη και δράση”

Conclusion and Fate

As the conflict broke out, the improvised vehicle proved to be effective when used correctly. The fact that most insurgents were not properly equipped to face any kind of armored vehicles, let alone a tank, made the Valentine an ideal asset to be used in urban environments for suppressing and supporting infantry.

Furthermore, it was highly effective in boosting the morale of the local population. On the other hand, the vehicle was already obsolete by the end of the Second World War, and new more agile and suitable vehicles for urban operations were coming, which also carried heavier weapons systems, while the Valentine had only one machine gun. The fact that this relic of WW2 was totally obsolete as a modern tank made no difference in this type of low-intensity conflict characterized by lightly armed forces. The vehicle has survived to this day and it will be exhibited at the new war museum when it is completed.

The Valentine tank alongside other Cypriot AFVs days before they were moved out of the museum space.


Illustration of the Improvised Valentine tank.

Specifications Table

Dimensions(m): 2.3 to 2.5 m High, 5.41 m Long, 2.63 m Wide
Crew: 2 – 3 (driver/Gunner )
Fuel capacity: 164 liters
Propulsion: AEC A190 diesel
Suspension: Triple wheel bogies on springs with Newton hydraulic shock absorbers.
Coil Springs
Armaments: .303 calibre Bren Machine Gun
Other small arms
Armor: hull nose : 60 mm (60°), lower part : 20 mm (20°), sides : 60 mm (90°), rear : 17 mm (30°) , bottom : 7 mm
Production: 1

ISBN :978-960-88355-4-2 (“Τα τεθωρακισμένα στην Κύπρο εξέλιξη και δράση”) Writer : Ιωαννης Σ. Μαμουνιδακης ( for the last image)
Book (“Το Κυπριακο Πρόβλημα 1960-1974” /Writer: Γιαννος Ν.Κρανιδιωτης /Publisher : “Θεμελιο” / Year of publication :1984)
Magazine:(“Αρχαιολογια : Κυπρος ενα σταυροδρομι”) Vol .24 , September 1987 Page 62.
ISBN: 9963-9044-0-8 (“Ιστορια του Κυπριακου Τα χρονια μετα την ανεξαρτησια 1960-2004”) Writer : Γιαννης Κ. Λαμπρου

Has Own Video WW2 Japanese Medium Tanks

Type 3 Chi-Nu

Empire of Japan (1944-1945)
Medium Tank – 144-166 Built

The Type 3 Medium Tank Chi-Nu (三式中戦車 チヌ, San-shiki chū-sensha Chi-nu) (“Imperial Year 2603 Medium tank Model 10”) was a medium tank of the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. The tank was an improved version of the Type 1 medium tank Chi-He, which itself was an improved version of the Type 97 Chi-Ha tank. The Chi-Nu was the last tank that was deployed in the Japanese tank forces during World War II. It was designed in 1943, when it became apparent that even the high-velocity 47 mm (1.85 in) gun on the Type 97 Chi-Ha Kai would not be enough against the M4 Sherman’s frontal armor. It was produced from 1944 until 1945 as a means of countering the American-made M4 Sherman, which completely outperformed the smaller and weaker Chi-Ha, until the bigger and better Type 4 Chi-To could be produced in sufficient numbers. This never happened, since the Empire of Japan had massive logistical problems, with a lot of precious steel being prioritized for the Imperial Navy for ship construction. The Chi-Nu was produced until the end of the war.

The last Type 3 Chi-Nu at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Military Ordnance Training School at Tsuchiura.
Source: Wikipedia

Context- Japanese Tank Experience

Past Tank Experience

Since the production of the Type 3 Chi-Nu did not commence until the end of 1944, the Japanese Imperial Army had gathered enough experience from past and more recent campaigns. The backbone of the Imperial Army consisted of lighter and lightly armed tanks and tankettes. Soon enough, it became apparent that these models, which were designed for mainly countering infantry, were insufficient when it came to tank combat due to their weak armor and weaker cannons. One example is the poor showing of Japanese types in tank-vs-tank combat with the Red Army in 1939 at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol. This resulted in the decision to upgrade the Type 97 Chi-Ha.

Another example is that of the Burma Campaign in 1942, where the British were still using the somewhat obsolete M3 Stuarts of 7th Hussars and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments. When the Japanese 1st Tank Regiment arrived in Burma, they conducted some test-firing against an M3 Stuart hulk. They discovered that the armor-piercing round of the Type 97’s low velocity 5.7 cm gun (approximately 20 mm at 500 m) could not penetrate the M3 from any angle, at any range. This made them worried about how they would continue any future assaults since they did not possess the means to easily dispatch the enemy armor. This experience made the Japanese realize that their tanks were no longer facing just infantry, but they needed to be able to attack heavily armored targets as well. Thus, when the need for a new tank arose, a lot of past design mistakes were addressed and fixed.

The Japanese Doctrine and Tank Tactics

In order to understand the design philosophy behind the Japanese tanks, the tactics that were also used with these vehicles must also be understood. For the Japanese Army, speed and agility were of high importance, since tanks were used for a variety of roles, from scouting to infantry support. This meant that the tanks had to be able to fire quickly and relocate to the new objective as fast as possible. Japanese tankers would continue to advance even if they outran their accompanying infantry, or the infantry halted or fell behind under enemy fire. In case a tank advanced way too far ahead of the rest of the tank formation, it would normally return to them, but Japanese tankers were generally quite aggressive. If infantry was not available, the tankers would dismount to clear obstacles themselves, and would even attack the Allied troops covering them.

When attacking a strong anti-tank defense, wave tactics were used. If the defenses were light, they would be massed forward. The infantry would follow closely behind the tanks, with artillery neutralizing defenses with high explosive and smoke shells. In some instances, infantrymen rode on the backs of tanks. Japanese tanks were used in both standalone operations (mostly reconnaissance) and combined arms fights.


The Type 3 Chi-Nu medium tank was a further development of the Type 1 Chi-He tank, which itself derived from the Type 97 Chi-Ha tank. In 1943, the IJA got information about new Allied tanks, such as the Sherman, from their military attaché in Berlin. Thus, it was decided that a new and better tank would be needed to face the new threat. The IJA learned of advances in tank technology through samples of the Pz.Kpfw. III, Pz.Kpfw. IV, Panther, and Tiger tanks that were ordered and by examining captured examples of the Soviet T-34s and American M4 Shermans in Germany. Designing an entirely new tank required too much time and the Japanese were in need of a better medium tank as fast as possible, so the Type 3 Chi-Nu was developed as a stopgap. Its predecessor the Type 1 Chi-He was an improved version of the Type 97 Chi-Ha created by using the Type 1 47 mm cannon along with other changes, such as simplifying the front glacis plate using a straight flat plate. Also, more extensive use of welding was introduced to reduce the risk of rivets being shattered inward if hit in combat.

Type 1 Chi-He
source: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945 / Osprey Publishing

Although the new design of the Type 3 Chi-Nu medium tank was accepted for service in 1943, production of the Type 1 Chi-He continued at Mitsubishi until November 1943. The development of Chi-Nu started in May 1943 and was completed in October of that year, which was considered incredibly fast for that time. However, Type 3 Chi-Nu production did not begin until September 1944. Mitsubishi was chosen for production, delivering 55 vehicles in 1944 and 89-111 more until the last days of the war. These low numbers were due to shortages of steel, since priority was given to warship construction.

Type 3 Chi-Nu production line. In the foreground are rolled tank tracks.
Source: AJ-Press Tank Power № 012


Overall Design

The initial Army Technical Bureau program, which would lead to the Type 4 Chi-To, was not ready on schedule, accumulating problems and production delays. The Army decided to produce the Type 3 Chi-Nu based on the Type 1 Chi-He chassis. The Type 1 chassis was very similar to that of the Type 97 Chi-Ha, but slightly longer and wider, with thicker side armor and a 50 mm (1.97 in) strong frontal glacis. The hull was simplistic and easy to produce. It consisted of a slightly angled lower front plate and an angled upper mid-front plate which led to the horizontal front plate.

The fighting compartment, alongside the ammunition storage, was located at the center of the vehicle, with the turret ring on top that was increased in diameter to 170 centimeters. The tank was supported by 6 road wheels on each side. The front and rear road wheels were independently sprung, while the center wheels sprung in pairs by coil springs. The tracks were the most common type in Japanese service, a centered type made from steel and connected with a dry pin.

The turret was manned by three crew members (commander, gunner, and loader) and featured the main gun as well as more ammunition storage. The turret was a brand-new hexagonal design made of welded plates, 50 mm (1.97 in) thick (front). There was a commander cupola similar to that of the Type 1 Chi-He and Type 97 Chi-Ha Kai, equipped with a rotatable ring arm mounting a regular Type 97 machine gun for Anti Aircraft (AA) close defense. The cupola on the turret was on the right-hand side and was given several bullet-proof glass episcopes for observation. Both sides of the turret had observation hatches that also featured pistol ports. Another large hatch existed at the turret’s rear to ease ammunition refilling.

Seventy 75 mm shells were loaded into the tank, 30 of which were placed on the floor of the fighting compartment, and the remaining 40 were placed in the turret. The latter also featured an electric traverse, but fine precision adjustments were performed manually. The radio that was used by the crew was the Type 3 Ko, which could send and receive code and voice signals. The large antennas of the vehicle were located on the rear of the tank, at the left and right edges of the engine block, giving the vehicle an effective range of 15 km for voice communication or 50 km for telegraphic. The vehicle weighed around 18.8 tonnes and the chassis had a height of 2.61 m, width of 2.33 m, and length of 5.73 m.

Side and top views of the Chi-He tank on which the Chi-Nu was based.
The only significant difference was the turret.
Source: Profile AFV Weapons vol.49


The engine was a Mitsubishi Type 100 air-cooled V-12 diesel engine. It was located at the rear of the tank and had a separated compartment. Two small access hatches at the top of the chassis made access to the engine’s batteries easier for the crew. The engine gave out 240 horsepower at 2,000 rpm, giving a power-to-weight ratio of 12.76 hp/t. It had an operational range of 210 km thanks to a fuel capacity of 235 l (Diesel). The maximum speed was 38.3 km/h on the road. The transmission consisted of 4 forward gears and one reverse. Steering the vehicle was made possible with the use of a clutch brake. The suspension was retained from the Type 1 Chi-He, which used a combination of bell crank and exterior coil springs, with three return rollers per side. This type of suspension did not consume as much space under the floor as torsion bars, and it also offered good terrain-following performance. A crawler tensioning device was mounted at the base of the guidance wheels.

Chi-Nu during assembly, showing the transmission and the partially installed controls.
Source: Wikipedia
A photograph that shows a hull numbered no.75, Two roadwheel carriages mounted on the hull alongside the coil springs and the bell cranks can be seen.
Source: AJ-Press Tank Power № 012


Main Gun

The main armament of the Type 3 Chi-Nu was a stopgap weapon derived from the Type 90 field artillery gun, itself derived from the French Schneider 75 mm (2.95 in) field gun of WW1. It was adopted as the Type 90 and, due to the short life of its barrel, was modified to have a lower muzzle velocity. The 75 mm Type 90 gun was already tested as the main armament of the Type 1 Ho-Ni tank destroyer. In 1943, the Japanese Army decided to modify the cannon so that it could be reliably used by tanks and changed its designation into the Type 3 75 mm Anti-tank cannon Models I and II. The Type 1 Ho-Ni III tank destroyer was equipped with the Model I, while the Type 3 Chi-Nu was given the Model II. Both weapons were modified by giving them modern aiming devices which had not been present on the original Type 90 cannon. Just like the Type 90, the Type 3’s long monobloc tube had a horizontal sliding, hand-operated breech block and was fitted with a muzzle brake with six ports for gas escape.

The gun was accepted for use when it was realized that the model Type 90 anti-tank artillery could penetrate the M4 Sherman’s armor at a distance of 500 m. However, it was highly advisable to attack the rear or side of the enemy tank in order to minimize the risk of ricochets.

The Model II had a weight of 1,000 kg, firing a 75 x 424R shell cartridge. The muzzle velocity was 668 meters per second when firing the standard Type 1 armor-piercing projectile (APHE, Armor Piercing High Explosive). The shell weighed 6.56-6.6 kg and was capable of penetrating 84 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armor) at a distance of 500 yards (550 m).

Penetration values at a 90-degree angle of impact
Penetration(m) Distance
2.4 inches (61 mm) 1,500 yards (about 1,370 m)
2.8 inches (71 mm) 1,000 yards (about 915 m)
3.0 inches (76 mm) 750 yards (about 685 m)
3.3 inches (83 mm) 500 yards (about 457 m)
3.5 inches (89 mm) 250 yards (about 230 m)

( The data shown above is for the Type 90 gun firing the Type 1 Shell )
Source:,_No._34_Japanese_Tank_and_Antitank_Warfare_1945.pdf p-122)

The main gun as seen from the hull’s interior.
Source: AJ-Press Tank Power № 012

The testing results of the Type 1 APHE shell were mediocre and did not meet the requirements of the cannon. To improve on this, the Army developed a Tungsten-Chromium steel anti-tank shell known as the Type 1 APHE Tokko Ko. This shell had an improved muzzle velocity of 683 m/s and was capable of penetrating 100 mm of RHA at 500 yards, and 85 mm at 1,000 yards. These shells held around 10 grams of explosive material each. Explosives were heavily prioritized for Japanese tank cannon shells in order to cause as much post-penetration damage as possible. Due to problems with the distribution of rare metals, a set of armor-piercing shells contained 0.5 to 0.75% of carbon, unlike American anti-tank shells that were using high-carbon steel and 1% chromium, 0.2% molybdenum, and other small amounts of nickel.

The gun elevation was -10 to +25 degrees. It used a hydro-pneumatic recoil and was loaded manually through a horizontal sliding-block breech.

Gun table data
Designation(m) Type 3 75 mm Anti-tank
Caliber 75 mm
Barrel length 2.850 m (9 ft 4.2 in) (L/38)
Muzzle velocity 680 m/s
Shell Weight 6.6 Kg
Elevation: -10 to +25 degrees
Front view of the Type 3 Chi-Nu tank with the Type 3 75 mm Anti-tank cannon.
Source : Wikipedia

Secondary Armament

The Type 3 Chi-Nu was also equipped with 1 or 2 Type 97 (九七式車載重機関銃, Kyū-nana-shiki shasai jū-kikanjū) 7.7 mm tank machine guns. One was located on a firing port at the right side of the tank’s frontal armor plate, next to the driver’s view port. The second was located on a rotatable ring arm for AA close defense. The weapon was gas operated and air cooled. It was controlled with the use of a specially designed stock and could be aimed with the assistance of conventional sights. When used by armored vehicles, the gun would receive a telescopic sight of 1 ½ power with a 30-degree field of view. The sight was fitted with a heavy rubber eye-pad to protect the gunner. It was fed by a vertical, 20-round box magazine and used the same 7.7×58 mm Arisaka cartridges used in the Type 99 rifle. Due to getting easily overheated, the weapon was fired in bursts. The heavy machine gun ammunition load that was carried per vehicle was 3,680 rounds.

The Type 97 machine gun with the telescopic sight as well as the 20 round magazine.
Source : Wikipedia


The armor was the exact same as that of the Type 1 Chi-He, since they shared the same chassis. Even though this was an upgrade from the Type 97 Chi-Ha, it was still not enough to protect the crew and internal components from the more powerful Sherman or T-34 tanks. The whole armor construction was made possible via welding metal plates that had been processed so that they were harder on the surface while the metal deeper underneath remained soft (face hardening). Starting from the top, the turret had a thickness of 50 mm at the front, the turret cheeks were 35 mm thick, the turret sides 20 mm, the rear 25 mm and the roof was 10 mm thick. The frontal hull armor consisted of a 50 mm plate, the sides and the rear were 20 mm, 25 mm behind the suspension, and 12 mm on the top back plate of the engine compartment.

The entire chassis is clearly visible in this image. The tracks as well as some parts of the turret are still not assembled. 1945.
Source :


The crew was composed of the commander, the gunner, the loader, the driver, and the hull machine gunner. Three members of the crew were housed in the turret and two in the hull. The driver was seated on the left side and had a small-sized viewport, while the machine gunner/radio operator sat on the right side of the hull, behind the hull machine gun. In the turret, the commander’s cupola was located at the right side of the turret roof, which allowed them to have a better field (360 degrees) of view while the loader and the gunner were located on the left side of the turret and were able to enter and leave the vehicle with the use of one large hatch that was located on the top of the roof.


One of the most commonly known variants of the Type 3 Chi-Nu was the Chi-Nu Kai, which used the chassis of the Chi-Nu tank with the new turret of the Type 4 Chi-To tank and the much more powerful Type 5 75 mm tank gun. The gun could be elevated between -6.5 to +20 degrees. It had an 850 m/s muzzle velocity giving an armor penetration of 75 millimeters at 1,000 meters. It was tested at the Irago Firing Ground.

Another variant of the tank came in the form of an early production model that used the Type 90 75 mm artillery field gun before it was redesigned and redesignated as the Type 3.

Front and side view of the Chi-Nu Kai.
Source: Tanks in Japan(in sources)
The original model of the Type 3 Chi-Nu. Prior to mass production, the tank used the Type 90 75 mm artillery field gun.


The Type 3 Chi-Nu did not see any combat since it was kept in reserve for the protection of the Japanese home islands for the upcoming Allied invasion that never came. The tanks would have been used for massive counterattacks and as a shock force to dislodge the Allied forces from their positions. A significant force was in Fukuoka, on Kyushu, and served with the 4th Tank Division. Some of them were kept at the imperial palace with the Emperor’s Imperial Guard until the dissolution of the Empire. At least some of the vehicles received a three-tone camouflage.

Medium Tanks being photographed after the end of the war, on October 14th 1945, in Hakata, Fukuoka prefecture on Kyushu
Source:No.34 The Imperial Japanese Tanks, Gun Tanks – Self Propelled Guns.pdf

The units deployed to counter the potential Allied invasions were the 19th Tank Regiment (20 tanks) and 42nd Tank Regiment (10 tanks) of the 4th Independent Tank Brigade, the 18th Tank Regiment (20 tanks) and 43rd Tank Regiment (10 tanks) of the 5th Independent Tank Brigade, and the 37th Tank Regiment (20 tanks) and 40th Tank Regiment (20 tanks) of the 6th Independent Tank Brigade.

One of these tanks was brought to the U.S. after the war, and another was displayed at the Tokyo Ordnance Depot in Akabane. This was returned to the Defense Agency after the U.S. military withdrew. It is currently stored as a reference weapon at the Ground Self-Defense Force Weapons School in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Type 3 Chi-Nu at the Ordnance School of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force some years after WW2.
Source: Profile AFV Weapons vol.49


Even though Type 3 Chi-Nu was the only Japanese mass-produced tank that could face the more powerful Sherman, it still lacked in the armor sector, since it was only designed to serve as a stopgap tank. The combination of the industrial manufacturing capacity being given to the naval forces as well as the lack of raw materials ended up making the Type 3 a very valuable asset that could not be spared for naval assaults or other offensives in the Pacific. Thus it was kept on the Home Island for defensive purposes only.

Chi-Nu tank captured by the American forces after the Japanese surrender. Notice the writing on the hull and turret.
Source: Wikipedia
Type 3 Chi-Nu
Standard Type 3 Chi-Nu with the army camouflage, 4th Armored Division, Kyu-Shu, late 1944.
Up-gunned Type 3 Chi-Nu Kai, testing the Type 5 75 mm (2.95 in) Tank Gun, mid-1945. Both illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Specifications Table

Dimensions(m): 5.73 x 2.61 x 2.33
Crew: 5 (driver, commander, gunner, loader, hull gunner/radio)
Weight: 18.8 tons
Propulsion: Mitsubishi Type 100, 21.7 l, V-12 diesel, 240 hp (179 kW) at 2,000 rpm
Suspension: Bell crank
Armaments: 75 mm Type 3 gun
Type 97 7.7 mm machine-gun
Speed: 38.3 km/h
Trench Crossing Capability: 2.5 m
Armor: 12 to 50 mm hull & turret
Production: 144-166

Extra Images

Shock absorber being mounted to the side of the hull.
Source:AJ-Press Tank Power № 012
The right side of a hull with roadwheel carriages and track rollers.
Source: AJ-Press Tank Power № 012
The transmission being installed.
source:AJ-Press Tank Power № 012
After the war, a Type 3 medium tank was confiscated by the U.S. military and is shown here being prepared for transport back to Japan.
Source: AJ-Press Tank Power № 012


  1. Japanese tanks and tanks tactics /ISO PUBLICATIONS
  2. World War II Japanese Tank Tactics / Osprey Publishing
  3. Japanese Tanks 1939-1945 / Osprey Publishing
  4. Profile AFV Weapons vol.49
  5. No.34 The Imperial Japanese Tanks, Gun Tanks – Self Propelled Guns.pdf
  7. M4 Sherman vs Type 97 Chi-Ha The pacific 1945 by J. Zaloga / Osprey Publishing
  9. AJ-Press Tank Power № 012
  10. Tanks in Japan ,Supervised by Tomio Hara ,author ,Akira Takeuchi ,1 revised and enlarged edition ,Kugami Publishing Co.
Has Own Video WW1 German Prototypes

Großkampfwagen / K-Wagen

German Empire (1917-1918)
Super Heavy Tank – 2 Built (Not Completed)

The Großkampfwagen, also known as ‘K-Wagen’ for short, was a super heavy tank developed for the Imperial German Army in 1917, near the end of the first World War (1914-1918), with the purpose of breaking through the stalemate of trench warfare that had already cost both the Entente and the Central Powers many lives. It was an enormous vehicle, reminiscent more of a land battleship rather than a tank. Only two were partially built by the end of the war.

A K-Wagen drawing. Source: Wikipedia Commons


The First World War on the Western Front was mainly fought using extensive and well-defended trench systems. Thus, the front was mainly characterized by slow advances from both sides that were either too costly and deadly or too insignificant to make a real change on the battlefield. During the First World War, both the Central Powers and the Entente started developing their own designs of tanks / tracked gun platforms to achieve a breakthrough in each other’s lines by using the firepower and mobility of these vehicles. The Germans managed to field only a very small amount of domestically designed and built machines for lack of incentive and materials. The tanks that were put into action by the Allies remained, in general, tied to an infantry support role and served as a form of mobile pillbox.

By 1918, both sides were making plans for a new generation of tanks that would play a decisive role in 1919, each hoping to break the deadlock on the battlefield. The German General Staff took little interest in tanks during 1917, focusing more on specialized infantry (Sturmtruppen) that could infiltrate the enemy lines and take trenches with the use of grenades and flanking maneuvers. However, improvements in the British tanks and the need to return to the offensive in the West provoked new policies in 1917. The slowly evolving German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V was ordered into low-rate production in early 1917, but other designs were already being made before it was even ready. A supporting giant tank was proposed to augment the A7V, the Großkampfwagen. The construction of the new tank design was meant to be ready for an upcoming offensive that was planned, but the tank was not completed in time.


The original design of the K-Wagen was made by Captain Weger, while detailed building plans were further worked out by Reserve Captain and chief engineer Wilhelm Adolph Theodor Müller. On March 31st, 1917, this design was submitted to the War Ministry by the Department of the Chief of Field Vehicles (DE: Dienststelle des Chef(s) des Feldkraftfahrwesens, Chefkraft for short). This department was established on 15th December 1916 and placed under direct control of the German Great Headquarters. It was tasked with managing all automotive matters, including the construction of armored vehicles. . The Ministry initially rejected the design, not based upon its characteristics, but wanted to await the test results of the A7V tank.

After rejection, a special commission was formed which, on April 28th, 1917, determined new construction requirements. In the meantime, further news about British and French combat vehicles became available, so greater attention was paid by the Germans to their own developments. On June 28th, 1917, the construction of 10 vehicles was approved by the War Ministry. The original cost of each unit was budgeted at 600,000 marks (roughly a million USD in 2015 values), but the actual cost rapidly increased when assembly work began on the first two vehicles.

Drawing depicting an early version of the K-Wagen with the initial design of the sponsons. Here we can see the two large 650 hp engines, the longer hull and an earlier design of the exhaust mufflers. The fighting compartments (sponsons) are also different, being more rectangular in shape. Source: Typenkompass Panzerkampfwagen im Ersten Weltkrieg

From the very start of the designing process, multiple issues started to arise. Most of these problems came from the fact that the requirements were illogical, given the production capacity and the lack of raw materials at that time. Such requirements were a trench-spanning capability of 4 meters, an armament of one or two semi-automatic cannons (5-7 cm in caliber), four machine guns, two flamethrowers, and an 18-man crew. The armament was to be fitted in sponsons and rotatable turrets, assuring fire coverage of 360 degrees, while armor thickness would range from 30 mm on the front and sides, 20 mm on the roof, and 10 mm on the floor. All of this, which was estimated to weigh around 100 tonnes, would be powered by 400 hp that came from two separate motors (200 hp each).

It was feared that the huge vehicle would be obliterated by enemy artillery fire as it moved slowly across no-man’s land, which troubled a lot of tacticians. Other important issues were the fact that this was a completely new design, meaning that no previous manufacturing techniques could be utilized to ease production. As a solution, bridge building companies were contracted for the vehicle’s construction. Only machine toolmakers had the ability to make the gears. The clutches also needed to be made from scratch. As for the tracks, they were derived from excavation machinery. Furthermore, the one year time window that the companies were given to build the tanks was cut to just 8 months by the German High Command (DE: Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL for short), which was responsible for a multitude of things concerning the German war effort from personnel to weaponry, political sectors and theaters of war.

One of the first issues to be addressed was the inadequate engine power, so the two 200 hp motors were replaced with a pair of 650 hp Daimler engines instead. This more than tripled the available power, but increased the weight significantly. Due to all the issues that had constantly to be fixed, the design was changed many times, prolonging the production time of the first two vehicles. By November 1917, their completion was far from in sight. As the development continued and the German Army was gathering more experience on tank warfare and design from the A7Vs and the captured British Tanks some doubts started to arise of the practicality of the K-Wagen. Specifically on October 18th, 1917, the test department of the field vehicle office stated that the K-Wagen was more suitable for positional warfare, which completely undermined the reason that this vehicle was designed for in the first place.

On November 20th, 1917,  the Battle of Cambrai took place. The British attacked with 8 divisions and 365 Mark IV tanks. They achieved a breakthrough over a width of 13 km and a depth of 9 km. Eight thousand prisoners and about 100 guns fell into their hands. Admittedly, the Germans succeeded in taking the terrain back by December 7th. The shock of the largest (and initially successful) combat vehicle deployment to date must have left quite the impression on the Germans. This brought the Germans to the realization of the usefulness of the armored tanks.

However, a report by the Chief of Motor Transport (DE: Chefkraft) of the June 7th, 1918 states, among other things: that the K-Wagen is no longer being produced, except for ten cars that were already ordered. The War Ministry had not yet made up its mind definitively at this point, in a note dated  July 17th, 1918, the following can be found: “K-Wagen and other models are still under construction”. The discussion about the K-Wagen continued for several months.The extraordinary situation in the West prompted the Chefkraft to hold an in-depth discussion with the OHL. Which took place on the first of December 1917. In the discussion we read, among other things that:

The OHL insists on the deployment of armoured cars on the Western Front, as soon as possible and in the greatest possible number. The production must therefore be accelerated with all the forces and all the means available to accelerate

  • The completion of the A7V vehicles
  • The construction of the K-Wagen
  • The utilisation of the combat vehicles captured from the 2nd Army and still usable.

After the A7V was considered to be discontinued, the K-Wagen would provide the solution. But the decision in favour of a smaller combat vehicle was so pronounced that it is no longer mentioned in the “large programme” of the October 23rd, 1918 for future weapons production. The idea of creating a super armoured fighting vehicle had died.


Overall Design

Author’s Note: Since the K-Wagen was never finished and got its design changed enough times during production, there is a lot of conflicting information in the sources that provide the data.

It was 13 meters long, 6 meters wide, and 2.7 – 3 meters high; these dimensions gave the vehicle an enormous 120 tonnes of weight. Originally the tank was designed to be longer and thus heavier reaching roughly 150 tonnes but due to a redesign and a shortening of the hull the total weight was reduced to the 120 tonnes mark. Even though it was based on the general design of the British Mark tanks, the K-Wagen was far from a copy and had many original features. The hull was sprung on to the track plates on locomotive springs and the tracks were unusual in carrying rollers on the track plates, instead of running over fixed rollers. For the electrical communications and control equipment, naval experience came into play since it was the same system as used in U-boats. The armor of the K-Wagen was 40 mm on the front consisting of two separate 20 mm plates that were stacked together, 30 mm on the sides, another 20 mm on the rear and roof and 10 mm on the floor.


The K-Wagen was powered by two glycerine-cooled Daimler-Benz 6-cylinder naval diesel engines, each capable of producing 650 hp, totalling 1300 hp. Coupled to an electromagnetic clutch transmission, it gave the vehicle a projected top speed of 7,5 km/h. The placement of the tracks was similar to the British tanks, following the vehicle’s circumference on the sides albeit it covered over the top. The two exhaust mufflers were located on the roof of the tank sending the exhaust fumes upwards. Directly behind those, air intakes for the engines were located. The two sponsons also had air intakes installed on the roof, most likely for ventilation of the crew compartment.

Rear view of the K-Wagen showing the exhaust mufflers and the air intakes.

Source: German Tanks in World War I The A7V and early tank development Wolfgang Schneider & Rainer Strasheim

Sketches showing the electrical Clutch (top) and the tracks with the rollers placed on top of them (bottom caption reads:all screws/bolts must be tightened and secured to prevent accidental loosening)

Source: Waffen Revue Nr.52


The K-Wagen was originally required to carry cannons, machine guns, and flamethrowers, but as the development continued, the latter ones were scrapped. As for the cannons, the 8.8 cm guns from Krupp were just as unsuitable as the 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art. The Artillery Test Commission then provided 7.7 cm guns from the Idstein Fortress. They were chosen because they had a recoil length of only 40 cm and therefore seemed suitable for the narrow fighting area. Four 7.7 cm guns were assembled in their two side compartments, each of which housed two guns, one gun firing forwards while the other fired to the rear, giving the vehicle the capability to fire at 360 degrees. The ranges of the individual guns crossed each other. The accommodation in the sponsons limited the firing elevation, but still allowed to fire to ranges up to 6,400 metres. Ammunition provided for the guns included 800 rounds for the cannons, and 21,000 rounds for the seven 7.92 mm Maxim MG08/15 machine guns. Each cannon was accompanied by a cylindrical shield that had a long vertical slit that provided the gunner with a clear line of sight. Additionally, at the left of each gun, above the cam lock, an aiming scope could be found as the gunner was seated on the left. The combined recuperator and barrel brake were located under the barrel. The elevation and aiming mechanisms were all hand-cranked using hand wheels for traverse. Due to the limited space, these wheels had to be arranged concentrically, so that there was enough space left for the lateral swivelling of the gun. The operation of the handwheels was therefore very uncomfortable.

Rear and front view of the 7.7cm cannons of the K-Wagen.
Views of the cannons and their mounts.

Source: German Tanks in World War I The A7V and early tank development Wolfgang Schneider & Rainer Strasheim


The tank was crewed by 27 men. The driver’s compartment was located in the front of the tank and housed two drivers and two machine gunners with three machine guns. Each driver probably would have control over one side of the vehicle’s gearbox, engine and transmission. The fighting compartment was located behind it. Featuring a cylindrical commander’s cupola on the roof that accommodated the commander and an artillery officer. Due to the placement of the cupola, they had a large area of dead space around the rear of the tank which could not be observed from the cupola. Behind that there was a signalman, further back the engine compartment equipped with two mechanics and at the end there was the gearbox compartment. The artillery cannons required 12 people for their operation, 3 per gun and the rest of the crew (6 people) was allocated to operate the machine guns on the side sponsons of the vehicle two soldiers per front facing machine gun and one soldier for the rear facing ones.

The K-Wagen would be operated like a true landship. The commander and the artillery officer observed from their cupola (bridge) and issued orders to the two drivers, who had no vision ports of their own. He issued orders to his batteries of guns and machine guns to engage targets. The way that orders were given were with the use of light signals.

Top down drawing of the K-Wagen showing the crew positioning inside the tank.

Source: Waffen Revue Nr.52

Drawing showing the compartments and the placement of the armaments on the K-Wagen.

Source: German Tanks in World War I The A7V and early tank development Wolfgang Schneider & Rainer Strasheim

Sketch of K-Wagen, showing the installation of the speed counters running from the engines to the driver’s compartment.

Source: Waffen Revue Nr.52


The tank was made from 4 dismountable basic parts weighing around 30 tonnes each, that were going to be transported via rail then loaded into lorries in loads of approximately 8 tonnes and then assembled about 6 km behind the frontline. In addition to the 30 trucks required, cranes, hoists with electric motors, etcetera. were also needed. This was made to ease the transportation of the massive vehicle.

Sketch showing the steps and the cranes that were going to be used on the field to reassemble the K-Wagen.

Assembly of the K-Wagen
Transport in partial loads and assembly at the place of use are carried out (see image above):
a)Laying out the track to the handrail crane.
b) Positioning the handrail crane.
c) Laying out the mobile runway with tracks, trolley wheels and feeder grooves.
a) The riveted floor of the K-Wagen is placed on the movable runway.
b) Spring bolts are screwed in place.
c) Hinge bolts for fixed joints are pulled in.
d) Bearing block is mounted and screwed on.
e) Left side armour and left side extension to facilitate trans- unload to the left for the time being.
a) Front, middle and rear walls are mounted and bolted to the floor.
b) Engine Is mounted.
c) Gearbox is mounted.
d) Mount the chain sprockets in the two sheet metal walls and screw them to the rear cross wall and the floor.
e) Both upper roller conveyors are mounted and the joints and connections are screwed together.
a) Mount and screw the side panels.
b) Hinge bolts for the fixed joint of the runway are pulled into the outer joints riveted to the side plate and finally splinted.
a) Side extensions with internal equipment and cooling devices are mounted and bolted.
b) Chain of the fixed runway Is inserted into the top of the runway and connected to the movable section.
c) Upper guide angles of the runway are mounted and bolted.
d) Interior fittings are completed.
e) Middle straight deck armour is fitted, then front and rear double armour is applied and bolted.

Fate of the K-Wagen

Two of these vehicles were almost near completion by the end of the war and were supposed to be used for the upcoming operations of 1919. Two of them were located at Berlin-Weissensee in the Riebe-Kugellager factory were near completion while an armored body was completed at Wegmann Carriage Works at Kassel. The ones at the Riebe factory were so close to completion that one of them was basically ready to undergo trials, but none were allowed to leave the factory since the war ended and the Allied Control Commission ordered for both of them to be deconstructed.

The K-Wagen at the Berlin Factory .

Source: Reddit

The two K-Wagens at the Berlin actory. Notice the size of the gears for the gear box.

Source: Reddit


The K-Wagen was a very ambitious project that was doomed to fail from the beginning since Germany did not yet have the experience and the industrial capacity to sufficiently produce these tanks, and even if they did, their combat effectiveness would be questionable since it had many design flaws. It still remains admirable though that, despite all the difficulties the project faced, it still managed to be put into production and having one almost ready for testing. Unfortunately, we will never be able to know how this landship would have performed on the battlefield, since it was not allowed to be finished and tested by the Allies.

Side view of the K-Wagen (mock-up).

Source: German tanks and armored vehicles 1914-1945 B. T. White

Illustration of the K-Wagen by Giganaut, funded by our Patreon campaign

Specifications K-Wagen

Dimensions (m) Height: 2.7 – 3
Width: 6
Length: 13
Crew 27
Propulsion 2 x 650hp Daimler-Benz 6-cylinder marine diesel engines
Armament 4 x 7.7cm Fortress Cannons , 7 x 7.92 mm Maxim MG08/15
Armor 30 mm-10 mm
Total Production 2 (not fully completed)


  3. German Tanks in World War I The A7V and early tank development Wolfgang Schneider & Rainer Strasheim
  4. German Panzers 1914-18 Steven J. Zaloga
  5. German tanks and armored vehicles 1914-1945 B. T. White
  6. Typenkompass Panzerkampfwagen im Ersten Weltkrieg
  7. Waffen Revue Nr.52
WW1 German Armor

Gruson Fahrbare Panzerlafette / Fahrpanzer

German Empire (1880-1918)
Mobile Artillery – 444 Built


The Fahrpanzer served as a mobile artillery piece that was used in German border fortifications after its introduction into the German army in 1890. Prior to the First World War, the Fahrpanzer was sold to a plethora of countries. For that time, it was a very innovative weapon system thanks to its quick-fire gun and its ability to be deployed on both defensive and offensive operations. Approximately 444 pieces were in service with various countries during the Balkan wars (1912-1913) and the First World War.

Context- A New Era

After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the idea of open gun positions that were exposed to artillery was becoming obsolete. As a result, a lot of static turreted fortifications from Gruson’s foundry started appearing on Germany’s coastal borders. As artillery was becoming deadlier and more effective with the use of high-explosive (HE) shells, it was clear that a more mobile version was going to be needed. The stagnation of the First World War proved that the concept of a gun carriage was something that could not only serve as an excellent fortification, but as an assault weapon as well.


Designed by the German inventor and engineer Hermann August Jacques Gruson, the Fahrbare Panzerlafette für leichte Geschütze (English: movable armor carriage for light guns), later changed and shortened to Fahrpanzer (English: mobile armor), was patented in 1885 in Germany and 1887 in the United States. The design, however, predates both of those dates, as the patent application was filed by Gruson on 23rd July 1880. It was built as a transportable gun carriage that would provide adequate shielding for the crew whilst being able to provide fire support for the infantry. The design, even though it may appear odd, was made to be easy to deploy and move from point A to point B. Gruson was an industrial entrepreneur, so ease of production was taken into consideration while developing the Fahrpanzer. This explains why it was shaped like most of the German border fortifications of that era, since Gruson’s foundry was already producing such weapon systems.

During development, it was suggested that the concavo-convex roof could be supported by means of a central column, on which it would rotate: this design proposal was not selected, as Gruson instead preferred to transfer the weight of the roof to the upper edges of the side walls of the casing at the edges of the roof, thus achieving the same revolving effect. This was, in effect, a modern turret. This design was not only cheaper but also simpler. It had increased durability to shock and recoil damage, and was also more space efficient, allowing the crew to operate the gun more efficiently.

The original design was equipped with the Gruson 5.3 cm L/24 rapid fire cannon and operated by a crew of 2 soldiers. Other models and configurations of this gun carriage show that other guns were also used, such as the Gruson 5.7 cm turret gun M. 1892, the Austrian made 6 cm (actual caliber 5.7 cm) Fahrpanzer Kanone M98 and the 3.7 cm L/30 M.1887. In Tangerhütte (a town in the district of Stendal, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany), Gruson AG erected a 10 km long firing range. The guns that were tested there were then exported around the world. Though patented by them, it is unclear if Gruson was the sole producer and manufacturer of the Fahrpanzer.

An illustration suggests that, at some point, there was the idea of a remote-controlled, machine-gun-armed Fahrpanzer, however, no photos or documents exist to suggest the idea ever evolved past the conceptual stage.

Side view and top-down view of the Fahrpanzer taken from the official American Patent, US367,617, 2nd August 1887. It shows the position of the gunner and some of the early design choices, like the lack of a hand wheel to traverse the turret and the ammunition storage location.

Two images from the original German Patent (left) and the American Patent (right), clearly show that the US one was modified slightly – especially the soldier’s uniform, making him less German and more American. Source: German Patent DE35,955 and American Patent US367,617 respectively.


The gun carriage consisted mainly of three components: the revolving concavo-convex roof, the cylindrical casing (1,655 mm high and 1,540 mm in diameter) and the wagon with the wheels on which it was transported. The turret was given this shape in order to better withstand small arms fire. The casing was cylindrical so that the turret could rotate. Furthermore, in some configurations, the casing was mounted on top of two wheels, with the axles of these wheels secured to the casing. Most of the time the casing was supported by four small rollers.

The roof was supported by rollers which were placed in a circular rail that was installed on the casing, so that it could rotate on that axis. This was, in effect, a turret. At the rear, the casing had a double-sided door through which the gunner was able to enter and exit – these had to remain open most of the time, given the high rate of fire and the inability of the small opening that the turret had to vent the gun fumes. The armament’s trunnions were connected to the armor-plate top, so that the recoil could be absorbed by the whole body of the casemate. The gun’s depression could be adjusted with the assistance of a bell-crank lever that was operated by one arm. The gun was aimed through a hole in the turret, with an aiming point that was located to the right of it, and a sight that was located at the end of the barrel. To stay in any position, the gun’s trunnions were placed behind its center of gravity. Beneath it, near its center of gravity, a rubber roller (preferably rubber from India according to Gruson himself) was placed and served as a pivoting point while it also helped absorb shocks. The gunner inside the casing was provided with a seat on which he sit while aiming the gun, while resting his feet on the platform.

According to the original design and drawing that was presented to the United States Patent Office, the gunner was able to rotate the turret by pressing his feet on the platform and pushing with his shoulders against a U-like shaped bar that was connected to said turret. However, some later drawings and photos contradict the layout of the drawings that were presented at that time and clearly show that the turret was able to rotate with the use of a hand wheel that was connected to the main bar that supported the roof. The seat, the hand wheel and the bar were all connected to each other and were rising from the floor of the platform and branched out in order to be used by the gunner.

A side view of the Fahrpanzer. Notice the differences between the original design and this finalized form in terms of its interior layout.

Means of transportation

The Fahrpanzer was meant to be transported on wheels by a special wagon and pulled by either a horse or a motor. The wagon had a set of rail tracks on which the casing was placed. It also had four wheels: two large ones that were placed on the rear, so that they could absorb the weight of the metal casing and two smaller on the front that would allow the wagon to turn. On the battlefield, the Fahrpanzer was placed either in a static covered location or on a 60 cm narrow gauge railway that allowed it to move in and out of cover, so that it would not be exposed to enemy artillery fire.

Side, top-down and front views of the Fahrpanzer with the carriage on which it was transported. As mentioned, the two wheels on the rear were used to support the heavy weight of the casing while the two smaller on the front were used for turning the carriage.


Α rare case where the Fahrpanzer is transported using a vehicle and not a horse which was the most common way of transporting it. The 5.3 cm Fahrpanzer were still used in the fortifications until the Second World War.


The turret could be equipped with a variety of cannons, such as the Gruson 5.3 cm L/24 rapid fire cannon, Gruson 5.7 cm turret gun M. 1892, the Austrian made 6 cm (actual caliber 5.7 cm) Fahrpanzer Kanone M98, and the 3.7 cm L/30 M.1887.
Gruson 5.3 cm field gun L/24, Model 1887/1916 :

The primary armament of the gun carriage was Gruson’s 5.3 cm field gun. This gun was designated as a quick-firing gun because the ammunition (the shell and the cartridge) were one item, thus speeding up the loading process. The gun itself could fire a maximum of some 30 shells per minute, and was served by a 2 man crew. It was also not stabilized, thus decreasing the accuracy. The most common shells in use were canister and shrapnel. The elevation is estimated to have been between -5° to +10° and the muzzle velocity was around 480-495 m/sec. The effective range of the weapon also depended on the type of shell that was fired. A rough estimate is 400 m to 3,200 m. The gun’s traverse, due to its placement in the turret, was 360° and a full rotation could be completed in 15 seconds or more, depending on the gunner.

Romanian crew operating the Gruson 5.3 cm field gun L/24 , model 1887/1916.

Gruson 5.7 cm turret gun L/25.6, Model M.1892:

This gun was also designated as a quick-firing cannon for the same reason as the 5.3 cm gun. Being of a slightly larger caliber and having a lengthier cannon, this gun performed somewhat better than its 5.3 cm counterpart. It could fire the same shell types at longer distances and was also operated by a crew of 2. This specific gun was more popular with exports due to the fact that it was easier for the crew to traverse and conceal than other counterparts that existed at the time. The gun’s maximum range was 5,500 m. Elevation was between -10° to +10° and it could be fully traversed.

The Fahrpanzer equipped with the Gruson 5.7 cm turret gun L/25.6, Model 1892. Located in the Athens War Museum.
Photo by author

Gruson 3.7 cm turret gun L/30, Model M.1887:

The quick-firing cannon Gruson 3.7 cm turret gun L/30, Model M.1887, was also used alongside the variants mentioned above. The maximum range of the cannon was around 2,000 m, and the length of the barrel was 1,300 mm. It was also served by 2 soldiers. Elevation was also between + 10° / – 10° and this gun was also fully traversable.

A Fahrpanzer with the Gruson 3.7 cm turret gun L/30, Model M.1887. Located in the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum. Notice that this specific piece is also equipped with the two large wheels instead of the more common 4 small rollers configuration.

Austro-Hungarian 6 cm(5.7 cm) Kasemattkanone M98/M99:

The gun, despite being designated as a 6 cm, has a true caliber of 5.7 cm and this has to do with the way that the Austro-Hungarian army was naming their large caliber cannons (usually rounding up to the nearest integer). Due to the lack of information on this particular weapon, it seems that it could be a licensed production of the Gruson’s 5.7 cm gun but with a different cannon breech.


The casing was made of 40 mm thick cast-iron all around. This explains why the Fahrpanzer was susceptible to artillery fire and needed to be concealed when under enemy artillery fire. The casing could withstand small arms fire. Due to the fact that it was primarily used as an advanced fortification, if further protection was needed, the army could reinforce the Fahrpanzer’s position with earthworks and other protective means.

A German Fahrpanzer with the 5.7cm quick firing gun, captured in a commanding position near Stirling Castle.


The gun carriage was operated by 2 soldiers; one was the gunner/loader and the other was the ammunition supplier (not to be confused with the loader). In order for the weapon system to be able to fire quickly, the ammo supplier would sit at the entrance of the Fahrpanzer, even though there were two seats in the fighting compartment. This arrangement of the crew was obligatory since it would be impossible to operate the gun efficiently with two people inside such a small space. The ammunition supplier was suspending ammo boxes from the railing that was placed under the turret ring, so that the gunner could always have easy access to the ammunition. Some modern images and sources place the ammunition on the floor of the platform, around the gunner’s feet, which is most likely where the ammo was actually located, since a small metal divider existed between the gunner’s position and the rest of the platform.


During transportation, the Fahrpanzer was placed on top of the wagon, with the gun facing the rear, while the crew was sitting on small seats and moving the whole thing like a normal horse pulled wagon.


Presentation of the two different transport configurations. The first one is using the wagon with the four wheels and another using the double doors on the rear as a seat and the two wheels that were connected to the casing as a means to transport the Fahrpanzer.


A Bulgarian source reports that, during trials for the adoption of the Fahrpanzer, a variant equipped with a 7.5 cm gun was tested but ultimately was rejected since the 5.7 cm variant was easier to conceal and transport. Other variants could include some casings that had their small rail rollers completely removed in order to increase gun accuracy. These were not placed on the 60 cm narrow gauge railway but they were buried on the ground, making them more static and permanent defences. A source also suggests that some other ones from the Romanian Army were converted to anti-aircraft defences.


A multitude of countries operated the Fahrpanzer outside of the German Empire. The following countries either bought or captured and incorporated the gun carriages into their armies: Austria-Hungary, Kingdom of Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Kingdom of Greece, Kingdom of Italy, Kingdom of Romania, Russian Empire, Kingdom of Serbia, and Switzerland.

The biggest operator was the Kingdom of Romania, with reportedly 334 models of the 5.3 cm and the 3.7 cm being purchased and used during the Balkan wars and the First World War.

The German Empire was operating around 200 of the initial 5.3 cm variant from 1890 to the end of the First World War.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria also bought 30 of the 5.7 cm variant, and they arrived in Bulgaria between 1892-93.

The Kingdom of Serbia operated 4, probably of Bulgarian origin, that were captured as trophies of war during the Second Balkan war.

The Kingdom of Greece bought the 6 cm and 3.7 cm variants, probably from Austria-Hungary, as before the start of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), Greece decided to equip its army with mostly Austro-Hungarian equipment. Two surviving Fahrpanzers that are located in the Athens military museum are of Bulgarian origin, so the Greek army probably managed to capture some of the Bulgarian weapons as well.


The Fahrpanzer was supposed to be, according to Gruson himself, “[…] very advantageous for use in the construction of temporary fortifications or entrenchments …”. The way of setting up the defensive position was as follows: after the guns were unloaded from their wagons, they were placed at a distance from each other and buried inside the earth at the turret’s ring height, with the exception of the doors that were placed on the rear. If more time was available, small concrete positions were constructed that acted as a place that the Fahrpanzer could withdraw to via small rail tracks if needed. When the enemy attacked, the guns could be moved to a firing position thus take the enemy by surprise or could hide if counter artillery was fired by the enemy. When the defensive line was no longer in use, the whole thing could be loaded back on the wagons and moved.

The 5.3cm Fahrpanzer on a mobile tank mount, which was moved on a track with a 60cm gauge .Above: a Fahrpanzer in a concreted position. Below: The same gun in the entrance of the dugout.

Service in the Romanian Army

The 3.7 cm variants were purchased for the first line of the fortification systems from Focșani and Turtucaia. Thus, in Galați, on the Danube and very close to the border with the Russian Empire, there were 45 batteries, with 5 pieces each on average, and around 14 pieces in Turtucaia, in south Dobrogea, in what is now part of Bulgaria. In total, there were 225 guns. They were still available in 1916, completed with 361,284 projectiles.

The 5.3 cm variants were purchased for the construction of the fortified line in Focșani, near the Carpathian Curvature (15 batteries of 6 pieces), in Nămoloasa (24 batteries of 3-5 pieces) and in Galați (30 batteries of 6 pieces, 10 batteries of 3 pieces and 10 pieces in the Brateș area). They were also placed in Dobrogea, at Cernavodă, Turtucaia and Silistra. These cannons were produced in Germany.

These cannons served for almost 20 years as fortress artillery but, during the period of neutrality (1914-1916), all 334 cannons were transformed into slow-fire infantry support cannons.

Service in the Bulgarian Army

After the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885, Bulgaria started gearing up for a war against the Ottoman Empire. This meant that the Bulgarian army had to face the fortress of Odrin (Adrianople/Edirne), which could be regarded as the most powerful strongpoint in the Balkans. In 1891, Major Nyagul Tzvetkov was sent to the German firm Grusonwerk (Gruson’s foundry) at Magdeburg to test the 5.7 cm Fahrpanzer. Exhaustive tests with a 5.3 cm gun took place from the 22nd to 24th June at Sofia. They were repeated on 8th and 9th December at Hademköi, near Istanbul, with a 5.7 cm gun. On 25th May 1892, the 5.7 cm was chosen and 30 Fahrpanzers were bought. They arrived in Bulgaria in 1892-93. The gun carriages were most likely used during the siege of Adrianople.

Surviving vehicles

There are a lot of surviving examples, some with their original carriages and some without them. They can be seen in a lot of museums.
Belgium: Army Museum in Brussels: One example without the carriage, caliber 5.3 cm.
Bulgaria: Sofia National Museum of Military History: One fully restored example, caliber 5.7 cm.
Greece: Athens War Museum: Two examples with their carriages (War trophies), caliber 5.7 cm
Switzerland: One example can be spotted on an old fortification.
France: Mutzig Fort – Feste Kaiser Wilhelm II: Two examples that still fire blank shots, caliber 5.3 cm.
Denmark: Royal Danish Arsenal Museum – one example without the carriage, caliber 3.7 cm.
Chile: Naval Gun Museum – two examples with their carriages, caliber 5.3 cm
Poland: Polish Army Museum and Museum of Polish Military Technology – some examples of the caliber 5.3 cm.

Illustration of the Fahrpanzer by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded through our Patreon Campaign


As a whole, the Fahrpanzer was a very innovative idea for its time, with capabilities that would lead other European nations to copy its design. The quick-firing gun and the ability to be moved easily gave it a unique role that could not be filled by other means of the time. These reasons played a major role when it came to its adoption by a significant number of militaries around the globe. In conclusion, even though it had many benefits, the lack of self-propulsion and the arrival of the first tanks were what ultimately brought the concept of the Fahrpanzer to an end.

Specifications Fahrpanzer

Dimensions (m) x 1.655 height diameter 1.540
Crew 2 (one gunner/loader, one loader/ammo supplier)
Propulsion 2 / 4 horses
Armament Gruson 5.3 cm L/24
Gruson 5.7 cm L/25.6
Gruson 3.7 cm L/30
Armor 40 mm all around the casing
Total Production circa 444


Interior view showing the gunner’s seat, the handwheel that traversed the turret, and the ammo storage.
Interior view showing the cannon breech, the U-shaped bar, and the elevation handwheel.
Exterior view showing the 4 rollers and the small tracks on which the Fahrpanzer was put during transport.
View of the 60 cm narrow gauge railway that allowed the Fahrpanzer to move in and out of cover so that it would not be exposed to enemy artillery fire.


General Information: (Dutch)

Armaments: (Polish)
Service: (Romanian) (Page 61-62)