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Modern British Armor

Shorland S600 (BAe Foxhound)

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

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

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

Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multilayered Australian interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

First customer: Kuwait

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

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

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

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

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

Design of the base vehicle

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

Chassis

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

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

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

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

Protection

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

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

Armament

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

Crew

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

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

Optional equipment

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

Variants

Ambulance

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

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

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

Armored personnel carrier

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

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

Heavy Barricade Remover (Riot Control)

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

Light Barricade Remover (riot control)

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

High-Pressure water Cannon

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

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

Command

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

Surveillance

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

Police Internal Security Vehicle

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

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

Airport security

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

Mortar Carrier

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

Anti-hijack vehicle

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

Under a new company

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

Belgium: the second customer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South-Korea: the third customer

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

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

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

Singapore: the fourth customer

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

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

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

The life of the Kuwait series prototype

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

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

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

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

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

Failed sales

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

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

Future

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Specifications

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

Sources

Armor, January-February 1998, New Armored Vehicles Debut at British Equipment Exhibition, Peter Brown, p.50-51.
Armored Car, issue 31, 1995, Royal Navy & British Army Equipment Exhibition 1995, Peter Brown, p.1. PDF.
Auditor-General Audit report for 2003-2004 No. 59—Performance audit Defence’s Project Bushranger: Acquisition of infantry mobility vehicles: Department of Defence, parlinfo.aph.gov.au.
BAe Foxhound, 4wdonline.com.
BAE Systems Australia Donation to the Museum, February 2020, military-vehicle-museum.org.au.
‘Betsy’ a Shorland S600 Armoured Personnel Vehicle, 8 February 2020, BAE Systems Australia.
British Aerospace Australia (BAeA), 4wdonline.com.
Bulletin des Adjucations/bulletin der Aanbestedingen, 29 September 2020, PDF.
Defense and Technology 99/8, Saudi Arabia may delay purchasing armored vehicles, p.52. PDF (Korean).
Expanded BAe Australia range wins first order, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 29 January 1997.
Forecast International, September 2014, PDF.
Jane’s Tanks and Combat Vehicles Recognition Guide, Christopher F. Foss, 2000. P.232-233.
Mobile Adjustable Ramp System, chandrainternational.com.
New high-tech armoured rescue vehicle for South Australia, Attorney General’s Department, 19 May 2011, attorneygeneral.gov.au.
Politie koopt Australische Pantsers, 31 January 2001, hbvl.be.
Politiesamenwerking over de grenzen heen, January 2012, Benelux Secretary General. PDF.
Project Bushranger, 4wdonline.com.
Secretary-General, calendar year 2005, 24 July 2006, undocs.org.
S600, Jane’s report, archived 11 June 2019.
S600 APC back in production, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 May 2001.
Shorland S600 Armoured Personnel Vehicle, Clive Elliott, shorlandsite.com.
Short Brothers S600 Body Shell Photos, hmvf.co.uk.
Shorland S600 Series Armoured Vehicles Tenix brochure, PDF.
Tenix’s exporting success stories benefiting Adelaide firms, 11 September 2002, tenix.com.
Un blindé haut de 3 mètres, Gilbert Dupont, dhnet.be.
United Nations Register of Conventional Arms Report.

Categories
WW2 Dutch Armored Cars

Ehrhardt Potkachel

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

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

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

The acquisition

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

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

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

The Ehrhardt put to use

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

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

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

HIH Siderius

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

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

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

The design

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

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

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

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

Operational use

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

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

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

Fate

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Ehrhardt specifications

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

Sources

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

Categories
WW1 French Prototypes

Charron Girardot Voigt Model 1902

ww1 French Tanks France (1902-03)
Armored Car – 1 Built

Although the idea of self-propelled armored vehicles existed for quite some time before, the year 1902 brought forth the first vehicles that can, in hindsight, be described as the first armored cars that were actually built. First off appeared the War Car, designed by F.R. Simms in Britain. The other development during this year went on in France by the firm of Charron Girardot Voigt (CGV) and they were able to present their vehicle at the very end of 1902 in Paris. Only the rear portion of the vehicle was armored, leaving the driver and passenger next to him unprotected.

The CGV model 1902 seen from the left side. The vehicle is said to have been powered by a 40 or even 50 horsepower engine but, in reality, it produced only 15 horsepower. Source: unknown

Debut

CGV was founded in 1901 by motorists Fernand Charron, Léonce Girardot, and Émile Voigt. The factory was based in Puteaux, a western suburb of Paris. Several major industries at the time were located in Puteaux, including the factory of Dion-Bouton. After its foundation, CGV started to produce a variety of chassis and engines which were shown at the Salon de l’Automobile et du Cycle (Eng. Car and Bike Show) in Paris at the end of 1902. Eleven (or fifteen, differs between sources) of their models were put on display with engines ranging from 15 to 20 or even 40 hp and differing bodywork. The 40 hp engine was one of two main attractions, as it was a non-dead-center 8-cylinder engine without a governor but, most importantly, the cylinders were made out of gun steel and drilled out, contrary to being cast, as was far more common. The other main attraction was the armored car.

Although the press did not give too much attention to the vehicle, most reports were in favor of the vehicle, but given the show was meant to highlight and present civil cars and engines, the audience was not focussed on new military achievements.

Charron Girardot et Voigt at the Paris Automobile Salon of December 1902. The armored car was placed at the center of attention. Source: automania.be

Design

The design of the armored car was quite simple. It was basically a regular 15 hp four-seater passenger car of which the two rear seats were replaced by a circular armored construction in a bath-tub-like shape. In the middle of this thinly armored encirclement, a pedestal was placed on which the machine gun was mounted. A gun shield provided a bit of protection for the gunner. The driver and passenger sat unprotected in front of the armored tub and were thus very vulnerable to hostile fire from the sides and front. A hinged armored plate could be folded upwards above the front seats, but, ironically, only provided protection from their own machine gun and not from enemy fire. The engine produced 15 horsepower, contrary to claims by E. Bartholomew in his book ‘Early armored cars’ (1988), in which he mentioned the vehicle was powered by a 40 hp engine, or by Alain Gougaud in his book ‘L’Aube de la gloire’ (1987) in which he mentioned it to have a 50 hp engine.

The machine gun was developed by the firm Hotchkiss and based on a design made by an officer from Vienna in 1893. The mle. 1897 was exported in 1898 to several countries. This model was further improved, resulting in the mle. 1900. It could fire 600 rounds per minute and was designed to accept 8 mm Lebel rounds. Within the vehicle, 2,470 rounds of ammunition could be taken. At the time the CGV was tested, the French Army was trialing this machine gun as well. The use of this new equipment on the CGV, as well as the presence of a Hotchkiss engineer during the military trials, makes it clear that the armored car was developed in conjunction with Hotchkiss.

It is likely that the CGV was inspired by the War Car of Simms, because photographs, reports, and descriptions of this vehicle appeared in abundance in contemporary magazines, journals, and newspapers. However, there is no definite proof of this. In terms of armor and armament, the vehicles do share similarities in the sense that they both feature their armament placed on a pedestal and provided with a gunshield while they stick out of an open-topped rounded armored structure.

The Charron-Girardot-Voigt ‘voiture de tourisme 15 cv’. The design was patented at the beginning of 1902. The armored car was based on this chassis. Source: automania.be

Military Trials

After the presentation to the public at the show, the armored car was sent to the French Army. The first military trials took place at Camp de Chalons on June 30 and July 1, 1903. The vehicle was observed by a commission of several officers, including the Commander of the Artillery of the 12th Infantry Division, the UZAC Squadron commander, the Commander of the Artillery of the 5th Cavalry Division, Commander Paloque of the Testing Board from Versailles, and Colonel Rouquerol. The firm Hotchkiss was represented by engineer M. Heryngfet, who also served as a reserve Lieutenant of the 33rd Artillery Regiment.

Already before the trial commenced, the firm of Hotchkiss noted that they were to present a quite different vehicle in the future, jointly with CGV, and that the model should be trialed only superficially as an experimental vehicle. Or, said differently, the idea and the core concept of an armored vehicle were to be tested on a tactical level, as the technical side would be greatly improved with a new vehicle in the near future.

Demonstration of the vehicle. Points of interest are that the door consists of two parts and that an additional leaf spring was attached at the back. Source: maquetland.com

The commission was impressed by the accuracy on the move, which turned out to be roughly 50 percent. They also concluded that the vehicle was powerful enough, as well as maneuverable enough to be able to drive over rough ground and small obstacles if driven by a skilled driver. However, they also saw the weight of the vehicle of 3 tonnes as a drawback, as well as the high price of 45.000 Francs (~223.000 USD in 2015 value). Furthermore, they thought that the vehicle would be exposed to risks that were out of proportion to its power. The number of situations the vehicle would be useful in was thought to be too limited.

The Commission also saw no need in using the armored car as a fighting machine, as that role could also be fulfilled by an unarmored car with a machine gun if it were to accompany a cavalry unit. This idea was further worked out by Captain Genty during the following years. Instead, the Commission saw an armored car to be more suitable for the general staff, to allow officers to move quickly and protected, which would make it ideal for reconnaissance missions and protect against enemy cavalry charges. This idea was actually made a reality with the Opel Kriegswagen, although that was only tested by the German Army.

An edited photograph of the CGV 1902, as published in L’Aube de la Gloire by Alain Gougaud. The gun shield is just barely visible.

Further Development

As they had stated before the tests, Hotchkiss and CGV had been working on a better design. Despite the negative conclusion regarding a potential acquisition, this development was not halted. By 1904, Naval Major (R) Paul Alexis Guye joined the project, and the final design would lead to the fully armored CGV model 1906 that also featured a fully enclosed turret armed with a machine gun.

The original design was not discarded either and, in 1909, Hotchkiss managed to secure a deal with Turkey to deliver four armored vehicles known as the Hotchkiss model 1908 or 1909, the design of which was very similar in appearance to the 1902 model. Furthermore, apparently, both the 1902 and 1908 models were studied by the Spanish Army when they wanted to acquire armored vehicles but they opted for another French design, the Schneider-Brillié.

The rear of the vehicle. The open doors provide a clear view of the pedestal. Source: maquetland.com

Conclusion

The CGV 1902 marked the beginning of armored vehicle history in France. Initial development went slowly and was basically confined to the firms of CGV (Charron since 1906) and Hotchkiss, although Schneider-Brillié delivered two armored to Spain in 1910. Only World War I would start a sudden, but great increase in the manufacture of armored vehicles in France. The CGV 1902 helped the army to formulate for the first time their thoughts about armored cars and it would provide a lot of experience to the firms of Hotchkiss and CGV, which helped them develop their next vehicles. Besides these significant influences, the vehicle played a minor role in foreign development. That role was reserved for its successor, the CGV model 1906.

The Charron Girardot Voigt model 1902 armored car. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma.

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Specifications

Crew 3 (driver, gunner, passenger)
Weight 3,000 kg (6,600 lbs)
Engine 11.2 kW (15 hp)
Armament 1x mle. 1900 Hotchkiss 8 mm machine gun
Ammunition storage 2,470 rounds
Total Production 1

Sources

L’Aube de la gloire : les autos mitrailleuses et les chars français pendant la grande guerre, Alain Gougaud, 1987.
Tanks 100 years of Evolution, Richard Ogorkiewicz, Osprey Publishing.
Early Armoured Cars, E. Bartholomew, 1988. [used to disprove claims]
“A travers les Stands.” L’Auto-Vélo, December 22, 1902.
“Der Pariser Automobil-Salon 1903.” Neue Freie Presse, December 23, 1902.
FR Patent FR317990A filed 22 January 1902, published 3 November 1902.

Categories
WW1 Belgian Armor

Auto Mixte Automitrailleuse Blindée

Belgian tanks and armoured cars Belgium (1911) Armored car – 1 built

Some parts of armored vehicle history are more mysterious than others. This is especially true for the general history of early armored cars. Although some vehicles have left behind a decent trace of photographs and documentation, others are hidden in the darkness of time, ashamed of their commercial failure. One of those armored vehicles is the Automitrailleuse Blindée Auto Mixte. As the first armored car ever made in Belgium and likely the very first armored vehicle ever featuring a hybrid propulsion system, this vehicle does not deserve to be hidden away.

The design of the Auto Mixte was basic, with a sloped armored engine compartment, an open-topped fighting section, and two machine guns as armament. The large signal light is a unique feature. Source: automania.be

The firm Auto Mixte

The Belgian firm Auto Mixte (Eng: Mixed Car) based its production on the legacy of German-born engineer Henri Pieper (1840-1898). In 1859, he moved to Liège, where he opened a workshop aimed at mechanics and armaments manufacturing. Producing a variety of weapons, the firm started with the production of wheeled vehicles in 1897. Together with his sons, Nicolas and Henri Jr., he started the development of a hybrid propulsion system. After his death in 1898, development continued and the first hybrid design was presented in 1899. The design featured a gasoline engine and a generator that both functioned as a dynamo and electric engine. The generator was coupled to accumulators. During start-up, the petrol engine was started by the generator acting as an electric engine powered by the accumulators. While driving on flat ground, the vehicle would be powered by the petrol engine only, but when driving up slopes, the generator could be run in reverse, powered by the batteries, acting as a secondary engine to drive the vehicle. When driving down slopes, the generator would act as the dynamo, charging the accumulators. Although having benefits, the use of two engines and accumulators was expensive and made the vehicle heavier than its single-engine counterparts. Besides this hybrid design, cheaper, single-engine vehicles were built by Pieper too, until production ceased in 1903.

Auto Mixte was founded in 1905 by the engineer Théo Pescatore (1871-1931) who started building hybrid cars after the Pieper design. Auto Mixte was the name used by Pieper to describe the hybrid design in his related patents, hence the company was named like this. The company had numerous shareholders, including Henri Tudor (1859-1928), an inventor of accumulators. In 1906, Auto Mixte settled in Herstal, near Liège. The company soon started specializing in the production of heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, fire-fighting vehicles, and buses. In 1910, the firm supplied four vehicles to the Belgian Army which were specially designed to provide electricity to power wireless telegraphy stations. They were operated by the Special Telegraphy Company of the Antwerp Engineers Regiment. Caused by a disappointingly low number of sales during later years, several shareholders decided to withdraw in 1912, causing the end of the firm. Théo Pascatore unsuccessfully tried to resume production under his own name but had to give up in 1913, after which the factory was sold to Gillet-Herstal, a motorcycle manufacturer.

With the construction of an armored car, Auto Mixte possibly tried to secure more orders from the Belgian Army, fighting the company’s commercial decline, but without success. Unfortunately, it is unknown if the Army ever trialed the vehicle or considered it for purchase.

This picture shows that one large door was located at the back. The machine guns could be placed in various positions, depending on the situation. In this case, they are placed side by side. The dangling ropes of the machine guns are part of the cooling system. Source: Landships.info

Design

Given similar armored cars developed around the same time in other countries, the vehicle was likely based on an already available truck chassis that in the case of Auto Mixte would have featured the hybrid design, making this vehicle one of the first, if very likely not the first, hybrid armored vehicle.

The car featured a regular white-on-black Belgian number plate with number 12611. Cars registered in the area of Liège, including Herstal, were numbered 11700 to 12799. Compared to contemporary foreign number plates, the Belgian design was large, measuring 54 by 20 cm. Made from enamel, these registration plates weighed nearly 2 kg apiece and can be used to help estimate the dimensions of the vehicle with the help of available photographs, as no official dimensions are available. It can be determined that the vehicle was roughly 5 m long, had a width of 1.5 m and a height of 1.6 m without, and 2.2 m with lamp. The armor thickness of the vehicle is unknown, but if basic protection against infantry arms fire was to be achieved, the thickness would have been around 4-6 mm, like on many other armored vehicles of the period.

A large signal lamp was located in the back of the vehicle. It seems to be a type that would normally be seen on ships and used to communicate with other ships or possibly coastal emplacements. Maybe Auto Mixte envisioned that the vehicle would perform reconnaissance missions and could signal vital information, or to communicate with other armored cars during combined operations.

The Berthier model 1910 machine gun with its water cooling system and a bipod. Two of these were mounted on the Auto-Mixte. Source: Gazette des Armes no.84

The armament

Based on the photographs, it can be determined that the vehicle carried at least two machine guns of experimental make, designed by Berthier and produced by the Belgian arms manufacturer Anciens Establissements Pieper. The selection of these machine guns shows the relationship between Pieper and Auto-Mixte, as the latter used the former’s patents. Apart from a wooden grip, the weapon was made of metal and without any screws and was easy to disassemble without tools. The weapon weighed 7 kg and was chambered to fire 7 mm ‘Mauser espagnol’ (‘Spanish’ Mauser) rounds. A switch allowed for single, or burst firing mode. French testing of the weapon by the Experimenting Commission of Versailles showed the weapon was accurate but the water cooling system was prone to malfunctions. The flexible tube that can be seen dangling from the end of the weapon was part of this cooling system. The gun sparked an interest with the commission and Berthier was asked to present a new and improved model rechambered to the regular French 8 mm 1886-D bullet.

The vehicle likely had a crew of at least four men: two machine gunners, one lamp operator, and a driver. However, there seems to have been enough room for more crew members like a commander, or assistant machine gunners. Source: Landships.info

Conclusion

Like many other early armored vehicles, the Auto Mixte has long been forgotten, up to a point that only a few people are aware of its existence. The open-topped design was basic and would unintendedly be replicated quite a few times during the First World War. The war was only raging for a short time when the Belgians started to make use of several improvised armored cars, followed by a standardized design built by the Minerva factory. In 1915, a special Belgian armored car unit would be deployed on the Eastern Front, making the Belgian Army one of the most profound users of armored vehicles during this Great War.

The Auto Mixte Automitrailleuse Blindée with its large searchlight and two machine guns. The simple shape of the armored body is apparent. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Auto Mixte (Herstal-Liège) 1905-1912, automania.be
Belgique Les Plaques D’immatriculation l’âge d’émail (1900-1953), Alain Dupont. PDF.
Gazette des Armes no.84, Le F.M. Berthier 1908-1922 1er Partie, 1980.
Henri Pieper biography, littlegun.be
Les voitures hybrides dans l’histoire, December 20, 2005, automania.be

Specifications

Approximate dimensions 5 x 1.5 x 1.6 m (2.2 m with lamp)
Crew 4~6 (Driver, lamp operator, two machine gunners, assistants)
Armament 2 x 7 mm Berthier Model 1910 machine guns
Armor Approx. between 3-6 mm

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WW1 tanks and AFVs

Categories
WW2 Czechoslovak 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
WW2 Czechoslovak 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
WW1 Danish Armor

Hotchkiss Htk 46

Denmark (1917-23)
Armored Car – 1 Built

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

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

Civil Guard

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

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

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

The Armored car

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

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

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

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

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

Into Service

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

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

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

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


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

Conclusion

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



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

Specifications

 

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

Sources

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


Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

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

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

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

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