Categories
WW1 German Empire vehicles

A7V Schützengrabenbagger LMG Trench Digger

German Empire (1917-18)
Pioneering Vehicle – 1 Built

Only 20 A7V German tanks were built during World War One but a lot more chassis were constructed. Some were turned into tracked supply vehicles called A7V-Geländewagen and three were used as A7V-Flakpanzer prototype test vehicles. The Germans purchased two standard length Holt caterpillar-tractor chassis at the beginning of their A7V tank development but found they gave poor trench crossing capability so they lengthened one and used that as their A7V tank tracked chassis. All future A7V tracked chassis were built to this extended chassis specifications.

The standard length Holt caterpillar-tractor chassis that remained was converted into a prototype tracked trench digging vehicle. It is believed only one vehicle was produced.

Side view of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger. Source: Georg Garbotz)

It was used behind the front line to cut trenches. It was not armored in any way so it could not be used anywhere near the enemy. The crew and the vehicle would have no protection from small arms fire and artillery shells. It, therefore, had limited use. It was ideal for cutting defensive frontline trenches and rear communication trenches on pre-planned lines of withdrawal away from enemy fire.

German Pioniertruppe (Pioneer troops) would have used this machine. They were already involved in planning, strengthening and excavating trench systems. This earth digging and moving machine would have made their work easier and got the job done quicker.

The German engineering company Lübecker Maschinenbaugesellschaft (LMG) based in Lubeck in northern Germany was known for building Grabenbaggern earth excavation machines for laying pipes and digging drainage ditches. They mounted their equipment on the Holt caterpillar-tractor A7V tank chassis.

Rear view of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger. Source: Georg Garbotz
Here you can see German senior officers inspecting the work of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger

Development of the A7V Chassis

The situation in 1915 – 1916 was dire, as Germany, Britain and France had settled into a stalemate. In order to solve the ‘bloody equation’ formed by the artillery, barbed wire and machine gun combination, both Britain and France began development on a vehicle that had the ability to cross trenches with ease and be able to withstand enemy machine gun fire. This tracked vehicle would eventually revolutionize the battlefield. Thus the tank was born.

Geländewagen A7V at the factory with the cargo wooden panel sides in the down position. Notice that the Holt caterpillar chassis has been lengthened compared to the one used on the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger

Although the tanks suffered from mechanical failures and inadequate crew training they had a major psychological impact on the German soldiers. German intelligence subsequently submitted reports to the Oberste Heeresleitung (German supreme command or OHL for short), which then lobbied the war ministry for an equivalent. However, some of the senior officers of the time were more focused on artillery and infantry tactics rather than the development of the tank or similar armored vehicles.

The committee, headed by chief designer Joseph Vollmer, rejected the trench crossing rhomboid shape track system as used on the British tanks because they wanted to build a chassis that could be used on a tank and a ‘prime mover’ heavy artillery gun tractor. This approach lead to problems.

Two Caterpillar-Holt tractors were obtained and adapted to build a working prototype. It had a better speed than the very slow British tanks but its trench crossing abilities were not as good.

Eventually, the Heeresleitung got some funding from the war ministry to make an equivalent. After months of testing and building, they came up with the A7V. The OHL ordered 100 chassis to be built. The rest were used to develop several A7V variants including the Überlandwagen and an Anti Aircraft version, called the Flakpanzer A7V.

Germany only produced 20 A7V tanks in World War One. Britain and France built over 8,000 tanks between 1916 – 1918. In the battles of 1918 the German Army used more captured British tanks than they did tanks built in Germany.

The Germans were not very imaginative when they gave a name to their first tank. The letters A7V stand for the committee of the Abteilung 7 Verkehrswesen (Department 7, Transport) of the Prussian War Office.

A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG tracked trench cutting machine. Photo taken 28th October 1918. Source: NARA
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench cutter with its bucket jib in the raised position.
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger. Photo taken during digging trials
The earth dug out of the trench was dumped by a conveyer belt on the side of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger
Scratch built model of the Trench Digger by Alexander Shuvayev.

Originally published Dec. 2016



Illustration of the A7V Schützengrabenbagger LMG Trench Digger produced by Andrei Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Crew 3
Propulsion 2 x 6 inline Daimler petrol, 200 bhp (149 kW)
Speed 15 km/h (9 mph)
Range on/off road 80/30 km (49.7/18.6 mi)
Total production 1

Sources

Handbuch des Maschinenwesens beim Baubetrieb By Georg Garbotz
German Panzers 1914-18 by Steven J Zaloga
Tankograd World War One Special A7V First of the Panzers
The Sturmpanzerwagen A7V on Wikipedia
Landships

Click the image to buy the book!

Categories
German Improvized AFVs

Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo

Nazi Germany
Improvised Light Tank – 1 Built

Despite being famous for its tanks during World War II, Germany never had enough of them to go around. Less important units, such as those fighting partisans in the Balkans had a very low priority as far as Armored Fighting Vehicle allocation was concerned. They received old, obsolete or captured vehicles that the main units deemed useless.

This led some of the units in the theater to get creative, as was probably the case with the Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank was probably used to provide protection from partisan attacks. Notice the armored louvered grill at the front of the extended engine compartment. Photo source unknown

Design

Three photographs have shown that at least one Famo Boxer was converted into a light tank. It is not known by whom or the exact dates involved. The engine was protected by armor plate and the front section elongated to act as a counterweight. It had an armored louvered grill at the front to assist ventilation and help protect the engine and radiator. The lower glacis plate was angled to help it slide up muddy slopes.

The rear of the tractor was extended so the commander had somewhere to stand. In front of him was the driver. Both crewmen were protected by an armored superstructure. The thickness of the armor is not known but it would have been thin and only stopped small arms fire. It was angled and the domed turret was curved which would have helped with bullet deflection.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank. There are two supports at the rear of the tractor that hold up a platform for the commander to stand on behind the driver’s seat. The armored superstructure wraps around both crewmen. Photo source unknown

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo (Light tracked tractor built by Famo) improvised tank was built on an agricultural tracked tractor. It was armed with a 7.92 mm machine-gun in a 360-degree rotating turret. It had a 5.0 liter 4-cylinder 45 hp engine. The transmission had three forward gears and one reverse.

It is believed to have been operated in the Independent State of Croatia and used in a security role to prevent attacks by partisans. It does not display the Croatian Army markings of a red and white checkerboard shield. It has the German Army Balkenkreuz cross on the side. Therefore, it may be assumed that the vehicle was operated by a German Army tank crew in Croatia.

The tractor, on which this vehicle was based, was produced in 1932 and called the LHB Boxer. In 1934, Linke-Hofmann-Busch Werke AG was divided into several companies. On 15th November 1935, the vehicle manufacturing part of the company was taken over by Junkers. It continued to build wheeled and tracked tractors plus diesel engines under the new name Fahrzeug und Motoren-Werke GmbH (FAMO). They also developed and manufactured the very large heavy 18 ton half-track vehicle (Sd. Kfz. 9) for the Wehrmacht.

FAMO continued the production of the LHB Boxer but it was now advertised for sale as the FAMO Boxer. The German Wehrmacht purchased them for use as towing vehicles. Their official designation was Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo, Typ Boxer.

The Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo light tank. The engine was protected by armor plate and the front section was elongated to act as a counterweight. The lower glacis plate was angled to help it slide up muddy slopes. Photo source unknown

Service

The operational history of this vehicle is, sadly, unknown. It is also not known what happened to the vehicle. It is possible it was destroyed by the partisans, captured after the war and scrapped or simply dismantled and returned to its role as a tractor.

A Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo, Typ Boxer being used in Norway.


Illustration of the Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) N/A
Total weight, battle-ready N/A
Armament 7.92mm Machine Gun
Armor 10mm Aprx.
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion 5.0 litre 4-cylinder 42 hp
Speed N/A
Operational N/A
Vehicles Built 1
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links & Resources

Traktore Schlepper Jahrbuch – Das Schlepperjahrbuch by Gerhard Siem
Legendary Farm Tractors by Andrew Morland
German Army Manuals of World War II by Charles Lemon
Kfz. der Wehremacht


Categories
WWI French vehicles

Latil 4×4 TAR Heavy Artillery Tractor and Lorry

France France (1913)
Tractor/Lorry – 3000 built

The Latil TAR 4WD was a popular French lorry and known for its very good off-road capability, which made it an excellent choice for the French Army. It had very good ground clearance that helped the lorry negotiate undulating ground and obstacles like rocks, building rubble, and tree branches. It still occasionally got stuck in the mud as it tried to get supplies and weapons to the front across the battle-scarred French countryside.
The Latil company saw the need to build an all-terrain supply vehicle that could negotiate shell craters, ditches, debris from damaged buildings and trenches. Their design team looked at various ways of using caterpillar tracks on the axles of their lorries.


This photograph was taken in 1919 and shows a fully tracked Latil TAR 4WD lorry in French Army service. The wheels have been removed and replaced with four tracked units to help it negotiate muddy undulating rough terrain. These are the later version of the ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’ track units as they are more triangular in shape. This gave the lorry higher ground clearance. (Photo Avant-Train-Latil.com)

The Latil Company

The French vehicle manufacturing company called Latil designed and built the first French four-wheel-drive trucks at the end of the 19th century. Auguste Joseph Frederic Georges Latil patented the system in 1897. In 1903, the company moved to Levallois-Perret and, in 1908, it was renamed and became “Compagnie Française de Mécanique et d’Automobile – Avant-Train Latil”. They started to build 4×4 trucks with the ability to pull or carry a 3-tonne load. They were called Tracteur d’Artillerie Roulante, which is abbreviated to TAR. (the word roulante translates to rolling)
After World War I, Latil began to build tractors for the agriculture and forestry industry and trucks for civil engineering. In 1955, Latil merged with the vehicle manufacturers Somua and ‘Renault truck and bus’.

The Latil TAR

Prior to the outbreak of WW1, in 1913, Latil began manufacturing trucks that were designed to be used as tractors to tow heavy artillery guns. The Latil TAR used a 4-cylinder, 4,200 cc, 30 hp petrol engine. Only heavy guns were moved by mechanical vehicles, as lighter field artillery and other guns under 6-tonnes were still moved by teams of six or eight horses. Mechanically powered vehicles still required roads that were in good condition or firm ground.
A Latil 4×4 TAR tractor had some advantages over horse-towed guns: it was significantly faster than horses, it also took up less space than a team of horses, shortening transport columns, fewer soldiers were needed to transport the guns, and they could cover longer distances. The Latil 4×4 TAR was used to pull guns such as the 155 mm Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF) mle.1917, the 220 mm Schneider mle. 1917 cannon and the 280 mm Schneider mle. 1914 mortar. The French abbreviation ‘mle’ is for the French word ‘Modèle’. In English that would translate to model but a better translation would be type or version. Latil trucks were also used by the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during WW1. The French Army kept them in service up until the start of WW2.
In order to use its maximum traction force on good ground, the tractor had to be loaded with 2-tonnes. It was particularly suited for service with artillery units because of its pulling power. The company claimed that, on firm ground, it could tow 20-tonnes on a 15% gradient slope (9 Degrees), 25-tonnes on a 12% gradient slope (7 Degrees) and 35-tonnes on an 8% gradient slope (5 Degrees).

The French Army Latil TAR 4×4 lorry could climb up a steep incline. (Photo Avant-Train-Latil.com)
The clutch was of the inverted leather cone type. It had five forward gears and one reverse gear. The engine, clutch, gearbox, and front differential assembly formed a single block, connected to the chassis at three points: a ball joint at the front and two spring tabs at the rear.
The transmission of the engine power to the wheels was done by side gimbals that terminated the transverse shafts of the two differentials by a ball joint whose center was on the axis of the steering pivot. The movement was transmitted to the wheels via a straight crown and a pinion. Differentials could be locked to improve traction on soft ground. Steering, by screw and nut, controlled the front wheels and a longitudinal shaft transmitted the same movement to the rear wheels and thus allowed for fast turning. It had a minimum turning diameter of 8.50 m.

The French Army Latil TAR 4×4 lorry was powerful enough to tow a tank transportation trailer loaded with a Renault FT tank. (Photo Avant-Train-Latil.com)
The chassis frame was made of 200 mm high stamped sheet metal with a profile of equal strength. It had a ground clearance height of 0.45 m. The stamped soft steel axles were connected to the chassis by the springs, which were, in turn, terminated by clevises which, engaging in special supports, allowed them to oscillate relative to the frame. The towing hook was combined with a spring giving a particularly flexible hitch, which reduced the jolts from the trailer.
The engine cover has a very distinctive rounded and narrow shape. This was specific to French automotive designs of the time, also being found on the Renault 60CV truck and a couple of cars, such as the Renault AG1. The front is quite distinctive in not having a radiator grille. The radiator air intakes were at the rear of the bonnet, on the sides. A large Latil badge usually adorned the front of the bonnet. There was a hand crank in the lower frontal part to start the engine manually. The crew compartment was open, with only a tarpaulin cover to protect from most of the elements, and a bench for seating. Two lights were mounted just in front of the crew cab, one on each side, close to the posts supporting the tarpaulin cover structure. Another larger light was sometimes present at the front on the left side. Interestingly, the steering wheels and controls were on the right-hand side.
The wheels were made of cast steel, and rotated to allow the use of twinned rubber tires. All four wheels were interchangeable. In 1913, the list price of the Latil 4×4 TAR without the bodywork was 35,000 francs. More than 3000 copies were built in total by the factory at Levallois-Perret between 1913 and 1922.


Latil TAR tractor fitted with the early version of the Delahaye ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’. Illustrated by Jaroslaw ‘Jarja’ Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.

The Delahaye ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’ Tracked Units

The tracked vehicle used a standard Latil TAR truck with a differential that could be locked when required. Each wheel was removed and the track unit was fitted to the axle. The first version of the track unit was an elongated oval shape. The next version, seen photographed on a vehicle in 1919, was more triangular in shape. It gave the vehicle increased ground clearance. It is not known how many track units were built and supplied to the Army.

The standard French Army Latil TAR 4×4 lorry would have difficulty driving over this muddy landscape but, when fitted with Delahaye ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’ track units on each axle, it could successfully negotiate water-filled shell holes and embankments. (Photo Avant-Train-Latil.com)

The first version of the Delahaye ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’ track units. (Photo Avant-Train-Latil.com)
The track units were designed and built by the Delahaye factory. They submitted a patent for the invention in 1915 under the name ‘Mécanisme de Chenille Delahaye’. The French Delahaye automotive manufacturing company, founded by Émile Delahaye in 1894, is more famous for their cars rather than agricultural equipment. The man responsible for its development was Paul Morane who had owned the Delahaye company since the founder Émile Delahaye sold his company in 1898. The official name for the tracked units was ‘Mécanisme à Chenille’.
Each unit consisted of a drive sprocket, an idler wheel and three roadwheels. The drive sprocket was connected by a chain to a smaller sprocket on the hull. The track links were from pressed steel with a raised lip on the rear in order to gain traction on soft ground.

Surviving Vehicles


A restored Latil TAR 4×4 lorry part of a private collection on display at a motor vehicle show in France. (Photo – TautauduO2)

A restored French Army 1918 Latil TAR 4×4 being used to tow a tank transportation trailer loaded with a Renault FT tank. (Unknown photographer)

Sources & Acknowledgements

Automobiles Industriels LATIL
French Tank Museum (Musée des Blindés)
Christophe Mialon
John Harris
Marco Pütz

Categories
WW1 German Armor

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V 506 ‘Mephisto’


This article was written by Queensland Museum, in partnership with Craig Moore. This Australian museum holds ‘Mephisto’, the only surviving A7V in the world.

The Rarest Tank in the World: 506 ‘Mephisto’

A mere twenty German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tanks were built during the First World War, in three production runs of 5, 5, and 10 vehicles, respectively. Fitted with either Röchling or Krupp armor plate, the first vehicle rolled off the assembly line in October 1917. Only one of these twenty tanks has survived, the vehicle bearing chassis number 506 named Mephisto.

The only surviving Sturmpanzerwagen A7V, Mephisto, as it stands today in the Queensland museum. A part of the armament and the markings are clearly visible in this photo, including the red devil carrying a British rhomboidal tank on the front. Source: Gregory Czechura, Queensland Museum
This A7V, which was captured and later recovered in the dead of night by Australian soldiers of the 26th Battalion during July 1918, survived thanks to its unlikely journey to Brisbane, Australia. 506 Mephisto is not only an incredibly rare tank but a significant artifact of the First World War. The centenaries of Mephisto’s operations on the Western Front and its eventual capture and retrieval (which commenced the tank’s connection to Queensland and Australia) were marked between March and July 2018.

After capture, Sturmpanzerwagen A7V 506 ‘Mephisto’ was painted with a British Imperial Lion putting its large paw on top of a German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank (Photo: Queensland Museum)

Mephisto being restored in Australia. (Photo: Queensland Museum)

The A7V

Tanks were developed as a weapon to break the defensive trench warfare that had prevailed on the Western Front since 1914. The Allies were the first to develop, produce and deploy tanks beginning in 1916 (Great Britain) and 1917 (France). The German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V represented a reply to the ever-increasing numbers of Allied tanks, but it suffered from being too few in number and too late in entering service to have any decisive impact on the outcome of the final battles of the war. Indeed, most of the tank force fielded by the Germans during the last years of the war was composed of captured Allied, mainly British, models.
The German A7V was essentially an armored box mounted on a tracked chassis that was powered by two water-cooled, 100-horsepower petrol engines. Although a fully operational A7V weighed around 30-tonnes, it was capable of reaching speeds of up to 10 km/h. Armament consisted of eight 7.92 mm MG 08 machine guns (females) or a 57 mm Maxim-Nordenfelt main gun and six MG 08 machine guns (males). The short combat career of the German A7V was due, in part, to lengthy bureaucratic delays and approvals, as well as correction of several crucial design flaws that resulted from the tank having to be built on an all-purpose chassis. The driver’s position, high atop the vehicle, compromised visibility and produced a blind spot directly in front of the driver’s field of vision, which resulted in individual A7Vs being driven into pits, quarries and, in one case, a village pond.

Mephisto in the garden of the Queensland museum next to some similar sized dinosaur models. Source: Queensland museum.
Like all First World War tanks, A7Vs were dogged by mechanical problems (especially overheating and transmission failures), as well as design problems such as low ground clearance, low track height and a chassis that flexed when the tank was in motion. These issues contributed to A7Vs suffering breakdowns and incapacitation by barbed wire and uneven ground in action and training. Modifications were carried out in the field and on the factory floor to rectify some of these problems. Despite these issues, the A7V proved superior to its counterparts, such as the British Mark IV, in both speed and firepower, especially when deployed on firm, even terrain, although when they met in combat for the first time at Villers-Brettoneux in April 1918, it was the British tank which triumphed.
Vehicle 506 was one of the first five A7Vs to be built as part of what is known as the First Lot (Röchling) production run. It was assigned to the first of three A7V detachments (Abteilungen) during December 1917-early January 1918 but did not reach Abteilung 1 at Beuveille until 20 January 1918. Features, including field modifications, of the first A7V production run can be seen on 506 Mephisto. These include a cupola with a single hatch for the driver and the commander, single sheet side armor, and a Blocklafette gun mount with open sights, among others.

Inside the front section of the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank 506 Mephisto. The 57 mm gun can be seen on the right and the machine gun mount on the left of the door. (Photo: Queensland Museum)

The History of ‘Mephisto’

A7Vs made their combat debut at St Quentin on 21 March 1918 during the 1918 German Spring Offensives. Five A7Vs were assigned to provide close support for infantry assaults on British positions south of St Quentin. Only two of the tanks were able to participate, a female (501) and 506, which was gun-armed. German and British accounts attest to the effectiveness of the gun-armed tank, in neutralizing strongpoints and concentrations of infantry. The A7Vs were then returned to their base near Charleroi for repair and maintenance. At this point, 506 was transferred to Abteilung 3, where it was repainted and named Mephisto after the Devil in the Faustus legend (another A7V, 503, was named Faust).

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V Mephisto after it has arrived at the Queensland museum. The original paint scheme and the imperial lion can still be seen. Source:  Queensland Museum, The Gregory Czechura collection
In late March and early April 1918, the Germans attacked the small, strategically placed town of Villers-Bretonneux, France in an effort to capture or neutralize the vital Allied transport hub of Amiens. Villers-Bretonneux was held after a successful Allied counter-attack led by Australian troops from 9th Brigade. The Germans staged a second attack on Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918 that included three groups of A7Vs. 506 Mephisto was assigned to the second group of A7Vs, consisting of six tanks, given the objective of taking objectives (Monument Farm, Monument Wood, and the Bois d’Aquenne) immediately to the south of Villers-Bretonneux. The German attack on the first day was successful and during the battle, the first tank versus tank battle was fought between elements of the third group of A7Vs and British medium and heavy tanks operating near Cachy to the southwest of Villers-Bretonneux. During the fighting around Monument Farm, Mephisto became stranded when the edge of a shell crater it was passing over collapsed under its weight.
Mephisto was abandoned by its German crew but not before being stripped of its machine guns, the gun’s breechblock and other essential items according to standard operational practice. Mephisto lay in No Man’s Land for three months before its capture by the 26th Battalion AIF (commanded by Major, later Lieutenant-Colonel, James Robinson) on the night of 17/18 July 1918 and its subsequent recovery, with the assistance of the British 1st Gun Carrier Company, from under the noses of the German troops opposing them on the night of 22-23 July 1918. The dangerous retrieval operation was carried out under fire on the very night that the Germans unleashed a heavy poison-gas barrage on the Villers-Bretonneux area. Most of the Australian and British soldiers involved in the recovery became gas casualties, but the operation was nonetheless successfully completed. The war prize Mephisto was now securely in Allied hands and quickly moved under cover in the nearby Bois l’Abbé.

Mephisto being moved into the Queensland museum yard. The two steamrollers used to tow it can be seen in the photo. Source: Queensland museum.
Mephisto was then moved to the British 5th Tank Brigade’s Training Ground at Vaux-en-Amienois where it became an object of curiosity and ‘canvas’ for soldier art, including that of a British lion resting its paw on an A7V. Among the soldiers who visited Mephisto were the six ‘TANK BOYS’, who left their names hammered into the rear armor of Mephisto. They were not participants in the capture and recovery of Mephisto but were part of the Australian contingent training and preparing to work with British tanks and crews in the planned Battle of Amiens and other Allied offensives along the Western Front in the last 100 days of the war.

A Home Down-Under

From Vaux-en-Amienois, Mephisto was moved to London via Dunkirk before being shipped to Brisbane on the SS Armagh, leaving England on April 2, 1919, and arriving in Brisbane on the June 2. It remained at the wharves for six months before being moved to the Queensland Museum, Fortitude Valley, on 23 August 1919. It was an eleven-hour operation which required the use of two Brisbane City Council steamrollers to tow Mephisto to its new home. It was initially placed on display outside, exposed to the elements in the gardens of the museum, where it remained as an iconic object greeting visitors for over sixty years.

Front view of the Mephisto at the Queensland museum. The top compartment, which housed the driver and the commander, is visible on top, along with their viewports. The wedge shape of the front armor is also apparent, used decades before the Soviet IS-3. Source: Gregory Czechura, Queensland Museum
In 1986, Mephisto was moved to Queensland Museum’s new location at South Brisbane where it remained until it sustained minor damage in the 2011 Brisbane floods when water reached the level of its tracks. Mephisto has undergone extensive conservation and restoration treatment during its time with the Queensland Museum, even at one time being preserved in a climate-controlled plastic bubble at the Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich. Between 2015 and 2017, Mephisto was loaned to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as part of the Centenary of the First World War.
After being held in the Workshops Rail Museum, Mephisto finally returned to the Queensland Museum, South Brisbane in late 2018. The tank now features as a major interpretative and commemorative element of the Queensland Museum’s new Anzac Legacy Gallery that opened to mark the centenary of the Armistice on Remembrance Day 2018.

Commemorative Book

To commemorate the centenary anniversary of A7V Mephisto’s capture and recovery, Queensland Museum has released a fully illustrated reference guide to the tank’s history and its journey to Australia. Mephisto: Technology, War, and Remembrance by Jeff Hopkins-Weise and Gregory Czechura includes detailed diagrams, technical schematics, damage reports, and photographs of Mephisto as it was during the First World War, and as it is found today. Mephisto details the history of this primitive armored vehicle against the backdrop of the industrial innovations and societal changes of the First World War.

The Queensland Museum has published a Mephisto discovery guide book covering the history of the tank. This is the front cover. (Photo: Queensland Museum)
Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance book is available now through the Queensland Museum Shop website HERE.
To see the single surviving Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank in the world in person, entry is free to the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Australia.

Source

Queensland Museum
Grey St & Melbourne St
South Brisbane, QLD, Australia



Illustration of the Sturmpanzer A7V number 506 ‘Mephisto’ in its original markings. Colors based on the restored version presently at the Queensland Museum, Australia. Illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #1 Republished

The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.

Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!

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!
Buy this magazine on Payhip!


Categories
WW2 Czechoslovak Prototypes WW2 German prototypes

Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Škoda

Germany/Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1940) Light Tank – 4 Prototypes Built

On 15 September 1939, the German Heereswaffenamt (Army Weapons Office – HwaA) issued new specifications for a fast, more heavily armored scout reconnaissance tank with 30 mm front armor, a 2 cm or 3.7 cm main gun and a top speed of 50 km/h. These were originally sent to the German firm MAN but, on 31 July 1940, they were also sent to two other companies, Škoda and BMM (the former Czechoslovak CKD).
The prototype Panzer T-15 light tank looks like an improved Panzer II tank but there were many differences. Its factory designation was the Škoda T-15. The first two prototypes were only built in mild structural steel.

The Panzer Späh Wagen II Ausführung Škoda, previously designated the Škoda T-15. Photo: Bundesarchiv

Name

A German Wa Prüf 6 (the German design office for armored vehicles and motorized equipment under the Heereswaffenamt – Army Ordnance Department) document dated 5 March 1942 shows the factory name Škoda T-15 being scratched through and the name Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Skoda (Armored Scout Car II version Škoda – Pz.Sp.Wg II Ausf.Skoda) written in its place.

German Wa.Prüf. 6 original document notes that show the change of name. Photo: Herbert Ackermann

Design

The company Škoda-Werke’s T 15 design had welded armor, an improvement over the Czechoslovak built Panzer 38(t) tank’s bolted and riveted armor. The armor on the front of the turret and hull was 30 mm thick and the sides were 25 mm thick. The turret had a new curved shape with a commander’s cupola. The main gun fitted on the prototypes was the 3.7 cm Škoda A11 anti-tank gun (German designation 3.7 cm KwK 38(t) L/47). It could fire armor-piercing (AP) shells and high explosive (HE) fragmentation shells.

On 4 January 1943, the Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Skoda prototype was shown to Hitler and senior German officers. Photo: Bundesarchiv
There was no hull machine gun. A 7.92 mm MG34 machine-gun was mounted in the turret. The driver and radio/operator were positioned at the front of the tank. Both had armored vision ports like the later Panzer II tanks.
The tank was powered by a Škoda water-cooled V8 10.8 liter 245 hp gasoline/petrol engine. The transmission had 6 forward gears and one reverse.
The suspension was different from other tanks under construction at that time. It had four pairs of large road wheels on semi-elliptic leaf springs. There were three pairs of smaller track return rollers. The drive wheel was at the rear while the idler was at the front.

Rear view of the Škoda, looking at the engine bay. The Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Skoda prototype had four pairs of large road wheels on semi-elliptic leaf springs and three pairs of track return rollers. Photo: SOURCE
The first prototype T-15 was built in October 1941, and the second in December 1941. Tests were conducted during March and June of 1942. Further tests were completed between July and October at Kummersdorf, 25 km south of Berlin.

German Wa.Prüf. 6 original document that shows some of the vehicle’s specifications. Photo: Herbert Ackermann


Illustration of the Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Škoda, also known as the Škoda T-15. Produced by Mr. Adrielcz, funded by our Patreon Campaign


Panzerspähwagen II T15 by adrielcz

Alterations

Alterations were made to the original design on the later prototypes. The turret shape was changed. The side armor was curved differently. An armoured driver’s vision port was fitted to the side of the chassis. The commander’s cupola was also completely redesigned. Instead of the Czech ZB.37 machine gun a German 7.92 mm MG.34 was installed. The 37mm A11 gun remained in place, but Škoda’s engineers also provided for the possibility of arming the tank with a 47 mm gun. The same Wa Prüf 6 document dated 5 March 1942 mentioned earlier showed that it was intended to mount a 5 cm PaK 39 L/60 on the production tank in a Daimler-Benz built turret.

Škoda-Werke’s redesign of the T 15 prototype wooden mockup, with improved sloping frontal hull armor, smaller turret and relocated exhaust. Photo: Yuri Pasholok

Fate

Škoda had signed a contract to build five prototypes but only built four. Construction of the fifth was stopped in early 1944 as the Panzer II Ausf.L Luchs (Lynx) was already in mass production.
Škoda completed the construction of the fifth prototype in May 1945, having restarted work in January. After the war finished, it was shown to the new Czechoslovak Army in July 1946 but no orders were placed. The Škoda tank design department used the chassis to develop different light tank projects which they called the T 15A, T 15S and T 16. They stayed as drawings. No prototypes were built.

The Pz.Sp.Wg II Ausf.Skoda prototype tank undergoing trials. There appears to be a build up of mud between the road wheels. A platform has been constructed on the right side of the turret for testing staff to have somewhere to sit as they observe what is happening. Photo: Bundesarchiv

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.58 x 2.17 x 2.16 meters
Total weight, battle ready 10.8 tons
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, radio operator, driver)
Propulsion Skoda T-15 8-cylinder, petrol 220 hp
Suspension semi-elliptic leaf springs
Speed (road) 50 km/h
Range 200 km
Armament 3.7 cm Skoda A11 (3.7 cm KwK 38(t) L/47), 7.92 mm MG34
Armor 8 mm – 30 mm
Total production 4 (+1 post war)

Sources

warspot.ru (Russian)
Pavel Pilar “Pruzkumne tanky Skoda T-15 a Praga TNH nA”, HPM c.3 / 2000
I.Pejcoch, O.Pejs “Obrnena technika” №6
“Hobby Historie” 2011 №10
Hilary Doyle and Thomas L. Jentz, Panzer Tracts No. 11-2: Aufklaerungspanzerwagen (Full and Half-Track Armored Reconnaissance Vehicles) H8H to Vollkettenaufklaerer 38.

Categories
WW2 German prototypes

Grille 17/21 Self-Propelled Guns

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
Prototype Self-Propelled Guns

The Tiger gun carrier

On the 6th of May 1942, the German weapons manufacturer Krupp submitted a proposal for the construction of a new armored self-propelled gun carriage that used components from the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger. While it was based on the Tiger tank chassis design, it was radically altered. It was meant to be able to carry two different guns.
Grille 17/21 chassis with a King tiger, Panther Jagdtiger and Panther tank
The Grille 17/21 chassis is on the right of the photo next to a King Tiger with the early turret and a Panther tank on the far left. Behind the three vehicles is a Jagdtiger SPG. They were all captured at the Henschel Panzerversuchsstation, Haustenbeck Ordinance proving ground. (The Tank Museum, Bovington)
The vehicle was named, in typical German fashion, the ‘Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 (Sf.)’ or the ‘Geschützwagen Tiger für 21 cm Mörser 18/1 (Sf.)’, depending on the gun mounted.
The German word Geschützwagen literally translates to ‘gun vehicle’. This is not an accurate description of the concept behind this artillery self-propelled gun. A gun carriage would be a better description. Unlike other German self-propelled guns, this vehicle was designed to mount different weapons. It was a modular concept. The vehicle was given the shorter names of Grille 17 and Grille 21 depending on what weapon was mounted inside the vehicle. The German word Grille means ‘cricket’ and the letter ‘e’ at the end is pronounced as an ‘er’: Grill-er.
The proposal was submitted on 6 May 1942 to the Wa Prüf 4 artillery division of the Heereswaffenamt (HWA) (German High Command’s center for technical weapons development). Krupp was authorized to build a single prototype with a completion date of 1 November 1942. The Wa Prüf 4 made a requirement that the vehicle must have the ability to have a 360-degree traverse. They also wanted it to be available for coastal defense work if necessary.
The Grille 17/21 chassis was much longer than a standard Tiger tank
The Grille 17/21 chassis was much longer than a standard Tiger tank and difficult to photograph at close quarters. This image has been made by ‘stiching’ together a number of separate images. (The Tank Museum Bovington)

Design and Problems

The two guns were too heavy to be mounted in a turret so the Krupp design team had to find another solution. They constructed a large heavy circular base plate that would be carried at the rear of the vehicle and lowered into position when needed. The SPG would then drive onto the metal plate and could swivel on its tracks to point the gun at the target. This was an unusual design feature of this weapon system not seen on any other German vehicle in WW2.
Another requirement was that the guns were to be dismountable. This would be achieved by driving backward towards the base plate, after which the gun could be slid out of the vehicle and mounted on the base plate, allowing it to cover 360°. The reasoning behind this feature was that the Grille was also meant to be used in the coastal defense role and this allowed it to fire in any direction. This requirement was dropped in 1944 under the orders of Heinrich Himmler.
Design and mechanical problems were also encountered with the Tiger chassis, engine and transmission. It did not help that the winner of the competition between the Porsche and the Henschel designs hadn’t yet been decided, and they had vastly different drivetrain arrangements.
American officer is examining the engine bay of the Grille 17/21 chassis
This American officer is examining the engine bay of the Grille 17/21 chassis. His presences gives you the sense of proportion of this weapon. It was very large. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
Initially, the vehicle was meant to have a 30 mm armor plate on the front of the chassis and 16 mm on the sides. In November 1942, it was decided to use SM-Stahl (carbon steel) in the construction of this self-propelled gun. 50 mm of SM-Stahl carbon steel were used for the front of the vehicle. The sides and rear would have 30 mm SM-Stahl carbon steel. This added to the weight of the vehicle. There were a number of delays in the project. The original 1 November 1942 completion date passed without a prototype being finished.
When the Panzer VI Ausf.B Tiger II (Sd.Kfz.182) heavy tanks started rolling out of the factory doors, Krupp decided to use the Tiger II engine, suspension, steering, and transmission instead of Tiger I parts. These components were not ready for delivery until January 1944. This delayed the estimated final construction of the prototype until the summer of 1944.
On 25 September of 1944, Reichsminister Albert Speer ordered a demonstration for Adolf Hitler to take place as soon as the vehicle was completed, now planned for the end of the year. Serial production was to then start at the rate of two per month.
Grille 17/21 at the Henschel Panzerversuchsstation, Haustenbeck
This photograph was taken at the Henschel Panzerversuchsstation, Haustenbeck (Ordinance proving ground). Notice the armored hatches on the front of the Grille 17/21 SPG’s superstructure. (The Tank Museum Bovington)

Armament

It was envisaged that two different guns could be mounted in the vehicle: the 17cm Kanone K72 (Sf) L/50 or the 21cm Mörser 18/1 L/31. These two weapons were chosen because they used the same gun carriage and recoil system. The fittings would be the same when the guns were mounted within the self-propelled gun superstructure. The guns would have had a traverse of 5 degrees left and right from a fixed position. The gun sight was a Z.E. 34 with Rblf.36. Both vehicles would have to be supported by a number of ammunition carrying vehicles.
17 cm Kanone 18 in Mörserlafette on display at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA. Jon Bernstein
17 cm Kanone 18 in Mörserlafette on display at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA. (Jon Bernstein)
The Grille 17 would have carried 5 rounds plus propellant on board when equipped with a 17cm Kanone K72 (Sf) L/50 gun. It could fire two types of shells, the 68 kg Sprenggranate(HE) with 29.15 kg of propellant and a range of 28,000 meters and the 62.8 kg Sprenggranate(HE) with 30.5 kg of propellant and a range of 29,600 meters.
The 21cm Mörser 18/1 L/31 was already in production and use by the Germans when the project started. It was produced to replace the much older 21cm Mörser 16. The 21cm Mörser 18 replaced the 21cm Mörser 16 in front-line service around 1940 with the older gun being relegated to secondary theaters and training units. More than 711 21cm Mörser 18 guns were produced in 1939–45. The Grille 21 would have carried 3 rounds plus propellant on board when equipped with this gun. It could fire a 113 kg Sprenggranate(HE) shell with 15.7 kg of propellant to a range of up to 16,700 meters.
A 17 cm (172 mm) gun barrel and breach can be seent on the floor gun carriage with 21 cm Mrs 18 painted on it. The fate of the gun is not known.
A 17 cm (172 mm) gun barrel and breach can be seen on the floor in front of a gun carriage with 21 cm Mrs 18 painted on it. The fate of the gun is not known.
In January 1945, plans were made to mount a 30.5cm caliber smooth bore mortar with fin-stabilized projectiles, due to the concerns over the length of time it took to produce artillery barrels for the two other guns. Krupp and Skoda both competed on this project with Skoda producing a 30.5 GrW L/16 prototype by April 1945.
As a side note to armament, in 1945 Kurt Arnoldt, Chief Engineer at Henschel, said in a 1945 interview that the 21cm gun produced too much recoil for the chassis as designed, making it impossible to fire from the chassis. The 17 cm muzzle break was based on a design by Solothurn design. Ammunition would have been stowed both in the vehicle and in wicker baskets on the side of the vehicle as well as in a following 18-ton semi-tracked vehicles (half-track). The gunnery sights also allow for direct firing of the gun on close-range targets.
German 21 cm Mörser 18 on display at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA. Jon Bernstein
German 21 cm Mörser 18 on display at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA. (Jon Bernstein)

Crew members

According to a British intelligence report from 1945, the Grille designs meant to have a crew of 8, composed of a driver, a commander and 6 gun crewmen. The loading of the two-part ammunition was meant to be done manually. It is stated in a 1945 interview with Kurt Arnoldt, the Chief Engineer for Henschel, that the additional crew would travel in a semi-track vehicle, Kurt Arnoldt suggests the 18-toner, and haul additional ammunition.

Mobility

A Tiger II Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12 water-cooled petrol 690 hp engine was ordered along with a Maybach OG 40 12 16 B gearbox with eight forward and 4 reverse gears. Henschel made the L 801 steering unit. The engine was mid-mounted in the chassis to allow for the maximum amount of room for the large gun and space for the crew.
As rubber was difficult to obtain in 1944 the wheels were 80 cm all steel tires. However, the 1945 interview with Kurt Arnoldt suggests rubber rimmed roadwheels. But photos do not confirm this. It was fitted with Gg 24-800/300 Tiger II track for traveling cross country, but this would have been replaced with smaller width Gg 24-600/300 Panther II tank track if transportation by rail was required.

A Troubled End

More delays occurred when the Allied air force bombed Krupp’s manufacturing plant in Essen. Construction work on the prototype was no longer viable at this location. On 7 December 1944 Krupp reported that the chassis was ready to be loaded onto a flat back railway wagon for transportation from Essen to the Henschel Panzerversuchsstation 96, Haustenbeck near Paderborn. It was recorded as being at this establishment on documents dated 22 December 1944 but missing many of the components needed for the completion of the project including the cooling and fuel system, Gg 24/800/300 tracks and hardened road wheel arms.
The Grille 17/21 prototype was still in an unfinished condition when the German High Command ordered all future work on the program to be stopped. The situation in the 1st quarter of 1945 was such that in their view there would not be any significant advantage in the completion of the project. Resources were limited and they had to be channeled to more important weapon production lines.
In 1945, the US 3rd Army captured the Henschel panzerversuchsstation, Haustenbeck Ordinance proving and tank testing ground in Northern Germany, 50 km south west of Hanover. A selection of German heavy tanks and self-propelled guns were found in working condition. A few prototype vehicles were discovered that never entered production. These included a partially assembled Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 chassis and nearby a 17 cm Kanone 72. They did not find a second chassis or a 21 cm Mörser.

Gallery

The Allies took the chance to examine this huge weapon system - Gille 17/20 SPG
The Allies took the chance to examine this huge weapon system. The three soldiers inside are dwarfed by the sides of the superstructure of the Grille 17/20 SPG. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
 Grille 17/21 at the front
The driver sat on the left of the Grille 17/21 at the front. The hull machine gunner sat on his right, (The Tank Museum Bovington)
Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 (Sf.)
Here you can see the design of the extended chassis and the rear of the superstructure. Notice that it was an open topped SPG. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
Jagdtiger and Grille 17/21 SPG
The Jagdtiger SPG was 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) tall and 10.65 m (34 ft 11 in) long. It gives you a good idea of how large the Grille 17/21 self-propelled gun was when the two vehicles are seen together. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
The front armour of the superstructure was only 30 mm thick
The front armor of the superstructure was only 30 mm thick. It was not enough to save the crew from a Soviet, British or American armor piercing AP round in 1945. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
The gun chassis rails can be seen on the floor of the fighting compartment
The gun chassis rails can be seen on the floor of the fighting compartment in this photo of the Grille 17/20 SPGs fighting compartment. (The Tank Museum Bovington)
large perforated muzzle brake
large perforated muzzle brake found next to the Grille 17/21 17 cm gun barrel. (The Tank Museum Bovington)

Wrong photos

The following photographs are often seen in books and posted on the internet wrongly claiming that they are photographs of a wooden mock-up of the Grille 17/21 fighting compartment. This is a mock-up of the Flakwagen auf Panther NOT the Grille 17/21. The first author to make this understandable error was Spielberger in his book ‘Tiger und seine Abarten’.
mock up of Flakwagen auf Panther
This is a photo of a mock-up of the Flakwagen auf Panther NOT the Grille 17/21 (Spielberger)
Wooden mock up of the superstructure of the Flakwagen auf Panther
Wooden mock up of the superstructure of the Flakwagen auf Panther NOT the Grille 17/21 (Spielberger)
Gunners seat mock-up in the Flakwagen
Gunners seat mock-up in the Flakwagen auf Panther NOT the Grille 17/21 (Spielberger)

An article by Craig Moore and CaptainNemo

Grille 17/21 specifications

Dimensions (L,W) Grille 17 13 m (42 ft 8 in), 3.27 m (10 ft 9 in
Dimensions (L,W) Grille 21 11 m (36 ft 1 in), 3.59 m (11 ft 8 in)
Height (17 & 21) 3.15 m (10 ft 4 in)
Total weight 60 tonnes (59 tons)
Crew 8 (Commander, driver, 6 gunners)
Propulsion Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12 23 liter water-cooled petrol 690 hp engine
Top road speed 45 km/18 km (28 mph/11 mph)
Operational range (road) 250 km/125 km (155 miles/78 miles)
Main Armament 17 cm K72 L/50 or 21 cm M18/1 L 31 mortar
Armor (chassis) 16 – 30mm

Sources

Joachim Engelmann, German Heavy Field Artillery 1934-1945.(Schiffer Publishing Ltd)
Ian V. Hogg, German Artillery of WW2. (Pen & Sword)
Frank V.de Sisto, German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1. (Concord Publication Co).
Gordon Rottman, German self-propelled guns. (Concord Publication Co).
Peter Chamberlain, Thomas L.Jentz and Hillary L.Doyle, Encyclopedia of German tanks of WWII, (Arms and Armour Press).
Peter Chamberlain and Hillary L.Doyle, Profile AFV Weapons 55 German Self-Propelled Weapons. (Profile Publications)
The War Office, Handbook of Enemy Ammunition Pamphlet No 15 – 24th May 1945.
SHAEF, Restricted July 1944 – Allied Expeditionary Force – German Guns – Brief notes and range tables for allied gunners. SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT.
SHAEF, Allied Expeditionary Force German Guns – Brief Notes and Range Tables for Allied Gunners – SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT July 1944
Major L.J.McNair, Artillery Firing, (US Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Oct 1919
U.S. Army Council. Handbook of Enemy Ammunition Pamphlet No.15. German Ammunition Markings and Nomenclature.
Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
https://warspot.ru

Geschützwagen Tiger für 21 cm Mörser 18/1 (Sf.) Grille
Geschützwagen Tiger für 21 cm Mörser 18/1 (Sf.) Grille with the 21 cm Mortar fitted. It is painted in factory fresh Red-Oxide Primer. The length of the gun is noticeably smaller that the 17 cm cannon. The turning dish has not been fitted to the rear of the vehicle.

Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 (Sf.) Grille with the 17 cm gun
Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 (Sf.) Grille with the 17 cm gun fitted in fictional ‘what if’ markings. Notice the extended chassis and the large turning dish mounted at the rear.

Both illustrations made by tank encyclopedia’s David Bocquelet

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WWI French vehicles

Schneider CD Artillery Tractor

France France (1917-18), Tow and supply vehicle – 330 built

Schneider Char de Dépannage

The French phrase ‘camion de dépannage’ translates to tow-truck. The Schneider CD was a WW1 tow truck that used the same Holt chassis as the Schneider CA1 tank. It was fitted with a winch. There is a dispute as to the reason why the letters CD were used. Some sources state that it was just a standard Schneider factory product code, just like the Renault FT tank’s FT letters were just a two letter code, having no other meaning.

The Schneider CD's winches can be seen above the driver's compartment and at the rear - Source: François Vauvillier
The Schneider CD’s winches can be seen above the driver’s compartment and at the rear – Source: François Vauvillier
During the planning and construction stage of the Schneider assault tank, it was given the factory code name ‘Tracteur Estienne’ after the project leader, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Estienne, but later had the official designation of Schneider CA. The letters CA stood for ‘char d’assaut’ which translates to ‘assault tank’ in English. It seems the argument for the letters CD being an abbreviation of the French term ‘Char de dépannage’ is quite strong.
But, on a Schneider factory produced manual front cover the vehicle is called ‘Tracteur A chenilles (Type CD)’ which translated simply means a caterpillar tractor. This appears to favour the argument that the letters CD are a factory code, but the use of the word ‘type’ in front is ambiguous. It could mean that this ‘type’ of caterpillar tractor is a CD ‘Char de dépannage’ tow truck. We still do not know for sure.

Design and Production

By 1915, some of the French WW1 offensives had managed to breach the German front lines. The infantry attack across ‘no man’s land’ had been preceded by days of artillery bombardment to ‘soften-up’ resistance. This had turned the battlefield into a churned up lunar landscape covered in muddy shell craters. To support the breakthrough, the French artillery needed to be able to move their gun batteries, otherwise they would be out of range. Artillery barrages were needed to disrupt and hopefully stop German counter-attacks.

Most French artillery guns were drawn by a team of up to six horses. The terrain was just too difficult for them to move across. A new answer had to be found. The French Army looked towards an agricultural solution. For a number of years, French farmers had been using tracked steam driven tractors and tracked tractors powered by petrol engines. They were purchased by the Army and put to use towing howitzers to the front lines.

Tracteur Schneider CD instruction book
This is the front cover of a Schneider CD manual. The vehicle is called ‘Tracteur A chenilles (Type CD)’ which translated means caterpillar tractor (type CD).
Agricultural tractors like the early Holt built tractor were slow and found it difficult to tow the heavier artillery howitzers. They also did not have any onboard storage. They had to tow trailers to deliver artillery ammunition and supplies. The French Army needed a heavier more powerful vehicle to move and service the heavy guns adequately. Once the guns were in position, the Army wanted the same vehicle to be able to transport ammunition from the supply dump to the battery’s new location.

The French Renault EG and Latil TAR large 4-wheel drive trucks were capable of carrying the heavy artillery shells, that ranged in weight from 40 kg to 100 kg, along the muddy roads to the front lines. They could not cross the churned up battlefield. The proposed tracked artillery tractor had to be capable of collecting these shells from just behind French lines and take them across the churned up, scarred landscape without getting stuck in the mud.

Le tracteur d'artillerie chenillé Schneider CD
A tracteur d’artillerie chenillé Schneider CD being loaded onto the back of an articulated transport lorry
The French manufacturer Renault decided to submit a design for a fully tracked artillery tractor but decided to build a vehicle that could carry the gun rather than just tow one. This ‘en portee’ vehicle would only be able to carry light field howitzers and not the heavier guns. The small size of the flat wooden deck at the rear of the vehicle limited the size of weapon it could transport. The prototype was given the factory code Renault FB: the letters FB were not an abbreviation. It did not meet the French Army’s requirements.

The Schneider CD was built using a Schneider CA char d’assaut tank’s lower chassis. It had a large storage area behind the driver’s cabin. The design used a lengthened Baby Holt tractor suspension and caterpillar track. The front of the tank was shaped like the front of a ship. The idea was that this feature would help free the tank from the side of a muddy trench wall. This design was replaced by a driver’s cabin at the front with a strong curved metal lower shield ‘skid’ that could slide up muddy embankments and the sides of shell craters. The rear metal ‘skid’ used on the tank was not fitted to the Schneider CD, but the tractor used the same engine and transmission.

There was room for a crew of four in driver’s cabin but seats for just two of them. The two in the back would have to sit on the boxes. It would not have been a pleasant vehicle to operate in cold and wet weather conditions The only protection they had was a canvas hood. There were no side doors or front windscreen. The heat from the engine would help keep them warm but they would be at the mercy of the biting winds, rain and snow. In the summer, the canvas hood could be folded back.

At the back of the drivers cabin, a large cable stowage reel was mounted. It had a handle attached to the side for manually winding up the towing cable. A powered revolving cylinder with a vertical axis was fitted to the rear of the vehicle and used for winding up and letting out the towing cable. This capstan winch was powered by the engine.

Schneider CD driver's position
The Schneider CD was apparently difficult to drive over rough ground but it proved to be tough and reliable – Source: François Vauvillier
After a successful demonstration of the prototype, Schneider received an initial order for fifty vehicles. In October 1916, that order was increased to five hundred. In December 1916, General Robert Georges Nivelle, a French artillery officer, became Commander in Chief. Priorities changed and Schneider was told to put all efforts into completing the order for the artillery tractor and supply vehicle at the expense of meeting the Schneider CA1 tank production targets.

In August 1917, the first production Schneider CD artillery tractor was completed. Only 20 vehicles had been delivered to the French Army by the end of December 1917. This averaged at a production figure of five vehicles a month. In 1918, this figure rose to an average of eight vehicles produced each month. By the end of the war, on 11th November 1918, Schneider had only delivered 110 Schneider CD artillery tractors, failing to reach the 500 vehicle target.

Le tracteur d'artillerie chenillé Schneider CD
A tracteur d’artillerie chenillé Schneider CD off to the front – Source: François Vauvillier

Post WW1 service

The French Army continued to receive Schneider CD tracked tractors after the war. Deliveries stopped after the 200th vehicle was delivered. Schneider manufactured a further 130 vehicles for civilian use on farms, by civil engineers and by forestry workers. The Schneider CD was still in French Army service when the German Army attacked in May 1940.

Many were captured and used by the German Wehrmacht as towing and supply vehicles. The rear capstan winch and cable reel behind the driver’s cabin were removed on many of the vehicles. A few were used after WW2 but only one is known to have been saved from the scrap heap. It was used by the company Barthez until the 1950s. It was rescued and restored by a private collector and can occasionally be seen by the public at exhibitions of classic vehicles in France.

The Schneider CD3 Char de dépannage

In December 1917, the French Army also issued a requirement for a tracked artillery tractor that was capable of towing the very heavy 9 ton howitzer. Schneider built a prototype based on the extended chassis of the Schneider CA3 tank. The company had designed an improved version of the Schneider CA tank with a longer chassis and slightly more powerful engine.

To improve weight distribution on soft ground, the track width was increased to 45 cm wide rather than the original 36 cm wide track link. The initial order for two hundred of these tanks was cancelled in favour of building a tank fleet of lighter, more agile, Renault FT tanks.
The crew cabin canvas cover was removed and a long metal arm was extended, at an angle, over the front of the engine. It was held in place by an ‘A’ shaped metal support. At the end of the metal boom there was a pulley, over which ran the powered winch tow cable. On the left side of the vehicle, Schneider fitted a small crane. This was used to hoist up the trail legs of the guns over the back of the vehicle.

Development took a long time. The prototype finally underwent trials in October 1918. Different artillery pieces like the 7.45 tonne 220 mm TR Schneider howitzer and the 3.3 tonne 155 mm L Mle 1917 Schneider field gun were attached to the rear of the vehicle and driven across the undulating proving ground course. It successfully completed these tests. Although not designed to transport heavier guns, it was found that it could tow the 13 tonne Canon de 155mm Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF) mle.1917 howitzer.

Schneider CD Char de dépannage
Schneider CD3 Char de dépannage – Source: François Vauvillier
Although it passed all the French Army requirements, Schneider was not given a production order for the new Schneider CD3 tracked artillery portee vehicle.

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 6.32 m x 2.30 m x 2.05 m
(20ft 9in x 7ft 6in x 6ft 9in)
Total weight 13.6 tons
Crew 2
Propulsion Schneider 4 cyl petrol, 60 hp (45 Kw)
Speed 8 km/h (5 mph)
Range on/off road 80/30 km (50/19 miles)
Load Capacity 3,000 kg
Total production 330


The Schneider CA-1 tank

Schneider CD, artillery grey livery

Schneider CD in later brown-sand livery. Only one is known to have survived and it is in a private collection.

In WW2 the German Army captured a number of French Schneider CD tracked vehicles. They removed the winch system and used them as tracked supply vehicles that had a towing capacity. They added a camouflage livery scheme.

Gallery

Schneider CD towing an artillery gun up to the front in muddy conditions.
Schneider CD towing an artillery gun up to the front in muddy conditions. This was the task it was designed for – Source: François Vauvillier
Schneider CD on the back of a transport lorry.
Schneider CD on the back of a transport lorry – Source: François Vauvillier
Schneider CD with canopy up
There was a crewman’s position at the front of the vehicle on the left. The driver sat on the right. The bad weather canopy could be folded back – Source: François Vauvillier
Schneider CD being loaded on to an articulated lorry
Schneider CD being loaded onto an articulated lorry. Notice its two-tone camouflage – Source: François Vauvillier

WW2 German Army Schneider CD tractors

Captured Schneider CD
The soldier in this photograph appears to be wearing a German uniform. This would suggest that some Schneider CD artillery tractors were captured and used by the German Army – Source: François Vauvillier
Schneider CD being towed by a German Tractor
The prime mover tractor unit in this photograph appears to be a WW2 German ‘FAMO’ 18-ton tractor unit halftrack (Sd.Kfz.9). This would suggest that some Schneider CD artillery tractors were captured and used by the German Army. Notice that the winch at the back of the driver’s cabin and at the rear have been removed – Source: François Vauvillier

WW2 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f)

During the Second World War the German army modified a captured French Schneider CD artillery tractor and fixed a 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung (5cm Anti-tank gun for coastal defence) on the cargo section of the vehicle. An armoured superstructure was built around the front cabin and the sides and rear of the vehicle. The gun crew were protected from small arms fire by the gun shield at the front but they were exposed at the sides and rear as the armour was not fully enclosed. It was photographed being re-captured by the Free French Army at La Rochelle in France when the Germans Surrendered the city 8 May 1945.
5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f)
German Army 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f) self-propelled gun displaying a white flag as the crew surrendered to Free French troops in La Rochelle in France in May-June 1944- Source: unknown
German Army crew 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f) self-propelled gun displaying a white flag
German Army crew 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f) self-propelled gun displaying a white flag as the crew surrendered to Free French troops in La Rochelle in France in May-June 1944- Source: unknown
Diagram of the 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f) self-propelled gun
Diagram of the 5 cm Pak für Küstenbefestigung auf Selbstfahrlafette Schneider CD(f) self-propelled gun – Source: unknown

Surviving Schneider CD

Surviving Tracteur Schneider CD
The only surviving Tracteur Schneider CD is in a private collection and is rarely seen in public – Source: Yalta Productions
Tracteur Schneider CD brass makers plate
The Tracteur Schneider CD brass makers plate – Source: Yalta Productions
Tracteur Schneider CD Cabin
The Tracteur Schneider CD’s Cabin – Source: Yalta Productions
Tracteur Schneider CD brake levers and winch
The Tracteur Schneider CD driver’s brake levers and winch capstan at the rear of the vehicle – Source: Yalta Productions

Sources

François Vauvillier “Des Tracteurs à Chenilles pour l’Artillerie I – Les Caterpillars Remorqueurs Holt, Baby Holt et Schneider CD” in “Histoire de Guerre Blindés & Materiel” No. 86, Jan-Mars 2009, pp. 54-63.
François Vauvillier “Des Tracteurs à Chenilles pour l’Artillerie II – Les Caterpillars Porteurs Renault FB et Schneider CD3” in “Histoire de Guerre Blindés & Materiel” No. 87, Avril-Juin 2009, pp. 80-87.
www.landships.info
www.guide-automobiles-anciennes.com

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW1 British prototypes

Mark VI Tank

UK United Kingdom (1917-18) Heavy tank – 1 wooden mock-up

The Commander’s Post Battle Conference

On 16th June 1917, a conference was held at the 2nd Brigade Headquarters to discuss what happened at the Battle of Arras. Minutes were made of the points discussed. All the Battalion and Brigade commanders were present. Features of the Mark VI tank were discussed. They were all asked the question “Is the Male tank of more assistance to the infantry than the female?”
Wooded mock-up of Mark VI tank. Designed after Battle of Arras, it was an improved Mark V with greater speed, lighter loading and more ease of control
Wooded mock-up of Mark VI tank. Designed after Battle of Arras, it was an improved Mark V with greater speed, lighter loading and more ease of control. Not proceeded with. Note that it was to have one 6-pounder in front, instead of two in sponsons – Source: Imperial War Museum London Q14521 and Q14567
The group answer to that question was, “Female Tanks will kill more of the enemy – Males frighten them more. Agreed that one type of tank with 6-pdr gun in front will probably be the best pattern. Though the 6-pdr gun will have a small arc of fire, it should be capable of being used effectively with an improved pattern of tank. The tank must be more mobile for this. The tank will be lighter and this is considered worth doing so as to ensure being able to close with the enemy, and having a tank not so liable to be ditched.”
This report would have been submitted to the British High Command. The troops wanted a tank designed like the MK VI. What they did not realize was that it had already been designed and a wooden mock-up built back in England.
It was going to be an improved Mark V with greater speed, lighter loading and more ease of control. The most radical design feature was that the Mk VI tank had one 6-pounder gun in the front, instead of two in sponsons.
All-around defense was provided by 6 Hotchkiss machine guns with 10,000 rounds of ammo among them. The Ricardo engine was moved to the side, and the crew compartment was raised, allowing for a compact crew space.
What is interesting about the design is that it featured a new raised cabin that would eventually be used on the Mark VIII. There were four machine guns in ball swivel mounts: two to the front and two to the rear. On the front of each side of the hull, two small machine gun sponsons were fitted.
The tracks were to be widened to 750 mm. An order for 600 Mk VI tanks was placed, to become a part of the recently formed American tank corps. The order was canceled when the Mk.VIII was chosen instead. The furthest the Mk.VI got to being built was a full-scale wooden mock-up.
On 23rd June and 13th July 1917, it was shown to the Military and members of the War Department along with two other wooden mock-ups: the Mark V tank and the Gun Carriage Tank. The Mark V entered production but, like the Mk VI tank prototype, the Gun Carriage was not proceeded with.

The need for change

During the winter of 1916-1917, the British Army future tank design requirements were mainly in respect to an increase in armor protection and armament. As they gained more experience in the deployment of tanks on the battlefield, the calls for more technical improvements in performance became more pressing. Lt-Colonel Stern from the Ministry of Munitions was more concerned with the production of as many tanks as possible and getting them transported to France.
Walter Wilson as Director of Engineering was looking towards the next improved versions of the tank. In the winter of 1916-17, he started work designing two new tanks, the Mk V and the Mk VI. His eagerness to show off these new designs would bring him in conflict with Stern, whose view was “Any tank is better than no tank.”
The two main performance issues with the earlier tanks were the lack of power of the engine and how it steered. The Mk.I to Mk.IV tanks needed four people to work the driving and gear changing mechanism correctly. In the Mark V and Mark VI tanks, only one person would be needed to change gear and drive the tank. With an epicyclic gearbox, the driver alone could control the tank and the commander was freed from the duty of working the steering brakes.
The proposed new Ricardo crosshead valve, water-cooled straight six 19-litre petrol engine would supply 150 hp. It was more powerful than the Foster-Daimler, 6-cylinder in-line sleeve valve 105 hp petrol engine fitted in the early tanks. This new engine was going to be used to power the Mark VI tank.
The Mark VI tank was Wilson’s idea. Side sponsons caused problems when tanks were transported by rail. The early tanks had their sponsons unbolted for train travel. On later versions, the sponsons could be pushed inwards. His new design did away with bulky side sponsons thus making transportation to the battlefront easier.
The new Mark VI tank would have a single 6-pdr gun firing straight forward between the ‘horns’ while the rest of the crew would work in an elevated structure in the middle of the tank firing machine guns.
One of the reasons the Mark VI tank did not enter production was the fact that the factories would have to be ‘rejigged’ as the engine position would have to be shifted from the middle of the tank to one side. The time needed to do this work and the cost was not looked on favorably.

The Side Sponson

Side machine gun sponson on the Mark VI tank
The side machine gun sponsons on both sides were smaller than those on the Mark IV tank. They were also moved a lot more forward. The angled box section at the base of the sponson had a slit at the bottom to allow spent machine gun cartridges to fall out onto the earth outside the tank.


The Mark VI British tank never went into production. This is a ‘what-if’ illustration by David Bocquelet and Craig Moore. It is based on the Mark V tank chassis as both the Mk V and Mk VI wooden mock-ups were shown at the same time. If it entered production it would have seen service in 1918 and therefore be painted khaki earth brown and have the white, red and white Allied identification stripes on the nose. You can just see the barrel of the hull mounted 6pdr gun at the front of the tank.
Mock-up of proposed Mark VI Tank
Mock-up of proposed Mark VI Tank (see also Q 14521). It was meant to have wider tracks, one 6-pounder gun in front, six Hotchkiss guns in a fixed turret, and 150 h.p. Ricardo engine. Mock-up inspected 23rd June and 13th July, 1917, but no decision was reached as to manufacture – Source: Imperial War Museum London Q14566

The 6pdr Gun

6pdr gun ot the front of the Mark VI tank
Only one QF 6 pdr (57 mm) gun (64.7cm short barrel) was fitted to the Mk VI tank – Source: IWM Q14521 – Q14567

The Tank Tower

Mark VI tank tower
The Mark VI’s tower was a proeminent feature. It housed 4 machine-guns.
Tank Tower machine guns
There were four machine guns in ball swivel mounts: two to the front and two to the rear.

Sources

Walter Wilson – Portrait of an inventor by A.Gordon Wilson
Imperial War Museum London
The New Excalibur by A J Smithers

Mark VI specifications

Dimensions Length 26ft 5in (8.05m).
Width 8ft 4in (2.53m).
Height 8ft 8in (2.64m)
Total weight 27 tons
Crew 8
Propulsion Ricardo crosshead valve, water-cooled straight six petrol engine, 150hp @ 1250rpm
Road Speed 4.6 mph (7.4 km/h)
Range 45 miles (72.42 km)
Trench Crossing ability 10ft (3.04m)
Armament QF 6 pdr (57 mm) gun (64.7cm short barrel)
6x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine guns
Armor From 8 to 16 mm

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW1 British prototypes

Killen-Strait Armoured Tractor

UK 1914 United Kingdom (1917-18)
Armoured tractor – 1 Prototype

A first tank contender

The Killen-Walsh Manufacturing Company made farm tractors. It changed its name to Killen-Strait in 1914, to build the agricultural tricycle Strait’s Tractor, designed by William Strait. Their factory was in Meade Street, Appleton, Wisconsin in the USA. The first version was powered by a four-cylinder Doman engine with a 6 x 7-inch bore and stroke engine that produced 40hp. It was known as the 30-50 model. The later version was called the model 3 15-30 tractor but had a less powerful engine. It was powered by a four-cylinder 4 1/2 inch x 5 3/4 inch bore and stroke Waukesha engine that produced 30hp. It was advertised as being able to pull two or three 14 inch ploughs.
Killen-Straits tractor
Killen-Straits tractor advertisement – Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors 1890-1980 by C.H.Wendel
It had one caterpillar track at the front and two at the back. The front track was used to steer the vehicle. The two at the rear provided the propulsion. A small directional metal vane was fitted above it, which showed the driver which way the front track was pointing as visibility from the driver’s seat was poor. The tracks were held together with chains and they were made of hardwood. The working surfaces were faced in steel sheets. The links were joined together with case hardened steel pins 1 inch in diameter and 13 inches long. These pins had a bearing surface over their entire length.
The wheels served to keep the track in line, but were not used to transmit any power. The power is positively applied to the track by driving sprockets with detachable case hardened rims. Three links of the chain engage the sprocket at one time, thus minimizing the wear. The chain could be tightened when necessary by moving the front set of idler wheels forward. The links had depressions in them to engage with the drive sprocket teeth.
The steep angle of the tracks at the rear allowed it to reverse over difficult obstacles that were impassable for other tracked tractors. It has been argued that these upward tilting tracks on the Killen-Strait tractor inspired the rhomboid shape tracks on the front of the future British Mark I tank, but others disagree.
The tracks were held together with chains and they were made of hardwood
The Killen-Strait tractor tracks were held together with chains and they were made of hardwood
The company’s catalog promoted the following selling point. “One great objection advanced against traction engines has been the way in which they packed the soil. The weight of the Strait Tractor is distributed over 3,000 square inches of bearing surface making the machine exert less pressure per square inch on the ground than a man would…. The strait will run easily and lightly over freshly ploughed ground without packing at all.”
The Strait’s Tractor used a 1914 car type transmission gear box with cut steel, case hardened gears running in a bath of oil. The connection to the engine was via a sliding cone clutch faced with Raybestos. The spur gears had four inch faces and a heavy pitch. They had ample strength to take the strain put on them. There were two speeds forward and one reverse gear.
The transmission used in the Strait's Tractor
The transmission gear box used in the Strait’s Tractor
On 30 June 1915, Killen-Strait shipped one of their tractors over to London so they could demonstrate its cross country qualities to members of the British Government and Army high command. Winston Churchill, the 1st Lord of the Admiralty and Minister of Munitions, and the future WW1 Prime Minister David Lloyd George were in attendance. Other observers were the Duke of Westminster, Sir Frederick Black (Director of Munitions Supply), Major General Sir Ivor Phillipps, Major General Scott-Moncrieff, Col Holden, Brigadier General Louis Jackson (Head of Trench Warfare at MoM). Jackson later went on to support Swinton and Tulloch demonstrate the American Holt tractor. The demonstration happened at the Talbot Recreation Ground adjoining to the Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) Armoured Car Division H. Q., Clement Talbot Works, Barlby Road, Wormwood Scrubs, London.
Churchill was on the lookout for a caterpillar track fitted vehicle that could cross enemy trenches and destroy all wire entanglements. The Ministry of Munitions were looking for a vehicle that could cut the ‘no-mans land’ battlefield barbed wire.
On the same day, the British War Office issued its specification for a ‘machine gun destroyer’ to the Admiralty’s Landships Committee, based at 83 Pall Mall and chaired by Churchill. It is interesting to note that Navy terms were used during the development of the first tanks, not the Army ones. The phrase ‘machine gun destroyer’ can be interpreted in two ways. One is that it is a vehicle that kills machine gun nests and the other is it is a vehicle like a fast agile navy destroyer class ship armed with machine guns. Early tanks were known as Landships.
Lt. Oliver Thorneycroft fitted two scissor-like Royal Navy torpedo net cutters at the end of two protruding shaped metal poles, to the front of the Killen-Strait tractor. The machine was driven into a cat’s cradle of tensioned barbed wire that for demonstration purposes had been prudently strung up at precisely the cutters height. It did not work so well on randomly spaced barbed wire at different heights.
The trials were not successful for the Killen-Strait Manufacturing Company. Although it had good mobility and could negotiate many obstacles put in its way, it was not powerful enough to rip through barbed wire and drag it out of the way to create a path for infantry. When the wire cutter was fitted to the front of the vehicle it took too long to cut the wire and sometimes it failed to cut the barbed wire.
Lt. Symes fitted a turretless Delaunay-Belleville armored car hull onto the tractor chassis. A standard armored car turret could have been fitted at a later date. It was envisioned that this new vehicle would join the ranks of the RNAS Armoured Cars. It made the vehicle very top heavy and gave it a very high profile. This would have made it an easy target for German gunners to see. The main reason the Killen-Strait Tractor did not enter production as a Landship tank was that it could not cross wide trenches.
RNAS Armoured Cars
Royal Naval Air Service armored car stuck in the mud in Belgium 1915
The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) Armoured Car Section was formed for fleet reconnaissance, patrolling coasts for enemy ships and submarines, and attacking enemy coastal territory. To cover the great distances along the cost they used armored cars but they found the poor conditions of French and Belgium roads limited their activities. They saw in the Killen-Straits armored tracked tractor a vehicle they could use to get to locations where there were no roads or the roads were in very bad conditions. As the unit grew it was renamed the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Division (RNACD) and spilt into 20 squadrons. In the summer of 1915, the RNACD was disbanded as trench warfare developed.
The armored Killen-Strait Tractor ended its days as a tow tractor at the RNAS Barrow Airship Station. It arrived there in September 1915.

R.N.A.S. Armoured tracked vehicle line drawings

R.N.A.S. Armoured tracked vehicle line drawings top
R.N.A.S. Armoured tracked vehicle line drawings rear view
R.N.A.S. Armoured tracked vehicle line drawings front

Sources

Imperial War Museum London
Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors 1890-1980 by C.H.Wendel
The Devil’s Chariots: The origins and secret battles of tanks in the First by John Glanfield


Illustration of the Killen-Strait Tractor by David Bocquelet
straits agricultural farm tractor
Strait’s agricultural farm tractor with sun canopy fitted
Delano-Belleville armoured car hull onto the Straits tractor chassis
Delaunay-Belleville armored car hull fitted onto the Strait’s tractor chassis. You can see it was open topped. A turret could be fitted later if required.Artists impression of the fully tracked Killen-Strait armoured tracked vehicle with turret for the RNAS 501 Armoured Car Squadron.
Artists impression of the fully tracked Killen-Strait armored tracked vehicle with turret for use in the R.N.A.S. 501 Armoured Car Squadron.

Movement trials

Killen-Strait Tractor during the experiments at Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915.
Killen-Strait Tractor during the experiments at Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915. (IWM Q14618)
Experiment with Killen-Strait Tractor at R. N. A. S. Armoured Car Division H. Q., Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915.
Experiment with the Killen-Strait Tractor at the R.N.A.S. Armoured Car Division H.Q., Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915. (IWM Q14619)
Killen-Strait Tractor at Armoured Car Headquarters at the Clement Talbot Works, Barlby Road, Wormwood Scrubbs. Summer 1915. Note torpedo wire-cutter.
Killen-Strait Tractor at the Armoured Car Headquarters at the Clement Talbot Works, Barlby Road, Wormwood Scrubs. Summer 1915. It is fitted with only one Royal Navy torpedo net wire-cutter, at the end of a metal pole protruding from the front of the vehicle. Later a second wire cutter was added on a separate pole. (IWM Q14616)
Killen-Strait Tractor negotiating slightly rough ground during experiments at Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915
Killen-Strait Tractor negotiating slightly rough ground during experiments at Wormwood Scrubs, June 1915. With human ballast in place, the little Killen-Strait tractor leaps over a grassy mound in the grounds. (IWM Q14620)
Experiments by the 20th Squadron R. N. A. S, with the Killen-Strait Tractor, at Wormwood Scrubbs, June 1915.
Experiments by members of the 20th Squadron R.N.A.S, with the Killen-Strait Tractor, at Wormwood Scrubs, 30th June 1915. Here they tried to see if more weight at the back of the vehicle would help improve performance. (IWM Q14617)

Barbed Wire dragging and cutting trials


Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill watching experiment with Killen-Strait Tractor, fitted with only one Royal Navy torpedo net wire-cutter, at the end of a metal pole protruding from the front of the vehicle at Wormwood Scrubs, 30th June 1915. The two officers are Major-General Scott Moncrieff and Colonel W. D. Bird (IWM Q14614)
Killen-Strait Tractor fitted with torpedo wire-cutters at Wormwood Scrubbs, 30th June, 1915
Killen-Strait Tractor fitted at the front with an extra Royal Navy torpedo net wire-cutters at the end of two protruding shaped metal poles at Wormwood Scrubs, 30th June, 1915. You can clearly see two wire cutters fitted at different heights. (IWM Q14615)

Company catalogue Artwork

The Strait's tractor illustration from the Company's advertising catalogue.
The Strait’s tractor illustration from the Company’s advertising catalogue.”

Straits Tractor Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 13ft x 8ft x 6ft (no canopy)
Track width Three choices 18in, 24in or 30in
Total weight 9,500lbs
Top Road Speed 4 mph
Fuel capacity 30 gallons US
Propulsion 30-50 model four-cylinder vertical four cycle Doman 50 hp engine
Propulsion 15-30 model four-cylinder 4 1/2 inch x 5 3/4 inch bore and stroke Waukesha 30hp engine

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
Cold War British Prototypes Prototypes

Chieftain Casement Test Rig (CTR) SPG

United Kingdom (1972)
Self-propelled Gun – 1 Prototype built

The Chieftain CTR ‘Jagdchieftain’

This prototype British Cold War self-propelled gun has received the popular nickname of the ‘Jagdchieftain’ because of its similarity to the WW2 German Jagdpanther anti-tank self-propelled gun (SPG). Its correct designation is the Chieftain Casement Test Rig (CTR). This is the name given to the vehicle by William Suttie in his book ‘Tank Factory.’ The Tank Museum, Bovington call it the ‘Concept Test Rig.’
It was a 1972 joint project between UK and the Bundeswehr (West German Army). In Germany, tank designers had been experimenting with the Panzer VT1-1 and VT1-2 Leopard 2 chassis SPG armed with twin 120 mm cannons. The Casement Test Rig (CTR) had a semi-fixed single gun. The gun was set in a casement hull superstructure on a Chieftain tank chassis. A lot of aluminum was used in an effort to reduce weight.
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
This prototype test vehicle is often called the Jagdchieftain but its correct name is the Concept Test Rig (CTR) – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
In the early 1970s, NATO believed that to deal with an overwhelming force of Soviet armor the Allies would fall back while inflicting as many casualties as possible until more troops and tanks could be shipped into Europe from America and Britain. The designers wanted to create an anti-tank SPG that had a low profile, a powerful gun and that could travel just as easily in reverse as forward. It was to be the ideal ambush weapon that could wait for the enemy to appear in a concealed location then open fire inflicting as much damage as it could before quickly reversing out of danger to its next preplanned ambush location. For survival, the front armor would be thick and sloped.
This was not the first time a British casemated self-propelled gun had been proposed. There were the class 40, 50, 60 tanks as well as rival Vickers A,B,C,D designs and the Alvis external concept. None progressed further than wooden mockups.

The Engine

Underneath the superstructure is basically a conventional Chieftain chassis, In order to conform with British and German requirements it could be fitted with the British Leyland L60 engine or the Leopard tank ten cylinder MTU multi-fuel power pack preferred by the Federal German Army of that time. The chassis was slightly widened to accommodate the MTU power pack.
The exhaust system was slightly different to that on the operational Chieftain tank in that it had a raised box on top of the chassis
The exhaust system was slightly different to that on the operational Chieftain tank in that it had a raised box on top of the chassis. The rear stowage boxes are missing – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011

The Armor

The front sloped glacis plate was to be heavily armored against all current and future anti-tank (AT) weapons in the 1980-90s. Had the ‘Jagdchieftain SPG’ entered production, it seems probable that the new Chobham armor would have been applied. This was not fitted to the prototype but was simulated by the addition of 5 tons of lead plate covered in sheet metal.
The prototype’s superstructure was fabricated from aluminum in order to try and keep the weight down but even so, the Mechanised Vehicle Experimental Establishment (MVEE) estimated the final weight would be 55 tons. The term ‘Chobham armor’ has become the common generic term for composite armor developed in the 1960’s at the British tank research center on Chobham Common, Surrey, England.
Front view of the Chieftain Casement Test Rig (CTR) SPG
Front view of the Chieftain Casement Test Rig (CTR) SPG’s sloped front armour plate prior to the gun being fitted
The Casement Test Rig SPG was based on the Chieftain tank FV4211 nicknamed the “Aluminium Chieftain”. After the project was canceled, the CTR was kept in storage to monitor the hull welds to gain information on deterioration of the aluminum armor.

The Gun and Crew

The main armament was intended to be the British 120 mm L11 rifled gun, although for trial purposes only a dummy tube was installed. Unlike the Swedish S-Tank, which had a fixed gun, the British CRT self-propelled gun concept allowed the gun to elevate from −10 to +20° and traverse +/− 2°, allowing fine tracking without moving the hull.
The crew of three comprised a commander and two driver/gunners. One of the drivers and the commander were able to drive the vehicle forward from their positions, while the second driver/gunner had a rear vision block to allow him to drive it backwards, so they could reverse away from the enemy after ambush without showing their rear. This enabled the vehicle to use the ‘Shoot and Scoot’ tactic.
Development of the Casement Test Rig SPG was inspired by Swedish S-tank that had the same driving configuration. Two of these Swedish vehicles had been tested at Bovington in 1968. During the development of the CRT a further ten S-Tanks were borrowed for a more intense assessment during a military Exercise called ‘Dawdle’ in Germany.

Trials

The Concept Test Rig was assembled by the Fighting Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (FVRDE) at Chertsey but trials at Woolwich confirmed what had been seen in Germany on Exercise Dawdle: accurate gun laying was inferior to a turret in terms of speed of engaging targets and that it could not fire accurately on the move. The project was dropped and the vehicle was eventually sent to the Tank Museum at Bovington in 1990.
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
Chobham armor was not fitted to the prototype, but it was simulated by the addition of 5 tons of lead plate covered in sheet aluminium alloy – Photo – Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011

FV217 Conqueror self-propelled gun proposal

This design did not get past the wooden model stage. A prototype was not built mainly for the same reasons the Chieftain Casement Test Rig (CTR) SPG project was dropped. Some call it the JagdConqueror because of its resemblance to the German WW2 Jagdpanther but that was never its official name. It was called the Conqueror Casement Test Rig (CTR) Self-propelled gun (SPG). It was to be fitted with a 120 mm gun.
It seems a strange thing to do as the Conqueror tank was already armed with a 120 mm gun but this vehicle would have been simpler and cheaper to build (a factor that would appeal to politicians). It would also have had a lower profile and thus have been harder to target. It would have been an ambush weapon that would sit in wait for advancing Soviet tanks and fire at them from cover, when they came within range of its gun. It would not have been as adaptable as the tank version.
FV217 Conqueror self-propelled gun

CTR Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 24’6″ (without gun) x 11’5″ x 9’5″
7.51 (without gun) x 3.5 x 2.89 m
Total weight, battle ready 55 tons (11000 Ibs)
Crew Commander and two drivers who also serviced the gun.
Propulsion British Leyland diesel L60, 695 bhp or
Leopard tank ten cylinder MTU multi-fuel power pack
Speed 48/30 km/h road/cross-country (29.82 mph/18.64 mph)
Range/consumption 500 km (310.68 miles)
Proposed Production Armament British 120 mm L11 rifled gun
Proposed Production Armor Chobham Armor
Total production 1 prototype

Sources

Ed Francis – The FV3805 Restoration Project
Chieftain by Rob Griffin
Colin Rosenwould
Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset, England
Steve Osfield
Tank Factory, William Suttie, 2015

Gallery


Illustration of the Chieftain test rig by David Bocquelet
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
Side skirts were used to protect the side of the vehicle. If it had entered production, Chobham Armour panels would have been attached on top of the skirt panels – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
The gun and gun mantlet on the Concept Test Rig SPG were not real units – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
The front stowage unit behind the head light on top of the track guard is missing on the CTR prototype – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
The top mesh exhaust box was not used on the production models of the Chieftain tank – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
The downward pointing exhaust pipe and rear stowage box are missing – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Jagdchieftain Concept Test Rig SPG prototype
The rear skirt panel has been removed. You can see the support bracket – Photo: Colin Rosenwould Tankfest 2011
Handlebar steering system
The handlebar steering concept was used on the CTR. It was also tested on the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier (FV432 APC) – Photo: Ed Francis
Chieftain Casement Test Rig prototype without the gun fitted
Chieftain Casement Test Rig prototype without the gun fitted
Top view of the crew hatches and engine covers on the Chieftain CTR
Top view of the crew hatches and engine covers on the Chieftain CTR self-propelled gun