Categories
WW2 British Armored Cars

Guy Light Tank (Wheeled)

UK (1939)
Armored Car – 101 built

In 1937, the British Army had just completed re-equipping its reconnaissance formations with a new armored car, the Morris CS9. However, the CS9 had one critical flaw: it only had two-wheel drive. The War Office was well aware of the superiority of a four-wheel drive armored car, however, time pressure had meant that they had selected the CS9, which was based off a commercial truck chassis, for service. With the CS9 in service, this gave breathing space to develop a four-wheel drive armored car. The first port of call was again Morris Ltd, with a joint venture with Steyr of Austria. They produced a large 4×4 vehicle that was delivered for tests. The trials went badly, with the report citing terrible mechanical performance. The final nail in the coffin for this vehicle was the Anchluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, which meant that Steyr now belonged to a hostile foreign power.

The failed Morris-Steyr armored car. Source: WO 194/44

The Morris company then adapted the technology obtained from Steyr for a new design, which also performed poorly in trials. A new contender was sought, and found, in the form of Guy Motors. The starting point for the Guy armored car, was their Quad-Ant field artillery tractor that was being trialed for use by the Army. The tractor had an armored body fixed over the chassis. The exact source of the body design is unknown, but the Guy armored car does have more than a passing resemblance to the Morris armored car, which had its body designed by the Woolwich Arsenal.

A Guy Quad-Ant FAT towing a 18-pounder Mk.IV gun on exercise somewhere in Britain. Some secondary sources state it too was equipped with a 4 cylinder Meadows engine, which produced some 58 hp. Source: www.oldcmp.net

Originally, the Guy armored car was meant to mount a turret very similar to that of the CS9, which was an open-topped cylinder armed with a Boys anti-tank rifle and a Bren light machine gun. However, before production began, the War Office changed the specifications and requested a fully enclosed turret with armament standardised to that of the Vickers Light Tank Mk.VI. This mounted both a .50 and a .303 Vickers heavy machine gun in a square fully enclosed turret. With this weapon change, the vehicle was reclassified as a ‘Light Tank (Wheeled)’. The suspected reasoning behind this change is that a 4×4 armored car could come close to the performance of a light tank, but at a much-reduced cost. At least one of the five Guy prototypes was placed in comparative trials against the Morris four-wheel drive armored car and an Alvis-Straussler built design. The Guy entry comprehensively beat its competitors in every field.

Following this, two prototypes were placed under troop trials with the 2nd Dragoon Guards. One was sent to Egypt where it suffered from severe cooling problems. The troop trials caused some minor modifications to be implemented, with the size of both the tyres and the gap between the wheels and the mudguards being increased.

The Guy Light Tank would begin to enter service in 1939, and would have a very short but interesting career.

Three views showing the prototype Guy Light Tank (Wheeled). The opening in the turret where the weapon mount would go is plated up for the trials. Ssource: WO 194/44

Design

The Guy Light Tank had a body made of 14 mm of armor, with a centralised driving compartment and a box-like structure around the driver’s head. Behind this, the main superstructure mounts a square turret. The sides of the body sloped slightly outwards from the chassis to the widest point, giving an appearance similar to modern Mine Resistant Vehicles, although there is no suggestion that this was done for protection from mines. From the superstructure roof, the rear engine deck sloped backwards to the rear plate.

The first prototype Guy Light Tank had riveted construction, along with all the usual weaknesses this entailed. At the time, the idea of welding the armor plate was considered impossible. Guy Motors, however, offered the War Office a deal. They thought they had cracked the problems with welding, and they wanted to try it on the new light tank. Guy Motors signed a contract that allowed them to experiment with welding, but should it fail, then the company would absorb the cost. The welding was a total success. It made the Guy better protected against small arms and more waterproof, thus being able to ford water bodies easier. Welding even made the vehicle slightly lighter. In addition, it made the vehicle a lot cheaper and quicker to build. The Guy Light Tank became the first vehicle in British service to be of entirely welded construction. The welding technique was then given to the War Office, for free, for use during the Second World War. After the war, the invention attracted an award from the Royal Commission for inventions.

The Guy Mk.I. This view is useful as it is nearly the same as the prototype pictured above, and allows the spotting of the differences. Note how the mudguards now run along the crease in the sides of the front hull instead of below them as on the prototype. (source Wikipedia)

The Guy was a rear-engine vehicle, with a petrol 4-cylinder Meadows 4.E.L, with a 95 mm bore and 130 mm stroke. The horsepower produced by this unit is up to some debate, as one primary source, albeit for the prototype, states the output as 22.38 hp. In contrast, most of the modern secondary sources state the output is 55 hp. The answer could be differing RPM’s when the measurement was taken, or the jump from prototype to production may have included a change in gearing.

The engine on the prototype was cooled by a gallay type radial-pump, linked to a four-bladed fan with 3.75 gallons of water. Ignition was of the coil type. The engine also had a Solex 25 RFGVL carburetor. The engine output fed through a four-speed gearbox, with one reverse gear. The forward gear ratios ranged from 7.33 to 1.1, the Reverse gear had a ratio of 10.41. The clutch was a Borg & Beck Dry plate. The wheels fitted to the prototype were Dunlop TG 10.50-16, but these would be increased in size on the production model. Breaking ot the wheels was both foot and hand, linked to Bendix 14in Ferodo systems on each of the wheels. Fuel capacity was 20 gallons, with a 9.5 mpg. Lubrication was provided by 1.5 gallons of oil.

In 1939, the War Office changed the standardised armament for light tanks, switching away from the .50 and .303 Vickers guns. Instead, the new weapons were to be 15 mm and 7.92 mm BESA machine guns. Thus, the design of the Guy Light Tank was updated as well. To differentiate between the two vehicles, those armed with Vickers Guns became the Mk.I, and those armed with BESA’s became Mk.IA. The changeover happened exactly halfway through production, with fifty Mk.I’s produced, and fifty-one Mk.IA’s.

Action Guy

In 1940, the War Office was requesting much-increased production from Guy Motors. However, even with the savings in man-hours that welding provided, the company was just unable to cope with the increased workload without prejudicing its other commitments such as building trucks. Thus, the design was handed to the Rootes group, which produced an almost identical vehicle which became known as the Humber Armoured Car. This was a Guy Light Tank body placed on a Karrier KT 4 artillery tractor chassis. In this guise, it became one of the outstanding success stories of British armored cars from the Second World War.

A column of Guy Mk.IA’s somewhere in the UK. Source: www.warwheels.net

The switching of production to Rootes Group left 101 Guy Light Tanks in service with the Army. The Guy had one unique property, it had enough space to carry around 10cwt (0.56 tons) of stores. This is a remarkably large volume of space, especially considering that the standard truck of the British Army was only rated to carry 15cwt (0.84 ton). This large capacity and roomy interior meant that the Guy Light Tank would be used for two very special roles.

Six Guy Light Tanks were formed into two troops, and joined by a platoon of motorcyclists. The formation carried many names. Officially, they were called either Mission No.11 or the GHQ Liaison Regiment. They also had the code name Phantom. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel George Frederick Hopkinson, the force consisted of about 120 personnel, a large portion of which were trained signallers. The role of Phantom was to provide liaison between foreign armies and perform intelligence gathering duties. This information was then passed to No.3 Air Mission in order to allow the RAF to perform accurate close air support, with relatively up to date information on the ground situation. The reconnaissance was also passed directly to the British Expeditionary Force HQ without having to go through the usual chain of command, thus the data could be acted on in a much more timely manner. Phantom also utilized signal intercepts to obtain information on German movements. Although the intercepts would be encoded, the originating type of unit could be determined, which helped place German formations.

One of Phantom’s Guy Light Tanks captured in France. This vehicle collection point is stated to be at Dunkirk. Source: ww2talk.com

During the battle for France, all the Guy Light Tanks sent to France were knocked out or captured. As the formation was atypical, it lacked the War Diaries that would normally be associated with combat and so we lack any detailed reports on how the Guy’s performed. One action involving a Guy can be pieced together from subsequent accounts and photographs.

On 27th May, Phantom was requested to support the 144th Brigade west of Wormhoudt. The area to their front was contested and the situation very confused. A Guy Light Tank, possibly commanded by Second-Lieutenant Piers Richard Edgcumbe, with Lance-Corporal Leonard Frank Webber as one of his crew, was approaching a café on the Esquelbecq to Zegers-Chappel road, named Hunter’s Rest. It appears from photographs that the Guy pulled out of a T-junction, and was immediately hit by a German anti-tank gun. The car rolled forwards off the road, and stopped partially in a shallow ditch. It was hit a second time, and started to burn. One of the crew was killed outright, the other two managing to get inside the Hunter’s Rest. It then appears SS personnel attempted to close with the two unarmed British soldiers and a bitter round of hand to hand fighting ensued. The British were using what items they could lay their hands on to defend themselves, even resorting to using the cast iron stove lids as weapons. Both British crew were killed.

Two shots of the Guy knocked out at the Hunter’s Rest, which can be seen in the background on the second shot. The two penetrating hits can be seen on the left hand side in the first photograph. One is just in the door, the other in line with the top of the mudguards. Source: ww2talk.com

After the six Guy’s were lost in France, the next role was as part of the Coats Mission. This was a close protection detail formed from the Grenadier Guards to protect the Royal Family. The guns and ammunition on the Guy Light Tanks were removed, and an extra seat fitted in the roomy hull. This, in effect, gave the vehicle the ability to function as an APC carrying three soldiers, or as a VIP transport able to seat one of the royal family, plus two bodyguards. The driver in both cases could double as a fighting-man or stay with the vehicle. Around eight of the Guy Light Tanks were so converted.

A column of four Guy Mk.IA Light Tanks, oddly they are all lacking guns and even smoke dischargers. Could they be from the Coats mission? Or are they simply training machines on exercise? There is unfortunately no way to tell from this photograph alone. Source: wardrawings.be

The remaining Guy’s were handed out to various regiments, most notably Belgium, Danish and Dutch units being formed in the UK. The Belgium forces received fourteen Mk.IA Guy’s on 2nd October 1941. That winter during an exercise, a local Home Guard platoon blocked a road with a hay cart to spring an ambush on a column being led by a Belgium Guy Light Tank, named Calamité. The Belgium driver reacted exactly as one should when in an ambush; get out of the killing zone. Thus he rammed into the hay cart at full speed. Needless to say, this gave rise to an inquiry, as the Home Guard had to explain to the local farmer why he would not be getting his cart (and hay) back, and the Belgium forces were billed for the damages caused.

The Guy’s remained in their role of training vehicles until they could be replaced with more standardised equipment, and were phased out of service in February 1943.

Dutch Guy Mk.I’s during the Week of Victory parade, held in Birmingham. The Dutch markings can be seen on the front right hull. On Belgium Guy’s they carried a roundel on the mudguards. Also of interest is the large lightly colored square under the gunners view port on the turret front. This may be a patch of gas warning paint, which would change color when it encountered contaminants. Such paint was often placed on tanks in France in 1940, although it disappeared after that campaign. Source: Nationaal Archief

In Dutch use, around four to five Mk.I Guy Light tanks were issued to reinforce the Humber Light Recognizance Cars the Armoured Car Squadron was then equipped with. After brief service as training vehicles, the Guy’s were withdrawn in January 1943. The Dutch soldiers took great pains to refurbish the Guy’s back up to the best standard they could, working hard to replace worn parts and get them in to the best condition possible. They were rather annoyed when the cars were simply sent for scrapping when they handed them over.

A Dutch Guy Mk.I arriving, with the Dutch Father Christmas, Sinterklaas (Sint Nicolaas) and two Zwarte Pieten (one is mounted in the Humber LRC behind) on board to give out presents to all the well behaved soldiers, such as the officer climbing on the side. The Germans did not get presents, only .50 Vickers Machine gun fire! (source: Nationaal Archief)

Conclusion

Although short lived and of a small production run, the Guy’s were Britain’s first truly modern armored car, with four-wheel drive and a welded hull. Up until this point, the armored cars had all been two-wheel drive, with a bolted armored body dropped onto a commercial car or truck chassis. The Guy would show that Britain was on the right course, as the Guy quickly morphed into the excellent Humber, which could keep pace with the other outstanding success story of British armored cars, The Daimler Dingo, which appeared the following year to the Guy.



Guy Mk.1 Armoured Car, standard livery, 1940.


Guy Mk.1a Armoured Car, armed with a Besa 15 mm heavy machine gun. Anti-invasion exercises with the Southern Command, 7 May 1941

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Prototype Mk.I Mk.IA
Height (turret roof) 7ft 6in 7ft 6in 7ft 6in
Width 13ft 9in 13ft 6in 13ft 6in
Width 13ft 9in 13ft 6in 13ft 6in
Length 7ft 1.5in 6ft 9in 6ft 9in
Crew Commander, gunner, driver
Armor 14mm max, rivetted 14mm max, welded 14mm max, welded
Firepower None fitted 1x .50 & 1x .303 Vickers machine guns 1x 15mm & 1x 7.92mm BESA machine guns
Engine Meadows 4.E.L
Horsepower 22.38 hp 53 hp 53 hp
Weight 4.5 tons 5.28 tons 5.28 tons
Speed Requirement asked for 40mph 53 mph 53 mph
Range 190 miles 210 miles 210 miles
Turning circle, Left 57ft
Turning circle, Right 47ft 6in

Sources

WO 194/44 Medium tanks and armoured cars, National Archives, Kew.
Mechanised Force, David Fletcher, ISBN-10: 0112904874
Armoured Car, Issue 16, March 1993
Tussen paard en pantser [Between Horse and Armour] written by Jan Hof, published by ‘La Riviere & Voorhoeve’ in 1990.
www.royalsignalsmuseum.co.uk
sussexhistoryforum.co.uk
ww2talk.com (1)
ww2talk.com (2)
ww2talk.com (3)
www.historywebsite.co.uk
www.warwheels.net

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Categories
WW2 British Prototypes

Johnsons Light Tropical Tank

United Kingdom (1922)
Light Tank Prototype- 1½ built

In 1919, an English man stepped off of a boat onto the soil of India. This was Colonel Philip Johnson, one of Britain’s few tank designers. Although Johnson would never design a tank that was accepted into service and had a habit of designing what he wanted, not what was required, at the time he was the Government’s only tank designer. He was in charge of the Department for Tank Design, and had been tasked with undertaking a study into the use of Tanks in the heat and rugged terrain of India, and the north-west frontier.
Johnson’s report filed in 1920 suggested that the use of tanks in those conditions was entirely possible. He went even further to suggest a family of vehicles all based upon a common chassis would be needed. The family was to consist of a tank, an amphibious vehicle, a supply carrier and gun carrier variants. As far as it is known, only the tank version, known as the Light Tropical Tank, and the Supply Carrier were built.

Design

A single photo of the Light Tropical Tank has survived. However, a good deal of information can be extracted about the design of this little-known vehicle.
The engine of the vehicle is placed at the front of the vehicle, on the left side. It was a 45hp Taylor engine. Interestingly, the vehicle has a rear transmission. This front-mounted engine rear-mounted transmission combination is quite peculiar in tank design history, although it is shared with the famous Medium Mark A Whippet and the following Medium Mark I and II. The gearbox was of the sliding bevel type, with four forward and one reverse gear. Another interesting feature, reminiscent of WWI-era armored cars, is the placement of the radiator intakes, which are situated at the front of the vehicle.

The rear of the Supply Carrier, which was based on the same chassis as the Light Tropical tank. The rear transmission is visible. Source: https://topwar.ru/121848-bronemashiny-light-infantry-tank-i-light-supply-tank-velikobritaniya.html
The suspension is almost impossible to observe due to the poor contrast of the photo and the large mud chutes which cover the outer part of the sides of the tank. It consisted of coil springs attached to small roadwheels. The vehicle has a solid front idler (although the supply carrier has a different, pressed type of idler) which can be adjusted to change the track tension. The drive sprocket is at the rear. Based on the pictures of the Supply Carrier, which is quite similar in design, five return rollers are also present. It could reach 15 mph (24 km/h) on road, with half that off road (7 mph or 11 km/h).
The superstructure of the vehicle was composed of two parts. The front part, containing the engine and the driver’s location, was quite boxy. However, its rear part was irregular in order to make room for the offset turrets. The front seems to have been slightly angled, but the rest was vertical. The rear part of the superstructure comprised the fighting compartment, being taller and irregular in shape. The right-hand side extended more to the front than the left side. Again, it comprised vertical armor plates with almost no angling. While it is hard to observe from the single available picture, it seems as though the fighting compartment also extended over the tracks, thus giving more internal space. Behind the fighting compartment was an armored cover for the transmission.
The Light Tropical tank had two turrets mounted to the rear, on top of the fighting compartment. The two turrets were offset due to the placement of the engine, and resembled those on an Austin Armoured Car, although no direct link between the two vehicles is known. No weapons were fitted but it is highly likely they would have been a pair of machine guns.
The driver was placed on the front right, having a raised compartment just in front of the right-hand side turret. This was low enough so that the weapon could traverse over it. It is unclear how the crew accessed the vehicle. The armor was flat and vertical, consisting of riveted rolled armor plates.

Johnson’s Light Tropical Tank. Photo: SOURCE


Illustration of ‘Johnson’s Light Tropical Tank’ produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign

Construction and Testing

After the design work was done, the plans were turned over to Vickers who started construction at their Erith plant. On the 7th of October, the right hand track was connected to the machinery of the tank and run for an extended period while the tank was lifted off the floor. At the time, the left hand track was still awaiting connection. Five days later, the tank was completed and run for a very short distance. Even this short run showed a number of defects which needed work. By the end of the month, more involved trials were carried out and showed some problems with the tracks, which were deemed noisy and unreliable.
Throughout November, further mechanical problems arose, including within the gearbox which had to be sent back to its makers for fixing. These mechanical problems were still plaguing the tank in June 1922, when a hopeful internal report at Vickers suggested the tank would be complete in about two months. In July, a notification was sent that a second tank had started construction. By the 10th of November 1922, the tank had been turned over to the British army and was undergoing testing at Farnborough.
During these tests, the tank had several persistent problems, such as the cables that formed the suspension stretching and fraying. The bogies were considered very weak and kept on moving out of position, causing damage to the tracks. The tracks themselves had almost constant problems with the rivets in them shearing off. Despite all this, the British army did convert the tank to use a steering wheel instead of its original levers. After 238 miles (380 km) of testing, the tank was abandoned.

The Light Supply Carrier – Source: Bovington Tank Museum on Twitter

Conclusion

In 1923, after the series of failures, Philip Johnson’s tank design department was closed down, and Johnson disappears from the records. Of the Tropical Light Tank, no further record can be found. It was likely scrapped, or used as a range target.

A Note on Dates:

There are two documents involved in creating this article. However, they contradict each other when it comes to dates. The dates used above came from “E.2011.1667 Vickers tanks notes” held at the Bovington Tank Museum. However, a second document held at Bovington, and quoted by David Fletcher in Mechanised Force, states that the Light Tropical Tank had been delivered for testing by the army in June/July 1922, a time when the previous document still had the tank at the Vickers works at Erith.

Specifications

Total weight 5 tons, 3Cwt (5.15 metric tons)
Propulsion 45hp Taylor engine
Suspension Spring cable, and Rackham steering clutches.
Transmission Sliding Bevel Gear box ( Speeds: 4 forward, 1 reverse)
Speed (road) 15 mph (24 km/h) road, 7 mph (11 km/h) Cross country
Armament Likely two machine guns in two separate turrets.
Total production 1 Completed, 1 Half-built
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Mechanised Force (ISBN: 0112904874), Page 5, David Fletcher, HM Stationery Office Books, 1991.
Unknown document, Bovington tank museum.
E2011.1667, ‘Vickers, post war’, Bovington tank museum

Categories
WW2 Japanese prototypes

Mitsu-104

Empire of Japan (Mid 1930’s)
Heavy Tank – Prototype/Paper design

After the First World War, most nations started looking at their armed forces, specifically to how advances in weapons technology affected the way they would and could fight. The Japanese were no exception, especially in armored vehicle development. In many respects, the Japanese Army avoided many of the dead ends that other nations experienced and arguably came closer to getting armored warfare right than any other nation. This was quite likely an accident forced upon the Japanese by circumstances.
One of the few dead ends that the Japanese did encounter, however, was the multi-turreted tank, the Mitsu-104, which was most likely a development of the Type 97 Heavy tank, which was the one heavy tank the Japanese had that went into service.
Schematics of the Mitsu 104 Heavy Medium Tank found in the UK National Archives.

Background

All the information on the Mitsu-104 comes from a British military intelligence dossier on enemy tanks, which was compiled between January 1939 and March 1943. This information was then later passed on to the rest of the Commonwealth and the United States, who included it in their own enemy equipment handbooks that were issued to the armed forces.
The British information came from original Japanese documents, obtained before the Second World War, although no details of where or how these documents were obtained is included in the files. The paper type and size are all identical to the Japanese standards used at the time, both of which were different from the conventions used by the British, all of which implies that the documents are original, and thus credible.
There does appear to have been some confusion within the documents about the exact location of weaponry on the tanks though. This is likely because of some inaccuracies in the Japanese text, which again raises the mystery about where the documents came from. Despite this, the translations includes original, archaic Japanese measurements (which are re-created in the specifications table).
The British documents describe the Mitsu-104 as a ‘Heavy Cruiser’, despite the fact that Japanese documents clearly referred to it as a Heavy.

Drawing of the Mitsu 104 from a Swedish intelligence document. Source

Description

Japan spent a large part of the 1920’s obtaining examples of foreign armored vehicles and concepts. One such example is the A1E1 Independent, which the Japanese obtained plans for. This resulted in the Ishi-108. One of the few failures of tank design the Japanese picked up was the idea of multi-turreted tanks. This likely came from their interest in the British A1E1 Independent and the Soviet T-28 tanks.
Multi-turreted tanks are almost universally considered to be a bad idea because they add weight to the tank from items such as gearing and the structure required to mount a turret as well as making the vehicle much harder to command. On a single turret tank, this weight could be used for more armor or bigger guns and engines. Multiple turrets also comprise the armor integrity by having a series of holes in the armor to mount the turrets.

The Mitsu 104 from a 1944 British-issued recognition handbook on Japanese equipment.
This unfortunate trend in design existed in all the Japanese heavy tank projects, apart from the AI-96 from 1936.
One such multi-turreted design was the Mitsubishi 104, which is shortened in the documentation to “Mitsu-104”.
There seems to be no evidence the Mitsu-104 was ever built, unlike the Type 97 Heavy Tank. Design wise, it seems to have been a logical development of the Type 97, looking far more refined and capable, although the exact date of the tank’s design is unknown.
The Mitsu-104 had three slightly conical turrets. The main turret mounted a 75mm low velocity gun possibly based off one of the Japanese field artillery guns of the same calibre. Two sub-turrets were mounted on the front hull, each with a machine gun.

Original Japanese drawings of the Mitsu 104 found in the British National Archives.
There was some confusion about the armament for the tank. A pair of 37mm guns were listed, however, the British were confused as to their location. The Type 97 Heavy tank from 1937 had the option of two 37mm guns or a single 75mm guns mounted in the turret. This is likely because the Japanese considered the heavy tanks for the support of the infantry, and in the Japanese military 37mm guns were called ‘rapid fire infantry guns’. The British documents suggest the Mitsu-104 could have had 37mm guns in the sub-turrets, which certainly look big enough to mount such a weapon. This could, of course, be a translation mistake for the twin guns in the main turret.
The rest of the hull was conventional in its layout with the engine at the rear of the tank. Although the tank is rather wide for its size.
The suspension was the same style of Bell Crank suspension used on most Japanese tanks of the period and indeed lived on until the failed O-I Super Heavy Tank design.


The Mitsu-104 with 37mm main armament.


The Mitsu-104 with 75mm main armament.

Both illustrations are by William ‘Richtor’ Byrd, funded by DeadlyDilemma through our Patreon campaign


United States tank recognition chart showing the Mitsu 104 in the lower left corner.

Conclusion

The design, from the particulars written down, does seem to be over-optimistic in regards to its mobility and speed. This was a common fault with Japanese heavy tank plans, with tanks such as the Ishi-108 and O-I having suspiciously overinflated claims of speed from engines that seem to produce far too little power to propel such masses at such speeds. For example, a 30 ton Sherman tank with a 350hp engine could obtain about 22mph. The Japanese predicted that the same power output would move the 29 ton Mitsu-104 at 30mph. To achieve similar figures, a Sherman needed over 400hp.

3D reconstruction of how the Mitsu 104 might have looked like. Source: Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s  by David Lister

The Mitsu 104 being mentioned in the Japanese military forces. Report No. 12-b(11), USSBS Index Section 6.

Mitsu-104 specifications

Designer Mitsubishi
Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.30 x 3.20 x 2.80 m (27.2 x 10.6 x 9.3 ft)
Weight 29 tons (58000 lbs)
Crew 8
Propulsion Water cooled, Mitsubishi 12 Cylinder Petrol engine, delivering 350hp at 2200rpm. Fitted with a 12 volt electrical starter.
Armament A combination of 75mm and 37mm guns, and several machine guns.
Armor 25-30mm (0.98-1.18 in)
Speed 12 Ri (25mph, 40kph)
Gradient 40 degrees
Step 1.20 m (3.11 ft)
Trench Crossing 3.90 meters (12.10 ft)
Fording 1.20 meters (3.11 ft)

Sources

Sensha-manual.blogspot.com
WO 208/1320, UK National Archives in Kew, London
Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s  by David Lister
World War II United States recognizition chart
British 1944 Japanese-equipment recognition handbook
Japanese military forces. Report No. 12-b(11), USSBS Index Section 6, https://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/4009934/9
https://germandocsinrussia.org
 

Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940sForgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s

By David Lister

History forgets. Files are lost and mislaid. But this book seeks to shine a light, offering a collection of cutting edge pieces of historical research detailing some of the most fascinating arms and armament projects from the 1920s to the end of the 1940’s, nearly all of which had previously been lost to history.Included here are records from the UK’s MI10 (the forerunner of GCHQ) which tell the story of the mighty Japanese heavy tanks and their service during the Second World War.

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Categories
WW2 British Prototypes

Vickers No. 1 & No. 2 Tanks

United Kingdom (1921)
Tank Prototypes – 2 Built

In early 1921, the British government’s Tank Board and its General staff representative Colonel John Frederick Charles Fuller were considering their next tank design. The result of their deliberations resulted in a set of very loose requirements. These requirements stated that this new tank would need to be usable in the tropics. The policy gave a list of areas that were seen as likely to be trouble spots in the future which included the Balkans, Russia, India, and South America. The latter two regions were the cause for the ‘tropics’ requirement. Furthermore, it was envisioned that the best way to combat a tank was with another tank.
Col. Fuller discovered that the Master General of Ordnance (MGO) had been working with the firm of Vickers on a new tank. He was shocked and saw it as a usurpation of his authority when in reality it was not. Col. Fuller has, in some of his works, tried to portray himself in a good light, and a British tank of this period that did not have his oversight would be rather difficult to explain, especially when he was involved with the failing Department for Tank Design and Experimentation, run by Philip Johnson.
The MGO ordered three prototypes of the new tank design to be built, these were constructed at the Vickers Erith plant near London. The first being completed in November 1921.

Vickers No. 1 Tank. Photo: SOURCE

Description

The No.1 tank was a rhomboid in shape, with a striking resemblance to a miniaturized First World War tank, although the front was more curved. On top of this sat a superstructure, with a semi-circular front. The sides of the superstructure were inside the width of the track run. On top of this superstructure was a domed turret, with a centrally placed cupola. Three barbettes were placed every 120 degrees within the turret, these held ball mounts for Hotchkiss machine guns. A fourth ball mount was placed in the turret roof for anti-aircraft work.
The driver sat at the front, in a chair that was described as ‘sumptuous’, and had ‘barber chair’ like controls to get the perfect driving position. The controls featured a large steering wheel, with two circular wheels for adjusting the transmission and which could, in theory, have a continuously variable number of gears.
These gears were provided by a Williams-Jenney hydraulic transmission, made by Variable Speed Gears Ltd. of Crayford, London. This was the same model of transmission that had been fitted to the failed Mk.VIII Tank. And which had originally been used onboard ships to power winches. Power was provided by a six-cylinder Wolseley engine, located behind a firewall at the rear of the vehicle.
The tracks were extremely basic design being nothing more than a flat plate with a pressed indentation which was filled with a wooden sole plate.

Williams-Jenney hydraulic transmission at Dollis Hill. Photo: SOURCE

Service

When the No.1 tank was completed Vickers decided it was too noisy and not reliable enough. Despite this, the tank was dispatched to the War Office tank testing section at Farnborough. There it was found that the transmission was prone to severely overheating. One of the tests the tank was subjected too was a race between the No.1 tank and the Light Infantry Tank and, according to Col. Fuller, a Medium D. The No.1 tank lost and came dead last. In 1922, the No.1 tank was returned to Vickers and fitted with better tracks and a more powerful engine. In March of the same year, she was handed back to the War Office. However, no further tests were carried out, and by March 1923 she was listed as derelict and in the tank testing sections stores.

Shot of the rear of the No.1 tank, you can see the access ports to the engine and transmission, as well as the basic track design. Photo: Aviarmor.


The Vickers No. 1 Tank armed only with machine guns.

The Vickers No. 2 Tank armed with the 3-Pounder 47mm Gun.
Both Illustrations are by William ‘Rhictor’ Byrd, funded by DeadlyDilemma through our Patreon Campaign.

The No. 2 Tank

Work started on the No.2 tank in July 1922 and would be completed in July 1923. There was one big change in this design over the No.1 tank. On the 15th March 1922, the Director General of Artillery’s (DG of A) office issued an order that all future tanks must be armed with a quick firing (QF) gun. Thus, the No.2 tank was equipped with a 3-pounder (47mm) gun. This was a higher velocity weapon than was normally fitted to tanks of the period and followed the General Staff policy about countering other tanks. This combination of policy and dedicated high-velocity armament means that the No.2 tank was likely the first ever tank to be armed to fight other tanks.
There is, at current, no details on the trials the No.2 tank was subjected too, or a list of the faults encountered in the designs, but they must have been numerous, as the design was not taken into service. The No.2 machine was scrapped in 1927.

The No.2 tank, you can see in this picture the rear access ports are wide open. This is an attempt to cool the transmission. The cooling problem was down to the oil in the hydraulic system rapidly becoming overheated. Photo: Public Domain
The third machine ordered was built as a gun carrier, with a field gun being loaded onto the bed through a ramp at the rear of the tank. Some websites claim that this prototype led to the Dragon gun tractors, although no hard evidence has been advanced for this theory.

Conclusion

Although ultimately the Vickers No.1 and No.2 failed to produce a successful design, it was likely one of the world’s first modern tanks, taking design features from the Renault FT, such as rear-mounted engine behind a firewall and a single weapon in a turret. Yet it refined these ideas, increased the crew size to something respectable, and included a gun designed for hunting and killing enemy tanks. The idea that the best counter to a tank is another tank is today widely accepted as a truism. Just a handful of years after the tank had been developed this was considered a new concept, one which ultimately proved right.
It should be mentioned here that the speculation on the role of the No.3 machine might have a part to play. There is a theory, although at the time of writing an unfounded one, that the Dragon gun tractor led to the development of the Vickers Medium Mk. I. If this is the case then the No.1 and No.2 were even more important as designs than originally thought.

Secifications (No. 1 & 2)

Total weight, battle ready 8.75 – 10 tons
Crew 5
Propulsion No. 1: Wolseley six cylinder
No. 2: 80hp Lanchester 40, Six Cylinder, Water-cooled, petrol
Speed 15 mph (24 km/h)
Range 120 mi (190 km)
Armament No. 1: 4x Hotchkiss machine guns
No. 2: 1 x QF 3-Pdr (47 mm/1.85 in) gun, 1x Hotchkiss machine gun.
Total production 2

Links & Resources

Mechanised Force: British Tanks Between the Wars, David Fletcher, ISBN 10: 0112904874 / ISBN 13: 9780112904878
tankarchives.blogspot.com
tank100.com

Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940sForgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s

By David Lister

History forgets. Files are lost and mislaid. But this book seeks to shine a light, offering a collection of cutting edge pieces of historical research detailing some of the most fascinating arms and armament projects from the 1920s to the end of the 1940’s, nearly all of which had previously been lost to history.Included here are records from the UK’s MI10 (the forerunner of GCHQ) which tell the story of the mighty Japanese heavy tanks and their service during the Second World War.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WWII British Medium Tanks

Vickers Medium Mk.I & Mk.II

United Kingdom (1924)
Medium Tanks – 286 built

The early 1920’s were a difficult time for the British Royal Armoured Corps (RAC). Their First World War tanks were becoming worn down and obsolete. Equally, a series of projects designed in house, such as the Medium D, Medium C, and Light Infantry tank, had all failed. Other external designs such as the Vickers No.1 design had failed to be taken up.
This was a major issue to the RAC as the Treasury had provided a sum of GB£220,000 for the purchase of tanks to totally re-equip the RAC. If, however, a new tank could not be found then this money would be reclaimed by the Treasury, and any new purchase of equipment would be subject to new reviews. These would push the acquisition of new equipment back by years and leave the RAC with its First World War Mk.V Tank and Medium A Whippets well into the late 1920’s.
Then, in 1923, the army received two new tanks. Although unarmored, these tanks were the forerunners of a design that would see service all the way until at least 1941. These two tanks were the first of the Vickers Medium Mk.I, and almost no clue can be found to their origin. David Fletcher (Mechanised Force, p.8) suggests these tanks may have been created out of spare parts and designs lying around by Vickers in collusion with the War Office.
The only other clue might come from a copy of The Commercial Motor magazine of October 1933. In an article talking about a tractor, the designer of the tractor is introduced as Mr. C. S. Vincent-Smith, whom it is claimed designed tanks for the Army. This is the only tenuous link to the creation of the Mediums.

Medium Mark I Design

The first two tanks (one with the registration T15) were designated A2E1, Tanks, Light, Mk.I. Later, as the design improved, the tanks were renamed to Tanks, Medium, Mk.I. Today, they are usually called the Vickers Medium Mk.I. A short time later, in 1923, a single A2E2 arrived. This was named ‘David’ and had the registration T18. It was the only Close Support (CS) Mk.I variant ever built. Uniquely, it also mounted the sole 15-pounder tank mortar prototype.
The Close Support tanks were designed to fire smoke shells to cover the advance of friendly armor and protect them from enemy anti-tank guns. During this period, the weapon chosen was a 3.7” weapon that could only fire smoke. No other working round was produced. Although several other types of shell were designed, or designated, in effect the 15-pounder only ever had smoke shells.*
*For a complete story on the 15-pounder tank mortar, and its shell types see: Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940s, ISBN 9781-5267-14534, By David Lister.

Mk.II* CS tank. Photo: SOURCE
On the gun tanks, the circular turret mounted a 3-pounder Mk.I, L32 gun, with a Hotchkiss machine-gun in a separate ball mount to the right of the turret. A visually distinctive feature of British armor of the time was the bevelling of the turret sides. The turret had three ball mounts for Hotchkiss machine-guns.
Two of these were placed about 180 degrees apart with the first one a few degrees to the right of the main gun. The third was placed on the aft right quarter of the turret. This meant that to bring a machine-gun to bare on a target to the front the 3-pounder had to be slewed off to one side. Two additional Vickers machine guns were mounted, one on either side, in the hull.
The V8 Armstrong Siddeley engine was mounted in a chamber separated from the rest of the fighting compartment on the left of the hull, with the driver sitting beside it. The driver’s head was in a cowl with a D shaped front plate that opened sideways. This plate hinged on the right side of the cowl, and mounted vision ports allowing the driver a view to the front, but was not intended as an entry or exit route. The rear plate of the hull mounted a large door on the right. This, along with two smaller hatches just in front of the Vickers guns, provided entry and egress to the crew.

Crew entering a Mk.IA*. Of note is the counter-weight on the back left of the turret, and the plated over opening of the third Hotchkiss machine gun location to the right of the counter-weight. Photo: SOURCE

Evolution of the Medium

The Medium went through several variants and two marks during its life. Often, these can seem confusing at a first glance. Identification is not made any easier by the fact that some components were retrofitted to earlier marks outside of the following official designations.

Author’s table

Identification Guide

As the Vickers Mediums are a complex subject with many submarks, this is a simple identification guide. First, it has to be determined if the vehicle is a Mk.I or a Mk.II. The three easiest ways of identifying this is to look at the tracks, front hull or main gun.

Tracks:

The clearest item is if the bogies are exposed or covered.

Front Hull:

Notice the shape and how the front hull looks bulkier and bigger on the Mk.II. Also, on the Mk.I, the roof of the driver’s hood is roughly in line with the roof of the rear part of the hull.

Main Gun:

The 3-pounder Mk.I has a shorter, stubier looking barrel. However, the easiest way of telling the two apart is the recoil recuperator (the tube under the gun barrel). On a 3-pounder Mk.I it sticks out much further, while on the 3-pounder Mk.II it is contained almost wholly within the turret.

Drivers Hatch:

The following image illustrates the differences between the driver’s hood for the Mk.I (left) and the Mk.IA and subsequent marks. On the Mk.I the entire hood is hinged upwards. On the later marks the hood is split into three parts, with the roof folding back and the sides folding outwards.

Commanders Position:

The ‘Bishops Mitre’ is the triangular shaped cupola that was added to the commander’s position. In the earlier tanks there was a simple two piece hatch. It was located further to the rear of the turret roof.

Turret Shape:

This image shows the bevel at the back of the turret that was introduced in the Vickers Mk.IA, and seen on the rest of the Mk.I series and the first Mk.II.

In the below image, one of the Hotchkiss machine-guns has been dismounted from the tank, while two more Hotchkiss machine guns remain in their ball mounts in the turret. These were added on the *(star) versions of both the Mark I and Mark II, replacing the turret Vickers machine-guns. A Vickers machine-gun can be seen in the hull of the tank. It is far bulkier than the Hotchkiss due to its water cooling jacket.

Photo: Getty

Medium Service

The Vickers Mediums equipped the RAC from about 1924 until the mid-1930s. At first, each of the four Battalions in the RAC were to have three CS tanks. However, for some unknown reason, these tanks were not produced. This led to the use of stand-in vehicles during exercises. To mark them as CS tanks, their gun was painted white and the letters ‘CS’ were painted on the turret.
During these exercises with the Experimental Mechanised Force, the Vickers Mediums were to have a profound effect, and seal the fate of the medium tank in the British Army. In 1927, they took part in an exercise against an infantry force. Both the commanding officers agreed that tanks needed speed and mobility as their priority, with firepower a close second. This would allow the tanks to overwhelm the infantry as they moved from a first tank proof location to another, or failing that allowed the tanks to relocate away from any enemy strong point where they had concentrated their anti-tank weapons, and attack where the line was weakest.
Medium tanks, moving at about 12-15mph (about the same speed as the later Churchill tank), were not seen as able to provide enough speed. It is from this exercise that the British thinking about tanks began to move towards the idea of the cruiser tank. In the early 1930s, some twelve tanks were converted to CS standards as the 15-pounder guns were manufactured.

Mk.I and Mk.IA* tanks masquerading as CS tanks during manoeuvres. Photo: Aviarmor
In 1933, a fifth battalion was created in Egypt, from personnel in two armored car companies. These were supplied with the ten Mk.IIA tanks, of which one was converted to CS. It appears two of these Mk.IIA* were still in service in 1940 when the Italians invaded Egypt. Both were reportedly used to help defend Mersa Matruh (not to be confused with the battle of the same name in 1942). From photographs, one appears to have been dug in as a turret bunker, the other appears to have been left exposed. However, there is no indication if this was because it was mobile or there was no time to dig it in.
In the UK, the remaining Vickers Mediums were mostly dragged out onto ranges and used as targets for anti-tank weapon testing. However, a few remained in service during the invasion scare period and were reactivated for use in defense of the UK.

Surviving Mk.II in the Tank Museum, Bovington. Photo: Mark Nash

Vickers in Foreign Service

Australia

Australia’s first tanks were a quartet of Medium Mk.II’s ordered in 1927, and arrived in 1929. These tanks were slightly modified as Australia did not use the Hotchkiss machine-gun. Therefore, the ball mounts that would normally be on the turret were replaced with Vickers guns in exactly the same locations. The AA machine gun and the bevel in the turret for this mount were removed. In addition, the Vickers guns had a much larger breech. In order to accommodate this, the bevels on the side of the turret were significantly reduced in size.
Between 1930-1937, these were the only tanks Australia had in the 1st Tank Section. They were used solely as training machines for the Australian Army to gain experience of operating tanks.
One such example exists in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum, Puckapunyal.

Two Australian Mk.II’s. Note the reduced bevel in the turret. Photo: AWM


A 1924 Medium Mk.I, equipped with radio and serving as a command tank during the 1927 manoeuvres at Salisbury plain.
Medium Mk.I with a thicker fake barrel to make it seem like a CS (Close Support) version. The CS tanks were usually tasked with creating smoke clouds to mask the tank and infantry advance from the enemy. This concept was still used during the North African campaign, nearly twenty years after.

Vickers Mk.II CS (Close Support), 1930.
Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

A Vickers Medium fitted with a radio set mounted in two boxes at the rear of the turret. Also note the aerial replacing the rear-top turret machine-gun mount.

Vickers Medium Mark IIA* fitted with asbestos plates on the outside to help with cooling in the scorching sun of the desert. These saw service in Egypt before WWII.
Illustrations by William ‘Rhictor’ Byrd, funded by Golum through our Patreon campaign

Egypt

In the late 1930’s the British tank forces in Egypt were re-equipped with cruiser tanks. It is possible that some of the surviving Mk.IIA’s were handed over to the Egyptians so they could gain experience in operating tanks. The exact details of what happened in Egypt to the Vickers Mediums is currently unknown, however there were at least eighteen still operational in 1939, four in August 1940, and at least two were dug in at Mersa Matruh until early 1941.

South Africa

In August 1934, two Mk.I CS tanks were shipped to South Africa. One of these was ‘David’, the original CS tank. In the ten years after its delivery, it had been used for a variety of experiments including having its engine replaced with a new 120hp Armstrong Siddeley engine. This necessitated the rebuilding of its forward hull, and the first gear being disabled. After these trials were complete, the hull was once again returned to Mk.I standards and used as a training hull at Bovington, before being shipped to South Africa.
One tank survives at Bloemfontein barracks, but it is not known if it is ‘David’.

Soviet Union (USSR)

In 1931, the Soviet Union purchased fifteen Mk.II’s. These were called the ‘English Workman’ by the Soviets. Like the Australian versions, they replaced the Hotchkiss machine-guns with larger water cooled weapons, in this case Maxim guns. Thus the turret incorporated the same modifications to its shape. Only one was supplied fitted with a 3-pounder gun. As these were to see service, one presumes they would have been fitted with Soviet weapons. A number were sent to the Karelian Isthmus to be dug in as bunkers. About six of these were quickly overrun by the Finnish forces at the outbreak of the Continuation War, but were deemed useless and not recovered. Most likely because they were scrapped in place.

An ‘English Workman’, fitted with its Maxim guns. Photo: Aviarmor

Variants and Special Cases

Birch Gun

In the late 1920’s, several Vickers Medium Mk.II chassis were converted to self-propelled guns to take part in experiments into the future of armored warfare. These were fitted with an open fighting compartment onto which an 18-pounder field gun was fitted with a 360-degree traverse. There appears to have been at least three versions of the Birch Gun, the first with an exposed driver’s position and the second with a semi-enclosed driver’s position. The final version had a completely enclosed driver’s seat and a huge gun shield that almost fully enclosed the rest of the fighting compartment.
Some commentators state that the Birch Gun could double as an Anti-Aircraft gun, however, this is likely due to a misunderstanding. One of the batteries equipped with Birch Guns was given static AA guns to practice with before receiving its Birch Guns. This was likely as a Royal Artillery battery they needed some form of artillery to use for training and routine day to day tasks.

Final version of the Birch Gun. Photo: Public Domain

Mk.II Bridge Carrier

In 1926, there was an attempt to create a bridge carrier. A set of brackets was fitted to the outside of a Vickers Medium tank’s hull on both sides. These contained the components to create a short bridge. Upon arriving at an obstacle the crew would dismount and assemble the bridge before laying it over the obstacle.
Unsurprisingly, this was entirely useless as the crew would be exposed to enemy fire the entire time and so was never proceeded with.

The Mk.II Bridge Carrier. Photo: SOURCE

Tank, Medium, for Radio and Wireless

This conversion occurred in September 1926, and consisted of a large box body replacing the fighting compartment and turret. As the name suggests, it was used as a command tank to house several radios. It was named as ‘Boxcar’ officially, however, due to the dislike aimed at it within the ranks, it was nicknamed ‘Thunderbox’, a reference to an English slang term for a toilet.
Despite this dislike, in 1927 another four were ordered. However, the order was never completed.

The Communications variant of the Vickers Medium. Photo: SOURCE

T198

This was an attempt to create a command tank as a cheaper alternative to Boxcar. Essentially, a Mk.II with a large box applied to the rear to house radios. While, at first glance, it appears to be similar to the Mk.II**, it lacked the other features of a Mk.II** such as the ‘Bishop’s Mitre’ cupola and the Vickers machine-gun. In the latter case, the Hotchkiss ball mount to the right of the main gun was retained.

Mk.I Wheel-Cum-Track

In 1926, T15, the first Mk.I delivered, was returned to Vickers. There, it was fitted with a set of subframes both front and rear. On these were a pair of wheels with solid rubber tyres. The idea was for the subframes to be lowered and a power take off engaged which would drive the rear set of wheels. Steering was done from a tiller bar inside the cabin.
As well as adding complexity to the design, the added mass would raise the tank’s total weight to over twelve tons. In addition, the wheels had to be placed inside the run of the tracks meaning the axle track was extremely narrow. This, along with the heavy weight, meant a high centre of gravity was balanced on a very narrow axle track. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in significant instability and the project was scrapped after a very short period.

Front view of the wheel-cum-track prototype. Photo: Public Domain.

Medium Artillery Tractor Mk.I and Mk.II

Know as ‘Dragons’, because of a play on words between the words ‘Drag’ and ‘Gun’. The exact date when the first of these was built is in contention. However, the Imperial War Museum’s website says 1922, which is before the Vickers Mediums were delivered. All sources agree that there is a link between the two, but which one came first is unknown and, considering the mystery of the Medium’s creation, it maybe that the Vickers Medium is based upon the Dragon.

Dragon Mk.I towing an artillery piece with full gun team. Photo: Overlord Blog

The Dragon Mk.II. Photo: IWM
Two of these were fitted with Rolls Royce armored car bodies and used in combat in 1941 to help defend RAF Habbaniya.

The two RAF Habbaniya Dragons, named Seal (Left) and Walrus (right). In this picture Seal has had her body changed from the original Rolls Royce armoured car style, and it is thought this is the configuration she saw combat in. Photo: Overlord Blog

This vehicle is HMAT Walrus, although she obviously bore another name at the time this picture was taken. HMAT stands for His Majesties Armoured Tank. At the time No1 RAF Armoured Car squadron used HMAC (His Majesties armoured Car) prefix for all their Rolls Royce armoured cars. Photo: Overlord Blog

Vickers Medium Mk.II specifications

Dimensions 5.33×2.78×2.82 m (17ft6 x9ft1 x 9ft3)
Total weight, battle ready 11.7 long tons
Crew 5
Propulsion Armstrong Siddeley V-8, 90bhp@3500 rpm
Speed 15 mph (24 km/h)
Range 120 mi (190 km)
Armament QF 3 pdr (47 mm/1.85 in)
2 x 0.303 Vickers machine guns (7.7 mm)
4 x 0.303 Hotchkiss model 1914 machine guns (7.7 mm)
Armor From 4 to 6.25 mm (0.16-0.25 in)
Total production 140 Mk.I & 167 Mk.II between 1924-1933

Links & Resources

Mechanised Force, David Fletcher ISBN 10: 0112904874 / ISBN 13: 9780112904878
Pen & Sword Publishing, Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, David Lister
Classic Military Vehicle Magazine #188

Forgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940sForgotten Tanks and Guns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s

By David Lister

History forgets. Files are lost and mislaid. But this book seeks to shine a light, offering a collection of cutting edge pieces of historical research detailing some of the most fascinating arms and armament projects from the 1920s to the end of the 1940’s, nearly all of which had previously been lost to history.Included here are records from the UK’s MI10 (the forerunner of GCHQ) which tell the story of the mighty Japanese heavy tanks and their service during the Second World War.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
Cold War French Fake Tanks

Projet Tigre (Fake Tanks)

Nation France (1959)
Light SPG – 1 built

This article has been published on Tanks Encyclopedia on the 1st of April 2018, as part of our April’s Fools Day celebrations. The information contained is mostly fictional but with some parts that are actual truth, like the German use of Renault UEs and the Wurframen conversion.

A German Idea

After the fall of France in 1940, some 3,000 Renault UE’s were captured by the German forces. As the Germans always needed more items to equip their under-mechanised army, they started to use these Beute vehicles for their own purposes. Indeed, the Renault UE became one of the more common small armored vehicles in German service for a time.

As the threat of the Allied Invasion loomed, German forces began to modify some of these captured vehicles into self-propelled rocket launchers mounting Wurfrahmen 40 28cm rockets on both the Renault UE and Hotchkiss H35. These saw service during the Invasion of Normandy.
After the war, the French began to look at re-equipping their army, and in some cases used captured German tanks such as the Panther as a stop gap. It’s during this time that a French designer working for Renault, Mr. Rennie Neufpierre, came across a German UE fitted with the Wurfrahmen 40. Its layout sparked an idea, and he began working on a concept which he presented to Renault. In 1959, the French Government became involved and the project received official funding for a study into the idea under the Finabel No. 83T86 requirement. Renault named this study Project Tigre.

Mr. Neufpierre’s original sketch of Tigre

Tigre Description

The Tigre copied the layout of the UE, with just two crewmen seated under separate domed cupolas that could rotate. The crew consisted of a Driver and a Commander who acted as a layer as well. Some of the bad ideas from the French armor development were copied over to this, such as the French insistence on having the entrance hatch on the rear of the dome, unlike contemporary vehicles which had the hatch on the roof of the cupola. Equally, the early war French tanks had incorporated binocular sights into their cupolas for the tank commander to use. This was also applied to Project Tigre. Communication between the two crew was again directly copied from the Renault UE, a series of colored lights were controlled by the commander to transmit movement orders to the driver’s position.


The model of the Tigre. The weapon system on Project Tigre was a unique design, consisting of a rack of eighteen cut-down Brandt Mle CM60A1 guns. Only one round was loaded in each gun, however, a full set of reloads was stored under the weapons rack. The breaches of the gun mortar were exposed on the lower side of the weapon rack. Thus, they could be reloaded by the crew sheltering behind the vehicle.The inspiration for this was tied to a French-Canadian improvised weapon system deployed in 1945. They mounted fourteen PIAT’s in a rack on the back of a Universal Carrier, which were discharged in two volleys of seven by pulling on a lanyard. In Project Tigre, the mortars could gimbal through a few degrees allowing the layer to aim his salvo, whereupon he could select either 3, 6, 9 or 18 rounds to be fired. This adherence to multiples of three was imposed on the project by the Renault management citing the French Tricolour and the Fleur-de-lis as both having ties to the number three, and thus was seen as a patriotic number.
The mortars themselves were fairly low-velocity weapons, only firing at 127 m/s, thus a three round burst was needed to help hit the target. Rounds provided were either HE or HEAT.

The End of the Tigre

After completing the study, Renault presented its findings to the Government in 1961. During the course of the study, they had created a model, even placing it into a short film to promote the idea. However, the French army was concerned about several features carried over from the pre-war tanks, the lack of modern communications and the excess weight required for the 18 guns, which limited the amount of armor that could be fitted to just 10mm, even if it was highly sloped.

A still taken from the promotional film of the Tigre
In addition, the Tigre had a large overhang on the front of the tank, which previous French experience on the St Chamond had shown was an undesirable trait. Therefore, no further work was done and Project Tigre was buried in an archive. The exact fate of the model is currently unknown, however, the recent find of three wheels and one of the tracks of the models at the Saumur museum appears to indicate the model may have ended up there.

Sources

French documents probably