Categories
WW2 Belgian Armor

Carden-Loyd Mk.VI in Belgian Service (Mk.VI with 47 mm)

belgian tanks Belgium (1931-1940) Tank Destroyer – 6 built

For the British firm Vickers-Carden-Loyd, the Mark VI armored carrier was a great commercial success, with worldwide sales of both vehicles and building licenses. It was cheap, and its military potential looked promising. At the end of 1930, the Belgian Army joined the list of buyers when six were ordered as gun towing vehicles and delivered next year. They did not perform great, however, and at the end of 1933, it was decided to place the 47 mm gun, which it originally towed, on top of the vehicle. Although it disrupted balance, decreased mobility, and overwhelmed the crew, it did equip the army with an armored mobile anti-tank gun, allowing the use of faster and better mobile tactics. This concept would be perfected with the T.13 tank destroyer that can be seen as its successful successor.

Here, a Belgian Mk.VI with registration number 0483 is seen towing a 47 mm gun on a special four-wheeled trailer during tests at Beverlo in 1932. The trailer, equipped with pneumatic tires and leaf spring suspension, also allowed the transport of ammunition. The vehicle itself was unarmed. Source: Belgian Tank Museum

Background

In 1929, the Belgian ‘Permanent Commission for Motorization’ observed military maneuvers in Britain and France. During the British maneuvers at Salisbury, they saw the light and cheap Vickers-Carden-Loyd armored carriers in action. The officers of the commission were quite impressed and considered obtaining a few. By the end of 1930, the Belgian Army placed an order at Vickers for the purchase of six Mark VI vehicles with some technical modifications. They were delivered to the Army in 1931 and immediately trialed to find out if they could successfully tow 47 and 76 mm guns. Tests continued into 1932 but were not a great success, as the general mobility of the vehicle was judged inadequate and the vehicle’s off-road speed was very low, at just 9 km/h. Despite this, their military value was present, and, according to the Popular Science Magazine of October 1932: “army experts believe that a fleet of those swift “destroyers” could set up their mobile artillery in time to repel a surprise advance of enemy tanks”.

It has to be noted that already from the beginning, there was an interest within the army to actually mount the 47 mm gun on top of the vehicles but, initially, these studies were not pursued.

Vehicles No. 0482 and 0483 with their crews, sometime between 1931-1933. Weirdly, 0483 has no return roller while it has one on other photographs. Source: Belgian Tank Museum

Design of the Mk.VI

The Carden-Loyd Mark VI is one of the most basic armored vehicles ever designed. Small, equipped with a commercial Ford engine and gearbox, thinly armored, and in the Belgian case, unarmed, it was very cheap compared to other contemporary armored vehicles. It was propelled by a 40 hp Ford Model T engine, located in the middle of the vehicle, in between the two crew members. Power went through a 2-speed epicyclic gearbox to the front-mounted sprockets. The sprockets were of simple design and were basically disks with thirty teeth, moving the 117 track links around. Four small road wheels on each side, providing ground contact of roughly one meter, were only suspended with small leaf springs, insufficient to provide a steady drive when driving fast. Unlike the regular Mark VI design, which had a beam as a track return guide, the Belgian vehicles had a single return roller, identical to a regular roadwheel. Other vehicles from Vickers that had a similar arrangement were the Carden-Loyd Mk.VIa and VIb which had two return rollers, and the Light Patrol Tank, which had one.

Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Patrol Tank. Source: unknown
The Mark VIb. Source: vickersmg.blog
A Belgian Mark VI in service with the 3rd Chasseurs Ardennais at Vielsalm. Compared to the vehicles shown above, they feature a similar kind of return roller arrangement. Source: Belgian Tank Museum

The F.R.C. C.47/L30 gun

During the 1920s, the Belgian Army sought to acquire new infantry guns capable of firing with a straight or with a curved arc. Studies continued until the adoption of two guns during the early 1930s, designed by Fonderie Royale des Canons de Liège (F.R.C.), the Royal Gun Foundry Works. The gun selected to fire with a straight arc, and designed as an anti-tank gun, was a 47 mm gun, known as the C.47/L30 Model 1931. Reportedly, up to a thousand of these guns were produced for the Belgian Army before World War 2 broke out.

The armor-piercing round weighed 1.550 kg. With an initial velocity of 675 m/s, it could penetrate armor plates of 40 mm up to 600 m away and around 30 mm at a thousand meters. The high explosive round with a weight of 1.655 kg, had 175 g explosive material in it and, with a velocity of 450 m/s, was effective up to 3,000 m. The barrel had to be replaced after approximately 8,000 rounds fired. The muzzle flash was quite large, reportedly up to 6.5 m long, which made the position of the gun easier to spot for a potential enemy during firing.

Vehicles No. 0481 and 0483 during a maneuver in an open field with the armored shields folded up, providing better visibility for the crew. Source: Nationaal Archief

The need for a more mobile gun

On 11th October 1933, the Belgian cabinet endorsed the establishment of new units of Chasseurs Ardennais and Cyclistes-Frontière (NL: Ardeense Jagers, Grenswielrijders, EN: Hunters of the Ardennes, Frontier Cyclists). They were to be equipped with effective and mobile anti-tank weapons. It was realized, however, that the Mk.VI towing the 47 mm would not fulfill this role effectively. Decoupling the gun from the vehicle and placing it into position took too much time, which made it easy to be spotted by an enemy. Furthermore, during the time of deployment of the gun, the crew lacked any protection as the gun was not equipped with a gun shield. A solution to these problems was to place the gun on top of an armored chassis, so it could be driven to the desired position and immediately be able to harass the enemy. Given the rough terrain of the Ardennes, in which area the vehicle would operate, a tracked chassis was necessary.

Taking these points in mind, it was decided it would be a good idea to place the gun on the Mark VI. Therefore, Vehicle no. 0483 was sent to the FRC to be converted into such a gun carrier. As its initial inception was well-received, the other five vehicles were quickly converted as well and, by the end of 1933, all six had been transformed into tank destroyers. In February 1934, they were assigned to the Chasseurs Ardennais units, with each of three regiments receiving two of them. The doctrine called for individual deployment in a defensive position, but on the offense, they were to be deployed in pairs.

Five Carden-Loyds lined up beside the road. It is unknown when this picture was taken. Source: Forum ATF40 (member avz94)

Not a perfect vehicle

Although the gun could fire, and the vehicle could drive, it was not a match made in heaven. The C.47 had a significant recoil that burdened the chassis too much while firing, so use had to be made of two retractable supports on the back of the vehicle that had to support the suspension. The traverse of the gun was very narrow, with only ten degrees, five degrees to each side. Furthermore, mounting the gun on the front made it front-heavy, destabilizing the vehicle, which caused it to wobble when driving too fast. The wobble was worsened by the fact that the tracks provided only roughly a meter of ground contact. British engineers from Vickers-Carden-Loyd were not very fond of the solution and one apparently called it ‘putting an elephant on a mosquito’.

The armor plates of the Mark VI varied in thickness between 5 to 9 mm, the added gun shield on the front had a thickness of 5 mm. The armor was not always thick enough to protect against regular infantry weapons, let alone greater caliber guns. Furthermore, the crew was not protected from the sides nor above, leaving them vulnerable to flanking maneuvers and thrown grenades. One of the vehicle’s major advantages was its small size that made it easy to conceal on the battlefield and harder to spot from the air. It also carried a decent amount of ammunition, 54 rounds divided into 27 armor-piercing, and 27 high explosive rounds. Furthermore, each section of two vehicles was supported by a truck that carried another 312 rounds.

Vehicle no.0484, next to T.13 no.0514. Although fielding the same gun, the T.13 was far more effective, but would not have been there had the Mark VI with C.47 not existed. Source: Belgian Tank Museum

Further developments

The shortcomings made it clear this was not a permanent solution. While the core idea was good and fitting to Belgian defense policy and tactics, a new but similar vehicle was needed. In 1933, an offer made by captain Loyd that involved equipping the improved Mk.VI* with the C.47 gun was turned down by the Belgian Army. Instead, attention was turned to a new armored tractor developed by Vickers, the Carden Loyd Light Dragon Mk. I. Compared to the Mk.VI, this vehicle was bigger and would be far better suited to serve as a base for the C.47. Further developments would result in the T.13 tank destroyer that was taken into production from 1935 onwards.

Abandoned Mk.VI with C.47 on top of a hill is being inspected by a German soldier. The Belgians lost most, if not all, of their Mk.VIs on 10th and 11th May. Source: eBay

Into service

After the six vehicles were accepted into service in February 1934, another major shortcoming was revealed, namely that the crew of two was overwhelmed with their multitude of jobs. The driver, seated to the left of the gun, not only had to drive the vehicle, but also had to lower the supports at the back whenever necessary and had to aim the gun after that action, prolonging the time between target spotting and shooting. In the meantime, the commander had to prepare the projectiles and load the gun while having to keep an eye on the surroundings. This was also true for the driver, as the vehicle was vulnerable from the sides, and a flanking maneuver by enemy infantry could be fatal if unnoticed.

After the T.13 was taken into production, it was decided that once enough of them had been produced, the Mk.VI was to be taken out of service while the guns would be repurposed. During December 1937, however, the General Staff decided against this and instead wanted to relocate the six vehicles to the Frontier Cyclists stationed near Visé. This happened in 1938. At the time, they were worn out and some were unable to move. As such, they were reportedly dug in to form stationary defensive positions along the River Meuse between the villages Vivegnis and Lixhe.

Source: eBay
No.0481 was probably dug in before it retreated, as clumps of dark soil are still stuck to the front and its suspension, visible on the right photograph. It shows signs of damage too, with a bent gun shield and destroyed headlights. However, none of this is visible on the top image, which was presumably taken in the same time period. This could mean the vehicle was not damaged during the fighting, but after. Source: Belgian Tank Museum

On 15th March 1940, the Frontier Cyclists was split into a 1st and 2nd Regiment. The 8th Company of the 2nd Regiment was equipped with six T.13 and four Mk.VI with C.47. When the German Army initiated Fall Gelb and attacked the Low Countries and France, starting on 10th May 1940, the vehicles were stationed on the western bank of the river and probably fired some shots at Germans that appeared on the eastern bank. In the evening of 11th May, the 2nd Regiment was ordered to retreat. Engine failures or similar problems meant all Mk.VIs had to be left behind and were subsequently found by advancing German troops. Rumors that some were dumped into the Albert Canal remain unverified. At least three to four abandoned vehicles were photographed by German soldiers, which were the former vehicles of the 8th Company. Where the other two out of six went is unknown. The Germans collected the remaining vehicles, after which they were scrapped, with none surviving the war.

Source: bunkergordel.be
No 0482 was left behind on the western bank of the River Meuse. In the background, the city of Visé can be seen. Whether the right photograph also is No. 0482 and slightly moved, or another vehicle abandoned at the same place is hard to determine. It is not unlikely that this vehicle fired a few shots against the attacking Germans before being abandoned. Source: 18daagseveldtocht.be

Conclusion

With mounting a 47 mm anti-tank gun directly on top of the light Mark VI, the Belgian Army tinkered with the very weight limit the chassis could handle. Lack of sufficient armor, dubious mobility, and nonideal circumstances for the crew meant the vehicle was not that great. However, it was the first attempt to create an armored self-propelled anti-tank gun capable of supporting and moving with the infantry in harsh terrain at a low financial cost. The experience gained would help the Belgian Army greatly in creating a totally new doctrine for this kind of armored vehicle which allowed them to develop the far better T.13 tank destroyer that was produced in relatively large numbers. That they were still in use by May 1940 was largely thanks to their very competent guns, instead of their overall usability.

The 47 mm armed Vickers Carden Loyd Mark VI in Belgian service. Illustration gifted by Felix Asmaryan.

Mk.VI 47 mm specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3,2 x 2 x 1,6 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 1,8 tonnes (3,968 lbs)
Crew 2 (Commander/loader, driver/gunner)
Propulsion Ford T 4-cylinder petrol, 40 bhp
Speed 32 km/h (19,9 mph)
Off-road speed 9 km/h (5,6 mph)
Range 144 km (89 miles)
Armament F.R.C. 47 mm L30 Modèle 1931 (1.9 in)
Armor 9 mm front and back, 6 mm sides, 5 mm gunshield
Total Production 6

Sources

Carden Loyd Mk.VI, Profile Publications no. 16, Robert J. Icks, 1967.
Le T.13 (1934-1940) : un blindé parmi les Hommes : histoire anthropologique d’un « bac » de l’Armée belge, Pierre Muller, Faculté de philosophie, arts et lettres, Université catholique de Louvain, 2017. Prom. : Emmanuel Debruyne. http://hdl.handle.net/2078.1/thesis:10081.
Les Chars et les Vehicules Terrestres du Musée Royal de l’Armée à Bruxelles, R. Surlemont, Tank Museum A.S.B.L., 1984. P.22-23.
Popular Science, Belgium’s tank destroyer tows guns on wheels, October 1932, p.24.
Tank Museum News no.125, Le 47 mm sur Mark VI, ou l’histoire de l’éléphant et de la puce, Pierre Muller, June 2017. academia.edu.
The armoured vehicles of the Belgian Army 1914-1974, Jacques P. Champagne, G. Everling s.p.r.l., 1974.
Beschrijving Cavalerie-eenheden, bunkergordel.be.
2e Regiment Grenswielrijders, 18daagseveldtocht.be.

Categories
WW2 Czechoslovak Tanks

Kolohousenka

Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia (1923-1930)
Artillery Tractor / Tank – 4 built

The central European nation of Czechoslovakia was established after the First World War as one of the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Home to large vehicle and arms industries, it had several military ambitions. Two of those were the acquisition of tanks and tracked artillery tractors. These new vehicles were to be built in Czechoslovakia. Considering that the early tank and tracked tractor designs had some flaws, especially regarding mobility, it was decided to pursue the promising new technology of wheel-cum-track vehicles. A design for such a system was bought from German engineer Joseph Vollmer in 1923, marking the proper start of development of the first Czechoslovak tracked artillery tractor, which would eventually lead into the tank project based upon the same chassis.

The KH-50 tractor, seen in 1925 in the city of Slaný. It is driving on its wheels. The vehicle had little ground clearance while driving on wheels, but this was not a big problem, since the wheels would mainly be used for driving on relatively flat roads. Source: rotanazdar.cz
The KH-60 tank of 1928. The body was made of thin metal and considered a mock-up. Source: warspot.ru

Tracked Shortcomings

Since independence, Czechoslovak military authorities paid close attention to foreign development of tracked artillery tractors. Like tanks, this kind of vehicle suffered from several disadvantages in mobility and service life. Tracks were prone to wear and tear, thus maintaining a large fleet of tracked vehicles would be costly in maintenance and track replacements. Furthermore, the early track designs did not allow great cruising speeds, making them especially disadvantageous during long road travel. Apart from that, road surfaces were easily torn up and damaged by the metal tracks.

Apart from just improving tracked technology, some engineers came up with other solutions to these problems. One such solution, namely the idea of removable tracks, was pursued by the famous (and infamous) American tank designer Walter Christie. It allowed a vehicle to drive on its wheels and when necessary, tracks could be fitted.

Wheel-Cum-Track Development

A more sophisticated solution was the wheel-cum-track system. Basically, such a system consisted of a four-wheeled chassis merged with a tracked chassis, with the idea that either of those configurations was used depending on the situation. It promisingly combined the characteristics of a wheeled vehicle, with fast speeds on road and little wear and tear to the running gear, while also having off-road capabilities, thanks to the tracks. These prospects garnered interest in several countries during the 1920s and led, for example, to the British Vickers D3E1 (1928), the German/Swedish Landsverk-5 (1928), the French Saint-Chamond M21 (1921), and the Soviet Dyrenkov DR-4 (1929), among others.

It was a typical interwar development, with a great deal of effort put in, and producing few if any substantive results. This was mainly due to the fact that none of the wheel-cum-track systems worked as well as hoped. The systems were complex designs, thus not only time consuming in manufacture and repair, but also costly in production. Furthermore, the systems were fragile and exposed, making them prone to defects and failure.

However, most of these insights had yet to be discovered when the Czechoslovak Army also showed their interest in such a system, designed by Joseph Vollmer.

This photo shows the original converted Hanomag WD 50 tractor by Vollmer. The Kolohousenka vehicles had a lower silhouette, and the engine was moved from the front to the rear. Source: warspot.ru

Joseph Vollmer, Hanomag, And The WD Tractors

Joseph Vollmer (1871-1955) was a German engineer and designer of automobiles. Together with his friend Ernst Neuberg, he founded the company Deutsche-Automobil-Construktionsgesellschaft (DAC) in 1906. Their main business was to design and patent automotive parts and sell production licenses to other manufacturers. During the First World War, business came to a near standstill, as many employees were enlisted in the German Army. Vollmer himself became involved with automotive projects carried out by the Army. From 1916 on, he took part in the German tank program and directed the development of the A7V tank and was also responsible for the K-Wagen and LK series of tanks.

After the war, German tank development had to be terminated, and Vollmer returned to business with DAC. Both he and Neuberg realized that there would be little demand for civilian vehicles in the immediate post-war period and decided to refocus on the development of commercial agricultural vehicles. Vollmer used his war experience with tanks to design several tracked tractors. Production licenses for these were sold to various manufacturers, both in Germany and abroad. One of those was the Hannover-based company Hanomag. In 1922, they would take into production two of Vollmer’s designs, a light tractor with a 25 hp engine, and a heavy tractor with a 50 hp engine.

Hanomag was already producing a motor plough, designed by engineers Ernst Wendeler and Boguslav Dohrn. It was marketed as WD (first letters of their respective surnames) and had built a good reputation. It was decided to market Vollmer’s designs under the same name, WD 25 and WD 50 respectively, with the number referring to the amount of horsepower.

The WD 50 and the WD 25, next to each other. The Czechoslovakian Army would, aside from Vollmer’s licenses, also acquire six WD 50s and two WD 25s. Source: stavebni-technika.cz

Vollmer’s Wheel-Cum-Track System

Based upon the WD 50, Vollmer developed a wheel-cum-track system which was known as the RR-50, with RR standing for Räder-Raupen (English: Wheels-Tracks). It was one of the earliest examples of this kind of new technology. In 1923, the RR-50 was offered to the Czech Military Administration, which found the design to suit the need for a modern tracked tractor. The Ministry of Defense (Ministerstvo Národní Obrany, abbreviated to MNO) bought the licenses for this design for a total of Kč1.3 million (~ US$516,750 in 2018 values).

While some basic parts were to be imported, two prototypes were to be built by domestic manufacturers. The name RR-50 was transcribed into Czech as KH-50. KH was the abbreviation of Kolohousenka, the merging of the Czech words ‘kolo’ and ‘housenka’, meaning ‘wheel’ and ‘caterpillar’, respectively. Overall assembly and production of the main components was to be done by the firm Breitfeld-Daněk (which would later merge into Českomoravská-Kolben-Daněk, ČKD). The gearbox, rear-wheel drive system, and the tracks were to be delivered by Laurin & Klement (later Škoda), while the steering unit and the front axle with wheels were to be supplied by Kopřivnická vozovka (later Tatra). Meanwhile, the engines were bought in Germany from the Dresden-based manufacturer Hille. They were 4-cylinder K3 petrol engines which produced 50 hp at 1,100 rpm (up to 60 hp at 1,400 rpm).

The KH-50 tractor on its tracks during a testdrive. Source: Kliment

Construction And Testing

On 17th March 1924, MNO filed Vollmer’s patents concerning the design at the Czechoslovak patent office. It concerned the patents numbered 21575, 21577, 1578, 22123, and 23431. Production of the two prototypes, with serial numbers 2001 and 2002, began at Breitfeld-Daněk and finished just before the end of the year, in December. The first driving and technical tests began on 7th January 1925 and, after these were completed, both tractors were reconstructed. On 6th March, they were officially handed over to the Automotive Artillery Department (Auto Oddělení Dělostřelectva). The MNO paid Kč1,651,820 (~ US$657,000 in 2018 values).

Technical drawings of the RR-50 chassis from its patent. Source: Patent 23431

After the takeover, the tractors were immediately put to the test. It was established that they had to drive 3,000 km on wheels and 500 km on tracks, both on the road. Furthermore, it had to tow a 210 mm gun for 1,000 km on wheels and 200 km on tracks. Lastly, it had to maneuver off-road while towing a gun, for 200 hours. During these trials, the tractors often broke down due to the relative crudeness of the design and thus, the tests could only be finished by 1926. By June 1926, both tractors were located in the city of České Budějovice, at the artillery barracks in the part of the city known as Čtyři Dvory (Eng: Four Courts).

While the MNO had originally expressed the intention to potentially buy some 100 examples, no further KH-50s were ordered. Instead, in June, the Ministry allowed the KH-50 to be marketed to other countries, on the condition that 30% of the profit was paid to the Ministry to compensate for the license and development costs. On 24th June, the Military Technical Institute submitted a proposal to reconstruct one of the two tractors in order to perform more tests, but it appears both remained at Čtyři Dvory.

Cross-view of the wheels and tracks. Source: Patent 23431

Design And Workings Of The System

As far as the wheels were concerned, the tractor was fitted with a front steering axle and a rear-drive axle with double wheels. The wheels had a diameter of 14 by 77 cm and were suspended by leaf springs. To change from wheeled to tracked drive, arch-shaped wooden wedges were utilized. First, the axle was unlocked and the wheels were driven up the wedges, so the wheels with the axle lifted upwards. Once fully elevated, the axle was locked again. The change could be performed by two people and within five minutes.

Changing from tracks to wheels was done the same, but this time, the tracks had to drive up the ramps, lifting up the tank sufficiently to lower the axles again. The tracks had a width of 30 cm. The track units were similar, but not identical, to those of the WD-50 tractor. Not only were the dimensions changed, but it also utilized a different kind of track links, and the mud shoot was eliminated.

The vehicles lacked a proper superstructure. The crew was seated in the open, while the engine was protected by a simple sheet metal box. The vehicle weighed 6,800 kg and was able to reach a maximum speed on wheels of 21 km/h and 14 km/h on tracks. For shorter periods, the power of the engine could be increased to 60 hp, improving the speed on wheels to 27 km/h and the speed on tracks to 18 km/h.

These images show how the ramps were used, which were carried on the sides. Source: Doyle and Kliment

KH-60

The Ministry’s approval to sell the design abroad paid off when the USSR placed an order for two tractors with a stronger engine, known as the KH-60. They were produced and completed in 1927. This time, the main construction work took place at ČKD, while Škoda and Tatra delivered several parts. It is unknown what happened to the two tractors after delivery.

It was decided to reconstruct and upgrade one KH-50, based upon the experience gained with the construction of the two KH-60s. It was transported to the ČKD plant at Slaný in 1927, while the other remained with the automotive artillery in Čtyři Dvory. The reconstruction was completed in January 1928, and the KH-50, now upgraded to KH-60 standards but often still referred to as KH-50, was handed over to the military. Testing of the vehicle took place between 17th and 19th January.

During testing, it became clear that the tractor was significantly improved. Steering, braking, and changing gears went better. Thanks to a lengthening of the wheelbase and the increase in speed, the driving experience was also improved. These improvements were reached, among other things, thanks to the installation of an additional independent brake, the reconstruction of the differential brake, and simplification of the steering and wheel drive. A handbrake test revealed that the vehicle while driving at its full speed of 36 km/h on-road, was able to come to a complete standstill within 20 meters. However, due to the changes, the weight significantly increased to 7,830 kg. In terms of weight distribution, 5,100 kg was pressed on the rear axle, and 2,730 kg on the front axle.

The KH-60 tractor, on its wheels. The structure covering the engine was enlarged, and the crew was now protected from the elements with a canvas roof. Source: rotanazdar.cz

After these tests, it was decided to use the KH-60 chassis as the basis for a tank, construction of which began in the same year. Meanwhile, the other KH-50 remained with the automotive artillery in Čtyři Dvory, but it was discontinued in 1929 and disassembled. Several parts were kept by the automotive artillery for training purposes, like the gearboxes, and the engine. The engine proved particularly helpful, since the Regiment had no other spare engines available, and always had to remove one from an active vehicle to use as a teaching aid.

The Need For Tanks

Already in December 1918, efforts were undertaken to acquire the first tanks for the new Czechoslovak Army. The Renault FT was considered to be the best candidate and, after several years of discussion, one FT was bought, which arrived in the Czech city of Milovice on 14th January 1922. An additional four were ordered in 1923, and another two in 1924, totaling seven tanks.

Although a larger number of tanks was wanted (The FTs were only used for training and parades and not destined for regular units), Czechoslovakia did not intend to become dependent on a foreign supplier, and wanted to utilize its domestic heavy industry to develop and build their own tanks. A program set up in 1924 resulted in the purchase of two Praga MT prototypes in 1924 and one Plazidlo Votruba-Věchet prototype in early 1925. Neither design met expectations and the Czechoslovak Army still had no combat tanks available.

The design of the MT tractor was based upon the Renault FT. It performed unsatisfactorily and was not adopted as the base for a tank design. Source: valka.cz
The Plazidlo Votruba-Věchet was designed and built in 1924 and bought by the Army in early 1925. The little vehicle performed very badly, but can be credited to be the first domestically designed tracked chassis of Czechoslovakia. Source: rotanazdar.cz

This impasse was criticized from various levels, but 1926 saw several breakthroughs. The Czechoslovak Intelligence Department made a report of the situation in the proximate countries of Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Romania. This report was later substituted by a report from the Military Technical Institute, which detailed and analyzed tanks from France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Not only their construction was analyzed, but also their tactical deployment, and various classifications. A budget of CZK 5,760,000 was made available to construct a light assault vehicle, and a list of requirements was drafted:

1) Weight should be under 10 tonnes, 6-8 tonnes was desired.
2) Speed of 15-25 km/h on hard ground.
3) The armor should provide enough protection against bullets from infantry weapons and machine guns, and shrapnel.
4) Ability to overcome obstacles up to 2 m wide.
5) Climbing ability of 45°
6) Fording depth of 80 cm
7) Armed with one 75 mm gun and one machine gun, or alternatively, two machine guns. They should be able to rotate 360°
8) Crew of three
9) Action radius of 8-10 hours
10) The engine should, as far as possible, be able to run on a mixed fuel containing petrol, alcohol, and benzol, known as biboli.

In 1928, it was decided to use the Kolohousenka chassis as a base for a tank that largely met these criteria.

The KH-60 Tank

The first armored superstructure was mostly intended as a mock-up, and only thin steel plating was used. Much of the planned equipment was also not installed so, in order to compensate for the low weight, steel and lead weights were used to simulate heavier armor and equipment. After testing, the superstructure was removed and stored at the ČKD plant in Slaný, registered under the name of “mock-up KH-50”.

The design of the armored superstructure appears to be older and could already have been proposed by Joseph Vollmer when he offered his patents in 1923. In 1924, the same tank design was presented to the USSR when they bought the licenses for the WD 50 tractor. The Soviets never pursued this design, but the Czechoslovaks eventually did.

This Soviet drawing, showing German Light Tank Project Vollmer, is dated 1924 and proves that the base design of the tank was made by Vollmer. Source: Yuri Pasholok
Although speculative, one starts to wonder how similar Vollmer’s design would have been to his Leichter Kampfwagen III of 1918. Only a drawing of the rear engine compartment is known of the L.K.III design and its shapes are strikingly similar to his RR-50 project of the early 1920s. Source: Waffen Revue

The metal body was of riveted construction, except for two headlights which were welded onto the hull, in a similar style as on the PA-II armored cars. The frontal appearance and the turret were similar to the design of the Renault FT. The driver sat in the front and could open a large hatch upwards, while two smaller hatches below it could be slid open to the sides. The turret’s front roof sloped upwards, and a large round-shaped cupola stood on top. On either side of the superstructure, below the turret, entry hatches were located, providing easier access to the crew. The engine could be accessed through hatches installed above the rear wheels on either side of the superstructure.

A novel feature was the installation of a device that overpressurized the crew compartment, protecting the crew from gas attacks.

The first Kolohousenka was armed with a 37 mm gun, often believed to be a d/27 infantry gun of Škoda. However, guns by Bofors and Vickers were considered, and a note from 16th December 1929 states that a Vickers gun was removed from the tank.

The KH-60 tank, seen during a test drive in the field. Note the Hanomag WD 50 tractor behind it. Source: rotanazdar.cz
The tank, seen around the same time, but from the rear. The tests are observed by a group of soldiers seen to the right of the image. Note that the engine was cooled by a radial fan and a similar solution would later be used for the LT vz. 34 and TNH tanks. Source: rotanazdar.cz

Experiences With The Tank

In January 1929, the KH-60 was present in Milovice. A report from February by the Military Technical Institute, requested by the Ministry of Defence, revealed that the KH-60 had been tested alongside the Praga MT and that the KH-60 exceeded the requirements set out earlier. It was recommended to continue testing with the KH-60 and also use it during the 1929 autumn maneuvers, and if these were successful, a platoon of five tanks could be purchased to use during the autumn exercises of 1931. The original requirement for armament of a 75 mm gun and a machine gun was deemed unnecessary, since the tanks would never operate alone, so a mixture of machine gun-armed tanks and gun-armed tanks should be fine.

The testing of the KH-60 tank continued until November 1929. During the same year, a new armored body was made, designed by the 3rd Department of the Military Technical Institute. On 16th December 1929, the Vickers gun was removed from the tank and relocated to the Instruction Battalion in Milovice. On the 17th, the tank was transported to the ČKD factory in Karlín, where the new armored body was to be fitted. The welded turret was of improvised construction. Until May 1930, the tank remained with ČKD and was tested in conjunction with the Military Technical Institute. This included technical tests, and firing tests against the armor. On 21st May, the KH-60 returned to Milovice.

The improved second model that was assembled in early 1930, this time with proper armor plates. The welded turret was improvised and provisorily fitted. Source: rotanazdar.cz

Final Design

After further refinements of the design, the last order for modifications of the armored layout was placed on 16th July 1930 by the Ministry, which paid CZK 35,338. It is unknown if this also covered the costs for the construction of a new turret. Until this time, the KH-60 was still officially in possession of the Automotive Artillery Regiment, but since it was repurposed, it was formally transferred to the Milovice-based Assault Vehicle Regiment on 11th October 1930, and assigned to the 2nd Armored Car Company. Unlike the earlier two designs, the last design featured a rear tail to improve trench crossing capabilities.

It was subsequently stored, and barely used. In the spring of 1931, the KH-60 and a Renault FT were ordered to perform comparative tests with new Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankettes. These comparative trials took place on 25th March 1931, after which the KH-60 was put in storage. Some administrative changes occurred in December 1932, when it received the new registration ‘13.362’, and in September 1933, when it was reassigned to the Auxiliary Company. Since it had not been used in a long time, it was reassigned to the School of Assault Vehicles shortly after, on 5th October 1933. It remained with the school until the end of 1935 when its armor was removed and stored, while the chassis was re-registered as a school-aid. In September 1937, the school moved from Milovice to Vyškov, and took the KH-60 with them. There, it was found by the invading German troops when they occupied part of Czechoslovakia on 15th March 1939.

The last alterations to the design were ordered in July 1930. After completion, it was put in storage. For this photograph, made in 1933, it was specifically moved out of the garage, only to be returned after it was taken. Source: rotanazdar.cz

Other Tanks For The Army

Interest in the Kolohousenka already started to fade in 1929, especially after new Carden-Loyd tankettes were examined in Britain and three were ordered, which arrived in the spring of 1930. An extensive program was set up with ČKD, and four copies were built under license. An improved design, the P-I, was eventually taken into service as the Tančík vz.33 (Tankette 1933 pattern). By focusing on this new vehicle, the Ministry of Defense basically eliminated the Kolohousenka project, effectively ending some seven years of development. However, this development period proved to be very valuable for all parties involved, including the manufacturers, the government, and the military. It had provided experience in many fields, ranging from design to tactical deployment.

The KH-60 tank chassis, as it was found by the invading German troops in March 1939. It is located beside a Škoda PA-III and in front of two Tatra OA vz.30 armored cars. Source: dieselpunks.blogspot.nl

The Mysterious KH-70

In older literature on the topic, especially in the work of Charles K. Kliment, mention is made of the KH-70 tractor, an upgraded version with an even more powerful engine of 70 hp. It was supposedly sold to Italy. However, recent research was unable to verify the existence of a KH-70, while Italian sources provide no proof that Italy ever bought a KH-70 tractor. It has long been assumed that the latest design iteration of the KH-60 tank was the KH-70, but this appears not to be the case.

That said, in the German military magazine Militärwissenschaftliche Mitteilungen of 1936 (volume 67), it is mentioned that a KH-70 is under construction. Presumably, a wrong designation surfaced in contemporary military literature, and the designation has been stuck with historians since, though it may refer to a different vehicle entirely.

KH-100

In the Spring of 1929, the Military Technical Institute ordered Tatra to develop a new wheel-cum-track tractor with a more powerful engine. The order for one prototype was signed on 15th May 1929, but the original deadline of December 1929 could not be met, and the vehicle was only delivered by the end of 1930. The tractor, better known as the KTT, was never taken into serial production.

An early blueprint of Tatra’s KH-100 project. Source: rotanazdar.cz
The Tatra KTT (KH-100) during trials. Only one prototype was produced. Source: valka.cz

A New Wheel-Cum-Track Tank

The decision to effectively eliminate the Kolohousenka project did not mean that all interest had been lost. In 1929, all companies involved in the project, Tatra, ČKD, and Škoda, were ordered to design a new wheel-cum-track tank. ČKD, involved in the new Carden-Loyd tank project, quickly gave up, while Tatra’s attempt, the T-III, was plagued with issues and unpromising. Škoda’s work was more successful, and a design was presented in 1931, the S.K.U. (also known as KÚV). During production of two prototypes, ordered in 1933, the system showed so many problems that in 1934, it was decided to ditch the idea of a wheel-cum-track tank for good. The tank was modified to a heavy breakthrough tank and work continued on the tank, now designated Š-III.

The design for the Škoda KÚV as presented in 1931. Source: ftr.wot-news.com

Conclusion

The RR-50 was originally designed by German engineer Joseph Vollmer, and although pretending to aim at the civil market, he certainly had military use in mind, provided he licensed his work to the Czechoslovak Ministry of Defence and even to the USSR. The first KH-50 experienced many teething problems, but the design was significantly improved with the KH-60. The external design effectively remained a ‘work-in-progress’ until the final design was presented in July 1930. However, by this time, the Ministry was already undergoing trials with the newly bought Carden-Loyd tankettes from Britain, and subsequently, the KH-60 project was canceled. The only tank prototype was effectively never used in its intended role but was useful as a teaching-aid. The chassis was eventually scrapped by the Germans after its capture in 1939.

The first model of 1928, after Vollmer’s design, was made with thin sheets of metal. This design was not definite and subject to change. Note the Renault FT-like turret and the tow hook at the back.
The second model, designed in 1929 and constructed in early 1930, was made with proper armor, but the turret was of improvised construction.
The third and last model from July 1930 featured a redesigned turret, however, it appears armament was never fitted. Also note the tail added to the vehicle, meant to aid crossing trenches. All illustrations done by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker. These illustrations have been sponsored by Golum through our Patreon page.

KH-50 Tractor Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) n/a
Total Weight, Battle Ready 6.8 tonnes
Crew 2 (Driver, Commander)
Propulsion Hille K3, 4-cylinder, petrol, 8.22 liter, 50 hp (36.8 kW) at 1,100 rpm, 60 hp (44.2 kW) at 1,400 rpm
Bore / Stroke 115 / 150 mm
Speed with 50 hp at 1,100 rpm Wheels 21 km/h, Tracks 14 km/h
Speed with 60 hp at 1,400 rpm Wheels 27 km/h, Tracks 18 km/h
Total Production 2

KH-60 Tractor Specifications

Total Weight, Battle Ready 7.83 tonnes
Propulsion 60-80 hp engine

KH-60 Tank Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.50 x 2.39 x 2.53 (wheels) / 2.38 (tracks) m
Total Weight, Battle Ready <10 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander, Driver)
Propulsion 60-80 hp engine
Speed, Wheels On-Road 35 km/h
Speed, Tracks Off-Road 15 km/h
Range 300 km on wheels on road (186 miles)
Trench 2 m
Slope 100 % (45°)
Armament 2x 7.92 mm Schwarzlose vz.24 machine guns or 1x 37 mm gun (Bofors, Vickers, or d/27 Škoda)
Armor 6-14 mm
Total Production 1

Sources

Špitálský, Jaroslav. 21st April 2021. “Od tzv. „Rade Raupen“ k bojovému vozu KH-60.” https://rotanazdar.cz/?p=9390&lang=cs.
Pasholok, Yuri. 22nd February 2018. “От «Теплохода «АН» к МС-1.” https://warspot.ru/11309-ot-teplohoda-an-k-ms-1. (translation)
Zincke, Gisela. 1990. “Oberingenieur Joseph Vollmer Chefkonstruktur des deutschen Urpanzers und Pionier des Automobilbaus.” In Sturmpanzerwagen A7V Vom Urpanzer zum Leopard 2, edited by Heinrich Walle, 93-115. Herford: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn GmbH.
Francev, Vladimir, and Charles K. Kliment. 2004. Československa obrnena vozidla 1918-48. Prague: Ares.
Kliment, Charles K., and Hilary Louis Doyle. 1979. Czechoslovak armoured fighting vehicles 1918-1945. Watford: Argus Books.
Pejčoch, Ivo. 2009. “Czechoslovak heavy armored vehicles. Development, production, operational use and export of the Czechoslovak tanks, armored cars and tracked artillery tractors 1918-1956.” PhD diss., Karlova University. Pdf.
Historicalstatistics.org used to convert currency.

Categories
WW1 German Armor

Panzerautomobil Daimler 1909

German Empire (1908-1909)
Armored Car – 1 prototype built

As is the case with many early armored vehicles, the armored Daimler from 1909 is not widely known and has received only scant attention in publications. Just one vehicle was built, possibly as early as 1908, and it was used during maneuvers in 1909 alongside other vehicles with the aim of understanding the value of armored cars for the army. As the results were deemed to be negative, the German War Ministry abandoned the armored car as a viable concept and the Daimler 1909 disappeared from records.

The only known image of the vehicle, taken during the 1909 maneuvers. In the rear, two CGV 1905s can be seen. In terms of layout, the vehicle is quite similar to the CGV. Source: Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung

Background

Unfortunately, most records of German armored cars made before 1918 were lost during the Second World War. Therefore, research is mostly limited to contemporary news reports, few secondary sources, and observation of the only known photograph. However, it is not uncommon that these contradict each other. Despite this, some information is still preserved and warrants an analysis.

It is possible that production of the armored vehicle had already begun in 1908. In the military magazine ‘Mitteilungen über Gegenstände des Artillerie- und Geniewesens’ from early 1908, it is mentioned that:

“An armored car was accepted by the Saxon Army Administration in Remscheid. It is equipped with a machine gun and the armor gives such protection that, even in close quarters combat, it provides complete protection for the crew.”

It is striking that the supposed 1909 model was also armored in the city of Remscheid. Furthermore, in the French ‘Journal des sciences militaires’ of November 1908, it is noted that if tests were successful, they would be taken into service as reconnaissance vehicles with Saxon regiments. Another mention comes from the Streffleurs militärische Zeitschrift from June 1909 which states that:

“in addition to the armored car of the Rheinischen Metallwaren- und Maschinenfabrik [Ehrhardt BAK, red.], which has been tested since 1907, another such vehicle was built in 1908 by the Versuchsabteilung of the Verkehrstruppen in Berlin and armored in Remscheid.”

An argument can be made against this position as well. A short notice in the Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung of 17th January 1909 mentions that an armored car was under construction for the Testing Unit of the German Mobile Troops (Verkehrstruppen) to be used during the autumn maneuvers. However, that does not necessarily disprove the theory, as it is possible that production started in 1908 and was still underway by early 1909. This is further strengthened by a mention from April 1909 that, in that month, an armored car was taken over by the Saxon Army Command.

Name of the Daimler 1909 Model

It appears that the vehicle never received an official name. It is generally referred to as an armored Daimler or Mercedes chassis. Since 1902, all sport and tour cars of the Daimler company were advertised as Mercedes, so naming it either Daimler or Mercedes is both correct. Walter J. Spielberger called it a 45-PS-Mercedes-Wagen, while Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll named it Mercedes-Panzer-Maschinengewehr-Wagen. Rainer Strasheim gave no name and referred to it as a “makeshift armored car, based on a 40 hp Daimler chassis”.

 

 

Close-up of the vehicle. Note how the radiator is unprotected and the windows are of a similar style compared to the CGV 1905. It can just be seen how the spoked wheels are protected by a steel disc. Source: Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung
A comparative image of the Charron Girardot et Voigt 1905 model. Note the similar wheels and the general layout of large windows in the sides and the large hatch in front of the driver. Source: militaer-wissen.de

Design

The vehicle was assembled in the city of Remscheid. A contemporary source mentions the Stahlwagenfabrik (Steel car plant), referring to the Bergische Stahl-Industrie. This factory did produce steel chassis for railway cars and thus had the right tools to be able to produce an armored vehicle.

The vehicle was based upon a commercial Daimler chassis, also known as Mercedes, but the specific model is unknown. It is also unclear how much horsepower the Daimler petrol engine provided, as figures are given of either 35, 40, or 45 horsepower. The spoked wheels, protected by steel discs, were shod with pneumatic tires and suspended by leaf springs.

In terms of external appearance, the vehicle showed similarities with the French CGV 1905 and seems to have been partially modeled after it. The front radiator was unarmored which allowed sufficient cooling of the engine, but also made it very vulnerable to enemy fire. The crew compartment was located behind the engine. The driver could see through a large hatch in the front, which could be folded up or down. Another large opening was located on the right side of the car. The presence of a similar opening on the left side is possible but not visible on the photograph. Behind the driver was a large open-topped crew compartment. Again similar to the CGV, large closable hatches were located on each side. It is unknown what the rear looked like. The car was open-topped but, in the single known photograph, a tarpaulin is fitted to protect against rain. According to the French Journal des sciences militaires, there was space in the vehicle for ten people, including a driver.

Spielberger claims that the vehicle was armored with 3.5 mm thick plates. This would have been totally inadequate to provide reliable protection against infantry weapons fire, especially from close range. This was made worse by the large hatches that were easy to fire through once opened and the pneumatic tires that could easily be damaged by enemy fire.

The car carried one 7,92 mm machine gun, but it is unknown how this weapon was deployed, either on a pivot extending above the vehicle or through the hatches in the sides. It is also unknown what kind of machine gun was carried. At the time, the German Army used a quantity of the Maxim-derived MG 99 and MG 01, while an improved model, the MG 08, was just taken into production. Either of those was used.

The Maneuvers

Plans had been made to comparatively test four vehicles during the 1909 autumn maneuvers performed by the 5. Garde-Infanterie-Brigade (5th Guards Infantry Brigade) in eastern Brandenburg. Among these vehicles were two Charron Girardot Voigt 1905 models acquired from France and originally destined for Russia. They were in use by the Kraftfahrabteilung (Motor Vehicle Department) and, over time, several improvements had been made. The third vehicle was an unarmored Büssing omnibus chassis with a simple flatbed and equipped with two machine guns. The last was the Daimler/Mercedes armored car. Even before the maneuvers, it was thought that the Büssing would perform the best, since it was the lightest.

The two German CGV 1905, also photographed during the 1909 maneuvers. Note that one is without a turret, presumably delivered like that. Source: Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung

Negative Results

The maneuvers yielded mixed conclusions with the observers. The mobility and fast maneuver speed of the vehicles on roads in good condition was appreciated, but at the same time, the very limited off-road capabilities were criticized. The Versuchsabteilung (Testing Department) recommended further testing. Using the test results, the department submitted a list of specifications, to which a successful armored car had to conform, to the War Ministry. It concluded that the armor had to be bulletproof against infantry weapons, the crew should be able to fire in any direction, cars should be equipped with solid rubber tires instead of pneumatic tires, and have a suspension that allowed for off-road driving.

However, on 12th March 1910, after a request of the General Inspection of the Military Transport Department, the War Ministry decided that all further tests with armored vehicles were to be suspended. They concluded that “Armored cars can have a military value in certain cases, such as border protection, being used as blockades in mountainous areas, or blowing up bridges over rivers, but otherwise, their usefulness in war is very limited.” This verdict was further enhanced by the high operation costs in peacetime and their inability to drive off-road, although the mobility on-road was appreciated. As a result, the development of new armored cars was suspended by the Infantry Department (A2) of the War Ministry.

Furthermore, near the end of 1911, the General Inspection of the Military Transport Department reached the conclusion that armored cars were technically too fragile and vulnerable, the engines were unreliable, and adequate armor would render the cars too immobile in battle and reduce the mobility when under enemy fire, making the vehicles easy targets for artillery and field guns. At the same time, a lightly armored car would be too vulnerable to regular infantry fire. An annual report from 1911 summarized: “The age of armor is over, as the weight affects speed, without providing real protection against fire.” Thereupon, the available armored cars were supposed to be sold off.

Fate of the Daimler

Presumably, all four vehicles were scrapped after being sold or at least stripped from their armor, although there may be a small possibility that the CGVs were used in 1914. According to Kaufhold-Roll, the Daimler vehicle would become the precursor to the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft Maschinengewehrträger from 1913. This was an unarmored machine gun carrier designed in 1913 and two examples were constructed in 1914.

The Daimler Machine Gun Carrier of 1913/1914. The vehicle was unarmored, apart from a gun shield that was carried on the side. Two of these vehicles appear to have been made. Source: Motorbuch Verlag

Conclusion

Although an elaborate assessment of the vehicle cannot be made with the limited information that is available, the Daimler was clearly not a great vehicle. Having decent mobility, the car lacked off-road capabilities and was poorly protected. The maneuvers of 1909 provided valuable information regarding what an armored car had to be capable of. However, instead of further investigating the concept and resolving the observed problems, it was decided that the armored car had been an interesting curiosity but its age was over. Little did the writers of these reports know that the armored age was just beginning.

A partially speculative Illustration of the Panzerautomobil Daimler 1909 by Yuvnashva Sharma, Sponsored by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Crew 10? (driver, attendant, troops)
Propulsion Daimler, petrol, 35-45 hp
Armor 3.5 mm
Armament non-fixed machine gun, personal firearms
Total production 1

Sources

Streffleurs Militärische Zeitschrift, Automobilwesen, 7th December 1909, p.1629-1630.
Streffleurs Militärische Zeitschrift, Kriegstechnik, 1st June 1909, p.515.
Mitteilungen über Gegenstände des Artillerie- und Geniewesens, Deutschland, 1st Issue, volume 59, 1908, p.40.
Wehr und Waffen 1914-1918, Ernst von Wrisberg, Koehler, 1922, p.159.
Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung, Panzerautomobile bei den deutschen Manövern, 22nd August 1909, p.9.
Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung, Notizen. Ein Panzerautomobil, 17th January 1909, p.69.
Journal des sciences militaires, 3 La voiture des ateliers Remscheid, 1st November 1908, p.170.
Het Bloemendaalsch Weekblad, De automobiel in verschillende legers, 17th April 1909, p.5. NHA.
Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Panzer-Kraftwagen: Armoured Cars of the German Army and Freikorps, Tankograd 1007, Rainer Strasheim, Verlag Jochen Vollert, 2013.
Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.

Various sources have been accessed via https://digitalniknihovna.cz, https://anno.onb.ac.at/, and https://gallica.bnf.fr.

Categories
WW1 Austro-Hungarian Armor

Romfell

Austria Hungary tanks Austro-Hungarian Empire (1915-1919)
Armored Car – 1 Built

Before the First World War broke out in 1914, the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry had been offered several designs of armored vehicles, but all were declined. The Army did not even have armored trains in use when war was declared on Serbia in late July 1914. As the war dragged on, a desire arose among troops for some armored vehicles. On rare occasions, Austro-Hungarian troops also encountered Russian armored vehicles starting from the second half of 1915. In the same year, a new armored car was built in Budapest, although the War Ministry and Army Command were initially not involved. This car was the Romfell.

The Romfell shortly after completion. This image is preserved by the Austrian State Archives and the text on the back reads: “Buczacz 18/10.15 Panzerauto mit M.G. d. 36. J.T.D.” “Armored car with a machine gun of the 36th Infantry Troops Division, Buchach, 18th October 1915.” Source: Österreichisches Staatsarchiv

Austro-Hungarian armor developments

Home to the Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil of 1905, the first four-wheel-drive armored car, and the Burstyn Motorgeschütz of 1911, an early tank concept, Austro-Hungarian engineers were at the forefront of armored vehicle development before the war. However, these designs were rejected, along with other armored vehicle proposals, and thus, the Empire was without any armored cars when it entered the war on 28th July 1914.

Although (improvised) armored vehicles quickly appeared on the German fronts in 1914, initially, no armored cars were encountered by Austro-Hungarian troops on the fronts they fought on. The War Ministry had no intention of developing armored cars on its own, and the few designs for armored vehicles came from civilians or from the troops. Two of these initiatives were materialized in 1915, one being the Junovicz, and the other being the Romfell.

A Junovicz armored car. Either five or seven of these were built until 1918. Source: banataldemunte.blogspot.com

Construction

The initial idea for an armored vehicle came from Hauptmann (Eng: Captain) Branko Romanić, commander of Kraftfahrersatzdepot No.39 in Budapest, Hungary. More detailed plans were worked out by Oberleutnant (Eng: Lieutenant Colonel) Simon Fellner, whose names combined formed the name Romfell. Fellner was commander of the Hauptwerkstätte (Eng: main workshop) of the depot. Construction of one vehicle commenced in the spring of 1915. They were supported by reserve Lieutenant Emil Vidéky, former assistant professor at the Technical University of Budapest. On-site, the construction was managed by Imre Kádár, and the production itself was led by Lieutenants Ágoston and Fazekas. These officers also arranged the work of professional groups that were called in to work on complicated things, like the engine.

The Romfell, still in Budapest, with its creators in front. Simon Fellner stands on the right. In unspecified order, the others are presumably Branko Romanić, Emil Vidéky, Imre Kádár, Ágoston, and Fazekas. Source: Kajon Árpád Collection

The War Ministry was never informed about the project but became aware of it when, on 30th July, a formal request was made to the firm Siemens & Halske for delivery of a wireless radio with a range of 100-150 km. The first reaction by the Ministry was very negative. The conversion was seen as a waste of a perfectly fine and badly needed car.

Following up, the car was inspected by Oberleutnant Erich Kurzel Edler von Runtscheiner, who was a technical consultant with the 5/M Department of the War Ministry. This department was responsible for the organization of cars and airships, as well the Fortress Balloon Divisions and the Volunteer Corps. His report was very positive. He saw good use for military purposes and praised the craftsmanship. Reportedly, the vehicle was finished by the end of July. On 18th August, the depot officially noted that a Mercedes chassis, registered as “A VI 865”, was equipped with armor, and re-registered as “XI-271”. The report also included a question of whether the machine gun was to be fitted at the depot or by the troops it was to be issued to. Eventually, the machine gun was fitted in the depot. When a journalist visited the workshop he noted:

“The biggest surprise had yet to be shared with the visitors. In a completely locked room, the newest and most important product of the workshop was shown: a complete armored car, built after plans by the gentlemen Hauptmann Romanić and Oberleutnant Fellner in the military repair workshop, stood ready to be driven out. A more detailed description of this armored car and its armament cannot be given for understandable reasons. However, so much could be perceived that the shape and design of the armor surpasses all vehicles of foreign make. To honor the builders, the armored car was named “Romfell”. Hopefully, we will soon hear the good news of the excellent effects of the armored car.”

Sportblatt des Pester Lloyd, 24th October 1914

The Romfell shortly after completion and still in Budapest. It is shown here with the Schwarzlose machine in an anti-air configuration. This image was published in November 1915 by the Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung (Eng. General Car Magazine), presenting the vehicle to a wider public. Source: Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung no.47, 1915

The workshop

In 1906, the m. kir. Önkéntes Gépkocsizó Testületet (Eng: Royal Hungarian Voluntary Automotive Body) was formed in Budapest from members of the Magyar Automobil Club (Eng: Hungarian Automobil Club) and the Magyar Motorkerékpáros Szövetség (Eng: Hungarian Motorcycle Association). It had no regularized staff and was of mixed military and civilian origin. Both in peacetime and mobilization, the members of the body were supposed to use their own cars, but apart from that, were equipped according to military principles. When war broke out in 1914, it was reformed into a full military organization. On 1st August 1915, the K.u.K. Kraftfahrtruppenkommando (Eng: Imperial and Royal Automotive Troops Command) was set up in Vienna to coordinate military automotive affairs throughout the Empire. It stood directly under command of the War Ministry. Several bodies in Budapest were directly subordinated to this new Command, including the Depot.

The central buildings of the Automotive Replacement Depot (Hungarian: Autópóttár, German: Kraftfahrersatzdepot) were located at Ezredes Street 5-7. Some parts of the institution were located at other places in Budapest. The main workshop, where cars and light trucks were repaired, was located at 13 Zápolya Street, present-day Gogol Street. In 1911, at this location, the Magyar Automobilgyár Rt. company settled. This was an importer and repairer of French Dion-Bouton cars. No cars were built and the company was dissolved in 1913. After standing empty for a while, when war broke out, the buildings were bought by the army and expanded into a workshop.

From 1914 until January 1916, Romanić was commander of the Depot. In February 1916, he received a new position in a depot in Klosterneuburg, but returned as commander in May 1917 and remained until April 1918, when he was replaced by Hauptmann Béla Rittinger. During the absence of Romanić, in 1916 and 1917, command of the Depot was taken by Oberleutnant Fellner, who, before February 1916, was the commander of the main workshop.

Another photograph from the same time period as the previous one. The turret is facing forwards and no machine gun is fitted. Source: Landships.info
The Romfell with its short-lived trailer. No armament is fitted. Source: KarlHeinz Pfarr and Chloé Plattner

The creators: Romanić and Fellner

Simon Fellner, child of Hungarian József Fellner and German Franciska Kellner, was born on 28th October 1880 in Temeschwar (present-day Timișoara, in Romania). Fellner pursued a technical career and, in 1902, he received a degree in mechanical engineering at the Franz Joseph University in Klausenburg (present-day Cluj-Napoca, in Romania). From 1903 until 1917, he held a position at the Ganz Works in Budapest and also made study trips to Hannover and London in 1905-1906. When war broke out in 1914, he served as Oberleutnant and became commander of the main workshop of the Depot. After 1917, he also started to work at Bárdi Rt.

In 1920, the military workshop was transformed into a regular civilian car company named Unitas. It was led by Fellner and it became a success. The company traded, serviced, and produced cars, and in 1928, an agreement was reached with the Czechoslovak company Tatra to become its representative in Hungary. Apart from this successful venture, Fellner also participated in car races, and in 1929, he won the Swabian Race. He remained the technical director of Unitas until 1933. On 28th October 1947, on his birthday, Fellner died after he fell seriously ill.

A young Simon Fellner. Source: Újpesti Helytörténeti Értesítô

Branko Romanić was a reserve officer and chief engineer of the Ganz Works factory. Unfortunately, less is known about him than Fellner. In the same month Romanić left command of the depot, in April 1918, he filed a patent in Germany and Austria-Hungary for a three-wheeled agricultural tractor, together with Dr. Leo Steiner, the importer of the Holt Caterpillar tractors into Austria-Hungary before the war.

Design of the Romfell

The chosen donor chassis was a Mercedes 37/90 PS, a chain-driven rear-wheel-drive car built in 1913-1914 and powered by a 90-95 hp engine. This car had a maximum speed of 115 km/h. When the chassis was adapted to fit the armored body, relatively few changes were made, and the engine, transmission, and steering gear remained practically the same. The frame, cross-connections, spring bolts, and mounting suspension were strengthened and reinforced to allow the chassis to bear the weight of the new armored superstructure.

A chain-driven Mercedes 37/90 Sport-Phaeton. The Romfell was based on such a vehicle and the design took some inspiration from the original pointed rear. It has to be stressed that these vehicles were only rear-wheel-driven, contrary to reports that the Romfell had four-wheel drive, which was not the case. Source: Mercedes Benz Archives

The engine was a 4-cylinder in-line, four-stroke, with a displacement of 9530 cc and a bore and stroke of 130 x 180 cm. At 1300 rpm, it was capable of delivering 90-95 hp. A piston-type carburetor fuel system was used and the original fuel tank, located under the car’s rear, had a capacity of 125 l. Power was transmitted through a 4-speed manual gearbox. The engine had a fuel consumption of 29-33 l per 100 km. Only the rear wheels were driven by encapsulated chains, the front steering wheels were not driven. The Mercedes chassis weighed 1,525 kg, the curb weight was 1,950 kg. It could carry a gross weight of 2,650 kg, but the Romfell with its reinforced chassis could handle a greater load. In total, the Romfell weighed some 5 tonnes, not 7 tonnes as is sometimes suggested.

Thanks to the powerful engine, the Romfell, even with its 5 tonnes, could reach speeds between 28 and 40 km/h on good roads and even up to 25 km/h off-road, although only with favorable ground and weather conditions. In comparison, most armored cars of the time were powered by 40-60 hp engines. A notable armored car with a similar weight and engine power was the British Rolls-Royce, with a weight of 4.7 tonnes and an 80 hp engine.

Original drawings showing the unchanged Mercedes chassis. To accommodate the armored body, the chassis that was used for the Romfell was reinforced and some alterations were made. For example, the fuel tank, seen here behind the rear wheels, was relocated. Source: maquetland.com
View of the driver’s position, with all hatches open. The engine cover is also not installed. Source: KarlHeinz Pfarr and Chloé Plattner

Protection and layout

The whole armored body of nickel-chrome steel was designed in a way that bullets could not hit the armor at a right angle and the thickness of the armor was calculated so that 8 mm Mannlicher bullets could not penetrate the armor further than 110 m away, and pointed German S-bullets further than 300 m away. With these calculations, the armor plating was not too thick or thin in places, keeping weight down. The strongest plates, between 6.5 and 7 mm thick, were used on the sides of the body and the vertical parts of the turret, while less important parts of the chassis were armored by plates some 4.5 to 5 mm thick. The roof and other horizontal parts were constructed using 2 to 2.5 mm thick plates. The plates were riveted to a metal frame and some 1,500-1,600 rivets were used in construction.

The drawing on the left is a cross-section as seen from the rear-facing forwards. The right drawing shows the rear of the car. Note how the fuel was stored in the angled upper corners. The driver sat on the right. Source: maquetland.com
Close-up image of the Romfell. The starting crank can be seen below the radiator grille. Source: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The side plates were tilted outwards at an angle of 75 degrees, while the rear plates were curved into a bow shape. The crew entered the vehicle through a square and rather small hatch in the sides that opened in two parts. Above the hatch, on the left side, a shooting port was located, with an additional two located on the same side. Another two shooting ports were located on the right side, but none above the hatch, since the driver was seated there. The driver had vision through one hatch in front of him. Two further vision hatches were located in the front, one on the left for the commander/observer and a central square hatch. Behind the square hatch was a retractable Zeiss Acetylene searchlight. This light could also be raised above the vehicle through yet another hatch in the roof. The vision hatches could be locked from the inside once closed.

The radiator in front of the engine was protected by an armored shutter with fifteen slats, so it was fairly well protected but still allowed for steady airflow. The engine compartment could be accessed through hatches on the sides and on top. Below the shutter was an opening that accommodated a manual starting crank.

Two extrusions were present on the lower rear of the Romfell. Attached to the lowest part of the rear armored plating was a towing hook, originally fitted to tow a trailer. Slightly lower, and pointing downwards, was another extrusion fitted to the chassis. It consisted of two iron bars with a sharp edge pointing downwards and connected to each other by a horizontal bar. Attached to it was a chain and when pulled, the contraption would lower to the ground, anchoring the vehicle if it had to stop while driving up a slope. Its effectiveness would have been limited, however, since the road surface could neither be too loose or too hard, in which case it would not be able to stop the vehicle from rolling down the slope.

The extension at the rear had quite a logical purpose. If the car was driving up a slope but had to stop, this contraption could be lowered, anchoring the vehicle, but its effectiveness depended on the state of the ground. If the soil was too loose or too hard, it would not be able to stop the vehicle from rolling down.

Turret and armament

The turret was mounted slightly to the rear of the vehicle. Due to the thin armor of the roof plate, a reinforced structure had to be made to support the weight of the turret. The supports can be seen on the exterior, with two rows of rivets on the upper edge of the side plates. The round turret ring had a diameter of 1,100 mm. Inside the turret were the other two crew members, presumably two gunners, or one gunner and a commanding officer. At the front of the turret was an opening for the M.07/12 Schwarzlose machine gun. The machine gun was slightly protected from the sides by two extruding armored plates. The machine gun had an elevation of 45° and a depression of 30°. The turret itself could be turned 360°.

A cross-section of the turret, dated December 1915 and signed by Romanic himself. The drawing shows the seat of the gunner, the machine gun and its mount, and the rollers on which the turret rotated. Source: maquetland.com

A large hatch was located on top of the turret, which hinged forwards. This hatch had several functions. Most importantly, it allowed the fitting of the machine gun to a pintle mount on the rear of the turret so it could function as an anti-air machine gun. Apart from this main use, other uses included the ability to load and maintain the machine gun, a crew member could protrude through it to get a better view from the surrounding area, and it could be opened for the ventilation of machine gun gasses that would otherwise fill the vehicle during firing.

The Schwarzlose M.07/12 machine gun was a design from 1902 and built under license by Austrian Steyr. It was a relatively simple and inexpensive weapon compared to its counterparts, like the German MG.08 and the family of Maxim machine guns. Presumably, the machine gun that was mounted in the Romfell had the stronger mainspring fitted, which allowed a firing rate of 580 rounds per minute.

It was envisioned that the vehicle carried 20,000 rounds of ammunition, although 12,000 were to be stored in the trailer. This left 8,000 rounds within the vehicle.

Longitudinal cross-section of the Romfell. It shows how the ammunition was stored against the lower parts of the hull. The 170 l of fuel that the Romfell could carry was divided into five separate tanks, the largest of which was located in the rear bow. This was done with the idea in mind that the car would not lose all of its fuel when a tank got damaged. Source: maquetland.com

Equipment and trailer

As mentioned, a wireless telegraph was requested from the firm Siemens & Halske. A range of 100 to 150 km was desired. Although a novel idea, this radio station seems to have never been fitted.

Besides the main armament, a spare machine gun was carried but presumably stored in the trailer. Further armament included one Mannlicher M.95 8 mm infantry rifle and two Steyr M1912 9 mm pistols.

Included in the original design was a small single-axle trailer. Its role was to transport fuel, ammunition, and spare parts, allowing the Romfell to operate longer and more independently. However, the storage space was rather limited and it impeded the mobility of the Romfell, so it was later decided to discontinue the use of a trailer. Instead, the Romfell was to be accompanied by a separate truck.

A non-original line drawing of the Romfell, showing what the trailer would have looked like in the top left corner. The trailer featured the same design as the car, but the carrying capabilities turned out to be too low and it was soon swapped for an accompanying truck. Source: Haditechnika 2003

Russian armored cars against Austria-Hungary

Shortly before the Romfell was issued to the troops in October, Austro-Hungarian troops encountered the first Russian armored cars on three to four occasions, according to documentation. In September, the 4th Army reported that, between Lutsk and Rivne, up to four armored cars were deployed. On 13th September 1915, the 24th ID reported that, near Klevan, a Russian armored car had caused great unrest among the 10th and 45th IR and had dispersed these units. In October, the 7th Army reported that a Russian armored car was destroyed by artillery near Zielona. Based on the effects the cars had on the battlefield, from several ranks, the desire arose for their own armored cars, which coincided with the Romfell actually being accepted into service.

The Romfell in Buchach, October 1915, shortly after it was issued to the 36th Infantry Division. The turret is turned away from the photographer. The trailer is not attached and was decommissioned very quickly. The wooden-spoked wheels were protected by 5 mm thick plates. Source: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Romfell into service

On 30th July 1915, the Romfell made its first test drive and was driven for 100 km. In the first week of October (or August, depending on the source), the vehicle took part in a large military parade held in Budapest. This show of military might, organized by Infantry General Marenzi, the military commander of Budapest, was intended to support the Red Cross and was attended by a variety of Hungarian notables, including Minister of War Baron Samu Hazay, and Artillery Inspector Lieutenant General Kárász. Apart from the Romfell, conventional forces were shown, as well as a Holt Caterpillar. The Romfells’ appearance was praised by the onlookers and, after being shipped to Vienna to be inspected by the Ministry of War, the Romfell and its trailer were accepted for service.

The Romfell in the winter of 1915/1916. These pictures are presumably taken in the vicinity of Buchach. Note that the large iron crosses have already been removed. Source left: Haditechnika 2003; right: Kraftfahrzeuge im Dienste der k.(u.)k. Armee
A unique view of a very muddy Romfell, probably thanks to the lack of fenders. It would have been a good reason to keep the hatches closed. Source: KarlHeinz Pfarr and Chloé Plattner

On 11th October 1915, the Romfell was issued to the 7th Army and placed in command of Oblt.a.D. Ludwig von Rakosy. The vehicle was attached to the 36th Infantry Troops Division (36 Infanterie Truppen Division, 36.I.T.D.), which, together with the 15.I.T.D., formed the XIII Corps. This Corps reported later that the vehicle saw no action in late October. The 36.I.T.D. was stationed near Buczacz, present-day Buchach, Ukraine. During the following months, the car was used in this area, but no specific action was recorded, suggesting that the car did not see major action.

It was found out that the trailer was not as convenient as hoped. It was too small to carry enough equipment, while it impeded mobility. It was decided to ditch the idea and instead use an accompanying truck to carry spares, fuel, and ammunition. Also around this time, the large black-on-white iron crosses were removed from the sides.

The Romfell saw its last combat use on the Eastern Front during the Brusilov Offensive. In a worn-out condition, it was withdrawn from the unit on 11th August 1916 and transferred to the Kraftwagenwerkstätte Nr.36 des Etappengruppenkommandos 9 (Eng: Car Workshop No.36 of Support Command No.9) located in Stryi, roughly 110 km to the west of Buchach. In Stryi, it was repaired and received a new registration, “KN 5965”. This was against proposed plans of the Depot from Budapest which, on 29th August 1916, requested the return of the car for refurbishment, and fitting of new parts, like an electric starter engine and anti-slip tires, but this did not happen.

The Romfell, photographed in Reșița. Note that the headlights have been removed. Source: banatuldemunte.blogspot.com

After this, the records seem to have gone silent until the Romfell reappeared in June 1917, when the car arrived in Ljubljana. It is unknown where the car was in this period of roughly eleven months. It is the author’s theory that, during this time, the Romfell was transported to Resicza (present-day Reșița, Romania), as photographs exist of the Romfell in front of the Reșița Machine Factory. It was presumably refurbished at this plant. It is also possible that it was used as a production sample, because at the time, the factory began construction of several Junovicz armored cars. In the photographs, several features of the Romfell are missing, like the headlights and the exhaust pipe that normally extruded from the side in front of the rear chain.

This theory would not only explain the lack of information concerning this time period but also explain why the Romfell was photographed in Reșița.

At the same place, but from another angle. The text below the photograph is in Romanian and reads: “Car factory: an armored car built in Reșița”. Source: banatuldemunte.blogspot.com
Photograph of the machine factory in Reșița, showing the same building as in the previous photograph. Source: cimec.ro

The Romfell goes to the Italian Front

Following repairs and much later, the car was transferred to the 5th Army, allegedly to be used as a light mobile reserve for coastal defense near Trieste with the Adelsberg Küstenschutzdienst IV. On 18th June 1917, the car arrived by rail in Ljubljana. From there, it was driven by Zugsführer Johann Amann to Trieste and, with its crew, transferred to Feldautopark Nr.1. There, it was decided to replace the worn-out Mercedes chassis with a captured Italian Fiat 18BL truck registered with the number “KN 8428”.

Due to this rebuild, the car changed, both in terms of performance and appearance. The armor layout remained practically the same, with the only changes made to the slats in front of the radiator and the small radiator cap on top. More noticeable was the completely changed underbody of the car, and the wooden-spoked wheels were now unprotected. The new wheelbase of 3.55 m remained practically the same but the total length was shortened by 0.3 m to 5.37 m. Thanks to the lightweight chassis and running gear of the Fiat, the total weight was reduced by 1.5 tonnes, to 3.51 tonnes. Thanks to this massive decrease in weight, the M09 Goliath water-cooled petrol engine, with just 44 hp, managed to propel the vehicle to a speed of 35 km/h. Like the Mercedes, the Fiat had only rear-wheel-drive.

In March 1918, the Army High Command ordered the creation of armored car platoons on the Italian Front. To achieve this, all available armored cars were ordered to be relocated to Feldautopark Nr.1, a military car supply unit, located in Udine. On 1st June 1918, the first platoon (Panzerautozug Nr.1) was officially formed and Lieutenant Robert Dirr was placed in command. The Romfell was also ordered to be included in this new platoon. Apart from the Romfell, by the end of August, the unit consisted of a former Russian Austin 3rd Series, a Junovicz, a former Italian Lancia 1ZM, and a former Italian Isotta-Fraschini. It is believed that this unit saw little to no fighting and operated behind the frontline. The Lancia was quickly transported to Vienna. After the truce, the Junovicz was also transported away, but a bit more action awaited the Austin and Romfell.

The Romfell on the Eastern Front, photographed by a Croatian soldier of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The pictures are presumably taken in the early summer of 1916. Source: FS Collection
The Romfell in Gallicia, early summer of 1916. Source: Haditechnika 1983

The situation in Carinthia after October 1918

The end of the First World War also marked the end of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was dissolved and this led to the creation of multiple smaller states. As to be expected, each state had its own geographical wishes, which resulted in many (violent) border disputes between them. One such area was southeastern Carinthia, which had a mixed population of Slovenes and Germans. The Republic of German-Austria, which was officially declared on 12th November 1918, laid claims on the area, as well as the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, officially declared on 29th October 1918. Therefore, no border between the two new states was drawn.

Already in November, the first military action began, when Yugoslav forces and militias started to advance into Carinthia. In January and February 1919, the clashes were much more violent and the Yugoslavs managed to occupy a large territory, but on 13th February, a peace treaty was signed between the two parties. This came after a ceasefire, arbitrated by the Entente Powers, who had been alarmed by the fighting. A dispatched US Army commission recommended a plebiscite for the entire Klagenfurt region.

On 29th April 1919, the Yugoslavs broke the ceasefire and advanced into the area held by Austrian troops. They encountered much more resistance than they had during their first offensive and successful Austrian counterattacks caused them to retreat. Within a short period, Austria regained control of most of the area that had been lost during the winter. Eventually, the counter-offensive was halted by the Yugoslavs, and a new Yugoslav offensive from 26th May until 6th June was successful, with a large part of the Klagenfurt area captured.

On 10th September 1919, the Treaty of Saint-Germain was signed, which established most of the new Austrian-Yugoslav border. The planned plebiscite was held on 10th October 1920 and a majority of the contested area voted to be part of Austria.

The results of the plebiscite: the pink areas joined Yugoslavia, while the remainder (red and blue) voted to stay with Austria. Source: fepanews.com

Deployment of the Romfell in Carinthia

The last chapters of the history of the Romfell were written in this period. After the Armistice was signed in 1918, Zugsführer Johann Amann retreated with the Romfell and the Austin to Carinthia. He was accompanied by Zugsführers Schoderböck and Deutschmann, as well as Gefreiter Petschnig. They decided to stay in Carinthia to fight against the Yugoslavs. Eight men joined and command of the armored car section was taken over by Fähnrig Jack. Zgf. Schoderböck was placed in command of the Romfell, and Zgf. Großl in command of the Austin. To reinforce the section, an improvised armored car was made by adding sandbags to a 3-t-Saurer-Subventions-LKW truck and armed with one to two machine guns, but it was considered useless in battle and disassembled after March 1919.

On 1st December 1918, one of the armored cars saw its first action, presumably the Romfell, during an attack on the city of Völkermarkt, to the east of Klagenfurt. On 15th December, the complete unit saw action near Grafenstein, a small town between Klagenfurt and Völkermarkt. During the armistice, in a period between 1st and 14th April, the Romfell was stationed on the road Trixen-Haimburg-Griffen, to the north of Völkermarkt, in order to defend Austrian field guards and recover trucks that got stuck on or near the road.

The Romfell in April 1919, next to a captured Austin 3rd Series. The location is the Waisenhauskaserne in Klagenfurt, Carinthia. This is the only known photograph of the Romfell on the Fiat 18BL chassis. The man in the center, with his arms crossed, is the commander of the unit, Fhr. Jack. Completely to the right, next to the Austin, stands Johann Amann. The man in the Romfell is Zgf. Schoderböck, the man seated on the Austin is Zgf. Großl. Source: Yandex

When the Yugoslavs broke the ceasefire on 29th April, the section saw major action. Rather quickly, one of the drivers of the Austin was taken out of action, so a new driver had to be recruited from another unit. In the morning, at 7:50, the armored car section advanced from Klagenfurt, together with the 2nd Volkswehr Battalion and some other units, to the small River Gurk. After clearing the road near Haidach, they advanced to Poggersdorf, around 17:30. An hour later, the armored cars advanced further to Kreuzerhof, but this time without infantry support. There, the Austin was damaged by the Yugoslavs with hand grenades and one crewmember, Gottwald, was wounded.

The next day, on 30th April, the Romfell supported the 2nd Volkswehr Battalion in their advance to Völkermarkt. It also performed some reconnaissance missions. On 2nd May, the Romfell took part in the attack on Völkermarkt itself. After this, the Romfell was moved southwest and on 4th May, it was deployed near Sankt Margareten and Abtei. It was tasked to clear the road in advance of the infantry. During the two following days, the Romfell saw action in the general area of Eisenkappel. On 6th May, at 13:30, the car was tasked to supply a machine gun unit, operating in the frontline, with new ammunition. This was the last reported action in which the Romfell took part. Its fate after that is unknown.

The captured Austin, photographed on 29th July 1918. It was deployed alongside the Romfell for quite some time. Unlike the Romfell, the Austin would survive for a long time and was only scrapped in 1951. One of its turrets has been preserved. Source: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

A second Romfell?

In publications based on older research, it is sometimes mentioned that possibly two Romfells or even more were built, but this is highly unlikely. It is true that the Romfell was once transferred to a new chassis, and either this rebuild or the fact that it looked slightly different on photographs after the transfer has caused confusion in the past. There were also reports that a Romfell was used post-war by Hungary and later captured by Romania. There are even claims that the Romfell was built in Reșița, present-day Romania, during the war. All this appears to be false information or information concerning different vehicles than the Romfell. In contemporary military reports, always a single vehicle is mentioned. Furthermore, in the relatively well-preserved records of the Depot in Budapest, a second vehicle is never mentioned. The most recent research suggests that just one Romfell was produced in Budapest in 1915 on a Mercedes chassis, while in 1918, the armored body was relocated to a Fiat chassis (based on the works by Bíró Ádám [2010], Chloé Fanny Plattner [2019], and Franz Felberbauer [2018]).

A Romfell Anti-Air truck?

In a publication by Hajdú Ferenc and Sárhidai Gyula from 2005, a line drawing was published of a supposed “Romfell 3” from 1918. It represents an anti-air vehicle, with a naval Škoda 5/8 M L/30 AA gun based on a Marta Alváz 40 hp 3-5t truck. The publication is of dubious quality and contains numerous errors, and to what extent the vehicle, the name of the vehicle, or its design did exist in the presented form is unknown. The claims seem to originate from a 2003 issue of the Hungarian magazine Haditechnika, which presents a bit more information. It states that the single vehicle was rebuilt into a fire truck in 1920 and used as such for many years. In more recent research, the Romfell Anti-Air vehicle is not mentioned, which may suggest it never existed, or at least never existed with the name Romfell attached to it.

A line drawing of the Romfell AA, called Romfell 3 in this instance. It does not appear to be an original drawing, but could very well be a reproduction of an original. Source: Haditechnika 2003
A scale model of the Romfell AA. It is unknown when or by whom this model was constructed. The images are stamped by a Car Museum from Budapest. Source: Haditechnika 2003

Conclusion

From a technical point of view, the Romfell was one of the better armored cars that was built during the First World War, although the Mercedes chassis wore down quite quickly. It was elegantly designed and aesthetically pleasing, something that could not often be said about armored vehicles of the time. The car also had some features that may be considered modern for its time, like the intentional use of sloped armor, the provision of an anti-air pintle mount, and the proposed plans for a radio. With just one vehicle produced and seeing little action, the Romfell had a negligible role in the war effort and its successful post-war deployment in 1919 is probably the most remarkable.

Illustration of the Romfell by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications (Mercedes chassis)

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.67 m x 1.8 m x 2.48 m (“>18 ft 7 in x 5 ft 11 in x 8 ft 2 in)
Total weight, battle-ready 5 tonnes (5,5 US Ton)
Crew 4 (Commander, driver, gunner, assistant)
Propulsion Mercedes 4-stroke Otto, 4-cylinder, 75 hp at 1200 rpm, water cooled
Speed (road/off road) 28-40 km/h (17.4-24.9 mph) / 20-25 km/h in favorable conditions (12.4-15.5 mph)
Primary Armament 1x 8 mm Schwarzlose M 07/12 machine gun (+1 spare)
“>Ground clearance 0.36 m (1 ft 2 in)
“>Wheelbase 3.58 m (1 ft 9 in)
Armor 2-7 mm (0.08-0.3 in)

Specifications (Fiat chassis)

Length 5.37 m (17 ft 7 in)
Total weight, battle-ready 3,51 tonnes (3,87 US Ton)
Propulsion M09 Goliath water-cooled petrol engine, 44 hp
Speed (road) 35 km/h (21,7 mph)

Sources

Militärwissenschaftliche Mitteilungen, Volume 61, Panzerfahrzeuge 1930, Major a. D. Dr. Heigl, 1930, p.709-712.
Sportblatt des Pester Lloyd, Die Militärische Automobil-Reparaturwerkstätte in Budapest, 24th October 1915, p.25. Anno.
Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung, no.47, Oesterreichisch-Ungarisches Panzer-Automobil, 21st November 1915, p.32.
Verordnungsblatt für das k. u. k. Heer: Beiblatt, Volume 22, No.46, 4th September 1915, p.263. Google Books.
Carinthia I, Moderne Kampfmethoden und Kampfmittel im Kärntner Abwehrkampf, Erwin Steinböck, 1963, p.656-675. Anno.
Schematismus für das k. u. k. Heer und für die k. u. k. Kriegsmarine 1914, Staatsdruckerei, February 1914, p.755. pdf.
DE Patent 309478, Dreirädrige Zugmaschine, Dr. Leo Steiner & Branko Romanic, applied 16th April 1918, published 23rd November 1918.
Budapest, XIII. Kerület, Gogol utca 15, Helyszínek, magyarjarmu.hu.
Katonai Logisztika, Volume 24, no.2, Adalékok az mh Anyagellátó Raktárbázis Történetéhez – A Gépkocsiszertár, Varga Imre, 2016, p.224-268. pdf.
Újpesti Helytörténeti Értesítô, Volume 21, no.4, Simon Fellner, Hirmann László, December 2014, p.26-28. pdf.
A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Haditechnikai Intézettõl a HM Technológiai Hivatalig 1920–2005, Hajdú Ferenc & Sárhidai Gyula, HM Technológiai Hivatal, 2005. pdf.
Haditechnika, Volume 44, No.5, Romfell páncélgépkocsi, a magyar páncélgépjárműgyártás első produktuma I. Rész., Bíró Ádám, 2010, p.68-73. pdf.
Haditechnika, Volume 44, No.6, Romfell páncélgépkocsi, a magyar páncélgépjárműgyártás első produktuma II. Rész., Bíró Ádám, 2010, p.74-78. pdf.
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer des österreichischen Heeres 1896 bis heute, Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, 1976, p.328-341.
The Austro-Hungarian Forces in World War I (part 2) 1916-1918, Men-at-Arms 367, Peter Jung, Osprey Publishing, 2003, p.33.
Stahl und Eisen im Feuer – Panzerzüge und Panzerautos des K.u.K. Heeres 1914-1918, Rudolf Hauptner & Peter Jung, 2003, p.27, 31-32.
100 Jahre Panzerwaffe im österreichischen Heer, Rolf M. Urrisk, Herbert Weishaupt Verlag, 2006, p.85-90.
Panzerfahrzeuge des Österreichischen Heeres, Franz Felberbauer, Motorbuch Verlag, 2018, p.12.
Samochody pancerne I wojny Światowej, Witold J. Ławrynowicz and Albert Rokosz, Tetragon, 2020, p.244-247.
Romfell, Copper State Models, Chloé Fanny Plattner, August 2019, p.4-9. Pdf.

Categories
Cold War British Other Vehicles

GKN Sankey AT104

United Kingdom (1972)
Internal Security Vehicle – 28 built + 1 prototype

The AT104 was an internal security vehicle designed and built by the British firm GKN Sankey. With only 28 vehicles sold, it was not a great success. This was mainly due to the short period during which it was offered, for just three years, between 1972 and 1975. By then, Sankey had developed the improved AT105, which would later enter service with the British Army as the Saxon. Thanks to the success of the Saxon, the AT104 was rightfully sidelined, but has received very little attention ever since.

The AT104 prototype, featuring right-hand-drive. Source: unknown

Development

GKN Sankey was the developer and producer of the British FV432 APCs, but, more importantly in this context, the producer of the armored hulls for the Humber Pig. They realized in 1970, presumably due to the deployment of armored vehicles during the troubles in Northern Ireland, that there was a requirement for a well-armored internal security vehicle. They came up with the 4 x 2 AT100, a prototype of which was completed in 1971. It was aimed for urban operations. The vehicle did not gather any interest, notably from Sankey itself either. The next vehicle received more attention, the AT104. A prototype of this 4 x 4 vehicle was completed in 1972 and was supposed to be much better suited for rougher terrain and less developed roads.

The AT100 prototype from 1970/71. Just one was produced and no customer was found, because the AT104 and AT105 were favored over it. Source: Yuri Pasholok

Design

The armored hull was of all-welded steel construction, consisting of armor plates between 6 to 12.5 mm thick, although according to Dutch sources, the armor was up to 16/17 mm thick. The engine was located at the front of the vehicle and fully armored. The driver sat behind it, either on the left or the right, depending on the wishes of the customer, and was provided with three bullet-proof glass vision blocks. The personnel compartment was located at the rear of the vehicle, where a troop of nine could be seated on padded seats running down each side of the hull. On each side was a door, with one specifically for the driver. In the rear of the hull, a twin door was installed. Positioned around the hull were a total of seven firing/vision ports. As an option, GKN also developed a ball-type mount so that men could fire their weapons from within.

The commander’s cupola was located in the centre of the roof, and had a single piece hatch cover that folded forwards, and four bullet-proof vision blocks, with one facing to each side of the square cupola. Alternatively, a small turret could be fitted, equipped with three vision blocks and one periscope facing forwards. GKN Sankey also offered a variety of armament installations and fittings that also included a pintle-mounted machine gun.

Propulsion

In terms of propulsion, either a diesel or a petrol Bedford 6-cylinder were offered. The petrol version produced 134 bhp at 3,300 rpm, while the diesel produced 98 bhp at 2,600 rpm. The engine was coupled to an Allison AT540 automatic transmission with one reverse and four forward gears and a power take-off provision. This provision was basically an access port to the transmission to allow the mounting of an accessory like a hydraulic pump.

A Dutch Sankey on 9th January 1974. Two of them were stationed at Schiphol airport as a deterrent and for defence against possible Palestinian hijackings and terrorist attacks. Source: Dutch National Archives

The AT104 was standard fitted with power assisted steering and servo-assisted hydraulic brakes. The wheels, shod with run-flat tires, were suspended with Bedford semi-elliptical springs and hydraulic shock absorbers, as they would be fitted to regular Bedford MK trucks. The 24V electrical system was coupled to a battery with a 100 Amp/hr capacity that could be charged by an engine-driven alternator that had an output of 790 watt.

GKN Sankey offered various accessories to be fitted, like grenade dischargers, air conditioning and heater units, searchlights, auxiliary electrical generators, a hydraulically operated barricade remover, a hydraulic winch with a pull of 5,000 kg, and a variety of similar equipment.

Sold to Brunei

As a British Protectorate, Brunei was defended by the British Army. However, Omar Ali Saifuddien III, Sultan of Brunei since 1950, was keen on the military and decided to raise a small Brunei Military Force. It was formed on 31st May 1961 and training took place in neighbouring Malaysia. Due to a major conflict between Malaysia and Indonesia, the Brunei Regiment moved back to Brunei and British officers and N.C.O.s arrived instead to resume training in April 1964.

Because the Regiment was privately formed, it was not backed up like regular British Regiments, and all equipment was acquired through a special Administrative Officer. Several Ferret armored cars were acquired in 1964/65, and formed into a ‘Ferret troop’; the first armored unit within the Regiment. Training was received in Australia with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment. The training was headed by a British officer, Captain B.A.C. Duncan.

One of the two customers for the AT104 was the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. According to The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), 24 Sankeys were delivered between 1972 and 1976, after an order from late 1971. This was due to a new agreement signed between Britain and Brunei in November 1971, which granted Brunei full internal self-government, while the UK would be responsible for external affairs and defence. In terms of defence, it was further agreed that both parties would become responsible for security and defence. In light of this, additional equipment was ordered for the Brunei Military. By 1977, all vehicles were in service. On 1st January 1984, Brunei became fully independent. The Sankeys never saw real action and were mainly used for mechanized training.

The AT104 at the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Museum. The front louvers immediately stand out, with 18 narrow slats. Armored plates have been put around the vision blocks, which would have decreased vision further. The opening ports are visually different from the prototype and Dutch versions, and feature flat plates. Most notable is the small commander’s turret that replaced the fixed cupola and features a machine gun mount, smoke dischargers and a large periscope on top. Source: Review on Google Maps by 怪しい東洋人

In 1988, an additional 26 VAB-VTT 4 x 4 APCs were ordered from France, including two ARV vehicles (VAB ELI). The Sankeys remained the nucleus of the VAB armored fleet, formed in three armored transport platoons (Malay: Platun Kenderaan Angkut Perisai) in 1989.

According to the publication ‘Military Balance’, all were taken out of service by 1995. However, as of 2021, two Sankeys still remain in storage in a serviceable state.

Besides these two vehicles, at least one was preserved and has been put on display at the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Museum in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. Contrary to the prototype and Dutch vehicles, this vehicle is fitted with a machine gun-armed turret. This makes the vehicle, as a military version, quite distinctive from the police version. Other unique features include a front louver with many small slats, instead of fewer big ones, and flat vision parts that slide open.

The Ferret, the first armored vehicle to serve with the Brunei Regiment, with the Sankey in the background. Note the extension on the side below the turret. Source: Review on Google Maps by 怪しい東洋人

Sold to the Dutch State Police

The second customer would be the Dutch State Police (NL: Rijkspolitie). For many European police forces, the year 1972 was an important year. The terrorist attack on the Munich Olympic Games in West Germany led to the creation of various counter-terrorism units. The police forces sought new tactical and protective equipment for this role. The Dutch police had no modern armored vehicles for the internal security role and had to rely on assistance provided by the Royal Constabulary (NL: Koninklijke Marechaussee). Therefore, in 1973, the State Police took delivery of four AT104s, specifically for airport defence, while two UR-416s were bought for the Communal Police (NL: Gemeentepolitie) of Amsterdam and The Hague.

The idea to acquire armored vehicles was not new. In 1970, a team of technical specialists of the police had made a list of requirements for a lightly armored personnel carrier meant riot control and airport security. The requirements called for an air-tight vehicle, fast and maneuverable, equipped with bulletproof glass and armor that would be able to resist small explosives and Molotov cocktails, to protect ‘the living contents’. In the summer of 1970, tests were carried out with French vehicles, but adoption of these never followed.

On 9th August 1973, the first two vehicles were handed over at the factory to Police Commissioner J. Schouten of the Mobile Unit (NL: Mobiele Eenheid, ME, a riot squad). The other two would be completed sometime during the following months. In total, about half a million guilders (US$156,000 in 1972 values) were spent for the four vehicles. After completion, the vehicles were first tested by technical personnel of the police and, after arriving in the Netherlands, the vehicles were first sent to the Police Technical Service in the city of Delft, where some final adjustments were made. They received the registration numbers DB-47-94, DB-47-95, DB-60-34, and GM-89-66. The Dutch had some trouble with the name Sankey, which was often written incorrectly, like Shankey or Sjenkie.

The two Sankeys at Schiphol Airport in January 1974. The front vehicle, DB-47-95, is equipped with the small kind of barricade remover. Source: Dutch National Archives

Two vehicles were permanently stationed at Schiphol Airport to serve with the Police Aviation Service (NL: Dienst Luchtvaart), while the other two were relocated to the city of Neerijnen, where the Central Training of Mobile Units (NL: Centrale Opleiding Mobiele Eenheden, COME) was located. The armored vehicles were a welcome addition at Schiphol. Since 1972, M113 C&Vs of the Royal Constabulary were used to defend the planes of El Al Airlines and Lufthansa, but using tracked vehicles was not ideal, and communication with the State Police did not go as smoothly as it should have. In January 1974, an exercise was held together with the Royal Constabulary and their M113 C&Vs to defend Schiphol airport against potential Palestine terrorists armed with Russian-supplied SAM-7 missiles.

Between 1976 and 1978, the police took delivery of more armored vehicles, namely eight Shorland Mk 3s, and four, later five of these were stationed at Schiphol Airport. Consequently, the Sankeys at Schiphol became redundant and were relocated to COME to join the other two.

Deployment

Apart from airfield defense, the Sankeys were regularly deployed by the State Police in a variety of incidents and special events. During the 1970s and 1980s, several members of terrorist groups or hijackers were put on trial and the Sankeys were often used to transport them from jail to court hearings. They also saw action when truckers blocked the border post at Wuustwezel in 1974, and provided assistance to the police in September 1981, when a nuclear reactor was blocked off by anti-nuclear protestors. They were also deployed during the ‘squatting riots’ and the riots that erupted during the coronation of Queen Beatrix in 1980.

A Sankey seen from the front. This vehicle is outfitted with the wider type of barricade remover. Source: politievoertuigen.nl

Another major action happened in May and June 1977. On 23rd May, four armed South Moluccans had entered a school in the town of Bovensmilde and taken 105 children and 5 teachers hostage, while near the small village De Punt, a train was hijacked. To understand the situation, one has to go back to the aftermath of the Indonesian Independence War. South Moluccans had fought for the Dutch during the war and were exiled to the Netherlands in 1951. The Dutch government promised it was temporary and that they could eventually return and get their own independent state. However, after 25 years of living in temporary camps and in poor conditions, nothing had changed and especially the new generation of Moluccans felt betrayed by the Dutch government. In response, some Moluccans resorted to radical actions, including the ones witnessed on the 23rd of May.

The situation lasted for three weeks, until 11th June, when Marines stormed the school, supported by armored vehicles, including M113s of the Royal Constabulary and Sankeys of the State Police, while military DAF YP408s were also present. Fortunately, no one died during the incident.

During the 1990s, the Sankeys were taken out of service, with the last vehicle, DB-47-95, being donated in 1996 to the Dutch Police Museum (Nederlands Politiemuseum, NPM). After this museum was closed down in 2007, the collection was transferred to a new museum in Almere, named Safety Museum PIT, with PIT being the name of the blue flashing light that is mounted on emergency vehicles. This new museum was opened in 2014, and the Sankey is one of its major attractions.

The interior of a Dutch Sankey. Source: politievoertuigen.nl

Dutch AT104 specifications

The Dutch opted for the version with a 98 bhp diesel engine and wanted thicker armor, up to 16 mm. The options for an air conditioning unit and heater were not taken, meaning the vehicle was very uncomfortable during the summer and winter. Although the base vehicle has a vehicle crew of two, the Dutch vehicles had a crew of three, including a commander and two drivers. The drivers switched duty regularly and acted as observers when not driving. In general, the vehicle was very uncomfortable, lacking good vision for the driver, no seatbelts in the rear, and troops that were carried in the back only had a small rope attached to the roof to stay in place during a drive.

An AT104 of the Dutch State Police, Rijkspolitie in Dutch. The policemen who served with the vehicles quickly found out that it was very uncomfortable. No seatbelts were included, and it lacked both a heater and an air conditioning unit. Source: L. Goumare
A Sankey behind two M113s of the Royal Constabulary, photographed on 3rd March 1990. Source: ANP via Amsterdam City Archives

AT105

The AT100 and AT104 were short-lived, mainly thanks to the AT105, a prototype of which was completed already in 1974. It featured various improvements over the AT104, like a shorter wheelbase and an engine that was completely within the armored envelope, to name a few. The vehicle went on a sales tour to South America in early 1975 and it would enter an evaluation program of the British Army. They would eventually accept it into service as the Saxon.

Conclusion

The AT104, especially when not equipped with some additional features, was quite an uncomfortable vehicle that offered a decent balance between mobility and armored protection. Thanks to its hefty design features, the AT104 was quite the appearance, which made it intimidating and that turned out to be useful in police operations. Both in the Netherlands and Brunei, the AT104s were replaced after some twenty years of service, which is not bad for an armored vehicle. In terms of its importance to the world of armored vehicles, the development of the AT105 Saxon is probably most important, but apart from that, the influence of the AT104 was modest.

A Sankey and a M113 C&V of the Royal Constabulary in 1974. Source: politievoertuigen.nl

See the site politievoertuigen.nl for more images of the Sankey AT104 in Dutch service.

Illustration of the AT104 in Dutch State Police colors. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

AT104 Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.47 x 2.44 x 2.49 m (18ft x 8ft x 8ft2in)
Weight 8 tonnes (17,637lbs)
Weight loaded 8.9 tonnes (19,621lbs)
Crew 2 + 9 (commander, driver, personnel)
Ground clearance 0.46 m (1ft6in, hull) 0.33 m (1ft1in, axles)
Fording depth 0.7 m (2ft4in)
Track 2.08 m (6ft10in, front) 2.06 m (6ft9in, rear)
Wheelbase 3.3 m (10ft10in)
Turning radius 7.62 m (25ft)
Maximum road speed 80 km/h (50 mph)
Range 640 km (400 miles)
Fuel capacity 160 liters
Propulsion (two choices) Bedford 6-cylinder petrol, 134 bhp at 3,300 rpm
Bedford 6-cylinder diesel, 98 bhp at 2,600 rpm
Armor 6-12.5 mm (0,24-0,5 inch, up to 16 mm [0,63 inch] on Dutch vehicles)
Armament Optional
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Sources

Special thanks to ‘Giganaut’ for providing information about the vehicles in Brunei Service
GKN Sankey, politievoertuigen.nl.
Pantservoertuigen Rijkspolitie, De Sankey AT 104 Pantservoertuig, rijkspolitie.org.
Jane’s World Armoured Fighting Vehicles, Christopher F. Foss, 1976.
The Tank, I traded my tank for a tamoi, Captain B.A.C. Duncan, 1966, p.268-271.
AT104 advert, eBay, 1974.
Enorm blauw monster van de politie in strijd tegen terrorisme, Sublime Culture NL, Youtube.
Military Review, Professional Journal of the US Army, Volume 53, January 1973, p.96, Google Books.
Politie wapent zich tegen rellen, Tubantia, 10 August 1973, p.11.
Pantserwagens voor politie, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 11 August 1973, p.3.
Rijkspolitie wil pantserwagen bij rellen, De Volkskrant, 26 August 1970, p.3.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Trade Registers, consulted on 1 March 2021.
Terrorist wacht warm welkom op Schiphol, De Telegraaf, 10 January 1974, p.1.
The Military balance 1977, International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Military balance 1994, International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Historicalstatistics.org used for currency conversion.

Categories
Modern Dutch Vehicles

DMV Anaconda

The Netherlands (2018)
Light Tactical Vehicle – 60 built

The Anaconda is a light tactical vehicle developed in the Netherlands by the company DMV. It is based on the Italian Iveco Daily 4 x 4, a light commercial van. It was specifically designed for use in the Dutch Caribbean, where it replaced the Mercedes-Benz G280. The contract was signed in August 2018 for 46 vehicles and, by early April 2019, all were delivered in the Caribbean. In late 2019, a new order was placed for another 14 vehicles of a different variant. These were not for service in the Caribbean, however. As of early 2021, no further orders have been placed for the Anaconda. This is largely due to it being an interim vehicle before newly ordered Iveco MTVs are being delivered to the Dutch Army. DMV continued the development and announced several new vehicles in March 2021.

The Anaconda during tests in November 2018 at the Leusderheide. It is seen here with both weapon stations. Source: Dutch Ministry of Defence
Map of the Dutch Caribbean where the Anaconda was destined to serve. Source: Wikimedia

Background

The Dutch Caribbean are the overseas territories that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It encompasses three constituent countries, namely Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint-Maarten, as well as three special municipalities, which are Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. The Koninklijke Landmacht (English: Royal Dutch Army) is responsible for their protection both in times of war and during humanitarian crises. The main units in the Caribbean are the Marines 32 Raiding Squadron, a Marines detachment on Sint-Maarten, a rotating Army unit, and the Aruban and Curaçaon Militias. These units stand under the command of the Commando der Zeemacht in het Caribisch Gebied (CZMCARIB) (English: Navy Command in the Caribbean), which, in turn, is placed under the Commando Zeestrijdkrachten (CZSK) (English: Command of the Royal Netherlands Navy).

The units provide support in the fight against criminal activities, like the illegal drug trade, and provide emergency relief during natural disasters and the like. Due to the relative stability of the area, actual military defense is less emphasized. After 2009, the CZMCARIB had 40 armored Mercedes-Benz G280 CDI soft tops at their disposal for use in military and civil duties. They were slightly overqualified for their job since they were designed to be used in violent areas of operations. This overqualification would in itself not have led to quick replacement. However, since 2014, the Dutch Army has been participating in a UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation of Mali, where the same G280 was deployed. It became apparent that the Commando Landstrijdkrachten (CLAS) (English: Command Ground Forces) urgently needed more G280s. In 2017, an option was reviewed to retrieve the G280s from the Caribbean and replace them with new vehicles. This replacement would have two positive effects. Specifically, that the Marines would get vehicles better suited for their intended role, while the CLAS could reduce their shortage of vehicles.

An Anaconda still with the manufacturer in January 2019. At the time, the first vehicles were being prepared to be shipped to the Caribbean. Source: Iveco Schouten

Acquisition

In regular circumstances, during a vehicle replacement program, the Materieellogistiek Commando Land (MatLogCo) (English: Materiel Logistical Commando) would act as an advisory organ. However, at the time, it had no capacity to take part in the project. Therefore, the project was directly led by the CZSK itself, and assistance was provided by the Defensie Materieel Organisatie (DMO) (English: Defense Materiel Organisation). A special team with members of both organizations was formed, which had to establish a list of technical and tactical requirements. Unlike the G280, the requirements for the new vehicle were mainly fixated on the ability to provide humanitarian aid. According to Lieutenant Hans van Vierssen, member of the ‘Anaconda team’:

“Indeed the [new, red] vehicle must be armed and be able to handle all types of terrain, but above all, it must be able to take a lot of drinking water with it. That was the guiding principle for the tender we set out in the market.”

On 15th May 2018, the DMO officially released a tender with a deadline for the initial responses set on 11th June. Near the end of the month, on 29th June, the DMO officially closed the tender. A total of five respondents were evaluated, but on grounds of confidentiality, it was not announced which companies submitted proposals, although it is known that both Mercedes and Renault took part. On 11th July, it was announced that the new company DMV was awarded the contract. DMV offered a lightly armored 4 x 4 vehicle, based on the Italian Iveco Daily, a light commercial van. The final contract was signed on 2nd August, with the delivery date of the first batch of vehicles established to be 31st January 2019.

An Anaconda during initial testing in the Netherlands. Source: Dutch Defence

Dutch Military Vehicles (DMV)

DMV is short for ‘Dutch Military Vehicles’ and was a division of the company Deba Bedrijfswagens (Deba Trucks), based in the city of Etten-Leur. Deba was a dealer of Iveco and Fiat commercial vehicles in the Netherlands, as well as an official subcontractor of Iveco. The DMV branch was principally established by Deba to respond to the tender. This was done because Deba acted regularly as a subcontractor for Iveco Defence, but Iveco had no capacity to respond to the tender. Therefore, Deba decided to take up the challenge themselves. In July 2019, Deba and DMV were bought by Iveco Schouten, the largest Iveco dealer in the Netherlands. DMV remained an active division after this takeover.

The choice for an Iveco-based design is understandable from a logistical point of view. In July 2017, the CZMCARIB had already taken delivery of 33 new military Iveco trucks (12 for Aruba, 21 for Curaçao), also supplied by Deba. Furthermore, the design of DMV utilized many existing vehicle parts, guaranteeing a short development period and thus short delivery time. Incidentally, a member of the ‘Anaconda team’ was Major Jacko Rijzenga. In 2017, he was also part of the team that was responsible for the delivery of the 33 trucks and must have been familiar with the company Deba. The main reason given for the choice of DMV was that the company had already anticipated being awarded the contract and had already started ordering the required resources. The use of a small and flexible team, rather than a conventional team of engineers, allowed DMV to realistically meet the first deadline of 31st January 2019. During production, DMV assigned several tasks to subcontractors. Those were mainly local firms to guarantee a short delivery time and closer cooperation.

After successful trials with a prototype, series production commenced on 1st October. On 2nd November 2018, exactly three months after the final contract was signed, the first vehicle was completed and presented at the assembly line in Etten-Leur. The name Anaconda was chosen the week before. According to project manager Xander Zonligt:

“The vehicle slightly resembles the head of a snake, is strong both on land and in water, fairly quiet, and quite deadly.”

Weirdly, the logo that was made does not show the head of an Anaconda, but rather that of a Cobra. The vehicle was tested at the Tank Range Leusderheide on 8th November.

Testing of the first vehicle on 8 November 2018. Source: Iveco Schouten

Design

The vehicle is based on the Iveco Daily C-series 4 x 4 All-Road. This version has been developed by the Austrian firm Achleitner and features permanent all-wheel drive with variable power distribution, up to three 100% differential locks, and optional off-road reduction, which provides a much better off-road experience compared to regular vans and basic models of the Daily offered by Iveco. Compared to the regular C-series’ 3.45 m wheelbase, the chassis was lengthened to a wheelbase of 3.55 m, and the front axle and suspension were replaced by 2.5 tonne rated independent torsion bar sprung units, specifically designed by Achleitner. Furthermore, both the front and rear axles were fitted with differential locks that are controlled by the driver. With a weight of 3.9 tonnes, the Anaconda can take a payload of 2.2 tonnes. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) goes up to 7.1 tonnes, but the produced vehicle has a GVWR limited to 6.1 tonnes. This is caused primarily by the use of single rear wheels, instead of double, and the use of cross-country tires of the LT315/75 R 16 type.

The powerpack is the most powerful engine offered by Iveco. It is a 3-liter F1C engine that develops 180 hp, or 132 kW, and a 430 Nm torque. As the engine was de-rated from Euro 6 to Euro 3 emission compliance, associated components had become redundant and were consequently removed to save weight and free up space. The standard ZF/Iveco 8-speed fully automatic gearbox was retained. The maximum road speed is limited to 89 km/h, but without a speed governor, the vehicle can reach greater speeds. The vehicle has a range of 600 km, which is more than enough to circle Curaçao, the largest island, at least four times.

The front passenger on the right side has a light machine gun on a swing-arm mount. The two seats in the rear of the cabin are of a folding jump-seat type. With limited modifications, the seating in the vehicle can be increased to nine. In addition to the four standard seats, there is a place for a gunner. The central ring-mount can accommodate a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun or a 40 mm grenade launcher, although the machine gun is by far the most common accommodation. Often, no main armament is fitted at all, not only depending on the version but also based on the local situation. The standard 12 V electrical system of the Daily was revised to a split 12/24 V system. Additionally, the alternator was uprated to a 115 Ah unit, and another set of two 12 V 70 Ah batteries were fitted. These batteries are used to provide power during silent watch operations, for radios, and for other relevant use.

The base Daily was supplied as a chassis cowl. From the firewall back, the bodywork was custom developed by DMV. The central section consists of a tubular roll cage. It was developed and produced by the firm VA Engineering Motorsport & Fabrication. The tube profiles of the roll cage were laser cut by De Vries Constructie & Lasertechniek. The four removable half-doors and side panels were made of light materials and closely contoured to match the original Daily panel design. The split windscreen is removable and can be folded forward onto the bonnet, to allow the fitting of a light machine gun if the situation calls for it. The roof consists of a removable canvas roof. By default, the vehicle has no armor, but an optional ballistic protection package can be fitted. The bodywork is protected by a layer of polyurea, applied by Kunststof Coatings Nederland, mainly to protect the vehicle from corrosion in the salty climate in the Caribbean.

The cargo area is at the rear of the vehicle and can be configured to suit various requirements, to guarantee a degree of flexibility in its deployment. In standard configuration, there is a spare wheel carrier on the right-hand side, an outward opening stowage locker, a jerry can on the left side, and a tray with a drop-down tailgate in the center. This provides precisely enough room for a Euro pallet (1.8 x 0.8 m). A detachable stowage tray for lighter items can be attached to the tailgate.

The initial 2018 series of 46 vehicles was produced in four variants:
– Command version, equipped with a full radio and communications package, no main armament fitted.
– Patrol vehicle, limited communications equipment, main armament fitted.
– General support vehicle, no communications equipment, main armament fitted.
– Training vehicle, same as the general support vehicle, additional retractable brake pedal on the passenger side for the driving instructor.

Some of the first Anacondas that were unloaded in Curaçao on 31st January 2019. Source: Defensie Caribisch Gebied

Delivery to the Caribbean

Between 11th and 16th January 2019, the first batch of 35 vehicles was made ready for shipping and loaded onto sea containers. One already completed vehicle remained in the Netherlands. According to schedule, the first batch arrived in Curaçao on 31st January. They were officially handed over during a ceremony held on 7th February. On 5th March, 23 were shipped to Aruba, where they replaced 17 G280s, which were shipped back to Curaçao. An unspecified number of Anacondas was sent to Sint Maarten on 28th March, where they replaced G280s and six old UNIMOGs. The old vehicles were gathered in Curaçao and repatriated to the Netherlands, where the G280s were planned to undergo a conversion process to be handed over to the CLAS in the third quarter of 2019. The second and final batch of 11 Anacondas was received on 7th April.

Shipping from Curaçao to Aruba took place on 5th March 2019. Source: Defensie Caribisch Gebied
The Anaconda, compared to the MB G280 (left) and UNIMOG (right). Source: 1st Marine Combat Group

During the Atlantic hurricane seasons, a yearly period from June to November, the Dutch troops receive additional training in providing humanitarian aid. This training was not fruitless as, in July 2020, the troops of Sint-Maarten had to prepare for the possible arrival of tropical storm Isaias. On 29th July, three Anaconda’s were prepared to be used as support for the local authorities, with the intention to use them in areas that could no longer be accessed by regular vehicles due to potential road damage or flooding.

In 2021, the Dutch Marines of the 32nd Raiding Squadron took part in Exercise Caribbean Urban Warrior on Camp Lejeune in the United States (North Carolina). Some Anacondas also took part.

Two Anacondas of the Dutch Marines during Exercise Caribbean Urban Warrior on Camp Lejeune, 20th March 2021. Source: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Parsons, 2nd Marine Division

New order

Satisfied with the received product, DMV was approached to build another batch of fourteen vehicles for the 1st Marine Combat Group stationed in the Netherlands. The Anti Armor Troop within the 14th Combat Support Squadron was still using the aging Land Rover Defender 110XD WW, which urgently needed to be replaced. To meet the new requirements, DMV started to design a new vehicle around June 2019, fully enclosed and with modular capabilities. To allow modularity, the roll cage of the cabin was shortened and separated from a new roll cage behind it.

Two versions were developed. The most important version was the requested AAT, the Anti Armor Troup version. However, to show off the modular design, DMV also developed the GWT, an ambulance version (Dutch: Gewondentransport). Production of the new series of fourteen vehicles commenced in the fall of 2019. On 28th November, at the NIDV Exhibition for Defense & Security, the first were symbolically handed over to the Marines, although actual delivery would be later. At the exhibition, one of the Anacondas was fitted with the GWT module, which would not be acquired by the Marines.

The new AAT and GWT versions of the second series Anaconda. Only the AAT version was acquired by the Dutch Marines. Source: VA Motorsport

On 18th December 2019, the first ten vehicles were delivered to the 14th Combat Support Squadron, stationed in the city of Stroe. There, they were further prepared for service with the Anti Armor Troop. In early January 2020, the remaining four vehicles followed.

The AAT version has special storage for anti-armor equipment, including six Spike missiles and two Panzerfaust weapons. Unlike the main version of the Anaconda, the AAT version is fully enclosed with a hardtop. It can be armed with a Browning .50 caliber machine gun on top and a MAG 7.62 mm machine gun on a swingarm in the front. In late February 2020, the first training was held on the training area ‘Leusderheide’.

The green AAT version, seen from the front and rear. These pictures were taken on 17th September 2020 at the DMV production facility. Source: Kees Melaard

New developments

In March 2021, DMV announced several new projects that were in development. Since the last delivery of the Anacondas, a new project was set up known as the Anaconda MUV, with MUV standing for Multi Use Vehicle. Of this new modular vehicle, a prototype was built in a troop and cargo transport set-up, and was ready around August 2020 to be tested abroad, supposedly in Morocco, until March 2021.

Another version of this vehicle was developed as well, known as the Homeland Security Concept, which places the Anaconda in an internal security role.

The prototype of the follow-up AnacondA MUV that was built in 2020. It features a cargo bed for transport of cargo or troops. Thanks to the modular design, a large amount of other options are available. Source: DMV
This is the Homeland Security Concept, a proposed variant of the MUV that transforms it into an internal security vehicle. Source: DMV

Lastly, a new truck was introduced, known as the AgamA, which is based on the Iveco Defence 4 x 4 15-tonne chassis.

A render of the new AgamA truck, that is based on an Iveco Defence 4 x 4 15-tonne chassis. It is basically a larger AnacondA. Source: DMV

Conclusion

The Anaconda is, for its role, a robust and capable vehicle. As of early 2021, no major issues were reported with these vehicles and they are generally well-received. Since the vehicles were required on an emergency basis, development and production went extremely fast, resulting in the shortest acquisition program within the Dutch Army during recent years. Whether the vehicle will be bought by foreign forces is possible, but somewhat unlikely, since it was developed to a specific set of requirements and technically acts as an interim vehicle. Instead, DMV has started the development of two new vehicles, the AnacondA MUV and the AgamA, which have more potential on the international defense market.

The DMV Anaconda in its configuration used in the Dutch Caribbean. Illustration by user Andika from Fiverr, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.27 x 2.27 x 2.26 m (17ft3in x 7ft5in x 7ft5in)
Weight 3.9 tonnes (4.3 US ton)
Payload 2.2 tonnes (2.4 US ton)
Gross vehicle weight 6.1 tonnes (6.7 US ton) (optional 7.1 tonnes (7.8 US ton))
Propulsion 3.0 l diesel, 180 hp (132 kW), 430 Nm torque
Maximum speed 89 km/h (55 mph), governed
Gearbox 8-speed full automatic
Seats 4 + 1 gunner’s seat
Ground clearance 50 cm (1ft8in)
Wading depth 70 cm (2ft4in) (optional 150 cm (4ft11in))
Armament 12.7 mm machine gun (.50 caliber) & FN Minimi machine gun
Protection Optional ballistic protection

Sources

Charlotte Snel. (20 December 2018). Bon bini Anaconda. Materieel Gezien, volume 9.
Shaun Connors. (2019). Dutch Korps Mariniers receive final Anaconda light vehicles. Jane’s International Defence Review. Retrieved from dmv4x4.com.
De Vries. (2018). Project voor VA Motorsport Engineering. constructiebedrijfdevries.nl.
Guus van Lankveld. (10 April 2019). Anaconda. va-motorsport.com.
Guus van Lankveld. (13 December 2019). DMV Anaconda AAT & GWT. va-motorsport.com.
Pierre van Damme. (29 September 2018). Grote order van Defensie voor Deba Bedrijfswagens Etten-Leur. BN de Stem.
Pierre van Damme. (2 November 2018). Dit is hem: de Anaconda, bedrijf uit Etten-Leur presenteert militair voertuig. BN de Stem.
Defensie Materieel Organisatie – DMO. (2 November 2018). Presentation of the first Anaconda. Facebook.
Defensiebond. (23 July 2017). Nieuw militair transport voor Caribisch gebied. defensiebond.nl.
Van Loon. (2020). Mission possible – Dutch Military Vehicles bouwt nieuwe Defensievoertuigen. van-loon.nl.
(2019). Legergroen. Kunststof Coatings Nederland.
Achleitner. Iveco Daily All-Road. achleitner.com.
CZMCARIB. Defensie in het Caribisch gebied. czmcarib.com.
Defensie Caribisch Gebied on Facebook.

Categories
WW1 Danish Armor

Gideon 2 T Panserautomobil

Denmark (1917)
Armored Car – 1 mock-up Built

Already before the start of World War I, most larger armies in Europe were introduced to the armored car in one way or another. During the war, armored cars were also quickly deployed on the battlefields in increasing numbers, making it a regular piece of equipment. However, for the Kingdom of Denmark, things were a bit different. Fielding only a small army, and avoiding involvement in the war, the concept of the armored car was not physically introduced. The military, however, were not oblivious of their existence and a commission was set up in 1915 to study the armored concept. In early 1917, this led to the creation of a truck equipped with plywood to resemble armor.

The only known image of the Gideon truck equipped with plywood. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Developments in Denmark

Modest motorization of the Danish Army began in 1908 when the first truck was purchased. The truck in question was a Fiat 18/24 hp which had been selected after evaluation of several brands. During the next year, the Army Technical Corps (Danish: Hærens tekniske Korps, shortened to HtK) was established. This unit became, among other things, responsible for the acquisition of new weaponry, including vehicles.

The first design office of the HtK was established in 1915. Captain C.H. Rye was placed in command of this new office. From 1902, he had served with the technical services of the artillery and, since 1909, with the HtK. The new office was tasked with developing the concept of an armored car for the Army. To get acquainted with the aspects and problems of motorization and armoring, Captain Rye was dispatched to Germany for four weeks to study their approach. Based on his findings, the design office started developing a variety of concepts, but none were able to be implemented.

Captain Charles Henry Rye, the commander of the design office of HtK that was established in 1915. By 1930, he was promoted to Major General. Source: skakenkrig.dk

That would change in early 1917. In 1916, the Army had ordered several trucks from the company Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S, which produced vehicles under the name ‘Gideon’. With the modest funds available, one of the 2-tonne trucks, with registration number HtK 114, was experimentally equipped with plywood resembling a proposed armor layout. Work was carried out during the spring of 1917 and subsequent trials proved the concept was successful. The HtK expressed the desire to continue the production of a real armored car. On 4th February 1918, HtK sent a letter to the War Ministry requesting continuation of the project and funds to construct an actual armored vehicle. Shortly thereafter, on 8th February, Mr. Munch, the Minister of War, responded negatively. He stated that it was not in the vision of the Ministry to buy an armored car, due to a lack of available funds.

Thus, the project that could have produced the first armored car of Denmark was canceled completely. The plywood was removed and the truck was rebuilt as a maintenance vehicle in 1918, to be used by the Army Aviation School (Danish: Hærens Flyvenskole). It was rebuilt yet again in 1920 and, at that time, also received HtK 14 as a new registration. Sometime in 1922 or 1923, it was disposed of and scrapped, finally ending the life of a truck that could have been Denmark’s first armored car.

The honor of being the nation’s first armored car was, instead, reserved for a vehicle built as a private initiative in the summer of 1917. This vehicle was based on a French Hotchkiss car and received the registration HtK 46 and is therefore known as the Hotchkiss Htk 46. This vehicle was based on a different design philosophy compared to the Gideon truck. Whereas the Gideon truck slightly resembled the German approach to armored car building, with a big superstructure and a fixed, round turret on the roof, the Hotchkiss took the Allied approach, with a smaller size, and open-topped construction, also seen with French and Belgian armored cars.

The Hotchkiss HtK 46 in 1917, just after it was built. Due to an overloaded chassis, this vehicle was not very successful and one can only wonder whether the Gideon would have performed better. Source: Det kgl. Bibliotek

Design

The German influence is visible in the design, most notably in the fixed round turret on the roof with gunports facing in several directions. The original design of the flatbed truck was largely left intact but with the open driver’s cab and open flatbed fully enclosed in a plywood body. In front of the driver was one large opening for vision. The original cabin doors were retained, and a further door was added in the rear superstructure. The engine bay and the lower portion of the driver’s cabin were not covered in plywood, but if an actual armored body was to be built, these parts would likely have been armored as well. A driver in the cabin, a commander in the turret, and possibly up to two gunners would have crewed the vehicle.

One gunport was placed in the front and one on each side. It is unknown if any gunports were made in the rear since the single known photograph only shows the front and left side of the vehicle. If the armored version had been built, it would have been armed with several machine guns. In comparison, the Hotchkiss HtK 46 was equipped with two Madsen 8×58 mm machine guns. A Gideon 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 14.8 hp, powered the truck.

The Gideon, compared to the German Ehrhardt E-V/4. Source Left: armyvehicles.dk, Right: Wikimedia

Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S

In light of the relative obscurity of the vehicle, it is also worthwhile to mention the manufacturer of the truck that was used. In 1891, Rudolf Kramper founded a company that started to produce agricultural machines. Besides this venture, he designed and started to build so-called Gideon engines in 1893. This production expanded and production commenced of several types of engines, with different purposes and different types of fuel consumptions. However, due to financial difficulties, Kramper had to file bankruptcy in 1901. This led to the formation of a partnership with Sofus Jørgensen and the company was re-established as Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S.

From 1913 onwards, the firm also started to build vehicles under the name Gideon, after the name of the engines already in production. Before the firm had to file bankruptcy again, in 1920, it had produced up to 160 or possibly even 184 vehicles. No other Danish vehicle manufacturer reached those production numbers.

The Gideon 2 T in question, either before armor-resembling plywood was added or after it was removed. After the plywood was removed, the truck was used until 1922/1923. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Conclusion

Glancing over the single photograph, one may think the Gideon was of improvised construction, but in fact, it was the result of over a year of study and conceptualization. Naturally, plywood is much lighter than actual armor plating so whether a real armored vehicle would have performed as satisfactorily remains speculation, although the increase of weight was likely taken into account during the trials. Like many other armored vehicle concepts, it was eventually killed due to a lack of funds. Although the Gideon can take the place as the first armored car project in the Kingdom of Denmark, the first armored car became the Hotchkiss HtK 46, which was privately funded.

Speculative illustration of the Gideon 2T armored car based on the only available photograph. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

 

Crew 4 (Commander, Driver, several Gunners)
Propulsion Gideon 4-cylinder petrol, 14.8 hp (11 kW)
Armament at least one machine gun
Armor plywood simulating armor, proposed thickness unknown

Sources

Gideon 2 T Truck, armyvehicles.dk.
Gideon 2 T, 1917, armyvehicles.dk.
Charles Henry Rye, by Povl Gain, Danish Biographical Encyclopedia.
Luksusbil fra Horsens, Horsens Folkeblad, 14 May 1994, PDF.
Pancerni wikingowie – broń pancerna w armii duńskiej 1918-1940, Polygon Magazin, 6/2011.
Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S, horsensbilleder.dk.

Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Goebel Landpanzerkreuzer

German Empire (1913-1917)
Walking vehicle – scale prototypes

After the debut of the tank on the battlefield in 1916, many inventors purported that they had already designed similar vehicles earlier and should be credited for its novelty. Australia had De Mole, and Austria had Günther Burstyn. In Germany, another man made the headlines as the inventor of the first tank, namely Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel. His claim has some merit, although, instead of a caterpillar system, he had envisioned a system with walking beams. However, some of his contemporaries may have described him as a fraud, rather than an inventor ahead of time. At least two times, he managed to lure in investors with the promise of great profit, but instead depleted the funds with little results.

A scaled down version of the first design, as presented by Goebel in early 1914. Goebel himself sits in the front. Source: Berliner Illustrations gesellschaft via Getty Images

Goebel, forgotten innovator

Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel (or Göbel) may have been born in Königsberg (Kaliningrad after 1945). At some point, he lived in Saint Petersburg on 52 Kazanskaya Street, but moved, probably before 1909, to Breslau in Germany, where he lived on 5 Stern Street (current day Poland, Wroclaw, Sienkiewicza Street). He was a machine builder and engineer by trade. In September 1909, he made the news for the first time, in relation to a perpetual motion machine he had built. It was excessively large, some three meters long and two meters high, and was quite useless. In some ways, this machine was a harbinger of what had yet to come.

In early 1913, Goebel finalized the design of a new revolutionary vehicle, one that could move without wheels. Instead, it utilized a walking-beam system. On 14 March, 1913, he applied his design to the German patent office. This patent, which described a “drive device for wheel-less vehicles, using skid-shaped supports”, is also the first documentary evidence of the design. He applied for it together with the Carowerke Für Blechindustrie G.m.b.H. from Berlin-Lichtenberg. Goebels’ relation to this company is unclear.

The first model Goebel made of his design was very small and used a foot pedal system, instead of any motorized propulsion.

The chassis of Goebel’s first system, which used a pedal system as propulsion. Source: Popular electricity and the world’s advance, vol.7, 1914, p.146.

The vehicle would be capable of crossing trenches, overcoming steep slopes, and crossing rough terrain. A year later, on 13 March 1914, he applied for the same patent at the British and French patent offices. Around that time, he finished work on a working, but scaled down, prototype in his workshop in Pinne (today Pniewy, Poland). He equipped it with a small 5 hp-engine. In February 1914, he also had applied his design to the German Army Technical Communications Testing Committee. Reportedly, the military showed interest, especially in the supposed capability to carry weight over rough terrain.

The vehicle was referred to as a ‘hebelschienen-automobil’, which roughly translates to a ‘lifting rails-car’. It had three sets of rails, attached to a rigid square chassis. Built on this chassis was a cabin, similar to a small train wagon. Sometime around April or maybe early May, he showed the vehicle to an audience in Pinne, the same city where his workshop was located. For the event, a large ramp was built, roughly eleven meters high and inclined at roughly 50 degrees. Walking on its sets of runners, it successfully reached the top, where the German flag was hoisted in full glory.

Boosted by his success, he arranged a show in Berlin. During the Pentecost holiday, the Berliner Stadium was packed with people, including military officers, generals, technicians, and similar authorities. He was off to a good start and the vehicle walked to the elevation, which was, for the occasion, thirty meters high, nineteen meters higher than the recorded previous attempt. Unfortunately for Goebel, he would never reach the top. In front of hundreds of people, his vehicle broke down at the foot of the hill, subjecting him to embarrassment and scorn. The little interest in the vehicle evaporated into thin air.

At the time, roughly 300,000 Mark had been invested into the project by external parties and, after the Berlin incident, Goebel could not attract any more investors. Although he managed to repair the vehicle by building in a new engine, any military attention was lost. Without any commercial interest, the project was terminated and Goebel had to pay back his debt, which meant he had no personal funds available to continue the project himself.

The vehicle when it successfully overtook an eleven meter high ramp at 50 degrees in Pinne. A later show in front of many more people would fail, killing the first design stage of Goebels project. Source: Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung nr.44, 1916

Technical workings of the system

The idea of the walking beam system initially seems more complicated than it actually is. Basically, the vehicle was equipped with three sets of runners. While one set of runners is raised and moves forwards, the weight of the vehicle rests on the other sets. As the forward moving set gains a footing, it pulls the vehicle forwards, while the other sets repeat the motion. Essentially, it mimics the movement of a human and it can convey heavy loads with comparatively little power.

Figure 1 is a fragmentary side elevation of the under-frame. Figure 2 is a plan view. Explanation of the numbers: 1/2/3: runners 4: supports 5: revolvable rollers 6: closed guide tracks 7: chains 9/10: sprocket wheels. I and II refer to different positions of the runners. Source: DE patent 300981
Figure 3 is a sectional front elevation. Figures 4 and 5 represent a side elevation and plan view respectively of one end of the entire vehicle. Further explanation of the numbers: 11: engine 12/13/14: chains or similar transmission Source: DE patent 300981

Design issues

An issue that comes to mind is the way of steering and frankly, Goebel did not mention this aspect in his patents. One could suggest one of the sides could be moved in reverse while the other kept moving forward, but the drawings indicate this was impossible. Other issues that are apparent are the complete lack of suspension and the low ground clearance. It is easy to imagine how the runners would pierce into mud and immediately get stuck.

World War One

Very shortly after these events, the situation in Germany would drastically change as the nation plunged itself into the Great War. Supposedly, in September 1914, Goebel first got the idea to armor his invention, essentially creating an off-road armored vehicle. In November, he offered it to the German War Ministry and managed to get 50.000 marks from them to build an experimental example. He completed this vehicle in January 1916, but it immediately broke down which caused the German authorities to lose all faith in the project and abandoned it. One photograph shows how litteral Goebel took his idea of a land battle cruiser with steering being done with a classic ship’s wheel.

Here, Goebel presents his invention to the German General Staff, but it reportedly broke down immediately. Faith in the project was lost and the General Staff showed no further interest. It seems like the ‘shed’ is attached to the vehicle. Source: Dutch National Archives (‘collectie het leven’)
Artist impression how the armored cruisers would appear on the battlefield. Armed with at least 10 machine guns on each side and with the main armament in the central mounted turret. The smaller model that was built later looks a bit different. Source: Dutch National Archives (‘collectie het leven’)

In September 1916, shocking news reports appeared in the German and Austrian press. As the Entente forces had introduced a new technical weapon onto the western battlefield, the Tank. It was, of course, impossible that Britain and France were technologically more advanced than Germany and Austria, so the main quest of the German-speaking central European press was to find similar inventions within their nations. And they succeeded. Austria found Burstyn, who had patented a design in 1911. Germany found Goebel. Within a few days, the failed lifting-rails car became a true technological advancement and a missed opportunity that could have won the war, according to the propaganda. In December 1916, a public speech was held by writer Wilhelm Hall about the greatness of Goebel’s invention and journalist Hans Möller wrote some publications about the vehicle.

This renewed interest was of great importance to Goebel. With people advocating for his design, it was again possible to attract new investors and revive the project. This was especially true after Hall proposed to start a national fundraiser to free Goebel from the hands of his usurers and allow him to build his invention for the Fatherland. The plea for help worked and Goebel managed to find new investors, so he was finally able to build a model of a proposed armored vehicle. In February 1917, Goebel presented his work to a select group of technicians and journalists, during which he answered critical questions satisfactorily. Goebel said his model would be ready during the second half of February 1917.

Goebel’s model of an armored land cruiser, shown between barbed wire. How big the real vehicle would eventually be is unclear, but if the wiring on top of the vehicle is supposed to be a railing, it could easily be tens of meters long. Inserted in the right corner is an image of Goebel himself. Source: Nieuwsblad van het zuiden

The Armored Land Cruiser

Thanks to two pictures of the model, we have a vague idea how the final vehicle would have looked like. At first, the vehicle seems to resemble a submarine, but on land. The symmetrical body, railing on a flat top, and a tower in the middle are distinctive features. According to Duncan Crow and Robert J. Icks in their “Encyclopedia of Tanks” from 1975, Goebel estimated that the real size vehicle would have a length of 36 meters (118′) and a height and width of 5 meters (17′). With all-around armor of 10 centimeters (10″), the vehicle would weigh around 550 tonnes. It is a bit unclear where this information comes from, but that the proposed vehicle would be big and heavy is certain.

Any further details of the design are unknown, but some educated guesses can be made. For example, the commanding and driving positions were likely in the central tower. The armament would have consisted of a large number of guns which were likely located all-round the vehicle in the extrusions visible on the scale model.

Apart from the clear technical problems, it was likely the sheer size, proportions, and weight of the vehicle that got it rejected by the German Army.

The model, photographed at the same time as the previous photograph, but from a different angle. Its design makes it clear Goebel was inspired by the navy and literally is a land cruiser.

An anecdote claims that the German Crown Prince, also called Wilhelm, heard of the rejection after the presentation. Seeing some potential, he arranged a second demonstration in June 1917. Goebel decided to replace the walking runners with steel spheres which acted as some kind of ball bearings. This solution was also labeled to be impractical and the vehicle was rejected again. It is unfortunately unknown what this system would have looked like.

In 1930, Goebel was fully convinced his armored land cruiser could have changed the war. With 20 or 50 of them, he said, the war would have been decided very quickly. They would have been invulnerable and invincible since the enemy had no anti-tank equipment and would panic from the sight of the vehicles.

Aftermath

In a way, Goebel fell victim to patriotic propaganda. His project was already a dead-end, and the revival of the project plunged Goebel into more debt. In June 1918, he was declared bankrupt by the Berlin court. At the time, he had a debt of 800.000 Mark, roughly a million dollars in 2015 value. Personally, he blamed the German military authorities. After all, he had pursued the project with the aim to help the war effort, while the ministry kept him at bay, not stopping him from investing more money into the project. The case of his bankruptcy also made it to the Reichstag, where a member pleaded to at least compensate Goebel for his efforts.

However, clearly, patriotism was not the only force driving Goebel, as the financial prospects were attractive as well. After all, his promise that much money could be made was what lured in the investors in the first place. Since it was not clear what Goebel had spent all the money on, a criminal investigation was launched against him. Shortly after these events, Goebel moved to Switzerland.

A new truck, as it was photographed in early 1923. Source: Popular Science Monthly

Better luck in Switzerland?

While living in Switzerland, Goebel tried to revive his career. He rented a workshop in Dietikon, near Zürich, where he started work on a new vehicle. Promising to build a new and wondrous “Wüstenschiff” or desert ship, he managed to find new investors who were willing to pay with the promise the invention would be worth millions of dollars.

In 1924, the curtain fell for Goebel. The construction of his wondrous desert ship dragged on and on. This delay raised some eyebrows and eventually, it was found out that Goebel was under criminal investigation in Germany and that he had been described as chronically paranoid by psychiatrists. In response, he was taken into custody by the local authorities and a search of his house revealed the addresses of all his financiers who could then be informed. They had been scammed by the promise of millions of dollars of profit once the invention was up and running. All the money was gone, and all that was left was the frame of the truck. What happened to Goebel afterward is unknown but he eventually returned to Berlin, where he died in poverty on 31 October 1931.

An older Goebel. Source: Dutch National Archives (‘Collectie Het Leven’)

Further developments by Viag

The idea of a walking vehicle was further pursued by the company Viag (Venzlaff-Industrie A.G.), led by Richard Venzlaff, Walther von Mumm, and Arthur von Mumm. They designed a first prototype in 1922, which was completed and patented in 1923, while a second prototype was finished in 1925. In April 1923, the truck appeared as a ‘new invention’ in the Popular Science magazine. It was described as an invention of a German engineer and based on the ‘tank concept’. It is unknown to what extent Goebel was involved with the design process, or if he was involved with it at all.

 

 

This vehicle was completed by Viag in 1923. The design utilized parts of a Dürkopp truck. The movement principle was identical to that envisioned by Goebel. First, the outer set lifts up, moves to the rear, settles down, and the motion is repeated by the inner set. Source video: История русских танков часть 1; Source image: Wheels & Tracks no.73 via Landships.info

Concluding…

Although of novel construction, the Landkreuzer failed to gain enough attention and the accident during Pentecost meant the project was exterminated. Goebel fixed the problem and supposedly got the idea in September 1914 to armor it, but nothing came to it. In September 1916, it quickly became a German propaganda tool after the British and French tanks were unleashed on the battlefields of the Western Front. Years later, Goebel himself claimed that his invention could have won the war. However, his design had fundamental problems, and given that the earliest reference of armoring the vehicle only goes back to September 1914, there is no real evidence that an armored vehicle could have been built before the war.

In fact, it appears that Goebel suffered from delusions and that he was more capable to make debt, rather than an actual armored land cruiser. Despite this, when he died, newspapers reported it as the death of the inventor of the first tank.

Myth

The internet is a great place for myths to circulate on. Although many wrong things have been written about Goebel, which were hopefully all rectified in this article, one myth needs to be discussed separately. For years, pictures of a rather advanced tracked tractor circulated on the internet with the claim it was designed by Goebel during the First World War, but that is totally untrue. In fact, it is a non-suspended tractor made by the Leipzig-based firm Wotan-Werke in 1926 and is known as the Type A. It was built to test the differences between a suspended, and non-suspended tracked chassis.

The Wotan-Werke Type A tracked tractor, built in 1926, had nothing to do with Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel. The claim that Goebel designed this vehicle during the First World War is nonsense. Source: Walter J. Spielberger
An illustration of the 1917 scale model. This model looked a bit different to an earlier artis impression, and how Goebel envisioned a full-sized vehicle is unclear. An illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel, 1913, Antriebsvorrichtung für Räderlose, mit Hilfe kufenförmiger Stützen sich fortbewegende Fahrzeug, DE Patent 300981, issued 14 March 1913
Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel, 1914, Improvements in and relating to vehicles, UK Patent 6432, applied 13 March 1914, issued 28 May 1914.
Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel, 1914, Véhicule sans roues, FR Patent 469610, applied 13 March 1914, issued 25 May 1914.
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, No. 19, 10 May 1914, p.21-22.
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, No. 44, 29 October 1916, p.11-13.
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, No. 51, 17 December 1916, p.31.
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, No. 49, 9 December 1917, p.32.
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, No. 23, 9 June 1918, p.37-38.
Neues Wiener Journal, 22 September 1909, p.9.
“Landpanzerkreuzer”, Neue Freie Presse, 3 January 1917, p.15.
Een Land-Pantserkruiser, De Tijd, 15 February 1917, p.2.
Wheel-less Truck Walks on Metal “Feet”, Popular Science April 1923, p.48. Accessed on babel.hathitrust.org.
Der “Landpanzerkreuzer”, Reichspost, 20 March 1924, p.5.
Der deutsche erfinder des tanks gestorben, Freie Stimmen, 5 November 1931, p.4.
Wiener panzerungeheuer, Kleine Volks-Zeitung, 12 November 1931, p.6.
De Tank. Uitvinder miskend en in armoede gestorven, Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, 15 December 1931, p.19.
Der May-Freund Hans Möller karl-may-gesellschaft.de.
Was wir vom Weltkrieg nicht wissen, Walter Jost & Friedrich Felger, 1938, H. Fikentscher Verlag, p.317.
Viag 1917-1926, pdf posted by Hedi on the Landships Forum.
German Panzers 1914-1918, Steven Zaloga, Osprey Publishing, p.5-6.
Die Rad- und Vollkettenzugmaschinen des deutschen Heeres 1870-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Motorbuch Verlag, p.139, 143.
historicalstatistics.org/Currencyconverter.html used to convert currency.
NB Austrian newspapers and magazines accessed at anno.onb.ac.at
Dutch newspapers accessed at delpher.nl.

Categories
Modern British Armor

Shorland S600 (BAe Foxhound)

Australia Australia/United Kingdom (1993)
Internal Security Vehicle/Infantry Mobility Vehicle – 32 built + 4 prototypes and 1 hull

The Shorland S600, based on a Unimog chassis, was the last armored vehicle designed by the Northern-Irish company Short Brothers. Only two prototypes would be produced under their name, as the complete Shorland range of vehicles was sold to British Aerospace Australia (BAe) in 1996. They built a new prototype, known as the Foxhound, which was constructed as a contender in the Australian Bushranger program. After dropping out of this program, international interest led to the sale of 22 vehicles to the Kuwaiti National Guard in 1997. While the Belgian Gendarmerie was testing the vehicle, the S600 design was sold to yet another company, this time Australian-based Tenix Defence. Under their name, a modest number of vehicles were sold to Belgium (6), South-Korea (2), and Singapore (2). In January 2008, Tenix Defence was bought by BAE Systems, essentially returning the S600 to its previous producer. Without any further sales, the S600 product range was eventually suspended during the 2010s.

One of the two Short Brothers’ prototypes in 1996, equipped as a Police support vehicle with typical blue rotating lights (produces a flashing effect). The headlamps in the bumper are not installed. Although they were usually fitted, it has to be noted that without headlamps, this vehicle would not be road-legal. Source: shorlandsite.com

Development

Starting from the 1960s, the Northern-Irish company Short Brothers, also known as ‘Shorts’, started building armored cars on commercially available Land Rover chassis’. Commercially, it was a successful venture, with vehicles sold to dozens of countries. In 1992, Shorts started the search for a new, readily available chassis, on which a new vehicle could be developed. Shortly thereafter, the German Unimog 437 series was selected, both the U 1550 L and heavier U 2150 L chassis variants, which had been introduced in 1988. These chassis had already demonstrated good cross-country performance and spare parts were easily available all over the world.

In 1993, detailed design work started on the armored body, and to secure a good fit, some parts of the Unimog chassis had to be repositioned. The work was finished in 1994 and construction commenced of the first two prototypes, which were completed in early 1995. Compared to a regular Unimog, the S600 shared some 80% components. In September, the new prototype was officially introduced at the Royal Navy & British Army Equipment Exhibition.

Shorts had two main versions in mind. The first was the ISV, an Internal Security Vehicle, which would utilize the U 1550 L chassis with a Mercedes-Benz 366 in-line water-cooled turbocharged diesel engine, producing 156 hp. This vehicle, weighing between 8 to 9,5 tonnes action-ready and spacious enough to carry twelve men, was designed for police, paramilitary, and military use.

The other version was the IMV, the Infantry Mobility Vehicle. This version utilized the heavier U 2150 L chassis with a 366LA in-line turbocharged and inter-cooled engine, producing 214 hp. The combat weight of this version was around 12.5 tonnes and could carry a section of eight men and three days’ supplies. This version could also be adapted to a command, ambulance, heavily armed support, or air defense weapons carrier.

The S600 in 1995, equipped as an IMV with a .50 cal weapon station (left) and as an ambulance (right). Sources: left: Peter Brown in Armored Car right: unknown

Two prototypes were built by Shorts. These were equipped as several variants for testing and promotion purposes in 1995 and 1996. For example, in 1995, it was outfitted as an ambulance version while in September, it was a regular IMV variant with a 12.7 mm M2 machine gun on top. In 1996, it was also seen as a police variant and painted blue, while the ISV prototype was seen featuring a white UN livery. These first prototypes are easily distinguishable from the vehicles that were later built, as they had a differently designed front. The louvers were square, stuck out a bit, and consisted of eight narrow slats. The corners of the front were rounded off. Later vehicles featured much larger slats and square corners.

The design of the Unimog chassis translated itself quite clearly in the S600, just as can be seen on other Unimog-based armored vehicles, like the German TM-170. With a short bonnet and a high superstructure, the S600 had a roomy interior. This room made the design very versatile, further enhanced by the relatively basic construction, which allowed the vehicle to be tailored to meet specific and individual operational requirements from various customers.

Therefore, most features of the S600 were up for change, with Shorts suggesting various weapon stations, different vision ports, air conditioning units, additional radiographic equipment, applique armor kits, and the like.

The second prototype. For promotional purposes, it has been painted in a white UN livery. Source: thinkdefence.co.uk

Multilayered Australian interest

In 1993, the Australian Army initiated the Bushranger project, which aimed to select a new Infantry Mobility Vehicle. Phase 1 resulted in the supply of Interim Infantry Mobility Vehicles, for which the Land Rover Perentie was chosen. In 1994, the initiation of Phase 2A started the process to select a definitive IMV. The requirements called for a vehicle that could carry nine soldiers and equipment, fuel, and supplies for three days, which should include at least 270 l of water. With a cruising speed of 90 km/h on-road, it should have a range of 600-1,000 km and have off-road capabilities equal to a Unimog truck. In terms of armament and protection, it should have provision for a machine gun mount, and armor protection against regular 7.62 mm rounds was required. Protection against AP bullets and mines was desired but not one of the core requirements.

The Foxhound, developed by BAe and Shorts as a contender for the Australian Bushranger project. Compared to the first S600 prototype, it had a redesigned bonnet with a new placement of the louvers and a centrally mounted winch. In the rear part of the superstructure, on both sides, large notches were designed where spare wheels could be carried. Source: Jane’s

A total of thirteen companies showed interest in the project and five of these were shortlisted.
1. Australian Specialised Vehicle Systems (ASVS), a joint venture between ANI and Reumech Austral. They offered the Taipan, a modified version of the South African Mamba.
2. Transfield Defence System, which teamed up with German Thyssen Henschel, and offered the TM-170.
3. Perry Engineering teamed up with Timoney and offered a version of their MP44.
4. Westrac teamed up with TFM and offered the RG-12 Nyala.
5. Lastly, British Aerospace Australia (BAe) offered an improved Shorts S600, which BAe called Foxhound.

Late in 1995, Phase 2B was initiated, which was the request for tender. Shortly after, Transfield and Westrac withdrew, leaving ASVS, Perry Engineering, and BAe.

In 1996, BAe started construction of a new improved prototype of the S600, known as the Foxhound. Near the end of that year, Shorts decided to sell the entire Shorland range of vehicles to BAe, due to internal restructuring of the company. This not only included the S600 design, but also the older designs that were based on the Land Rovers, namely the S52 and S55. BAe would never take these into production, however, and solely focussed on their Foxhound. Of the two Shorts prototypes, one was relocated to Australia, while future production could either take place in Northern Ireland or Australia, depending on the customer.

In October 1996, the Australian Army issued a new contract negotiating directive, which initiated the official negotiations for contracts with the three companies to provide a trial vehicle. However, before the formal contract negotiations could commence with BAe, they announced their intention to drop out and withdrew their offer for the Foxhound in January 1997.

First customer: Kuwait

Although BAe let the possibility of an Australian success go, another commercial success was near. During the second half of the 1990s, the National Guard of Kuwait (الحرس الوطني الكويتي, KNG for short) was searching for a new armored internal security vehicle to be used by the Internal Security Battalion (الحرس الوطني الكويتي, ISB for short). Apart from supporting the Kuwait Army in case of a foreign invasion and protecting vital targets or installations against any threat, an important duty of the KNG is to support the police in maintaining security and stability.

Three of the KNG S600s during a parade. The vehicle in the front is outfitted with the heavy barricade remover, while the other two, with registration 10015 and 10013, are the regular APC version. Source: Kuwait National Guard

BAe’s offer of the Foxhound was challenged by unspecified vehicles from South Africa, the USA, and the UK. After evaluation, the S600 was chosen in January 1997, coinciding with the Australian offer being canceled, KNG signed a contract with BAe for delivery of 22 vehicles in 4 (6) versions. The first pre-series vehicle was ready by early September 1997 and presented in October at the BAe factory in Wingfield, Adelaide, South Australia. It was successful and the production of 22 vehicles commenced, which were built and delivered in 1998 and 1999. With production finished by 1999, the Shorland program was sold again, this time to Tenix Defence Systems, also from Australia, Barton. They continued the program and secured a three-year-long life support contract and follow-on weapon system integration updates until 2003 with Kuwait. Some Tenix personnel was also relocated to Kuwait for that purpose. Besides this, operator and maintainer training was offered to the National Guard.

The acquired versions included the ambulance, the armored personnel carrier with two types of weapon stations, the high-pressure water cannon carrier, and both the light and heavy barricade remover. All vehicles are painted in an identical regular KNG paint scheme with a sand yellow base, broken up by green patches and smaller white dots. Apart from the ambulance, which has blue, all vehicles are fitted with orange flashing lights. All vehicles are registered with a number, starting with 100, followed by the vehicle number ranging from 01 to 22.

These three vehicles, 10018, 10019, and 10020, are outfitted with high-pressure water cannons for riot control.
One such vehicle is seen in action during an exercise in February 2013. Source: Kuwait National Guard
This picture from May 2014, taken during Nasr Exercise 12, shows five S600s in the back, including an ambulance (10021), three APCs, and possibly a water cannon vehicle in the rear. Source: Kuwait National Guard
Still from a short film, showing S600 ‘10002’ in a parade with other types of KNG vehicles. Behind it drives a US-built Pandur II 6×6 with a 25 mm Bushmaster, and in front of it a US HMMWV and a French Panhard VBL. This image shows a good size comparison with other, more common vehicles. Source: Kuwait National Guard on Youtube

Design of the base vehicle

The vehicle developed for Kuwait would form the basis for other vehicles that were sold later. According to the manufacturer, the S600 was relatively cheap in its class, while retaining as good performance as its commercial counterparts. Being based on the tried and tested Unimog chassis, operational costs were relatively low, due to 80% parts commonality with regular vehicles and thus easily available spares. Furthermore, the range was supported by world-wide Mercedes-Benz repair points within their dealer-network.

Chassis

Unlike the original options envisioned by Shorts, under Australian management, all versions were to be based on the more powerful U 2150 L chassis. The diesel engine, which is coupled to a manual transmission with eight forward and four reverse gears, is located in the front of the vehicle and can be accessed through hatches. In case full access is needed, the whole armored body can be lifted from the chassis.

The wheels are fitted to portal axles which have hub drive and torque tubes. They also have pneumatically operated differential locks that can be operated while the vehicle is moving. Each wheel station has an independent suspension that consists of coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. Furthermore, steering is power-assisted.

For the many roles that were envisioned for the S600, it was often considered essential that troops could quickly embark or disembark the vehicle. Therefore, the original Shorts prototype had three doors, one on each side and one in the back, but most vehicles featured only two doors, with one in the back and one on the side. The side door essentially is a two-part hatch, with the lower part folding down to form a step, while the upper part, which also has an integral vision block, is opened upwards. The rear door is very similar in design but wider, and the upper hatch could also contain a firing port. A novel feature is that the upper part can be locked in an open position while driving, which could prove beneficial in certain circumstances.

First introduced on the Foxhound prototype were two large notches in the rear sides of the superstructure, where spare wheels could be carried. This option was carried over on several variants.

Protection

The armor plating was newly developed by BAe and Bisalloy Steels from Unanderra NSW. The armored hull was of completely welded construction and provided enough protection against 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm small arms fire. Although an option was offered for appliqué armor, improving the protection against 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm AP bullets, this option seems to never have been bought by any S600 customer. The windows are bulletproof and provide the same protection as the armor. The belly protection is sufficient against grenades and small mine blasts.

Production of the Kuwait vehicles in 1998. For extensive maintenance, the complete hull can be lifted from the chassis. Source: Tenix Defence

Armament

The S600 could accommodate various weapon stations. For example, the prototype had a single-piece circular hatch in the roof where a variety of armament systems could be fitted, with the largest being a 12.7 mm M2 machine gun or a 40 mm Mk 19 Mod 3 grenade launcher. These weapon stations can also be fitted with a protective armored shield. Apart from this layout, other roof arrangements were offered by the manufacturer, for example, circular roof hatches above the commander’s and driver’s positions at the front. Apart from weapons on the roof, another option was the fitting of firing ports below the vision blocks in the rear compartment. This option was used both by Singapore and South-Korea.

Crew

Depending on the customer’s needs, the driver sits either on the right or the left, with the commander beside him. However, only the two Singapore vehicles feature a right-hand drive, while all other vehicles have a left-hand drive. Windows in the front and sides provide a 180º field of view. For crew comfort, the S600 was equipped as standard with an air conditioning unit.

In the hull section behind the driver and commander positions, bench seats run down either side of the hull, on which troops can be seated facing each other. For safety and comfort purposes, each seat has a seatbelt. Under the seats is space to store equipment and supplies.

Optional equipment

Since the S600 left room for many customizations, many more things could be fitted, but the manufacturer proposed the following: appliqué armor, automatic transmission, various communication systems, a different Euro 2 diesel engine, a fire detection and suppression system, a heater, Hutchinson run-flat inserts for the tires, land navigation systems, night vision equipment, self-recovery winch, wire cutters, smoke grenade launchers, or a Mercedes-Benz central tire-inflation system. This system allows the driver to adjust the tire pressure to suit the type of ground that is being crossed.

Variants

Ambulance

1. PA System Controls (optional) | 2. First Aid Kit | 3. HVAC Ducting (optional) | 4. Medical Kit | 5. Litter Rails | 6. Litter | 7. Oxygen Bottle | 8. Pioneer Tools (optional) | 9. FESS Extinguisher (optional) | 10. FESS Control Panel (optional) | 11. PA Siren/Speaker (optional) Source: Tenix Defence

The ambulance version has a crew of three that includes a driver and two medical staff. The rear compartment is configured to carry either three stretcher patients or two stretcher patients and four seated patients.

Kuwaiti Ambulance vehicle with the Red Crescent symbol on the front and side. Kuwait probably operates two of these vehicles. Source: Tenix Defence

Armored personnel carrier

1. PA Siren/Speaker (optional) | 2. Grenade Launcher Controls (optional) | 3. PA System Controls (optional) | 4. First Aid Kit | 5. Gun Port (optional) | 6. Gunner’s Platform | 7. Grenade Launcher (optional) | 8. Hull Vision Block | 9. HVAC Ducting | 10. Fire Extinguisher | 11. Grenade Ammunition Stowage (optional) | 12. Ammunition Stowage | 13. Pioneer Tools (optional) | 14. FESS Extinguisher (optional) | 15. FESS Control Panel (optional) Source: Tenix Defence

The APC version can be considered as a base version of the S600. It offers seating for twelve personnel and has a total payload of 3,300 kg. This stands identical to a full rifle section, complete with a combat load. With a range up to 1,000 km, the vehicle was designed for a three-day deployment.

Heavy Barricade Remover (Riot Control)

1. Grenade Launcher control | 2. PA System | 3. First Aid Kit | 4. Gunners Platform | 5. HVACS Ducting | 6. Fire Extinguisher | 7. Grenade Ammunition | 8. Ammunition | 9. Pioneer Tools | 10. FESS Extinguisher | 11. FESS Control Panel Source: Tenix Defence

Light Barricade Remover (riot control)

1. Grenade Launcher Control (optional) | 2. PA system Control (optional) | 3. First Aid Kit | 4. Gunner’s Platform (optional) | 5. Grenade Launcher (optional) | 6. Hull Vision Block | 7. HVAC Ducting (optional) | 8. Gun Port (optional) | 9. Fire Extinguisher | 10. Grenade Ammunition Stowage (optional) | 11. Ammunition Stowage (optional) | 12. Pioneer Tools (optional) | 13. FESS Extinguisher (optional) | 14. FESS Control Panel (optional) | 15. Barricade Remover | 16. PA Siren / Speaker Control (optional) Source: Tenix Defence

High-Pressure water Cannon

1. PA Siren/Speaker (optional) | 2. Wire Cutter | 3. PA System Controls (optional) | 4. Search Light | 5. Water Monitor | 6. Operator’s Seat | 7. First Aid Kit | 8. Gun Port (optional) | 9. Vision Block | 10. HVAC Ducting | 11. Tool Kit | 12. Gravity Fill | 13. Tank Cover | 14. Hydrant Tap | 15. Hydrant Tap | 16. Suction Hose | 17. Tank Baffles | 18. Hydrant Hose Filling | 19. Additive Tank | 20. Priming Pump | 21. FESS Extinguisher (optional) | 22. FESS Control Panel (optional) Source: Tenix Defence

The high-pressure water cannon version carried a 3,000-liter tank which offered the capacity to have five minutes of continuous water jetting.

Command

The command version would be fitted with up to five radios and a folding workbench that was fitted with a map board and enclosed annex. When stationary, this vehicle could be used as a command post. It would have a crew of six, including a driver, commander, and four radio operators.

Surveillance

This version’s main feature would be a stabilized mast-mounted sensor package, comprising a laser range finder, radar, thermal camera, and a TV camera, with an operator’s console in the hull. It would have a crew of four.

Police Internal Security Vehicle

Like the APC, the ISV configuration was another base design, which provided seating for up to 12 personnel with full equipment.

The ISV variant, outfitted to Belgian specifications with a light barricade remover and larger rear windows. Source: Luc De Jaeger

Airport security

The airport security vehicle allowed the crew to remain closed up in the vehicle for longer periods in comfort, to allow monitoring from one place. It would have special provisions for airfield communication systems and provision for a concealed weapon. This proposed variant would have a crew of four.

Mortar Carrier

This proposed variant could carry a standard BAE systems Ro Defence 81 mm mortar that would fire through an opening roof hatch. The vehicle would be crewed by three men, including a driver, mortar detachment commander, and a mortar crew member.

Anti-hijack vehicle

The anti-hijack vehicle was created around 2001/2002 for the South-Korean market and featured a MARS system fitted on the roof. MARS stands for Mobile Adjustable Ramp System, which provides a more tactical approach to enter and rescue in elevated locations, like buildings or planes. It also provides an elevated platform for snipers during other kinds of missions.

The Tenix S600 pre-series vehicle, displayed at IDEX’2001. Source: Танкомастер 2001 no.2

Under a new company

After BAe completed production of the 22 Kuwaiti vehicles, they decided to sell the Foxhound/S600 design to Tenix Defence Systems in January 1999, who continued the program and also took over the involved managers and engineers. Although the name Shorland S600 was retained, during the Tenix years, the vehicle was regularly referred to as Tenix S600. Tenix was only formed in 1997 when it split from its parent company Transfield Services. It became the largest defense contractor in Australia.

Belgium: the second customer

Since the late 1970s, the Belgian Gendarmerie (NL: Rijkswacht, a paramilitary police force) had been operating 80 BDX armored vehicles. After the Gendarmerie became a civilian police organization in 1992, the number was drastically scaled-down and, near the end of the 1990s, it became clear a replacement was needed. After evaluating a variety of options, the Alvis Tactica, Vickers OMC RG-12, and the Shorland S600 were selected as potential successors. After extensive testing in Belgium, the S600 was eventually selected and, in 1999, a contract was signed with Tenix for delivery of six vehicles, with an option for more in the next two fiscal years, although this option was never used. The deal was worth 5 million Australian dollars (120 million Belgian Francs or 3.8 million USD).

The keys are handed over by South Australian Premier John Olson (right) to Belgian Police Colonel Alain Mouthuy (left). In the center stands Paul Salteri, managing director of Tenix. Only the first vehicle was painted in this scheme for a short time, it was repainted before delivery. Source: Tenix Defence
The brand new vehicle. The Belgian version is the Police Internal Security Vehicle, with requested modifications like a roof higher by ten centimeters and larger windows in the rear. The light barricade remover is still in immaculate condition. Source: Jane’s

On 31 January 2001, South Australian Premier John Olsen symbolically handed over the keys of the first vehicle to Colonel Alain Mouthuy of the Belgian Police. The ceremony took place at the Technology Park in Adelaide, where Tenix Defence was based. This vehicle was painted in Gendarmerie colors, with a red-orange line protruding from the center of the bonnet up between the front windows. As the Gendarmerie had become the Federal Police after 1 April 2001, during reforms that combined all police units into one force, divided at a local and federal level, this paint scheme was never adopted. Instead, when the first vehicles were delivered to Belgium in August 2001, they were painted in a newly adopted scheme. The vehicles are registered with regular license plates. Confirmed registrations are DQM-036, -037, -038, -039, and -042. The vehicles also have vehicle numbers, identical to the last two numbers of the license plate.

Vehicle 42 (DQM-042) seen in May 2016. The vehicles are operated by the Public Safety Directorate, written on the left side in French, and on the right side in Dutch. The light barricade remover is regularly repainted, but in a well-loved state at the time this photograph was taken. Source: Gendarmekes Hulpdienstenfotografie

According to the Belgian Police, the main purpose of the vehicles is to safely transport policemen whenever there is an armed threat or excessive use of violence, for example in the form of a rioting group throwing projectiles like stones and fireworks. Aside from protecting the police within, it can also offer protection for police behind it, and it can easily break through erected barricades and the like. Within the vehicle is space for a driver, commander, and up to seven policemen.

The Belgian vehicles are made airtight to allow operation in an environment where teargas is used. On special request, the side windows in the rear were enlarged as well to provide better vision. They are made of polycarbonate and thus fire and impact resistant. As policemen would be able to easily enter and move in the vehicle with all gear, including helmets, the vehicle was made 10 cm higher, meaning the Belgian vehicles are 2.8 m instead of 2.7 m high. Unlike the rear door, which is still manually opened, the side door is pneumatically opened. Further features include run-flat tires, folding wired mesh protection for the front windows and fixed on the sides, and a rapidly removable power-operated light barricade remover mounted on the front. There is also at least one S600 outfitted with a MARS system.

The S600 is seen here fitted with a MARS system. Source: Belgian Federal Police

Within the federal police, the vehicles were formed in APC-teams and attached to the Directorate General Reserve (FR: Direction de la Réserve Générale, NL: Dienst Algemene Reserve). In 2004, this unit was incorporated into the Intervention Corps (FR: Corps d’Intervention, NL: Interventiekorps, combined shortened to CIK). In 2015, a new centralized police support unit was formed, the Directorate of Public Safety (FR: Direction de Sécurité Publique, NL: Directie Openbare Veiligheid). Also known as DAS, this unit currently operates the S600.

Since 2006, the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) have signed a police treaty that allows the operation of personnel and materiel across their borders. Before signing, that was not allowed, but cooperation was common and an incident from April 2003 has to be noted. In that month, a demonstration took place in Luxembourg by workers from the metallurgical industry. At the time, Luxembourg, a stranger to violent protests, had no armored vehicles nor water cannons to counter the protest. Therefore, an arrangement was signed with Belgium which allowed the deployment of Belgian water cannons and armored vehicles, but due to juridical restrictions, they were only allowed to be operated by Luxembourg policemen and should have Luxembourg registration plates. Multiple S600s were sent, including number 38, which temporarily received the registration A7784, while Luxembourgish crews were hastily trained to be somewhat familiar with the vehicles.

Vehicle 38 in use by the Luxembourg Police in April 2003. It was temporarily equipped with a Luxembourg registration plate, reading A7784. Source: Marcel Dehaeseleer

On 29 September 2020, a tender was placed for a four-year program of modernizing, modifying, and restoring the six vehicles. The deadline was set for 22 October 2020. Somehow, in official publications including this tender, the Shorland is erroneously referred to as ‘Shortland’. The tender indicates that the Belgian S600s are planned to remain in service for some time.

South-Korea: the third customer

Tenix Defence announced in September 2002 that a ‘classified North-East Asian country’ had placed an order for two anti-hijack vehicles. This type of vehicle was not offered before. Apart from the two vehicles, Tenix delivered a comprehensive spare and service equipment package to the customer, which later turned out to be South-Korea.

The two vehicles were bought for use by the 707th Special Mission Battalion (제707특수임무단, since 2019 known as the 707th Special Mission Group), an elite counter-terrorism unit of the Republic of Korea Army Special Forces. The anti-hijack version seems to be developed from the Police ISV, but with smaller side windows, and round openable firing ports under them. Both the rear and right side doors are manually operated. Most notable is the MARS system, installed on the roof and attached to the lifting hooks on the bonnet.

One of the two South-Korean vehicles during a demonstration in 2020. In this case, the MARS is used as a platform for snipers, providing an overview of the situation. Source: defensetoday.kr
A vehicle during another exercise in June 2019. People are led from the bus into the S600 to be transported away. Source: southkoreanmilitary.blogspot.com

Singapore: the fourth customer

In 2005, the Singapore Police unveiled two new S600s that had been acquired for use by the Special Tactics and Rescue unit (STAR) of the Special Operations Command. Both vehicles were painted in a glossy dark blue color, and bear the registration numbers YM4355K and YM4280S. The former is equipped with a light barricade remover, while the latter features a MARS system but are, apart from that, identical. At first glance, the vehicles look similar to the South-Korean anti-hijack version, but the Singapore vehicles feature a right-hand drive system.

In the lower right side of the hull, just behind the driving position and the front wheel, a large air intake is there. This feature is not seen on any other S600s.

Seen here is YM4280S, the one Singapore vehicle that is outfitted with a MARS system. With the driver on the right side, the side door is moved to the left side of the hull. Source: Stormo Rochalie
Vehicle YM4355K is outfitted with a light barricade remover, but it also has the connection parts for the MARS system installed. Notice the grille behind the front wheel, a feature that is not present on any other S600 and probably has to do with the driver’s position being on the right. Also of note is the driver’s door, a feature that is not very common either. The picture was taken in 2013. Source: Police Car Models

The life of the Kuwait series prototype

The pre-series vehicle built to Kuwaiti standards was kept at the factory for driver and maintainer training. This specific vehicle was also heavily used for marketing and demonstrations during various shows and exhibitions in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Australia. This vehicle was also tested by Belgium and Saudi Arabia, among others. With the company’s personnel, this vehicle became affectionately known as ‘Betsy’.

Near the end of the 2000s, the vehicle was long-term leased to the South Australian Police Special Tasks and Rescue Group and repainted white, with a blue-white blocked line along the sides. It received the registration XAH 404. In May 2011, this STAR unit was reinforced with a new Lenco Engineering Bearcat, which reduced the S600 to a second-line vehicle. By 2015, they still used it, but before 2019, it was indefinitely returned to BAE Systems. They donated this vehicle to the National Military Vehicle Museum in Edinburgh Parks on 18 December 2019.

The prototype, also known as Betsy, in Australian police colors. Source left: National Military Vehicle Museum, right: BAE Systems Australia
The vehicle was donated by BAE Systems, represented by David Berrill (former BAE, right), to the National Military Vehicle Museum, represented by Ray Hall (museum workshop manager, left). Note that the additional police equipment has been removed, like the mesh frames protecting the windows, the blue flashing light, and the MARS system connectors. Source: National Military Vehicle Museum

This museum also has a bare S600 hull which was already donated by BAE before 2014. It is not, and probably never was, mounted on a chassis, but probably used for testing or as a production sample in the factory. It is painted in a similar three-tone camouflage scheme as the original BAe Foxhound prototype from 1996. The extruding windows are its most distinctive feature, which is similar to those seen on one of the original Shorts prototype at the time it was shown as a white UN vehicle. The two extensions on top of the bonnet, just below the windows, are only seen with the Kuwaiti vehicles.

The bare hull at the National Military Vehicle Museum was once donated by BAE systems. A full walk-around is posted at the hmvf.co.uk forums. Source: National Military Vehicle Museum

Failed sales

During the late 1990s, Saudi-Arabia intended to buy a large number of armored vehicles, quoted to be up to 1,000, although the initial demand was set for roughly 60-70 vehicles. Their main purpose would be to protect key facilities near Mecca and Medina where yearly, millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage, known as the Hajj. In September 1998, comparative trials were held between the British Alvis Tactica and the Australian Shorland S600. Both Alvis and Tenix declared their designs were chosen because of their versatility. Eventually, Saudi-Arabia opted for the Tactica, of which 261 models were purchased. The S600 was rejected.

Undoubtedly, other countries would have considered or tested the Shorland S600, but to what extent is not publicly known.

Future

The police of Singapore was the last customer for the S600, in 2005. In January 2008, it was announced that Tenix was bought by BAE Systems, the descendant of BAe. This third change of ownership of the production line did not result in the elimination of the project and the S600 was still being offered by 2014. However, by donating the remaining prototype to a museum at the end of 2019, BAE has made it quite clear that they have no interest in offering the vehicle any longer, which is understandable as by then, the design was more than twenty years old.

How long the S600 will remain in service is hard to tell. The Belgian vehicles will likely remain in service for at least ten years, because of their 2020 tender for refurbishment. With over twenty years of service and in their semi-military setting, the Kuwaiti vehicles will probably be replaced first, possibly within the next ten years. The Singapore and South-Korean vehicles fulfill a more specialized role and in that setting will likely remain in use for some time. Jane’s estimated a service time of roughly forty years. Based on BAEs’ current interests in the Defense market, it is very unlikely that they will offer a new design.

Source: Kuwait National Guard
A KNG high-pressure water cannon vehicle, shown at the 2011 GDA Aerospace and Defence Exhibition. It bears registration number 10020. Source: Kuwait National Guard

Conclusion

Compared to its counterparts, the S600 was a strong competitive vehicle, but not a great commercial success, with only 32 vehicles sold. The production was thus very modest compared to, for example, the Alvis Tactica or RG-12. The vehicle itself was good, with a reliable chassis, enough versatility, and good performance. The S600 program suffered from the constant change of ownership, which is one of the main reasons why the vehicle was not sold to more countries. As of 2021, it is believed that all 32 vehicles that were sold remain in service.

This S600 is illustrated as in service with the National Guard of Kuwait and equipped with a high-pressure water cannon. An illustration by Yuvnasvha Sharma, funded by our patreon campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 5.74 x 2.42 x 2.70 m (18ft10in x 7ft11in x 8ft10in)
Combat weight 12.5 tonnes (13.8 US ton)
Crew 1+11
Engine Mercedes-Benz OM-366LA 6-cylinder, 5,958 cc, 660 Nm at 1,400-1,700 rpm, 157 kW (214 bhp) at 2,600 rpm
Gearbox UG3/65, 8 forward, 4 reverse gears
Power to weight ratio 17,1 hp/t
Max. speed 110 km/h (68 mph)
Road range 1,000 km (621 miles) (with extended range fuel tank)
Armament Optional, up to 12.7 mm machine gun or 40 mm mortar
Armor Protection against regular 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm NATO rounds, resistance against shrapnel, and infantry mines
Payload 3,300 kg (7275 lbs)
Wheelbase 3.25 m (10ft8in)
Track width 1.92 m (6ft4in)
Ground clearance 0.44 m (1ft5in)
Fording depth 1.2 m (3ft11in)
Turning circle 15 m (49ft3in)
Gradient 31 degrees
Side slope 31 degrees
Approach angle 40 degrees
Angle of departure 40 degrees

Sources

Armor, January-February 1998, New Armored Vehicles Debut at British Equipment Exhibition, Peter Brown, p.50-51.
Armored Car, issue 31, 1995, Royal Navy & British Army Equipment Exhibition 1995, Peter Brown, p.1. PDF.
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BAe Foxhound, 4wdonline.com.
BAE Systems Australia Donation to the Museum, February 2020, military-vehicle-museum.org.au.
‘Betsy’ a Shorland S600 Armoured Personnel Vehicle, 8 February 2020, BAE Systems Australia.
British Aerospace Australia (BAeA), 4wdonline.com.
Bulletin des Adjucations/bulletin der Aanbestedingen, 29 September 2020, PDF.
Defense and Technology 99/8, Saudi Arabia may delay purchasing armored vehicles, p.52. PDF (Korean).
Expanded BAe Australia range wins first order, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 29 January 1997.
Forecast International, September 2014, PDF.
Jane’s Tanks and Combat Vehicles Recognition Guide, Christopher F. Foss, 2000. P.232-233.
Mobile Adjustable Ramp System, chandrainternational.com.
New high-tech armoured rescue vehicle for South Australia, Attorney General’s Department, 19 May 2011, attorneygeneral.gov.au.
Politie koopt Australische Pantsers, 31 January 2001, hbvl.be.
Politiesamenwerking over de grenzen heen, January 2012, Benelux Secretary General. PDF.
Project Bushranger, 4wdonline.com.
Secretary-General, calendar year 2005, 24 July 2006, undocs.org.
S600, Jane’s report, archived 11 June 2019.
S600 APC back in production, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 May 2001.
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Short Brothers S600 Body Shell Photos, hmvf.co.uk.
Shorland S600 Series Armoured Vehicles Tenix brochure, PDF.
Tenix’s exporting success stories benefiting Adelaide firms, 11 September 2002, tenix.com.
Un blindé haut de 3 mètres, Gilbert Dupont, dhnet.be.
United Nations Register of Conventional Arms Report.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armored Cars

Ehrhardt Potkachel

The Netherlands (1918-1940)
Armored car – 1 built

The First World War was the first war in history in which armored vehicles were used in significant numbers, by all sides. The Netherlands, as a neutral country, only observed from the sideline. However, in 1914, one Belgian armored car was interned when it crossed the Dutch border, becoming the first armored vehicle on Dutch soil. Before it was given back to Belgium in 1919, the Dutch interned another vehicle during the German retreat at the end of 1918. This time, it was a semi-armored Ehrhardt self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle would eventually be converted into a true armored car which became known as the Ehrhardt Potkachel.

Early photo of the Ehrhardt. Source: Van Holkema & Warendorf Publishing.
An Ehrhardt Kraftwagen-Flugabwehrkanone, as it would have fallen in Dutch hands. This specific vehicle belonged to Bavarian Flak Unit 72. The unit in which the Dutch vehicle formerly served is unknown. Source: Flickr user Wooway1

The acquisition

During the First World War, the German forces made extensive use of semi-armored SPAAGs, anti-aircraft guns on truck chassis with an armored bonnet. Several reasons have been put forward to explain how this specific Ehrhardt BAK model 1913 ended up in the Netherlands. Some sources claim that the vehicle was bought from Germany several years after the war. Another source claims it was already in the Netherlands before the war. However, the current consensus, and the most likely story, is that the vehicle was left behind by German troops in 1918. After the armistice was signed, German troops wanted to return to Germany as quickly as possible. For some units, the fastest way was to go through the Dutch province of Limburg. They got permission to do so from the Dutch Army, but only if they handed over their weapons and equipment. This way, the Dutch received a lot of German weapons, possibly including the Ehrhardt.

It was not the first SPAAG the Dutch got their hands on. During the war, in August 1916, the Army had managed to acquire three flatbed Thornycroft trucks from Britain, armed with Vickers 13-pounder 9-cwt (76.2 mm) guns, designated 8tl in Dutch service. All of them were operated by the Motorized Anti-Aircraft Battery. It is unconfirmed that the Ehrhardt was operated by this unit as it was put into storage after it was handed over by German troops.

The Ehrhardt being used as a SPAAG by Dutch troops during an exercise in 1924. The original 77 mm gun has been replaced by a standard 57 mm gun, designated 6tl in Dutch service. For close defense, a machine gun has been placed on the back of the vehicle. Source: Dutch National Archives

The Ehrhardt put to use

Somewhere between 1920-1923, the gun was replaced by a 57 mm gun, designated 6tl in Dutch service and one of the standard anti-aircraft guns. The vehicle would make its public appearance during the army maneuvers in the autumn of 1924. These maneuvers were the first in the Netherlands that included armored cars, or at least vehicles that were supposed to represent armored cars. Among them were the Ehrhardt, as well as a mock-up armored car based on a GMC chassis. Neither foreign observers nor the domestic newspapers were impressed by the vehicles and the maneuvers in general. One newspaper reported: “The army maneuver is imitating a war from 0 A.D. with one, say one prehistoric armored car, which already broke down on the first day of fighting”. Despite this, the use of these vehicles was very successful from a tactical view, and both the GMC and Ehrhardt were used during the following years.

It is not decisively known when the armored superstructure was added, but reports from newspapers, as well as photographs, suggest that the vehicle was not fully armored before 1927.

The only other training armored car, the GMC, was dismantled in 1931. In 1929, plans were made to acquire foreign armored vehicles but this came to nothing. In 1931, three GMC armored cars were made but these were assigned to the Second Company Police Troops in Amsterdam. Five Carden-Loyd tankettes arrived in 1931, but these were withheld from combined exercises. Three new Morris armored cars were only to be built in 1932 and ready at the end of the year. It is the author’s belief that, in this turmoil of events, the decision was made to armor the Ehrhardt, possibly in the second half of 1931 or more likely the first half of 1932. What is certain is that the Ehrhardt was not available for the army exercises of 1932, and neither were any other armored or mocked-up vehicles. When the vehicle was armored, it also received a different gun. Although the consensus is that this gun was of 37 mm caliber, maybe even the former gun of the GMC that was dismantled at the end of 1931, there are also claims that it was a 50 mm gun.

HIH Siderius

The armored superstructure was designed and built by the factory of HIH Siderius. This is a somewhat mysterious and controversial company. Between the truce of November 1918 and the final peace treaty of Versailles in June 1919, German weapon industries brought many documents, drawings, and part of their inventories to safety, as they rightfully feared Allied commissions would want this to be destroyed. One of the main destinations was the Netherlands, as it had played no part in the war.

As such, a lot of equipment and resources from the Rheinische Metallwaaren und Maschinenfabrik (Ehrhardt) were moved to the Netherlands and taken over by HIH Siderius. Some of the personnel also moved to the Netherlands and were employed by HIH, explaining why the Ehrhardt was upgraded by them. Furthermore, HIH reportedly worked on another armored car design during the early 1930s, based on a 6×4 Daimler chassis. Unfortunately, design plans are unknown. Due to the modifications, the vehicle is also referred to as Ehrhardt-Siderius in some publications.

A moving Ehrhardt being observed by Dutch officers. The text on its side is not readable in this particular photograph but reads Ehrhardt in other photographs. Source: Giesbers Media

The design

The Ehrhardt mostly retained the layout of the original vehicle. The engine compartment remained the same. The gun stayed in the approximate position as well, maintaining the original balance in the design, but it was now limited to a small firing arc and unable to fire at airplanes. The added boilerplates that acted as armor were 6 mm thick on the sides and rear, except on the front where it was 12 mm thick. Five firing ports were made as well, with one facing to the front, one to each side, and two to the rear. Behind the driver’s position, a small round cupola was added from which the commander had an all-round vision.

The use of boilerplate, or the peculiar shape of the vehicle, maybe both, quickly led to the vehicle being nicknamed the ‘Potkachel’, Dutch for ‘Pot Stove’. Officially, the vehicle had no nickname and was just referred to as Ehrhardt, although after the armor was added by HIH Siderius, it was sometimes called Ehrhardt-Siderius. The vehicle had steel wheels, solid tires, and four-wheel drive. The official registration number was M-27011.

The engine could only be started with the help of a rigid starting handle. Once running, the vehicle was so difficult to drive that only three people in the army were capable of doing it. This was the main reason why the vehicle was rarely driven although it was often present during the annual war games.

Photo taken on August 20th, 1934, during the annual wargames. The cloth indicates whether the vehicle belonged to the red or blue forces. Source: Dutch National Military Archives.
This photograph was probably taken at the storage depot of the Artillery Corps in the city of Arnhem. The Ehrhardt seems to be camouflaged. Source: Armamentaria part IV, 1969

Operational use

During exercises in September 1933, the Ehrhardt was used, together with three new Morris armored cars that had been delivered in October 1932. Disaster struck when the Ehrhardt accidentally went off the road into a ditch, landing on its side. It got worse when a passing civilian driver saw the scene a few hours later and started yelling, calling the driver a fool, and lamenting what had happened to ‘little Ehrhardt’ (Dutch: Ehrhardtje). It quickly turned out that the civilian pedestrian was actually a volunteer at the corps and one of the people that regularly drove the vehicle. It is not known who drove the vehicle at the time.

The vehicle nearly saw its first operational use during the Jordan Riots in 1934. Driven by a high unemployment rate and lowered social benefits, big riots flared up in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam police force asked the military to help and they sent multiple armored cars. The Ehrhardt should also have been among them, but when the vehicle drove away from its storage unit, the steering rod broke, meaning the armored car was out of service for some time.

This photograph was taken in 1939 during the early days of the general mobilization of the army. It would stay at the depot in Oegstgeest during the fighting in May 1940. Source: Dutch National Military Archives.

Fate

By 1938, new armored cars bought from Sweden had been accepted into the Dutch inventory, and plans were made to take the Ehrhardt out of service in that year, but these plans never came to fruition. In May 1940, the vehicle was found by the invading German troops, together with the unused Wilton-Fijenoord armored car, in a storage depot of the Artillery Corps in the city of Arnhem. It was taken away by the Germans and disappeared during the war, just like all the other outdated Dutch armored vehicles, without leaving a trace. The logical explanation is that they were all quickly scrapped and the armor recycled.

In May 1940, the vehicle was found by the invading German troops, together with the unused Wilton-Fijenoord armored car, in a storage depot of the Artillery Corps in the city of Arnhem. It was taken away by the Germans and disappeared during the war. Source: eBay listing

Conclusion

The Ehrhardt Potkachel has an odd place in the Dutch inter-war army. It was not their first armored car, nor their first SPAAG. It was not a particularly good vehicle either, yet it became the armored car with the longest service history in the pre-World War II Dutch army. It was a training vehicle at best, and not designed to ever see actual combat. This meant, combined with the fact that it was hopelessly outdated, that the vehicle remained in storage during the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. Any attempt to use the vehicle would likely have failed. Yet the fact that it was still around at this time is a testament to the strength and workmanship of the original chassis design by Ehrhardt, especially when it is considered that the vehicle was outfitted with an armored superstructure the chassis was not designed to bear.

The odd silhouette of the Ehrhardt Potkachel, showing the frontal part of the armor, inherited from the original Ehrhardt Self Propelled AA gun, and the elevated rear armored compartment with the oddly-placed rear gun. Illustration by Andrei “Octo10” Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Ehrhardt specifications

Total weight, battle-ready 8,300 kg (18,300 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, 2 gunners)
Propulsion 80 hp engine
Speed 50 km/h (31.1 mph)
Armament 37 mm gun, 1-2 6.5 mm Lewis M.20 machine guns
Armor 6-12 mm (0.24-0.47 inches)
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Sources

C.M. Schulten, J. Theil. Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.
Haagsche Courant, 13 September, 1933.
Arnhemsche Courant, 25 September 1924.
Hoefer, Armamentaria 3, Stichting Het Nederlandse Leger- en Wapenmuseum, 1969.
Militaire Spectator, jaargang 97, 1928.
Die deutsche radpanzer im ersten Weltkrieg, H. Kaufhold-Roll, p.44.
100 jaar na WO1: Duitse troepen huiswaarts via Limburg, 1Limburg, Frank Ruber, 11-11-2018.