Categories
Czechoslovak WW2 Tankettes

Carden-Loyd Mark VI and CL-P in Czechoslovak service

 Czechoslovakia (1930)
Tankette – 3 bought, 4 built

The Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankette, built by the British Vickers company starting from 1928, has been one of the most influential designs from the interwar period. Advertised as a cheap alternative for the tank, it was widely exported to many countries, including Czechoslovakia. It was meant to be produced under license by the Czechoslovak firm of ČKD, so only three examples were ordered from Vickers. Unfortunately for the Czechoslovaks, the vehicle performed poorly, but an improved version was eventually accepted into service as the Tančík vz.33.

A nearly finished CL-P at the ČKD factory
A nearly finished CL-P at the ČKD factory. Although a close copy of the original, there are minor differences, like a different designed sprocket wheel and fewer rivets on the headcovers. Source: Vladimír Francev

Background

Czechoslovakia was one of the states that emerged from the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, after the First World War. In 1921, the newly established army ordered its first tank, a French gun-armed Renault FT. Two years later, two machine-gun and two gun-armed FTs were bought, followed in 1924 by the final acquisition of one command and one radio vehicle, totaling seven tanks. However, the Czechoslovak army did not want to be dependent on foreign war industry. As such, the desire was expressed to be able to produce tanks in Czechoslovakia itself, providing effective maintenance and supply of spare parts due to the much better logistical conditions.

In 1922, Škoda proposed to build FT tanks but without a license. This proposal was denied by the Ministry of Defence (MNO) as they did not want to have potential diplomatic problems with France. In 1923, the Czechoslovak Ministry bought Hanomag WD Z 25 and WD Z 50 tractors and their licenses from Germany, as well as a design by German Joseph Vollmer for a wheel-cum-track system based on the WD Z 50. Based on this wheel-cum-track tractor, a tank had to be developed, known as the Kolohousenka project. The first prototype, built by Breitfeld-Daněk in 1924, failed to live up to expectations and was not accepted. Two attempts to improve it, in 1927 and 1929, failed as well. Another development was made by the Praga company which built a tracked tractor in 1925, the MT, with the track system resembling the design of the Renault FT. Based on this tractor, a tank design was proposed in 1927, also known as the Praga MT, but not accepted. Neither was a more advanced design from 1929, the YNH.

One CL-P, with registration NIX 22
One CL-P, with registration NIX 221, as seen from the front. Note the large ammunition box for the machine gun. Source Rotanazdar

A look abroad

With the domestic market not being able to provide any tanks conform to the standards demanded by the army, eyes were laid on tank development abroad. In October 1929, a Czech delegation, led by Lieutenant Colonel Bedrich Albrecht, visited the Vickers-Armstrong Ltd. plant in Britain. Albrecht was head of the III. Department of the Military Technical Institute (Vojenského technického ústavu, shortened to VTÚ). This department was responsible for evaluating military innovations and advised the army whether or not to follow up on these innovations. One of these new innovations was the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankette, which was described as a cheap and effective lightly armored vehicle to support infantry divisions. The Czechoslovak delegation was welcomed by Colonel Bridge, the former British military ataché in Prague and now Deputy Director of Vickers ground systems, who showed them the vehicle in question. Although the vehicle apparently failed an armor test, Albrecht reacted quite enthusiastically and was convinced of its tactical military value. After his visit, he wrote a report to the Ministry of Defence (Ministerstvo národní obrany, shortened to MNO) in which he strongly recommended to put this kind of vehicle into service.

Guided by the positive report, the Ministry expressed their interest in these vehicles but was not sure whether to order them at Vickers or have them built domestically in Czechoslovakia. The firm ČKD (Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk) came to mind, as it was already supplying trucks and artillery tractors to the Czech Army and, not least, was involved with the first tank development program in Czechoslovakia, namely the Kolohousenka tractor/tank project. As such, ČKD was approached by the Ministry with the question if they were interested in building these vehicles under license. With the future vision of equipping each infantry regiment with four to six tankettes, a total of at least 200 vehicles was necessary. The director of ČKD, Mr. Frankenberger, was willing to take the financial risk of investing private company money into this venture with the hope that arms production would become a healthy and lasting branch of manufacturing.

On October 14, 1929, the company offered General Jan Netík, head of the Arms Department of the Ministry, to demonstrate the vehicles to the army and to build them under license. In return, the army would have to pay the license and sign a binding contract for the purchase of 300 tankettes. This offer was turned down by the Ministry and considered unacceptable. However, under pressure by Lt.Col. Albrecht, who was backed by the Minister of Defence, Karel Viškovský, negotiations continued. Finally, it was arranged that ČKD would buy three Mk.VI tankettes for 450,006 CZK, one ammunition carrier for 21,525 CZK, and one transportation trailer for 17,220 CZK from Vickers-Armstrong (10,000 CZK was worth roughly 3,750 USD in 2015 value).

Whilst these vehicles were still in the UK and prepared to be shipped, on February 21, 1930, the Ministry agreed to buy the three tankettes and two trailers from ČKD. Furthermore, the Ministry would pay the shipments costs of 488,745 CZK and one-third of the license fee of 10,000 pounds sterling. In all, the Ministry paid 1,150,000 CZK (430,400 USD in 2015 value). The price was thought to be too expensive though and, by February 13, the decision was made to develop a new extensive testing program that aimed to test several weapon arrangements and various tactical deployments on the future battlefield. It was decided to test the vehicles as cavalry reconnaissance vehicles, light infantry tanks, fast vehicles against enemy armor, infantry weapons carriers, or as ammunition transporters on the battlefield. Furthermore, the British training manual was translated and interpreted.

A view of the CL-Ps rear
A view of the CL-Ps rear. The doors protecting the radiator are open. With the improved P-I design, these doors were replaced by adjustable blinds. Source: Rotanazdar

The license agreement

In the meantime, ČKD and Vickers had worked out their final license agreement, which was signed on February 25, 1930. It gave ČKD the rights for ten years to build the Mk.VI under license for the Czech Army. A first license payment was made on March 4, of 3,000 pounds. After this, twice a year, 500 pounds had to be paid to Vickers, with the last payment to occur on June 21, 1938. Due to the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, the last payments could not be concluded. Only after the war, in February 1947, a final sum of 880 pounds including interest was paid by ČKD. Besides these regular payments, a fee had to be paid for each vehicle built: in the case of under 100 tanks, 75 pounds, between 101-200 tanks, 60 pounds, between 201-300 tanks, 45 pounds, and for 301 tanks and above, 30 pounds. Following this agreement, negotiations continued, this time for ČKD becoming the sole representative of Vickers in Czechoslovakia. An agreement was signed on December 4, for one year. It is likely more agreements followed over the next few years but this is not known.

Design of the Carden-Loyd

The Mark VI tankette, only weighing 1,800 kg (3,970 lbs), was powered by a Ford model T engine, located in the middle of the vehicle, and produced 40 bhp, which resulted in a maximum speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) on the road. The driver was seated on the left and the gunner on the right, their heads were protected by two hexagonal armored extensions. The sole 7.92 mm vz.24 heavy machine gun was demountable. Ammunition was stored in the compartments on either side of the vehicle.

A top view of the CL-P with the roof armor removed
A top view of the CL-P with the roof armor removed, showing how uncomfortably close the crew was seated next to the engine. Source: Vladimír Francev

Going to Czechoslovakia

In early March 1930, the vehicles were finally shipped aboard the Lindisfarne from the UK to Hamburg, Germany, from where they were transported to Prague, shipping being arranged by the firm of Blothner & Grafe. On May 14, the three new war machines were presented on open terrain in Hloubětín, a city district of Prague. This presentation was supervised by Colonel Albrecht. During the afternoon, a meeting was held between representatives of both ČKD and the ministry, which concluded that the procedure of both testing and licensed production should be refined. On the same day, ČKD was ordered to build four new vehicles. These new vehicles were referred to as CL-P (Carden Loyd-Praga) or just P. Production would commence the same month and the tanks were to be ready by August to participate in the Army’s autumn exercises, but due to problems, they were only ready in late September. As such, only the regular CLs could participate in these exercises. When the CL-P’s were ready, three were transferred to the army while the fourth was kept in the company’s inventory. Each vehicle was priced at 221,325 CZK (approximately US$86,000 in 2015 value) which more than doubled the initial price that was considered by the army.

A CL-P just outside the factory of ČKD
A CL-P just outside the factory of ČKD. Source: Rotanazdar

Field trials with the Carden Loyd Mk.VI

During the 1930 autumn field exercises of the army, the CLs participated as a platoon and their performance, both on a tactical and technical level, was reported in detail. On a technical level, the vehicles performed very poorly. Their low ground clearance caused the ride to be very rough and it proved very difficult to ride on roads with deep ruts. In the countryside, roads were often nothing more than cart tracks. In most cases, the tankettes were too wide to drive on these tracks and had to go off-road, where large rocks easily caused damage to the low engine housing. Furthermore, driving along slopes was almost impossible, as the tracks were very easily thrown off. This also often happened when the tankettes tried to overcome obstacles. For instance, during one maneuver, when a vehicle tried to drive from the road onto the terrain, a track was thrown off by a bump on the side, which meant twenty minutes had to be spent to get the vehicle back on track. Another vehicle got stuck when the bottom of the vehicle slid on the middle part of the road while the tracks lost traction in deep ruts.

This bad performance caused both mental and physical suffering to the crew, who were gusted inside the vehicle during movement and the technical problems caused the crews to distrust their vehicles which lowered their morale. During movement, there was so much noise inside the vehicle, caused by the suspension and engine, that communication was practically impossible. Another problem was that the crew could not see each other. The large vision openings in the front, although providing a reasonable amount of vision, also reduced the safety of the crew. A rather bizarre anecdote claims that, while several officers, including Lt.Col. Albrecht, were examining the vehicle at the courtyard of the VTÚ, an officer noted that enemy bullets would easily go through the large vision openings, hitting the crewmember in the head, to which Albrecht seems to have replied: ‘you are right, but that man would have been miserable anyway, it is better if he was taken by God’.

Another problem with the vehicle was the machine gun. Its placement only provided a very low firing arc which reduced its effectiveness significantly. Furthermore, whenever the gunner had to reload the machine gun, he became partially exposed because the ammunition was stored in the storage compartments on the outside of the vehicle, greatly reducing his personal safety. It was reported that the best solution to this problem was to place the gun in a small turret which would also increase the gunner’s protection.

On a tactical level, it was concluded that the vehicles could be successfully used in conjunction with infantry or cavalry to attack unorganized enemy positions and were able to target positions over a greater range, but it was revealed that the vehicles did not meet the requirements for a reconnaissance vehicle, let alone it being used in the role of a conventional tank or deployment against enemy armored vehicles, which were fully out of the question. Comparative trials with wheeled armored vehicles, namely the OA vz.30 built by Tatra that was in development around the same time, concluded that the armored cars performed better in almost every case.

Two CL-Ps during maneuvers in the field
Two CL-Ps during maneuvers in the field. Although able to drive off-road, the low ground clearance often caused trouble while doing so. Source: Vladimír Francev

What now?

Due to these big problems, the army rejected the Carden-Loyd tankette in its original state. ČKD realized that they would never be able to sell the licensed produced version, the CL-P, and quickly promised to design an improved version and rebuild one of the prototypes. This proposal was approved and work was done on the vehicle over the course of 1931. Known as the P-I, the vehicle was trialed again and after several improvements were asked for, seventy of these vehicles were ordered and taken into service as the Tančík vz.33 (Tankette 1933 pattern).

As for the original Carden-Loyd tankettes, they disappeared from the records after they had been extensively tested. Furthermore, no pictures of the original tankettes seem to have survived in publications, all known pictures are of the license-produced copies.

The first P-I prototype
The first P-I prototype, which saw many improvements over the original design, including a larger crew compartment, a better placement of the gun, and an improved suspension. After minimal changes, this vehicle was taken into production as the Tančík vz.33. Source Rotanazdar

The Carden-Loyd and Škoda

While ČKD was busy solving problems in regard to the design, its main commercial competitor, Škoda, followed with interest. Although initially not interested in supplying the army with tanks, the tide turned when it was realized how lucrative the business would be. Using the Carden-Loyd suspension design as a starting point, they developed the MU-2 in 1931 and, although featuring a quite different design of the superstructure that included a turret, the Carden-Loyd influence is still visible in the suspension design.

The Škoda MU-2 in 1931. Retaining the small size of the Carden-Loyd, its design has been changed considerably with a 290 degrees rotatable turret, large engine compartment in the back, and an improved suspension. Source: Excalibur.cz

Conclusion

The acquisition of the Carden-Loyd turned out to be the turning point in Czechoslovak tank development. While several attempts to build tanks were undertaken at the end of the 1920s, they failed. With the Carden-Loyd, both ČKD and Škoda had found their base from which they were able to build more successful tanks. As a design, the Carden-Loyd was far less successful and it never saw service with the Czechoslovak Army.

The Carden Loyd Mk.VI as it would have appeared in Czechoslovak service. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharman, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 2.46 x 1.75 x 1.22 m
(8.07 x 5.74 x 4 ft)
Total weight 1.800 kg (3,968 lbs)
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Ford T 4-cylinder petrol, 40 bhp
Speed (road) 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range 144 km (89 miles)
Armament vz.24 7.92 mm heavy machine gun
Armor 6 – 9 mm
Total purchased 3
Total production 4

Sources

Zavedení Tančíků do výzbroje [Introduction of tankettes to the Army Equipment], Jaroslav Špitálský, Rota Nazdar
Československá těžká vojenská technika: Vývoj, výroba, nasazení a export československých tanků, obrněných automobilů a pásových dělostřeleckých tahačů 1918-1956 [Czechoslovak heavy armored vehicles: Development, production, operational use and export of the Czechoslovak tanks, armored cars and tracked artillery tractors 1918-1956], PhDr. Ivo Pejčoch, Charles University Prague, 2009, p.47-53.
Československá obrněná vozidla 1918-48 [Czechoslovak armored vehicles], V. Francev, C.K. Kliment, Praha, 2004.
Czechoslovak Fighting Vehicles 1918-1945, H.C. Doyle, C.K. Kliment.

Categories
WW1 Austro-Hungarian Armor

Franz Wimmer Panzerautomobil

Austria Hungary tanks Austro-Hungarian Empire (1913)
Armored Car – 1 Prototype

In 1913, just a year before World War I broke out, an armored car was built in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, designed by an artillery officer named Franz Wimmer. Although a patent has survived, as well as some scarce reports in contemporary newspapers, further documentation, including photographs, are unknown. In fact, relevant literature has not even mentioned the armored vehicle. This article hopefully will increase awareness of this specific part of Austro-Hungarian armored history.

An edited excerpt from the patent filed by Franz Wimmer in 1913. Source: AT Patent 66567

The Place of Armored Vehicles in Austria-Hungary

The Austro-Hungarian Empire has a dubious place in early armored vehicle development. On one hand, its soil brought forth the advanced 4×4 Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil in 1905, and the famous Motorgeschütz design by Burstyn which was never built but has been dubbed as one of the theoretical forerunners of the tank that would appear on the battlefield during the First World War. On the other hand, the Austro-Hungarian Army rejected all these designs and went to war in 1914 without any armored vehicle when it could potentially have had the best of its time. As such, the Austro-Hungarian Army has often been criticized for having overlooked the value of armored vehicles. Partially, this is true. The Austro-Daimler Panzerwagen was rejected for dubious reasons and when the Romfell armored car was built in 1915, the Ministry of Defense was initially furious that a truck chassis was ‘wasted’. However, one should not forget that the Austro-Daimler was actually based on requirements laid out by the Army itself, that the Motorgeschütz was rejected based on reasonable arguments and that, apparently, a new armored vehicle was trialed in 1913.

The Designer

Little information has been found about Franz Wimmer, mainly because the right information is hard to find, due to Franz Wimmer being a common name in Austria. He served as an officer within the 4th Field Gun Regiment (4. Feldkanonenregiment, F.K.R. 4 for short) when he applied for his patent. During early April 1913, Oberleutnant Wimmer was awarded the Marianerkreuz by Erzherzog Eugen as a reward of merit for his work in sanitary techniques. Sometime after this, at the very end of April or early May, he was promoted to Hauptmann, similar to the rank of captain. In July, he received the ‘Fürstlich Liechtensteinische Regierungsjubiläums Erinnerungsmedaille’, followed by the Jerusalem Pilgrim’s Cross which he received in August 1914. At the end of 1914, when the war had already been going on for several months, Wimmer made the news again thanks to another invention of his, namely a special water-resistant coat for horse riders to protect them during heavy rain. This invention he had already patented several years earlier. Apart from that achievement, the records have been silent about Hauptmann Franz Wimmer.

Cross-section illustration of the armored vehicle with the front-facing to the left. At first glance, it looks more like a locomotive rather than an armored car. The main armament, not shown in the illustration, was mounted in the turret. In the back compartment, two firing ports were located on each side. Source: AT Patent 66567B

The Design

*Note to reader: This description is based on the patent description. To what extent the patent matched the built vehicle is not fully known*

The patent described the vehicle as follows:

“The object of this invention is an armored car which is essentially characterized by the placement of the armed turret and by extendable bridge-like truss beams or preferably extension frames with auxiliary wheels for crossing trenches.”

A turnable turret was mounted at the front of the vehicle. A machine gun or a gun of small caliber could be mounted on a pivot to which the gunners’ seat was attached.

Behind the turret, a higher built armored compartment was located which housed a commander and a driver. A foldable chair was located on the front side on which the driver could sit when driving backward. Because this compartment was higher than the turret in front, this provided both the commander and driver a good surround-view without limiting the firing radius too much. Furthermore, Franz Wimmer believed that the crew would get irritated by gunfire that would be fired above or over their heads. With this design, it was not possible to fire over the crew compartment.

At the back compartment of the vehicle, additional machine guns could be deployed in the event of an attack at the rear or if the vehicle would have to ride backward. The engine was located at the center of the vehicle and coupled with a dynamo. A cooler was placed on top with a fan. To ease repairs, the sides of the engine compartment could be detached. Furthermore, an accumulator was placed in the rear compartment from which power could be sourced in case the engine would fail. Furthermore, this compartment held the gasoline tanks, ammunition storage, as well as several stretchers for the wounded.

In an attempt to decrease total weight, the armor was made of relatively weak and small armored plates overlapping each other in a roof tile-like manner. The plates were 3 mm thick, not even bulletproof, and 60 by 40 cm in size. The patent described the armor to be made of any suitable steel, but preferably an alloy of Nickel-Chrome-Vanadium. The armor plates were attached to the wall with eyelets and wire ropes. With springs, they were individually supported and held in an inclined position.

Cross-section illustrations of the vehicle. The high placement of the crew compartment provided a view not too much obstructed by the lower placed turret on the front, but in turn, limited the turning radius of the turret. The drawing on the right shows how the individual armored plates were suspended and overlapped each other. Source: AT Patent 66567B

Extendable Beams

One starts to wonder if it is a coincidence that Franz Wimmer implemented the idea of crossing beams while his compatriot, Günther Burstyn, had thought of the exact same thing some years back, albeit differently executed. As Burstyn published his design in contemporary military magazines, it is plausible that Franz Wimmer was aware of Burstyn’s idea, but this remains speculation. We only know that they served the same purpose, namely to overcome the difficulty wheeled vehicles had with crossing ditches and trenches. And, just like Burstyn’s design, the idea would have been hard to operate, if not impossible.

Drawings of the extendable beams, illustrating how they would help to overcome trenches. Source: AT Patent 66567B

The vehicle was not specifically meant for combat. Listed usages were as ammunition and supply carrier, as a reconnaissance vehicle in hostile territory, and as rapid deployment of firepower, as 3-4 machine guns could be mounted on the vehicle. Furthermore, the electric power could have a variety of uses in wartime, including providing power for a telegraphy station. The headlight on the front provided enough light to enable operation at nighttime.

In the Press

On May 11, 1913, the Pilsner Tagblatt reported that, at that time, a Panzerautomobil was trialed. If the vehicle lived up to expectations, a few would be acquired by the War Administration. The Deutscher Volksblatt, on May 8, was more informative and knew that the vehicle was armored with nickel steel plating and that the extendable trench crossing beams were its special novelty. The most extensive report appeared in the Prager Tagblatt of May 11. They added that both the specific construction and the multitude of uses were praised by the professional circles. Furthermore, the article listed several of the technical specifications.

The vehicle was constructed at the Austro-Daimler factory in Wiener-Neustadt. The Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil of 1905 had been built by the very same factory. Unfortunately, it is not known how well the Wimmer Panzerautomobil performed. It was never ordered by the Army and, by that, it can be assumed the vehicle did not live up to expectations, however, to which extent cannot be said without further sources.

Article in the ‘Deutsches Volksblatt’ about the vehicle being trialed. Source: Deutsches Volksblatt, 8 May 1913.

Conclusion

With the extendable beams and sloped and suspended armor plating, Franz Wimmer designed a unique armored car. Unfortunately, history has not done much good to the vehicle, as it is practically unknown, partially due to the complete lack of photographs. Future research will hopefully shed more light on this obscure piece of Austro-Hungarian armored history and its trials.



Illustration of the Franz Wimmer Panzerautomobil by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Crew 3 (Commander, driver, gunner) + additional machine gunners
Armament 3-4 machine guns
Armor 3 mm nickel plates

Sources

AT Patent AT66567B Panzerautomobil, filed 22 February 1913, granted 15 April 1914.
Versuche mit einem Panzerauto, page 8, Deutsches Volksblatt, 8 May 1913, (Link).
Ein Panzerautomobil, page 6, Pilsner Tagblatt, 11 May 1913, (Link).
Daß Austro-Daimler Panzerautomobil, page 9, Prager Tagblatt, 11 May 1913, (Link).
Personalnachrichten, page 7, Fremden-Blatt, 5 April 1913 (Link).
Aus dem Verordnungsblatt für das heer, page 5, Neues Wiener Abendblatt, 26 July 1913, (Link).
Aus dem Verordnungsblatt für das K.u.K. Heer nr.42, page 14, Fremden-Blatt, 7 August 1914, (Link).
Eine Erfindung des Artilleriehauptmanns Wimmer, page 22, Streffleur’s Militärblatt, 14 November 1914, (Link).
All newspapers have been accessed at anno.onb.ac.at
All patents have been accessed at worldwide.espacenet.com


Categories
Czechoslovak WW2 Tankettes

Tančík vz.33 (P-I)

Czechoslovakia (1933-45) Tankette – 74 Built

The Tančík vzor 33 (Tankette pattern 1933), also known as the P-I, was a Czechoslovak tankette that started life as a license-produced copy of the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI. Due to the British vehicle’s bad performance, the Tančík vz.33 ended up as an improved version. Despite this, it was still not up to the standards the Czechoslovak Army wanted it to be, but political pressure caused an order to be placed at the manufacturer. Including four prototypes, a total of 74 Tančíks were built at the factory of Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk (ČKD) where the vehicle was also known as AH. Although designed as a light reconnaissance and combat vehicle, it failed to live up to the standards required for these tasks. Serving in the Czechoslovak Army from the beginning of 1934 onwards, forty vehicles fell in German hands in 1939 after the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The other thirty remained with the Slovak Army throughout the Second World War.

Two Tančík vz.33 tankettes with registration numbers 13.420 and 13.421. Due to the opened gunner’s hatch, his periscope is visible as well. Source: Daniel P. Minar

Origins: the British Carden-Loyd Mk.VI

In October 1929, a Czech delegation, led by Lieutenant Colonel Bedrich Albrecht, visited the Vickers-Armstrong Ltd. plant in Britain. Albrecht was head of the III. Department of the Military Technical Institute (Vojenského technického ústavu, shortened to VTÚ). This department was responsible for evaluating military innovations and advised the army whether or not to follow up on these innovations. One of these new innovations was the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankette, which was described as a cheap and effective lightly armored vehicle to support infantry divisions. Albrecht, impressed by the small and cheap vehicle, strongly recommended the Ministry of Defence (Ministerstvo národní obrany, shortened to MNO) to put this kind of vehicle into service.

After consideration, the Ministry agreed to let the domestic firm of ČKD obtain the license and buy three vehicles from Vickers. After these vehicles had arrived in Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1930, ČKD was ordered on May 14 to build four copies, designated CL-P (Carden-Loyd-Praga). Production commenced immediately and, while all four were ready by the end of September, they came too late to participate in the autumn field trials. Despite this setback, the three Carden-Loyds bought from Vickers were tested extensively.

The CL-P which was a direct copy of the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI. The four CL-Ps were short-lived as they were soon rebuilt into the P-I. Source: Rotanazdar

Field Trials with the Carden Loyd Mk.VI

During the 1930 autumn field exercises of the army, the CLs participated as a platoon and their performance, both on a tactical and technical level, was reported in detail. On a technical level, the vehicles performed very poorly. Their low ground clearance caused the ride to be very rough and it proved very difficult to ride on roads with deep ruts. In the countryside, roads were often nothing more than cart tracks. In most cases, the tankettes were too wide to drive on these tracks and had to go off-road, where large rocks easily caused damage to the low engine housing. Furthermore, driving along slopes was almost impossible, as the tracks were very easily thrown off. This also often happened when the tankettes tried to overcome obstacles. For instance, during one maneuver, when a vehicle tried to drive from the road onto the terrain, a track was thrown off by a bump on the side, which meant twenty minutes had to be spent to get the vehicle back on track. Another vehicle got stuck when the bottom of the vehicle slid on the middle part of the road while the tracks lost traction in deep ruts.

This bad performance caused both mental and physical suffering to the crew, who were gusted inside the vehicle during movement and the technical problems caused the crews to distrust their vehicles which lowered their morale. During movement, there was so much noise inside the vehicle, caused by the suspension and engine, that communication was practically impossible. Another problem was that the crew could not see each other. The large vision openings in the front, although providing a reasonable amount of vision, also reduced the safety of the crew. A rather bizarre anecdote claims that, while several officers, including Lt.Col. Albrecht, were examining the vehicle at the courtyard of the VTÚ, an officer noted that enemy bullets would easily go through the large vision openings, hitting the crewmember in the head, to which Albrecht seems to have replied: ‘you are right, but that man would have been miserable anyway, it is better if he was taken by God’.

Another problem with the vehicle was the machine gun. Its placement only provided a very narrow firing arc which reduced its effectiveness significantly. Furthermore, whenever the gunner had to reload the machine gun, he became partially exposed because the ammunition was stored in the storage compartments on the outside of the vehicle, greatly reducing his personal safety. It was reported that the best solution to this problem was to place the gun in a small turret which would also increase the gunner’s protection.

On a tactical level, it was concluded that the vehicles could be successfully used in conjunction with infantry or cavalry to attack unorganized enemy positions and were able to target positions over a greater range, but it was revealed that the vehicles did not meet the requirements for a reconnaissance vehicle, let alone it being used in the role of a conventional tank or deployment against enemy armored vehicles, which were fully out of the question. Comparative trials with wheeled armored vehicles, namely the OA vz.30 built by Tatra that was in development around the same time, concluded that the armored cars performed better in almost every case.

The P-I prototype. Its closest foreign counterpart was the Polish TK series of tankettes which were also developed from the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI. Source: Rotanazdar

The End?

With the tankettes performing this badly, ČKD feared no orders would come in, which would result in a financial problem. To prevent this from happening, a quick promise was made to make an improved design and rebuild one of the CL-Ps after this new design. Work was undertaken over the course of 1931 on the vehicle which bore registration number NIX-225. To differentiate from the CL-P, the vehicle was designated P-I, according to the new naming system the Czechoslovak Army had adopted. P stood for the manufacturer, in this case, Praga, part of ČKD, and I represented the type of vehicle, in this case, tankette.

Starting from the bottom, the track guidance system was reworked in order to decrease the number of times the tracks were thrown off. The armor layout was completely reworked, the radiator at the rear was protected by adjustable blinds instead of doors, the crew compartment was enlarged so that ammunition could be stored inside the vehicle and the crew was now able to see each other, which improved their communication possibilities. Compared to the CL and CL-P, the crew positions were swapped around, with the gunner now sitting on the left and the driver on the right side. However, the original driving controls were also retained on the left side, so when necessary, the gunner could drive the vehicle as well. The gunner received a 360-degree rotatable periscope, greatly improving his visibility. The vz.24 heavy machine gun was replaced by a ZB vz.26 light machine gun in a new sliding armored shield, providing a much larger firing arc, but this decreased its firepower. 2,400 rounds could be stored inside the vehicle in magazines of twenty rounds stored in larger boxes. The armor was thin, with only 9 mm at the front, 6 mm at the sides, and 3 mm on the bottom.

Three tankettes that were captured by the Germans in March 1939. Their armament has been removed. Source: eBay

Trials, Again

After completion, the rebuilt vehicle was soon subjected to extensive trials in the period 1931-32 by the military administration. Special attention was given as to whether the faults in the original Carden-Loyd design had been resolved. The vehicle drove 4350 km, during which it was observed that faults were still common, but overall the vehicle performed much better. Due to the enlargement of the wheels, ground clearance was increased by 3 cm, from 20 to 23, and although a small change, it was received positively by the VTÚ.

After these trials, the other prototypes were rebuilt according to the first one, but the armor thickness was requested to be increased from 9 to 12 and from 6 to 8 in other places, and a second machine gun to be added on the driver’s side to increase the firepower, which was considered too low. The three army prototypes were handed over to the armored division based in the city of Milovice on October 17, 1933. The fourth was kept at the factory.

The Order

Despite the better performance, army officials had still not found a tactical use and questioned the vehicle’s value. As such, a group of officers, led by Colonel Antonín Pavlík, commander of the armored unit at Milovice, argued that the vehicles were tactically worthless, technically not satisfactory and should therefore not be acquired. They were opposed by Albrecht, who was backed up by Minister Bradáč and, as the minister had the most influential voice in decision making, it is no surprise the opponents fought a lost cause. According to Albrecht and thus the Minister, the design was ready to be implemented and they did not want to let down the firm of ČKD, which was heavily invested in the project at the time and thought the denial of a contract would cause a scandal.

An order for seventy P-I tankettes was placed on April 19, 1933, which were after June 30 referred to as Tančík vzor 33. A price was negotiated with ČKD of 131,200 CZK a piece and 32 pounds for the license fee. ČKD promised to deliver 40 vehicles by the end of the year and the other 30 by September 1934. However, due to problems with the quality of the armor plating, production could only be initiated until November 9, and the first 10 were only accepted on January 9, 1934, and taken into service on February 6. In March, two batches of 10 each were accepted, followed by a batch in April, two batches in August, and the last batch in October. The vehicles passed the driving tests on the road from Prague to Milovice and back. However, some failed the armor tests and were penetrated by regular bullets. Despite this being a problem, the holes were riveted and never looked at again. The vehicles were declared ready for service.

The Final Design

The basic layout of the chassis and suspension still closely resembled that of the Carden-Loyd. It featured front driving sprockets, with thirty teeth and a jaw brake system that was mass-produced and used in the Praga Alfa car. The tensioning wheels at the back were mounted in spring-loaded brackets. These tensioning wheels were ordered to be made out of bronze but, in the end, an alloy of two different materials was used. On each side, four steel wheels, shod with rubber, were placed. They were grouped together in pairs and suspended by leaf springs. On the top, the tracks were guided by an ash wood beam with a 6 mm thick steel strip. The tracks consisted of 128-130 links, depending on how far the tensioning wheel was placed, which were connected to each other with individual pins.

The vehicle was propelled by a Praga AH 1.95 liters engine (bore 75 mm, stroke 110 mm) which produced 23 hp (16.9 kW) at 1700 rpm. At 3000 rpm, the power went up to 31 hp (22 kW). At full throttle, the tank could reach a speed of 32 km/h on-road, reduced to 20 km/h on dirt roads, or 15 km/h off-road. The air to cool the engine could enter through the blinds both at the front and rear of the vehicle. Just behind the engine, a beehive-type cooler was placed and behind this, a fan that sucked air in. The fan was protected by mesh, in case anything would enter the vehicle through the blinds. The exhaust muffler was mounted beside the rear right fender and above it. An exhaust siren was mounted which could be controlled by the driver. The sirens could be used to communicate with other vehicles in the platoon. The gearbox came from the Praga AN truck and featured four forward, and one reverse gear. The differential and drive axles came from the Praga Alfa cars. In front of the differential, a reduction was placed that could be enabled in case of off-road driving.

The fuel tank, with a volume of 50 liters, was placed behind the gunner’s seat. It supplied the carburetor in two independent ways with fuel, either by gravity or with an electromagnetic ‘Autopulse’ pump. The pump was needed to ensure enough fuel would reach the engine if the vehicle was tilted, while if the pump would fail, there would still be the gravity method. The engine could be cranked up. The crank was slid into a hole under the rear blinds which was protected by a hinged cover but a small electric starter engine was located inside the vehicle as well.

The crew compartment, which doubled as the engine compartment, was cramped and uncomfortable. The engine produced a lot of noise, bad air, and high temperature. Furthermore, a wide variety of equipment had to be stored inside the vehicle, including tools, spare parts, parts for the weapons, and ammunition, which reduced the movement capabilities of the two crew members, the driver on the right and the gunner on the left. Both could enter through hatches on top of the vehicle. The driving controls were duplicated on both sides. It featured three foot pedals for clutch, brake, and throttle. The vehicle could single-handedly be steered by a lever which, when moved either to the right or left, would cause braking of either the right or left differential shaft. This system was a direct copy of the British system in the Carden-Loyd. The driver had direct vision through an opening that could be closed with a small hatch. This hatch could be fixed in any position. The hatch itself featured a smaller vision slit that was covered with bulletproof glass. The gunner could look out through two vision slits placed in the movable gun shield. These were protected with bulletproof glass as well. If the bulletproof glass would be damaged, the slits of both the driver and gunner could be covered with an additional armored plate with a very narrow and long vision slit. Besides these front-facing viewing slits, there was one on either side and two at the back. Furthermore, the gunner had a monocular periscope, placed in a ball mount in the top hatch. It had a 35 degrees field of view. They were made by the German company E. Busch Opt. Werke and delivered by the firm of J.Krejčí, apart from ten that were delivered by Optikotechna from Přerov.

Further features on the outside of the vehicle were the headlight that could be placed on the front of the vehicle above the blinds, towing hooks on both the front and back capable of withstanding a force of 2000 kg, and engineer equipment that included a shovel, a pickaxe, and a five-meter long rope.

The rear of the tankette. Note the engineering equipment that was mounted on the back. In the vertical armor plate, two small vision slits were made and can be seen here as well. Source: valka.cz

Armor and Armament

The armored hull, with the plating provided by Huť Poldi (Poldi ironworks), with various thickness, was of riveted construction, except on a few places where it was bolted to the frame if the armor had to be able to be removed for maintenance. The vertical plates in front of the crew, the lower glacis and the extruding differential cover were 12 mm thick. The blinds at the front were 10 mm thick. The sides and the rear, including the blinds, were 8 mm thick. The sloped parts of the roof and the upper glacis were 6 mm thick, while the underside and mudguards had a thickness of 5 mm. The roof, including the hatches, was the thinnest with only 4 mm. Fire testing proved that the frontal armor could withhold 7.92 mm bullets from a distance over 125 m, the sloped sheets from 100 m, the bottom from 150 m and the top from 250 m. The armor would resist regular infantry ammunition from 50 m onwards.

The original armament of the CL-P consisted of a Schwarzlose re-chambered to fire Mauser 7.92 mm ammunition. This machine gun was known as the vz.24, but due to the problems with it mentioned earlier, a replacement was sought. When production was ordered in April 1933, the armament was considered to consist of one light vz.26 machine gun and a heavy machine gun, but by November, it was still unknown which heavy machine gun was to be chosen. Several options failed, the air-cooled CZ vz.30 overheated during a continuous fire and the heavy ZB-32 machine gun was too large. As such, the decision was made to temporarily replace the heavy machine gun with a second vz.26 light machine gun. However, a replacement was never found, which made the armament of two light machine guns a permanent feature.

The main gun was placed in a movable armored shield that had a firing arc of fifty degrees and an elevation of 16 degrees. Directly to the right of the gun, a small aiming hole was located. The secondary gun was operated by the driver with a trigger in front of him, connected to the trigger of the machine gun to his right. 2,600 rounds of ammunition were carried in boxes. Of these, 400 were fitted with a steel core which were to be used against lightly armored targets. When fired, the cartridges fell into canvas bags attached to the guns to be disposed of later.

Tankette 13.421 during an exercise, the visible crewmember is the gunner. He operated the main gun, which was originally planned to be a heavy machine gun, but due to problems fitting them, a light vz.26 machine gun had to be fitted. Source: Bellona Publishing

Registration Numbers and Camouflage

The four initial CL-P prototypes were painted in a regular army green color and painted ivory on the inside. Apart from the factory prototype, the other three received army registrations: NIX 223, NIX 224, and NIX 225. In December 1932, these registrations were changed to 13.359, 13.360, and 13.361 respectively. The serial produced vehicles received registrations from 13.420 to 13.489. When taken into service, all vehicles received a brown-green-yellow camouflage pattern. The pattern was identical on all vehicles which makes it near impossible to identify an individual vehicle on a photograph when its registration is not directly visible.

A Problematic Start

While the vehicles were gradually taken into service over the course of 1934, it was quickly proven that the Minister should not have listened to the vehicle’s greatest advocate, Albrecht, but to Pavlík and the other officers who did not believe the tankette would be a valuable addition to the army in its envisioned role. When most of the 70 vehicles took part in the big army exercises at the end of 1934, the concerns raised during the development process again became reality. Firstly, the crew could not properly function. The driver was busy driving, and could not operate his machine gun in any effective way, while the gunner could not effectively use the machine gun when a speed of 10 km/h or more was reached. Furthermore, the vehicles still experienced difficulty on rough terrain and when operating in platoons of five. Cooperation with the help of signal flags and horn signals proved to be very difficult and thus ineffective, rendering the vehicles basically useless for any effective well-organized and cooperative combat. While the crew was busy performing their tasks, they could not give enough attention to their surroundings, rendering the vehicles useless for reconnaissance as well.

There were also serious problems with the propulsion of the vehicle. To sort things out, a meeting was held on November 23, which was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the VTLÚ (former VTÚ), and ČKD. ČKD announced it would modify the gearboxes and replace the differential shafts on its own expense, but opinions were divided who should pay the costs for the necessary engine repairs and modifications. ČKD wanted the Ministry to pay for repairs. A proposal to equally share the costs between the Ministry and ČKD was turned down by the VTLÚ, which wanted ČKD to pay for everything. According to ČKD, the heavy wear on the engines was caused by improper handling of the starter engine by the tankers and the usage of oil with too high viscosity. This was disputed by the VTLÚ, whose research pointed out that the engine was not suited for the tank. The production vehicles compared to the initial prototypes had seen their weight increased with 640 kg, which was not compensated with a more powerful and reinforced engine and the material for the cylinder blocks was too soft which caused them to heavily wear down in a short time. They noted that high-quality oil was used in the vehicles and ČKDs accusation of too high viscosity oil usage was incorrect. By 1936, the problems with the starter engines were eliminated when they were modified. The only deficiency after this were the air-filters, the effectiveness of which was found to be unsatisfactory, but due to lack of available room inside the vehicle, other filters could not be fitted. After the military representatives had read the reports, they concluded the faults to be caused by constructional malfunctions and as such, all repair costs had to be paid for by ČKD.

Note on VTÚ and VTLÚ

The Military Technical Institute (Vojenského technického ústavu, shortened to VTÚ) was founded in 1925 and until 1932 based in the barracks at Pohořelec. Per January 1st, 1933, the institute was moved to Dejvice and merged with the Military Aviation Institute (Vojenský letecký ústav studijní, shortened to VLÚS). They went further under the name Military Technical and Aviation Institute (Vojenský technický a letecký ústav, shortened to VTLÚ), hence the name change.

Destined For Export?

In 1934, ČKD tried to export the P-I to other countries, but without success. It is said that conversations were held with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Estonia, Lithuania, Persia (Iran), Sweden, and Yugoslavia, but to what extent these conversations progressed is unclear, especially in the case of the South-American countries. In January 1935, both Škoda and ČKD received letters from the Iranian purchasing commission in Paris. The Iranian Army wanted to acquire approximately 100 light tanks (2-3 tons class) for which it had contacted manufacturers in other countries as well, including Marmon-Herrington in the US. Škoda offered their S-I tank, ČKD both their AH-IV and TNH. To increase the chance of getting the deal, ČKD donated its P-I prototype to the Persian Shah. If this was a friendly gesture or a blatant bribery is up for debate. Although paid for by the Czech Army, the vehicle was the property of the company and it had no use in the factory anymore. The vehicle raised the Iranian interest for the tanks offered by ČKD. Pleased with the quality of the P-I, by May 14, a deal was secured for 30 AH-IVs and 26 TNHs. After successful trials with the prototypes of these vehicles at the end of 1935, the order was enlarged to 50 tanks of both. To that end, the P-I helped exporting other tanks, but was an export failure in itself. How long the Shah held on to the P-I is unknown, but it was likely scrapped long before 1945.

Service

From 1934 onwards, fifteen tankettes each were assigned to the 1st and 2nd Tankette Companies. Another ten were assigned to the 3rd Light Tank Company, where they were used to train the crews of the LT vz.34 light tanks which had yet to be delivered. The remaining thirty were put in storage and could be activated anytime in case of need. The three prototypes remained with the training unit (Učiliště útočné vozby, shortened to UÚV). With the reorganization of the armored units after September 1935, new units were created including PÚV-1 (Pluk útočné vozby, Assault Vehicles Regiment) in Milovice, PÚV-2 in Vyškov, and PÚV-3 in Martin. Twenty tankettes remained in Milovice with PÚV-1 and were divided over the two companies of the 1st Battalion. A further sixteen went to PÚV-2 in Moravia of which five were stationed in Olomouc, nine in Vyškov and the remaining two in Přáslavice. The thirty tankettes that were previously in storage were attached to PÚV-3 with fourteen in Martin, eight in Bratislava, and eight in Kosice. The last four vehicles were assigned to the training unit in Milovice.

Political Background

When the Czechoslovak state was created in October 1918, not only ethnic Czechs and Slovaks lived within the border, but other ethnic minorities as well, most notably Germans, Hungarians, Ruthenians, and Poles. Most of the Germans lived in the Sudetenland which roughly encompassed the northern, western, and southern border areas of Czechoslovakia. Although all citizens of the Czechoslovak state had the same rights under their constitution, the minorities still felt disadvantaged, including the Slovaks, as the Czechs were most prominently represented in government. This feeling of mild oppression was especially present with the Germans during the Great Depression as the industrialized Sudetenland was hit the most. This led to a growing demand for economic improvements and local autonomy. This nationalist movement was politically represented by the ‘Sudetendeutsche Partei’ (SdP), founded in 1933 by Konrad Henlein as Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront.

Germany’s Thirst for Czechoslovak Soil

After the annexation of Austria in March 1938, Adolf Hitler found the next territory to be added to the Third Reich, the Sudetenland. He expressed this to Goebbels on March 19. Fueled by German propaganda, the nationalist movement in the Sudetenland became more apparent each day, with the slogan ‘Heim ins Reich’ (back to home) becoming very popular. A military invasion was planned by the German General Staff, known as Operation Green. However, any military action was to be preceded by extensive diplomatic foreplay. The following events eventually lead to the signing of the Munich Agreement by Germany, France, Britain, and Italy. Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not consulted. The Agreement called for cession to Germany of the Sudetenland. With the loss of this territory, Czechoslovakia lost most of its industries and defensive lines, as well as a large portion of its population, considerably weakening the country.

The Agreement also directly led to territorial claims from both Poland and Hungary. On October 1, Czechoslovakia accepted ceding the area of Zaolzie to Poland. On November 2, it was followed by the First Vienna Award, which ceded most of Czechoslovak Hungarian-dominated territories to Hungary. The Munich Agreement had also granted autonomy to Slovakia within the Czechoslovak State.

The Tankettes During This Period

With the political situation worsening in 1938, the Czech Army decided to use the tankettes as infantry support, and when the army was partially mobilized during the spring, 23 platoons of three tankettes each were formed which were to strengthen the units on the border of Czechoslovakia. In July, fifteen special emergency units were established directly located in the border areas and to these units, three tankette platoons were assigned, six vehicles from PÚV-1 and three from PÚV-2. During August and September, the army got involved in fighting with members of German nationalists during which the tankettes were involved in combat missions 69 times.

During these missions against the lightly armed insurgents, the vehicles were quite successful in the sense that they provided moral support to the Czechoslovak troops and demoralized the hostile troops. The vehicles did not receive any combat damage, due to the German nationalists lacking any anti-armor capabilities. However, the vehicles often broke down, which meant the platoons went into action with regularly missing one or even two tankettes. After the Munich Agreement was reached on September 30, 1938, the Czechoslovak Army was forced to leave this part of their nation. All tankettes that were deployed in this area were returned to their unit’s headquarters.

At the end of the year, tankettes from PÚV-3 saw some service in Carpathian Ruthenia against Hungarian nationalists, but only on isolated occasions. As such, their action was quite limited. On October 10, an infantry unit, supported by two tankettes, captured members of a Hungarian paramilitary unit (Szabadcsapatok, similar to the German Freikorps). Later that month, both tankettes and light tanks supported an attack on such a unit with the size of roughly a battalion, 300 men were captured. After the first Vienna Award of November 1938, the army had to abandon this area as well.

German occupation

On March 14, the Slovak Republic was created out of the autonomous Slovak part of Czechoslovakia. The next day, on the 15th, German troops occupied Czechoslovakia, meeting virtually no resistance. Concerning the tankettes, the thirty vehicles of PÚV-3 were located in the former Slovak part of Czechoslovakia and were transferred to the Slovak Army. The 43 vehicles located in the former Czech part, were taken over by the German Wehrmacht but what they used them for remains unclear. It is possible that they were used in auxiliary and training units but concrete proof is lacking. Either way, it seems like all of them were scrapped during the war. One vehicle with registration 13.444 was on display at the Army Museum in Munich for some time but this vehicle disappeared as well.

A Tančík vz.33, carrying registration 13.444, at the Army Museum in Munich during the war. Sometime during or after the war, this vehicle disappeared. Source: Panzer-Archiv

In Slovakia

After Czechoslovakia was split up, a total of thirty vz.33s (registrations 13.460-13.489) ended up with the Slovak Army. A ‘V’ (for vojsko, meaning army) was added in front of the registrations, for example, 13.480 became V-13.480. Some were used as training vehicles for some time, but by the beginning of 1941, all vehicles were put in storage. In January 1944, the Slovak Ministry of Defence assigned the vehicles to the Military Training Command of the State Defense Guard (Veliteľstvu brannej výchovy – Stráže obrany štátu, abbreviated to VBV-SOŠ).

On March 21, 1944, three tankettes were reassigned. V-13.480 to the 1st Engineer Battalion (Pionýrsky prapor), V-13.468 to the 2nd Engineer Battalion and V-13.477 to the 3rd Engineer Battalion. In April, the ministry ordered PÚV to train drivers for 22 vehicles which were to be handed over to VBV-SOŠ, their training was completed on the 25th. The other five remained at the PÚV garages in Martin.

A tankette that was used by the Slovak partisans, but has been put out of action, can be seen in the background. Source: valka.cz

Of the 22 VBV-SOŠ vehicles, five tankettes were assigned to equip the border companies 1 to 5, three to both Automobile Battalion 2 and 11, three remained with PÚV in Martin, three went to a carpark in Trenčín, and five went to the 1st Cavalry Reconnaissance Division in Bratislava. After the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, several Tančíks saw some use. The uprising was organized by the Slovak resistance movements and aimed to overthrow the collaborationist government and defeat the German occupation forces. The uprising failed and Slovakia was only liberated from Germany in 1945.

At the time of the uprising, ten vehicles were at the Martin barracks, but these were in bad condition and fell in German hands. Several Tančíks were used by partisans at the Tri duby airfield serving as ammunition transporters. The Slovak government had eleven Tančíks to their disposal, of which three were used by German troops. Two were used in fighting against partisans, while a third ended up as a range target at the local garrison. Around seven Tančíks were used by German troops, four of them were used by the 357. Infanterie Division to pull 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank guns, they were still around in 1945. It is said that at least one was used by German troops in its original role, as an infantry support vehicle in Austria. It is presumed that some vehicles that survived in Slovakia up until the end of the war saw some limited use in the post-war Czechoslovak army but to what extent is unclear, maybe just as range targets. Over time, all vehicles disappeared and none are known to have survived.

Although no examples have survived, a very close replica has been constructed by Petr Bahenský during the 2000s. Its building progress has been documented. As of 2019, the replica still makes regular appearances during military events. It has been painted in the regular three-color camouflage scheme and with registration number 13.477. Source: Kateřina Adamusová

Conclusion

The Tančik vz.33 sometimes appears in top ten lists of the worst armored fighting vehicles ever and for valid reasons. It was technically unsound and had a low fighting value, resulting in a low tactical value as well. Financially, the vehicle was a burden, both to the Army and ČKD, nevertheless, its development would provide a firm base for ČKD to work from and resulted in the far better AH-IV which became an export success, as well the TNH series of tanks. The vehicle would also prove that it was logistically very favorable to use shared parts with other vehicles, in the case of the Tančik parts commonly used in Praga trucks and cars.



One of the three prototypes of 1933, kept for training recruits. Olive khaki was the standard factory livery between 1933-34.


A regular unit of the borderguard platoons in the summer of 1938. Such units fought against Polish and Hungarian infiltration as well as the Freikorps paramilitary units of Konrad Henlein’s SDP pro-Nazi movement. The three-tone camouflage was the new standard adopted in 1935.


Germany captured forty tankettes when they invaded the Sudetenland. There is no record of any units being equipped with these tanks. They could have been used by some local training units. Here is a prospective example of one of these, in the standard feldgrau paint.


The Slovakian army, allied to the Germans, retained thirty vz.33 tankettes. They were kept for police duties, but records show that, by 1940, most of them were used for training only. However, in September 1944, during the Slovakian insurgency against the Nazis and their local supporters, they had a late opportunity to be used in combat. Here is one of these, fielding the Slovakian cross.

Tančík vz.33 specifications

Dimensions 2.7 x 1.75 x 1.45 m (8.86×5.74×4.76 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 2.30 tons
Crew 2
Propulsion Praga WC 4-cyl, 30hp
Speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Range (road/off road) 100 km/70 km (62.13/43.5 mi)
Armament 2x Skoda ZB vz.26 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine-guns
Armor From 6 to 12 mm (0.24-0.47 in)
Total production 74

Sources

Československá těžká vojenská technika: Vývoj, výroba, nasazení a export československých tanků, obrněných automobilů a pásových dělostřeleckých tahačů 1918-1956 [Czechoslovak heavy armored vehicles: Development, production, operational use and export of the Czechoslovak tanks, armored cars and tracked artillery tractors 1918-1956], PhDr. Ivo Pejčoch, Charles University Prague, 2009, p.47-53.
Československá obrněná vozidla 1918-48 [Czechoslovak armored vehicles], V. Francev, C.K. Kliment, Praha, 2004.
Export Tankettes Praga, Vladimír Francev, MBI Publications, 2004.
Czechoslovak Fighting Vehicles 1918-1945, H.C. Doyle, C.K. Kliment.
Závady motorů Tančíku VZ.33 [Failure of Tančík VZ.33 engines], Jaroslav Špitálský, Rota Nazdar.
Konstrukce Tančíku VZ.33 [Construction of the Tančík VZ.33], Jaroslav Špitálský, Rota Nazdar.
Zavedení Tančíků do výzbroje [Introduction of tankettes to the Army Equipment], Jaroslav Špitálský, Rota Nazdar.
Tančík vz.33 database on Valka.cz.
Tančík vz.33, Martin Vlach, March 28, 2011, fronta.cz.
VTÚ and VTLÚ on vhu.cz.
Histocialstatistics.org used to convert currency.


Categories
WW2 Dutch Tanks WW2 US Light Tanks

Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA

USA/KNIL (1940-1947) Light Tank – 474 Built

The CTLS-4TA was a light tank designed and built for export by the Marmon-Herrington company from Indianapolis, Indiana. It was largely based upon an already existing design made for the American Marine Corps, but with several changes proposed by the Army of the Dutch East Indies, which included the addition of a small turret. Two versions of the CTLS were produced, the CTLS-4TAY with a turret on the left side and the CTLS-4TAC with the turret on the right side of the hull. Although a large number of CTLS were produced, they barely saw any action during World War 2. Countries that operated the CTLS included Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States.

A Dutch CTLS-4TAC in a cacti field near Willemstad, Curaçao. The hull machine gun is protected by a canvas cover. Source: Nationaal Archief

The Marmon-Herrington Company

The Marmon company, founded in 1854, started to specialize in the car industry from 1900 onwards. Especially active in the luxury car market, the company was heavily affected by the Great Depression during the late 1920s. To survive, the military engineer Herrington joined forces with Marmon, subsequently, the company being renamed Marmon-Herrington, and took its first steps into the military market. The first military order consisted of aircraft-refueling trucks and, during the following years, more military orders were acquired. During the mid-1930s, Marmon-Herrington started designing several tracked vehicles, including tractors and light tanks and managed to sell several light tanks to the army of Mexico and the US Marine Corps.

A well-known picture of seven Dutch CTLS tanks in Suriname, manned by Dutch Marines. Source: Public Domain

The Next Customer, the KNIL

The Royal Dutch East Indies Army (NL: Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, abbreviated to KNIL) was the Dutch colonial army that was tasked with maintaining order in the East Indies colony, roughly current day Indonesia. After the First World War ended in 1918, the army was reduced in size and barely modernized. Only in 1936, with the world tensions rising, caused by the rearmament of Germany in Europe and the expansionist policy of the Japanese Empire in Asia, plans were made to modernize the army. New materiel was bought and evaluated, including two Vickers light tanks and two Vickers amphibious tanks from the UK. Satisfied with the light tank’s performance in the Indonesian environment, an order was placed for 73 machine gun-armed light tanks and 45 gun-armed command tanks.

The light tanks were to be delivered in batches of four per month, while the command tanks were to be built in Belgium and delivered from April 1940 onwards in batches of two per month. However, due to the outbreak of the war in September 1939, the UK took over the order of light tanks and confiscated the remaining 49 tanks. The last shipment of 4 vehicles disappeared in the harbor of Rotterdam during the German invasion in May 1940, resulting in the occupation of the Netherlands, and production of the command tanks was never initiated. As such, only 20 vehicles made it to the Dutch East Indies. The Colonial Army, now left with only 20 new tanks, 4 worn-out tanks, and not a single gun-armed tank, had to look for another supplier.

The only place where this was possible was in the USA, but there was not much to choose from. Marmon-Herrington was the sole company producing tanks commercially. So, the Netherlands Purchasing Commission (NPC) turned to Marmon-Herrington, which offered its newest tank, the CTL-6. Unhappy with the design, the NPC requested on behalf of the KNIL that several changes be made, including the addition of a turret. Furthermore, the NPC requested gun-armed tanks as well. The designers of Marmon-Herrington presented the CTLS-4TA, CTMS-ITB1, and the MTLS-1G14. The NPC, without any other options available and eager to obtain every tank they could, accepted the designs. In October 1940, the first order was placed for 200 CTLS and 120 CTMS tanks. In March/April 1941, the order was enlarged with 34 CTLS, 74 CTMS, and 200 MTLS tanks. It was planned to have the first 165 CTLS and 140 CTMS shipped by the end of 1941, the remaining 69 CTLS and 54 CTMS and 100 MTLS tanks by July 1942, and the last batch of 100 MTLS by the end of 1942.

A comparison (not to scale) of several Marmon-Herrington designs discussed or mentioned in this article. From left to right the CTL-6, the CTLS-4TAY, the CTMS-ITB1, and the MTLS-1G14.

The tanks were needed for the planned reorganization of the KNIL on Java. Five to six brigades were to be formed, each fielding around 5,000 men. A Brigade would consist of:

  • A squadron of motorized cavalry, including a platoon with tanks.
  • A tank battalion with 2 squadrons of light tanks (CTLS, CTMS) and 1 squadron of medium tanks (MTLS), totaling 90 tanks.
  • Two battalions and one squadron of motorized infantry.
  • One battalion of anti-tank and anti-air guns (twenty-seven 37 mm AT and twenty-seven 20 mm AA).
  • One motorized artillery unit.
  • One engineer unit.

In 1941, Marmon-Herrington received another order, this time from the US, for a total of 240 CTLS tanks to be delivered to China under Lend-Lease. Including this order, the company had 868 tanks on order, a number the company could not cope with.

An M3A1 White Scout Car and a CTLS-4TAC in 1943 during an exercise on Curacao. Source: Nationaal Archief

Design

The chassis of the CTLS was the same as that of the CTL-6 tank, of which 20 were produced for the US Marine Corps. It featured a high-mounted front driving sprocket and rear idler wheel. Two vertical volute spring bogie units were located on either side of the vehicle, with each unit mounting two wide road wheels. A track skid was attached on top of the unit, which guided the steel tracks on their return. Furthermore, one return roller was mounted on the hull between the bogie units. Additional spare track links could be carried on the front and rear lower hull plates.

Like the CTL-6, the CTLS had a two-man crew, a driver and a commander, seated next to each other. The tank lacked radio equipment. The requirement for the turret meant that a part of the superstructure, either on the right or the left, was removed and replaced by a small, hand-operated turret. As a consequence, the turret could only traverse 270 degrees. This limitation was the cause that two versions were built with the turret either on the left (4TAY) or right (4TAC). It was envisioned that pairs would be formed on the battlefield with one vehicle of each type, so they still had a combined fire coverage of 360 degrees.

The armor with an all-round thickness of 12.7 mm (0.5 in) was of bolted construction. According to Hunnicutt, the front hull was up-armored to 25.4 mm (1 in) but this is not mentioned anywhere else. The armament consisted of .30 cal Browning MG38BT tank machine guns which had a shorter barrel than the regular .30 cal, and were commercially manufactured by Colt Firearms. Two machine guns could be fitted in ball-mounts in the lower hull, one machine gun was fitted in the turret, and another could be fitted on top of the turret, totaling four machine guns. However, the Dutch vehicles featured only one machine gun in the hull and lacked a machine gun mount on top of the turret, reducing the number of machine guns to two.

The propulsion, located in the back, was a Hercules WXLC-3 6-cylinder gasoline engine which produced 124 bhp at 2200 rpm. This resulted in a cruising speed of 35 km/h (22 mph) and a maximum speed of 50 km/h (31 mph) according to ID plates of Marmon Herrington tanks which have been found both in Dutch and Chinese language. The WXLC-3 was a variation of the standard WX engine, with L standing for a longer stroke, C indicating a different engine bore size, and 3 referring to the number of gears. The single exhaust muffler was mounted on the rear left track guard. The vehicle weighed 7.2 tonnes (7.9 US ton), although it is stated to be up to 8 tonnes and possibly even more. A photograph of an Australian tank shows writing on the side, stating the tare weight (unloaded weight) of the vehicle was 8.5 Australian Long tons which equals to 8.6 tonnes (9.5 US ton).

A view of the engine deck of an Australian CTLS. Two hatches could be opened to get access to the engine. Source: anzacsteel.hobbyvista.com

Delivery

Unable to cope with the large orders, Marmon-Herrington soon suffered from production delays, partially caused by a lack of workers. The first delivery date to the KNIL could not be met, although 168 CTLS tanks were reported ready to be shipped by the end of January 1942. By April, the CTLS order was finally completed, with 195 already being delivered or en route, while 39 were still present in New York. Of these 195 tanks en route, 149 were diverted to Australia, where they arrived in April. They were diverted as Dutch harbors were being occupied by Japanese troops. What happened to the other 46 remains unknown, besides the seven tanks that could be made operational before March. It is believed that these 7 tanks were part of a batch of 25 tanks that reached the Indies in February, while the other batch of 21 tanks was lost en route and sunk.

Due to the delays with the gun-armed tanks, the NPC managed to secure a deal for the delivery of 200 M3 tanks, but these could not be delivered in time either. The first two shipments totaling 50 tanks were en route when the Indies fell and the shipments were diverted to Australia.

The Tank Situation in the KNIL

By the end of 1941, the Dutch tank Battalion (Bataljon Vechtwagens), which stood under the command of Captain G.J. Wulfhorst, only had twenty tanks still operational, as the other four were rendered unserviceable. Just before the outbreak of war, the battalion was reorganized and renamed to ‘Mobiele Eenheid’ (Mobile Unit). It was still stationed in Bandung and was given to the Army Commander’s, Lieut.Gen. H. ter Porten, disposal as a reserve unit. Three tanks were sent to Borneo, which reduced the number of Vickers tanks to seventeen. Just in time, at the end of February 1942, seven Marmon-Herrington tanks could be made operational and were given to the Mobile Unit. They would be crewed by men who had never seen the tanks, who had never trained on them, and as such did not know exactly what the tanks could and could not do. A further change was made to the unit’s structure when the armored car platoon was relocated, but at the last minute replaced by three Marmon-Herrington Mk.III armored cars which also had just arrived in the Dutch Indies from South-Africa. By March 1st, when the unit was ordered to advance, the organization structure looked as follows:

  • HQ (staff) (One White Scout Car)
  • Communications platoon with related equipment
  • Tank Company with Command Group (three Vickers-Carden-Loyd), 1st Platoon (7 Marmon-Herrington), 2nd Platoon (7 Vickers-Carden-Loyd), 3rd Platoon (7 Vickers-Carden-Loyd)
  • Armored Infantry Company with 16 Braat Overvalwagens and 150 men, organized into three platoons.
  • Recce unit with three Marmon-Herrington Mk.III armored cars.
  • Supply unit with 49 trucks, 20 Jeeps, and 6 motorcycles

Added support units on March 1st:

  • Section AT guns with three 3.7 cm guns on trucks
  • Battery of motorized mountain artillery with four guns
A former Indonesian CTLS being inspected by a British Indian soldier in November 1945 during the Battle of Surabaya. Several armored vehicles were handed over by the Japanese to the Indonesians, who lost most of them during this battle. A chain is attached to the tank, suggesting it was to be towed away soon. P.B.M. very likely stands for Pasukan Bingkil Mobil (Pasukan Barisan Bermotor), some kind of mechanized unit that would later join the TKR, the first official army of the Indonesian Republic. It must be noted that this tank, produced in the USA, has now been in Dutch, Japanese, Indonesian, and British (Indian) hands. Source: Imperial War Museum

The Tanks in Action

After the news that Java was being invaded by the Japanese was received at the army’s headquarters, the single reserve unit was put under General-Major J.J. Pesman’s command. Pesman was commander of ‘Group Bandung’ which was responsible for the defense of the Bandung area. During their initial advance, Japanese forces had taken the airfield of Kalidjati by surprise. As this airfield had a high strategic value, the Dutch High Command wanted it back. As such, the Mobile Unit, which was supposed to be kept in reserve, was already ordered to advance on the first day of battle on Java. Around 14.30, the unit left its base in Bandung and slowly advanced via a narrow route through a mountainous region. During the journey, several accidents occurred and one Marmon-Herrington Mk.III and two Overvalwagens, as well as several trucks, had to be left behind. Furthermore, one Marmon-Herrington tank lost some locomotive components en route which could be repaired but already showed its unreliable construction. After more than five hours of travel, the unit was only ten kilometers away from the city of Subang, however, the city was already occupied by Japanese forces which the Dutch estimated to have the strength of a battalion with field artillery support. If the unit wanted to recapture the airfield, they had to take Subang first, a goal that could not be reached before nightfall. The commander, wanting to avoid night-time use of tanks, ordered the unit to stay on the road at 20.00 and advance the next morning. At this stage, it must be pointed out that Subang was surrounded by either hilly or swampy terrain which meant the tanks had to stay on the road.

In reality, only about 100 Japanese troops were located in Subang, including the Detachment Commander Shōji, Staff Officer Yamashita, 1st Lt. Wada Toshimichi (commander of the reserve unit and the regimental infantry artillery unit), and 1st Lt. Sugii Jirō, commander of the 4th Company (the company bearing the colors). In regards to heavy weapons, they had one mountain gun, one anti-tank gun, and two heavy machine guns to their disposal, which was not much.

The next morning, on March 2nd, around 8.15, the order was given to advance to Subang. With the two Marmon-Herrington armored cars from the recce unit in front, they quickly approached Subang, but the Japanese had barricaded the road. Three ox carts blocked the road. The driver of the first armored car, D.J. Udink, successfully rammed the carts aside but he immediately saw a second obstacle, a steel cable strung slanted over the road. Without hesitation, he drove into the cable causing it to snap, however, the force caused the armored car to turn over and the vehicle landed in the ditch beside the road, leaving the driver wounded. With the road free, the remaining vehicles quickly advanced. The first tank platoon entered the city and although one tank (according to the Japanese, two tanks) was immediately knocked out by an AT gun, they booked successes. The Japanese troops were completely taken by surprise, some were quoted to be ‘still taking a bath’. Directly behind the tanks, the Overvalwagens appeared and the infantry dismounted from the vehicles at the edge of the city, from where they got into a cross fight with Japanese troops who quickly took defensive positions. After intense fighting, the Dutch troops failed to repulse the Japanese and instead had to pull back. This lockdown of the infantry at the edge of the city left the tanks, which in the meantime successfully entered the city, without infantry support.

Because the tanks had to hold their position, they drove up and down the road, constantly piercing through the enemy lines, but without gaining any territory. The tank doctrine stated that tanks should not do this longer than 15 minutes without infantry support, because it would result in high losses of tanks. In Subang, the tanks held their positions until roughly 10.00 without any support and, indeed, suffered losses due to the lack of infantry support. While trying to hold their positions, three tank attacks were launched, but losses increased with each attack and, although the initial attack was very successful and caused many Japanese casualties, they recovered and overpowered the Dutch with lots of infantry, mines, AT guns, and field artillery.

During the attack, all 24 tanks were thrown into battle and, during the approximately ninety minutes of fighting, eight tanks were lost while the other sixteen could pull back. A Japanese aerial attack that occurred later destroyed three other tanks and the battle damage left only seven to nine tanks in a serviceable state. On March 4, the unit was ordered to return to Bandung where materiel was repaired or replaced when possible and was put in reserve again to be eventually used against potential paratrooper attacks. No paratroopers came, so the unit saw no more fighting during the war. The Japanese troops lost, according to their official history, about twenty men.

During the battle, it was shown that the Marmon-Herrington tanks did not perform very well, especially compared to the older but far better performing Vickers light tanks. Although having thicker armor than the Vickers, the armor was penetrated by regular machine gun bullets due to the inferior quality of the steel. It was also reported that several bogie units, or at least parts of them, came loose during the fighting. The Vickers tanks were more sturdy and even when parts of the tracks assembly came loose or were heavily damaged, the tanks could continue driving without too much of a hassle.

It is said that a total of 15 tanks fell into Japanese hands at Java, both Dutch and British. This number must have included some Marmon-Herrington, some Dutch Vickers, and some British Vickers Mk.VI light tanks. Besides the Dutch tanks, British tanks were sent to Java as well. On January 25th, 1942, the B squadron of the 3rd King’s Own Hussars landed on Java with 16 Vickers VIB and VIC light tanks plus 9 in reserve (also stated to be 15 tanks plus 3 in reserve). After the Dutch surrender, on March 8th, most tanks were rendered unserviceable by removing vital parts from both the engines and guns, after which they were rolled over a steep embankment. Despite these efforts, some were recovered during the war and put into service by the Japanese Army.

A variety of CTLS tanks and Marmon-Herrington TBS-30 tractors in a Dutch depot in 1946, likely in the main workshop 81 in Bandung. The vehicles feature Japanese markings and camouflage. Source: Nationaal Archief

In Australia

When it became apparent that the East Indies had fallen to the Japanese and the KNIL was about to surrender, all shipments going to East Indies ports were redirected to other Allied ports. As such, many shipments arrived in Australia instead. The first shipment of 52 tanks arrived in the first week of April, followed by another batch of 26 tanks two weeks later. During the first two weeks of May, two other batches of 24 and 47 tanks respectively arrived in Australia, totaling 149 tanks.

All tanks were quickly taken over by the Australian army. These were referred to as either Light Combat Tank, Light Tank Hercules, Marmon Herrington Two Man Tank, or just Two-man Tank. Already on April 20, the HQ of the 1st Australian Armoured Division (AAD) reported that 24 tanks had been received and divided over the three regiments of the 2nd Armoured Brigade, receiving eight tanks each. It was requested to receive another 24 tanks to equip the 1st AB, but only twenty more tanks were issued, which were divided over the 5th, 6th, and 7th Regiments, with the 5th and 7th both receiving eight tanks, and the 6th receiving four. As such, a total of 44 tanks were operated by the armored regiments, but they were issued for driving practice only and were not part of the regular regimental equipment.

A row of CTLS tanks inside the 2/4th Australian Base Workshop. All engines are removed, suggesting the vehicles are stored and soon to be scrapped. Other points of interest are the Matilda II tank in the foreground and an M3 Grant in the back. Source: anzacsteel.hobbyvista.com

Because very few spare parts came with the diverted shipments, on May 21, it was decided to cannibalize eight tanks, leaving 141 tanks within the Army holdings. As already mentioned, 44 of these tanks were operated by the armored regiments, a further 45 tanks were allocated to training schools, while 52 tanks were stored at Ordnance Depots and reserved for operations. Over the course of 1942, at least ten tanks briefly served for training with the 2nd Australian Army Tank Battalion. In July, these were given to the 1st AATB which returned them to the depots at the end of September. Some tanks were sent to the Cape York Peninsula, where they were deployed for airfield defense. At the beginning of October, three more tanks were cannibalized to keep the others running, reducing the total number of tanks to 138.

Marmon-Herrington Two-man Tank distribution in the Australian Army as of July 24, 1942
12th Australian Armoured Regiment 8
13th Australian Armoured Regiment 8
14th Australian Armoured Regiment 8
3rd Australian Army Tank Brigade 20
Australian AFV School 10
Royal Military College Duntroon 3
1st Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment 8
2nd Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment 8
3rd Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment 8
4th Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment 8
Ordnance Depots Victoria 4
Ordnance Depots New South Wales 48
Total 141

In June 1942, laryngophones for two-way communication were successfully fitted in one tank by the Directorate of AFV Production at Fishermans Bend, the devices coming from the Royal Australian Air Force. A laryngophone is a type of telephone handset where the microphone was pressed onto the throat and picked up speech vibrations directly, instead of through air, which eliminated external driving and engine noise. Although the test-fitting was successful, the tanks were never equipped with these devices.

Over the course of the first half of 1943, the tanks were pulled from training duties and all stored in Ordnance Depots. In September, several tanks saw their engines removed to be used in Australian made landing craft (ALC40). Around this time, all 138 tanks that were sitting idle in the depots were transported to the Ford Motor Company of Geelong in Victoria, where they were disassembled in December.

Although it is said that some people that were associated in some way with the tanks thought of them as of good quality, the units that operated the tanks thought otherwise. Most units that once operated the tanks reported them to be mechanically unreliable and especially the engine was prone to failure. For example, the design of the flywheel was flawed, for which a local modification had to be developed. Lastly, it has to be mentioned that the Australian Army never intended to use the tanks operationally except in a case of emergency. Nevertheless, they were a welcome addition as training vehicles.

Post-war, several Marmon-Herrington tank parts were offered for sale by Ordnance Depots, like axles and training equipment and some of these parts survive to this day, but no complete vehicles are known to have survived the war in Australia.

An Australian CTLS-4TAY with tactical number 5 performing a wading exercise at Singleton. The tank belongs to the 2nd Australian Army Tank Battalion. Source: anzacsteel.hobbyvista.com

CTLS for China

In March 1941, the US initiated its Lend-Lease program which aimed to provide the Allied powers with military aid and materiel in exchange for services, like US usage of foreign military bases. In April, China was approved to take part in the program. An order was placed by the US War Department for 240 CTLS tanks to be delivered to China. The Chinese originally requested the M2A4 Light Tanks, but the US lobbied to produce CTLS for the Chinese instead. However, the Chinese requested the CTLS to be armed with a .50 cal machine gun and with enough room to potentially fit a 20 mm gun. When they were notified the CTLS would only have the .30 cal, in March 1942, they canceled the entire order in rage, as there would be no use for these lightly armed vehicles. As compensation, the US agreed to withhold them from shipment and promised to supply 1,200 Universal Carriers produced in Australia instead. Eventually, 1,500 were delivered, of which 1,100 were machine gun, and 400 were 3” mortar carriers.

In the US

After the Chinese cancellation, production continued anyway, as the order itself was placed by the US War Department, which did not cancel the order, but a new use had to be found. On May 15, 1942, the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Division, War Department General Staff, General Major D.D. Eisenhower, sent messages to the commanders of the Eastern and Western Defence Commands and the Base Command on Iceland that 240 Marmon-Herrington tanks, wrongly notified to be armed with 37 mm armament, would soon be available due to Chinese rejection. All 240 tanks were eventually accepted into service as the T16 Light Tank. The CTLS in US service are sometimes erroneously designated both T14 and T16 based on turret placement, but that is incorrect. They were only designated T16, the designation T14 was reserved for the heavy assault tank. The tank received the supply catalog number G171.

Of the 240 tanks in the US Army inventory, seventeen went to Newfoundland, five to Bermuda, and four to Sault Ste. Marie. The other 214 tanks were handed over to the Western Defence Command and divided over garrisons that fell under this command’s responsibility. Forty tanks went to the Aleutians in Alaska, where they were operated by the 602nd Independent Tank Company on Unimak Island, former B company of the 194th GHQ Reserve Tank Battalion (light) which in turn was the former 35th Tank Company of the 35th Division of the Missouri National Guard. During 1943, the tanks were declared obsolete and taken out of service, ending up mostly as scrap metal or range targets.

Two American CTLS in Alaska, photographed in the summer of 1942. Source: US Library of Congress

In the Carribean

Besides the East Indies, the Netherlands possessed other colonies in the lesser Carribean, namely the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius, Saba, and Surinam on the South-American continent. After the East Indies had to surrender to Japan, these colonies remained the only free territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. When the governor of Surinam learned about the fate of the East Indies, he contacted the Netherlands Purchasing Commission and requested if they had any material that was ordered by the KNIL but had not been delivered yet. The NPC handed over a list and the governor, together with the commander in chief of the Dutch troops in Surinam, Major Vink, decided, among other things, to acquire the available Marmon-Herrington tanks. During the end of 1942 or early 1943, at least before July, 26 CTLS, 28 CTMS, and 19 MTLS were sent to Surinam. Tanks were also delivered to Curacao, 7 CTLS and 2 CTMS, and to Aruba, 6 CTLS and 1 CTMS. However, despite promises, no spare parts were sent, meaning that some tanks had to be cannibalized to keep other tanks running.

Due to lack of personnel, not all tanks could be operated, while most tanks were temporarily manned by Dutch Marines and personnel of the Dutch Princess Irene Brigade. However, both of these units left to the USA and the UK respectively in 1943. With barely any crews left, most tanks were put in storage, which basically meant the end of the tank unit. In 1945, all tanks were put in storage. After the war, plans were made to ship tanks either to Indonesia or the Netherlands, but transport was considered to be too expensive. Only 12 or 16 CTLS tanks were shipped to Indonesia in 1946. In 1947, the tank unit in Surinam was reinstituted. The MTLS tanks, however, were only used as pillboxes and the unit likely only operated some CTMS tanks, as the CTLS tanks were completely obsolete. The unit was eventually disbanded in 1957.

The tanks in Curacao and Aruba were likely already taken out of service during the war and scrapped due to a shortage of spare parts.

Three Dutch CTLS tanks in Curaçao during an exercise. Source: Nationaal Archief

Captured by Japan, Handed Over to Indonesia, and Recaptured by the Dutch

According to the official Dutch history, fifteen tanks were taken over by the Japanese, including some of the British Vickers. The Japanese, in their official history, recorded to have captured a total of 44 tanks on Java. Either way, at least four, maybe more operational CTLS tanks were included in these figures. Subsequently, based on photographic evidence, at least two of those were used for training exercises.

Still from a Japanese propaganda movie with the CTLS during a training exercise. The movie shows at least two different tanks being used and can be seen Here.

A well-known photograph shows a British-Indian soldier inspecting a CTLS captured from Indonesians which implies that at least one CTLS was handed over by the Japanese to the Indonesians. Various pictures from 1946 show damaged Marmon-Herrington tanks in Dutch depots, painted in camouflage schemes, and on several, Japanese writing is visible, suggesting all were once used by the Japanese. It is unlikely that they ever saw service again with the Dutch forces. However, in 1946, either 12 or 16 tanks were shipped from Suriname to Indonesia and brought to the Armored Troops Depot (Depot Pantsertroepen). How many of these were subsequently put into service is unknown but photographs show them with troops of the 2nd Tank Squadron (2e Eskadron Vechtwagens) and during parades. They may have been used as a reserve in case Stuart tanks were knocked out. Either way, they only survived for a short time and all were scrapped likely before 1950 as there are no reports that any were handed over to the Indonesian Army during that year.

At least 5 different Marmon-Herrington tanks can be identified in this picture, taken during a parade in 1947. Source: George Snieder indiegangers.nl

Surviving Vehicles

Although nearly 500 vehicles were built, only a very few are known to have survived. In 1988, Don Chew from Brighton, Colorado, found a CTLS-4TAC chassis. At some point, during or after World War 2, this vehicle ended up at the Great Falls Air Force Base in Montana where it was used as a mobile crane carrier and used until the 1960s. The current whereabouts of this chassis are unknown.

The CTLS chassis without superstructure found by Don Chew in 1988. The current whereabouts of this vehicle is unknown.
Source: Wheels & Tracks No.22

In 2007, a heavily rusted CTLS-4TAC was recovered in Newfoundland by the Canadian 36 Service Battalion. Apparently, several CTLS were used as range targets after they were taken out of service and replaced by Stuart tanks. It is therefore suspected that more CTLS may be located there. A restoration project was planned but seems to not have been initiated as the vehicle was in an even more sorry state as of 2018. A photograph is known of yet another 4TAC, when or where this photograph was taken is unfortunately unknown, but the surrounding area hints to either Canada or the US.

The CTLS that was recovered in 2008 in Newfoundland, photographed here in 2018. Remnants of the original paint are still visible. If the vehicle will ever be restored, at least cosmetically, remains uncertain. Source: Gopnik Supreme on Reddit
Picture of the heavily rusted CTLS, apart from the bogie units, most suspension parts have been removed. The current whereabouts of this vehicle are unknown. Source: Surviving Panzers

Conclusion

When the CTLS was taken into production, the design concept was already obsolete. During fighting in the Indies, its armor proved to be too weak, and running gear came spontaneously loose. In Australia, mechanical unreliability was also reported, involving problems with the engine. The limited service of the tank was influenced by it being obsolete, having no tactical use, and a chronic lack of spares. The large production numbers are thanks to the large need for tanks in Asia where, in the end, they were not used, apart from the limited number that made it to the Dutch Indies in time. The CTLS was not a success, pulled from service already during the war, and despite large production numbers, none have survived inside museums.



The Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TAC illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet, with modifications by Leander Jobse.

Specifications

Dimensions 3.5 x 2.08 x 2.11 m (11ft6in x 6ft10in x 6ft11in)
Weight 7.2 tonnes (7.9 US ton) up to 8.6 tonnes (9.5 US ton)
Crew 2
Engine Hercules WXLC-3 6-cylinder gasoline engine with 124 bhp at 2200 rpm
Cruising Speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Max. speed 50 km/h (31 mph)
Range 96 km (60 miles)
Armament 2-4 .30 cal Colt machine guns
Armor 12.7 mm (.5 in)

Sources

Categories
Danish Armor

Hotchkiss Htk 46

Denmark (1917-23)
Armoured Car – 1 Built

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

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

Civil Guard

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

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

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

The Armored car

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

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

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

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

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

Into Service

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

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

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

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


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

Conclusion

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



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

Specifications

 

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

Sources

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


Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

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

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

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Categories
WW2 German prototypes WW2 Swedish prototypes

Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 (Landsverk 5)

Sweden (1928-33)
Light Tank – 6 Prototypes

An article by Wilhelm Geijer and Leander Jobse

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

Name

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

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

Swedish Tank Acquisition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design

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

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

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

Engine

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

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

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

From Wheel to Track and Vice Versa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suspension

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

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

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

Turret

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

Armament

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

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

Building and German Testing

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

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

Demonstrations for Swedish Delegations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swedish Consideration

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

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

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

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

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

The Sixth Vehicle – Author’s Theory

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

Specifications

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

Sources

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


Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Opel-Darracq Kriegswagen für höhere Truppenführer

German Empire (1906) Armored car – 1 built

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

Period artwork of the Car. Photo: Motorbuch Verlag

Early Armored Car Development

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

The Opel Company

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

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

Design

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

Technical Specifications

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

Armor and Armament

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

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


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

Crew and Officers

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


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

Fate

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

Specifications

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

Links & Resources

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

Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Ehrhardt Ballon Abwehr Kanone (BAK)

German Empire (1906) SPAAG – 1 Prototype

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

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

Heinrich Ehrhardt

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

The Balloon and its Opposition

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

Development

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

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

Name

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

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

Design

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

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


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

Engine and Performance

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

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

Gun

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

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

Further Development

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

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

Legacy

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

Specifications

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

Sources

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

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armoured Cars

GMC Improvised Armored Cars

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

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

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

Construction

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

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

A Different Design

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

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

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


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

Jordaan Riots, 1934

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

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

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

Specifications (1931 Model)

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

Links & Resources

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

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2


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


Categories
WW1 German Prototypes

Treffas-Wagen

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

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

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

Hansa-Lloyd

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

Design

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

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

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

Testing

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

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


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


The Idea of Big Wheel Tanks

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

The Wargel LW 3

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

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

Conclusion

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

Specifications

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

Sources

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

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2


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