Categories
WW2 German prototypes

Raupenschlepper Ost Artillery SPG

German self propelled artilleryNazi Germany (1943-44)
Artillery SPG – 4 Prototypes built

Weapon Carrier or SPG?

The German’s experimented with transporting and mounting a number of different guns on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost light ‘prime mover’ tracked vehicle. The name Raupenschlepper Ost is translated to “Caterpillar Tractor East”. It is commonly abbreviated to just RSO.
The prototypes were shown to the army. The Raupenschlepper Ost 7.5 cm Pak 40 tank destroyer self-propelled gun went into production. Between 80 and 90 were produced. Most saw action on the Eastern Front. A version of the RSO that carried a 2cm Flak38 anti-aircraft gun mounted to the floor of the rear wooden cargo bay also saw service.
At present no documentation has been found relating to the mounting and carrying of artillery guns on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost even though there are surviving photographs of four different prototypes: the 7.5 cm GebH 36 auf RSO/3; 7.5 cm Gebh 34 auf RSG; 10.5 cm GebH 40 auf RSO/1 and 15 cm sIG 33 auf RSO/3.
It is not clear if these prototypes were going to be used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier or as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun.
This is why a weapons carrier was a good idea
This is why a weapons carrier was a good idea. Towed guns could become waterlogged and covered in mud.
If they were used as a Waffenträger then how was the gun dismounted? There is photographic evidence that the guns were loaded on the vehicle by a winch attached to a freestanding metal frame on a hard surface. Another photograph shows a Raupenschlepper Ost reversed back towards an earthen ramp so the gun could be pushed onto the back of the vehicle.
On a battlefield, it would be difficult to build a ramp quickly or make sure there was a hard surface for a winch and frame to be constructed on to enable the guns to be unloaded. The guns were heavy and if the load bearing frame was put together on soft earth its legs would sink into the ground under the weight.
If these prototype vehicles were intended to be used as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, or self-propelled artillery guns, the problem the engineers would have to overcome was the recoil.
With the artillery gun mounted in the back of the vehicle, they were very top heavy and had a high center of gravity. There was a danger that the RSO would topple over.
It can be theorized that two of the prototypes were intended to be used as artillery SPGs but tests showed the RSO chassis was not strong enough to take the gun recoil so they were never put into production. This is supported by the fact that on the photographs of the 7.5 cm GebG 36 auf RSO/03 the side panels are down and it can be seen that the gun wheels had been clamped to the deck of the vehicle and the gun ‘tails’ had been shortened. The 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) also carried a similar sized howitzer.
RSO mit 7.5 cm GebG 36
7.5 cm GebG 36 auf RSO/3
The other two prototypes seen in photographs are carrying much bigger 10.5cm and 15cm howitzers. There is no evidence that these guns were bolted to the wooden cargo bay of the RSO tracked vehicle so that it could be fired. The gun’s split trail legs had not been modified to fit the length of the vehicle. They protrude out the back and the rear ‘spades’ are carried in the back of the vehicle for use when the gun is set up on land again. The RSO tracked vehicle is being used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier in these examples.

The Raupenschlepper Ost RSO tracked vehicle

The RSO light ‘prime mover’ tracked vehicle had a very basic suspension design with all steel wheels and just four small leaf springs. This made it cheap and easy to produce. It had high ground clearance and excellent performance in poor terrain. It was a tracked version of the Steyr 1½-tonne truck. It could carry a 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) load in its cargo bay.
The Steyr-Daimler-Puch manufacturing company designed the Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) to be used to tow field guns and transport supplies over rough ground in muddy waterlogged and snowy conditions. They were in production between October 1943 and May 1944: Steyr-Daimler-Puch produced 2,600 vehicles; Klockner-Deutz-Magirus (KHD) manufactured 12,500; Auto-Union made a further 5,600 and Graf & Stift constructed 4,500 RSOs. They were used extensively on the Eastern Front.
There were four main variants. The RSO/01, RSO/02 and RSO/PaK40 were powered by a 3.5L Steyr V8 gasoline/petrol 70hp engine. The RSO/03 had a better performing Deutz F4L514 5.3L 4-cylinder air-cooled diesel engine although produced lower horsepower at 66hp.
RSO/01 towing a field gun
RSO/01 towing a field gun
The RSO/1 had a fully enclosed pressed steel rounded cab with a wooden rear cargo bay. The RSO/2 had a flat sided metal cab. The RSO/3 was manufactured by KHD at their Magirus Factory and had a simplified slab-sided metal cab. The RSO/PaK40 had a lightly armored low profile steel cab to enable the 7.5cm PaK40 anti-tank gun mounted on the rear flat rear bed wooden cargo bay to fire forward.
RSO Fully Tracked Artillery Prime Mover
RSO/3 fully tracked artillery prime mover

7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)

To mount the 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost tracked vehicle cargo bay the spades at the end of the split trail legs were removed. The legs were also cut down in length to allow the back tail gate to be raised. The wheels were bolted to the wooden floor in a special semi-circular frame. This gun was meant to be fired from the back of the RSO. It could no longer be dismounted and fired from the ground without having new split trail legs fitted. It could not function as a Waffenträger weapon carrier. It was a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun prototype.
7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer mounted on the rear of a RSO/3
7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer mounted on the rear of an RSO/3
The gun was built by Rheinmetall to replace the World War One mountain divisions (Gebirgs Divisionen) guns. Between 1938 and 1945, records show 1,193 were built. It was a standard German horizontal sliding breech block gun with a muzzle brake. It used a variable recoil system that shortened the recoil as the elevation increased to stop the gun breach hitting the ground. Rear trunnions were added to lengthen the distance between the breech and the ground. The recoil mechanism was hydropneumatic, with both buffer and recuperator positioned below the barrel.
To keep the weight down the gun was fitted with light-alloy disc wheels with rubber rims. No protective gun shield was fitted to save weight. It weighed 750 kg (1,650 lb) so it was within the cargo weight limit of the RSO.
When used on the ground, the 7.5 cm GebG 36 would jump when fired at low angles, because of its lightness. The strength of the recoil would force the gun’s trail spades to act as a fulcrum and lever the wheels upwards. The shell canister bag charge 5, the largest propellant increment, was forbidden to be used at near horizontal angles under 15° because the gun would jump excessively. When the gun was fired at higher angles it performed better as the ground absorbed any residual recoil forces not absorbed by the recoil system. On the back of the RSO the vehicles suspension, tracks and the ground had to absorb the force of the recoil from the gun.
The 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 mountain howitzer used two-part ammunition, with four bag charges of propellant that were added together depending on the range of the target. A larger 5th charge bag was used on its own when the target was at the limit of the howitzers maximum range. It fired a high explosive HE 5.83 kilograms (12.9 lb) shell that had a maximum range of 9.25 km (10,120 yards). It could also fire smoke shells and in an emergency a hollow charge armor piercing AP rounds at short range. A good gun crew was able to produce a rate of fire of six to eight rounds per minute.
This mountain gun could be broken down into six separate parts, each having a maximum weight of 300 pounds. This ability enabled the weapon to be easily transported by pack animals or in an airplane.
The gun’s 56-inch barrel was of a monobloc construction. To enable larger more powerful charges to be used and to increase the range of the gun without damaging the gun barrel, it was fitted with a perforated, six-baffled muzzle brake.

7.5 cm GebH 36 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG)

Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mit 7.5 cm GebH 34
Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) with a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 mountain howitzer mounted on its rear cargo bay next to a RSO/3 tracked vehicle.
This photograph shows the smaller Steyr made Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mountain troop tracked vehicle next to the larger Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3) vehicle. There is a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze (GebH) mountain howitzer mounted on the back of the RSG. Only one photograph has been found so far of this prototype artillery self-propelled gun. The photograph below has been enlarged and edited.
The problem is that the caption that went along with this photo identified the gun on the back as a captured Belgium army Swedish built Bofors 75 mm Model 1934 mountain gun (Canon de 75 mle 1934). It was recorded as a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf RSG, but this gun was not fitted with a circular perforated muzzle brake.
It can be theorized that the howitzer on the back is the same gun used on the 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost which does have a circular perforated muzzle brake. Just like on the other vehicle, it would have had its split tail legs cut to fit the length of the wooden cargo bay and the wheels clamped to the floor so that the gun could be fired from the back of the vehicle.
Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mit 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34
7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG)
RSG - Gebirgsraupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor for Mountain Troops
RSG – Gebirgsraupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor for Mountain Troops – Vienna Military Museum


Illustration of the sIG33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost conversion by David Bocquelet10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)
7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36
7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 German mountain howitzer
10.5 cm GebH 40 Howitzer
10.5 cm GebH 40 howitzer – Photo – Yuri Pasholok
The 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33) was the standard German heavy infantry gun used in the Second World War.
The 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33) was the standard German heavy infantry gun used in the Second World War – unknown modeler

10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)

There is a poor quality photograph showing a 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1).
In the picture, it looks like the vehicle has been backed up to ramp of earth. There appear to be wooden planks spanning the gap between the top of the earth mound and the back of the RSO/1. Its tail gate is hinged down and so are the wooden side panels. These wooden planks would have been used to enable the gun to be pushed onto the back of the vehicle.
RSO mit 10.5 cm GebH 40
10.5 cm GebH 40 auf RSO
Unlike on the photographs of the 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3), there is no visible evidence that the larger 10.5cm GebH 40 gun had been fixed to the wooden floor of the cargo bay. The split trail legs had not been cut and shortened. They projected over the rear of the vehicle.
There was no special semi-circular locking wheel frame in use. The spades that were normally fitted to the end of the split trail legs had not been attached. Their triangular shape can be seen at the back of the gun.
Was this photograph taken of an early live firing trial to see if the RSO/1 could take the gun recoil or just to see if it could take the weight of the gun? It is not known, as no documents have been found so far.
In the other surviving photographs the gun is seen on the back of the RSO/1 with the wooden side panels in the up position, the split trail legs sticking out the back and the tail spades loaded on the rear with the tail gate panel in the down position.
10.5 cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)
10.5 cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)
The RSO/1 tracked vehicle has the manufacturing company’s name and logo on the side. This is a factory vehicle, not one that has been sold to the army. It is safe to assume that it is the company, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, who was experimenting with showing that the 10.5cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer can be transported on the back of their vehicle.
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) carried on the rear of a RSO/03
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) carried on the rear of an RSO/03.
In these three, better quality photographs it looks like a frame and winch had been used to lift the gun onto the back of the RSO/1. These photographs would suggest that this vehicle was being used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier. At present, there is no evidence to suggest the vehicle was used as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun, and fired from the back of the cargo bay, as there are no visible mountings or fixings to secure the gun to the vehicle.
10.5cm gun being loaded on the back of a RSO/1
10.5cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer being loaded on the back of an RSO/1 by winch and frame
There only appears to be photographs of a 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer on the back of one RSO tracked vehicle. It is highly unlikely that the experiment was a success as the weight of the gun exceeded the designed load weight of the vehicle. The gun weighed 1,660 kg (3,660 lb) and the RSO’s load weight limit was 1.500 kg (3,307 lb). The RSO’s center of gravity would have been significantly raised. Both these things would have made the vehicle tricky to drive.

15 cm sIG 33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)

15 cm sIG 33 auf RSO-03 
15 cm sIG 33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)
There is only one photograph currently available of a 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33), the standard German heavy infantry gun in WW2, loaded on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3) tracked vehicle. The split trail legs can be seen sticking out the back of the vehicle. There had been no attempt to cut them to fit the length of the RSO/3’s wooden cargo bay.
This was not a test to see if the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer could be fired from the back of the vehicle. The gun was too big and the RSO/3 would not have been able to handle the violent recoil. This vehicle was not a German Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun. It was almost assuredly a trial to see if the gun could be carried on the back of the RSO/3.
The experiment most likely failed, as the weight of the gun exceeded the designed load weight of the vehicle. The gun weighed 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) and the RSO’s load weight limit was 1.500 kg (3,307 lb). The RSO’s center of gravity would have been significantly raised. Both these things would have made the vehicle sluggish and difficult to maneuver. The RSO/3 was not a suitable vehicle to be a Waffenträger weapon carrier for the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer.

Conclusion

The most plausible theory is that the Steyr-Daimler-Puch manufacturing company wanted to win a lucrative German government contract to build self-propelled artillery guns using their cheap to produce Raupenschlepper Ost light tracked vehicle and RSG. They exhibited four prototype vehicles that had different artillery howitzers mounted on the back to the government inspectors.
Two of the guns used were too big for the RSO tractor. The 7.5cm mountain howitzer was light enough and could be mounted to the floor of the wooden cargo bay at the rear of the RSO and RSG vehicles. These prototypes seemed viable as artillery SPGs.
At the time there was competition from other vehicle and arms manufacturers who wanted to win the same contract. Their designs used sturdier German tank chassis or captured enemy armored fighting vehicles on which to mount artillery guns. They won the contract, not Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.19 m x 3 m x 2.87 m
(14ft 6in x 6ft 6in x 8ft 6in)
Total weight unladen 7,728 lb (3,505 kg)
Armament 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36
Track width 13 inch/24 inch with snow plates (33/61 cm)
RSO/1-2 Propulsion 3.5L Steyr V8 gasoline/petrol 70hp engine
RSO/3 Propulsion Deutz F4L514 5.3L 4-cylinder air cooled diesel engine 66hp
Fording depth 34 inches
Top road speed 30 km/h (18 mph)
Operational range (road) 300 km (155 miles)

Sources

U.S. Office of Chief of Ordnance, 1945 Catalog of Enemy Ordnance
Weapons of the Thrid Reich by Gander and Chamberlin
German Artillery of World War Two by Ian Hogg
Marcus Hock
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 Canadian Prototypes

Tank AA, 20 mm Quad, Skink

Canada Canada (1944) SPAAG – approx. 3 built

A Canadian SPAAG

Canadian, British and other Commonwealth troops needed protection from air attack from low flying aircraft. This Canadian built SPAAG (Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun) could provide that support. The Skink could also be used to attack enemy ground targets such as soft transport and lightly armored vehicles. The original program called for production of 135 complete Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tanks for the use of the Canadian Army and an additional 130 Skink Anti-Aircraft Grizzly Tanks to meet British requirements.
Tank A.A. 20mm Quad. Skink
Skink Anti-Aircraft Grizzly Tank (TKC No. SKC 1001 – DND No. 62-727)
The Skink was officially designated the Tank A.A. 20mm Quad. Skink. It was based on a modified Canadian built Grizzly 1 medium tank, a license built M4A1 Sherman tank. It had a modified M4A1 cast turret designed to mount four 20mm Polsten machine guns instead of the standard 75mm main gun and coaxial machine gun.
It was originally designed with Hispano-Suiza guns but the 20mm Polsten cannons were found to be the better option as there were more available. The Hispano-Suiza guns were in high demand for anti-aircraft mounts on Royal Navy ships and for use on RAF airfields. They fired High Explosive Incendiary Tracer (HEIT) rounds as well as Armor Piercing Rounds.
Plans were prepared and a mock-up of this specially designed turret was built at the end of 1943. Specification OA 283 of the final design was issued at the beginning of 1944, and one pilot vehicle was shipped to England.
Allied air supremacy in North West Europe meant that there was no longer any need for this type of vehicle. On 23rd August 1944, the Canadian Department of Munitions and Supply was advised by the Department of National Defence that the program should be cancelled. Only three tanks were produced.
The main difference between Skink and Grizzly tank turrets, apart from the obvious, is that the turret traverse motors were in effect doubled up to increase the speed of the traverse to enable the gunners to follow the enemy aircraft as they zoomed across the sky. The enclosed turret could traverse at 60-degrees per second, a 10-rpm traverse rate.

The Grizzly Tanks

An M4 Grizzly tank was first produced in Canada in August 1943. The 188 tanks were built using US spare parts at the Montreal Locomotives Factory on the M4A1 chassis. It was fitted with the standard M4A1 turret. Grizzly production was halted when it became apparent that US production of the Sherman tank would be sufficient.
The Grizzly’s suspension used 17-tooth drive sprockets and standard US M4 tracks. In comparison, the US built M4 Sherman tank used 13 tooth drive sprockets. In the 1950’s surviving vehicles were fitted with Canadian Dry Pin (CDP) tracks. These tracks were lighter and simpler than the standard US tracks.
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank turret hatches open
Diagram or the Skink Anti-Aircraft Grizzly Tank turret with hatches open (Skink TM manual)

The 20mm Polsten Gun (Skink TM manual)

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 the Polsten design team managed to escape to England. The Polsten 20mm automatic loading cannon was a low cost development of the Swiss made 20mm Oerlikon auto-cannon, that was simpler and much cheaper to build than the original without reducing its effectiveness. The Oerlikon version of the gun was made out of 250 parts: the Polsten was only constructed out of 119 parts. It cost 1/5th of the price to produce.
The Canadian weapons manufacturer John Inglis Limited of Toronto, Ontario manufactured thousands of the 20mm Polsten guns. Over 500 of these weapons were quadruple mounted and saw limited service at the end of WW2. These quadruple racks of 20mm guns were both trailered and truck mounted. Others were fitted in a rack of three for anti-aircraft duty.
They fired High Explosive Incendiary Tracer (HEIT) rounds as well as Armor Piercing rounds. The Polsten 30 round box type magazine was not suitable for use in a quad mount. The 60 round Oerlikon Mk2 drum magazine was used, which weighed 64lb when filled with ammunition. Each 20mm round weighed about half a pound.
Polsten 20mm machine gun Mk1
The tank version of the quad mounted 20mm Polsten gun used the 60 round drum magazine not the 30 round rectangular magazine. (Skink TM manual)
The 20mm Polsten gun had a rate of fire of 450 rounds per minute and an effective ceiling of 6,630 feet. Its muzzle velocity was 2,725 feet per second. The gun was 84 inches long and the barrel was 57 inches long. The gun weighed 126lb (57kg).
20mm Polsten Gun mounts viewed from the left-hand side
20mm Polsten Gun mounts viewed from the left-hand side (Skink TM manual)

Specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 20’4” x 8’9” x 9’4” (6.19 x 2.66 x 2.84 m)
Total weight, battle ready 28 tonnes (63,100 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, co-driver/machine-gunner, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Continental R-975 9-cyl radial petrol/gasoline, 400 hp (298 kW)
Maximum road speed 39 km/h (24 mph)
Suspension Vertical Volute Springs (VVSS)
Range 193 km (122 miles)
Armament 4x 20mm Polsten Mk 1 cannons
.303 cal. (7.69 mm) Browning machine gun
Upper Hull Armor Front 3 inch
Rear 1-1/4 inch
Sides 1-1/3 inch
Top 1-1/2 inch
Lower Hull Armor Front 1/2-1 inch
Rear 1-1/2 inch
Sides 1-1/2 inch
Cast Turret Armor Front 2-1/4 inch
Rear 1 inch
Sides 1-2 inch
Top 1 inch
Total production 3


The Skink self propelled anti-aircraft gun. It was based on the Grizzly tank, a Canadian version of the Sherman. Illustration by Jaroslaw Janas

Gallery

Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank side view (TKC No. SKC 1001 – DND No. 62-727)

Operational Service

One of the three Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank prototypes was shipped to Europe in 1945. It was issued to the 6th Canadian Armoured regiment (6CAR/1st Hussars and saw action in an infantry support role near Kalkar. It was then passed to the 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment (22CAR/Canadian Grenadier Guards) in the Battle of Hochwald gap.
In late 1944, the Allies dominated the sky above the battlefields, so the requirement for an armored tracked anti-aircraft tank to accompany Armoured Divisions as they advanced towards and later into Germany had significantly been reduced.
There is photographic evidence that at least one Skink was converted into a turret-less Kangaroo armored personnel carrier (APC) and ended up in Portugal. In the photograph shown below the splash guards on the glacis between the drivers hoods and the catches outside of the drivers sides have been altered to allow the driver and co driver hoods to fold flat. This was unique to the Skink Anti-Aircraft version of the Grizzly tank. Unfortunately, this historic vehicle was cut up for scrap metal. The Canadian Government and RCAC were informed about its location prior to it being scrapped but they were not interested in buying it back so it was lost for ever.
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank Chassis converted to a Kangaroo APC
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank chassis converted to a Kangaroo APC. Note the splash guards on the glacis between the driver’s hoods and the catches outside of the driver’s sides have been altered to allow the driver and co driver hoods to fold flat This was unique to the Skink Anti-Aircraft version of the Grizzly tank. (Photo – Luis Costa)
The third Skink Anti-aircraft 20mm Polsten tank stayed in Canada. After the war it was on display at the Dennison Armouries in Toronto, Canada. It is not known at present what its final fate was. It may have been used as a ‘hard target’ on firing ranges or just cut up for scrap. It is believed that there were another 6-8 Skink cast turrets in various states of finish, made before the order was canceled in August 1944. It is believed than most of them went to ranges to be used as targets.
Skink tank Shown at the Dennison Armouries, Toronto, 1946
Skink Anti-aircraft Grizzly Tank DND Number 62-728 (WD Number CT163962) on display at the Dennison Armouries, Toronto, Canada 1946

Sources

Steve Osfield
Canadian RCAC Skink TM Manual
“Ironsides”: Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle Museums and Monuments by Harold Skaarup
Blueprint for Victory, from 1981. by William Gregg.
M4 on Wikipedia
Grizzly Wikipedia

Categories
WW2 German SPGs

Hummel-Wespe 10.5cm SPG

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944) Artillery SPG – 8+ built

The 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe Artillery SPG

There is only one known photograph of a Hummel self-propelled gun (SPG) chassis and body fitted with an artillery 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 L/28 howitzer rather than the normal 15cm s.FH 18/1 L/30 howitzer. It was officially called the Hummel-Wespe. This name was used on the Stahlindustrie construction company’s documentation. It was also known as the 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagfen III/IV, or lichtPanzerhaubitzen (lePzHaub – light armoured howitzer) or the the Ersatz-Wespe (Replacement Wasp). The photograph was taken after World War Two during the winter of 1945/46 at Košťaty near Teplice, Czechoslovakia, close to the factory that assembled the vehicle.
German WW2 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 GW III/IV Hummel Wespe artillery SPG
Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm le.F.H 18 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten (Artillery SPG) – Photo: Petr Dolezal and Marek Solar
The Hummel SPG used an extended tank chassis called the Geschüetzwagfen III/IV to mount the 15cm s.FH 18/1 L/30 howitzer. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
The 10.5cm leFH 18/2 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen II ‘Wespe’ (Sd.Kfz.124) artillery SPG used a Panzer II tank chassis. Production began in February 1943 and ceased in June 1944, when the main factory in Warsaw, Poland was captured by the Red Army. The German Army Panzer-Artillerie batteries still needed more self-propelled guns that could keep up with the Panzer Divisions, fitted with 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40 howitzers.
The Geschuetzwagfen III/IV was still in production and being used for the Nashorn 88mm anti-tank self-propelled gun as well as the 15cm Hummel SPG. A decision was made to mount the 10.5cm le.F.H. 18 howitzers gun used on the Wespe SPG onto the Geschuetzwagfen III/IV chassis.
The German armaments company Deutsche Eisenwerke (D.E.W) were constructing Geschuetzwagfen III/IV chassis at their assembly plant in Duisburg, Germany. Allied bombing was making production difficult. It was moved to the D.E.W plant Werke (Deutsche Eisenwerke AG Werk) Teplitz-Schönau in Czechoslovakia (now known as Teplice, Czech Republic). The building of armored vehicles for the German Army continued until the end of the war in May 1945.
Plans to fit a 10.5 cm Le.F.H 18/40 light field howitzer to the s.Pz.Haubitze Fahrgestell extended and modified Panzer III/IV tank chassis, as a stop-gap solution to send more 10.5 cm artillery SPGs on the battlefield, were discussed in a meeting on 2nd December 1944. The factory was expected to produce 40 in February, 50 in March and 80 in April. A further report documents the demand for a further 250 to be built in June 1945. That report was dated 9th January 1945.
A Stahlindustrie report dated 30th of August 1945 stated that one Hummel-Wespe artillery SPG had been built in December 1944, a further 9 in January 1945 and a further one before the end of the war, bringing the total to eleven. No German Army documents have been found that show these vehicles entering operational service or being used on the battlefield.

The anti-grenade screen

Another unusual feature visible in the photo of the Hummel/Wespe is the hand grenade protection screen that was added over the open fighting compartment on a metal hinged frame.
Hummel with wire screen
This is a photograph of an early version Hummel, not a Hummel/Wespe. It is fitted with the same wire mesh top screen to prevent grenades and mines from being thrown into the fighting compartment. Notice the large exhaust muffler/silencer box under the rear hatches. It was removed on the later version of the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis that was used on the 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 Hummel-Wespe artillery SPG.

Proposed production figures – German Archives

A GenArt (General der Artillerie) report dated 11 December 1944, kept in the German Archives, reports that documentation for the 10.5 cm Hummel-Wespe design had been signed and a production order for 250 units for delivery in June 1945 issued.Production was to start in February 5. It was intended that 80 vehicles would be completed each month.
On 10 February 1945 the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKH – Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces) issued the following instructions, ” “Due to the drop in light field howitzer (LeFH) production, delivery of the 250 le Panzerhaubitze auf Fahrgestell Hummel is no longer anticipate. Instead of the 80 lePzHaub scheduled for February only 10 will be completed, followed by another 20 in March. To compensate, production of Panzerhaubitzen will proceed as follows.”
“In parallel with the highest possible output of lePzHaub, some 50 sPzHaub (15 cm sFH Hummel SPGS) will be produced. The available 80 sFH guns from the Hummel production wil be mounted on Beutelafetten (captured gun mounts). Production of lePzHaub (the 10.5 cm leFH Hummel-Wespe) will be fixed at 200 and not 250 units.”
Due to the end of the war being close, the continued bombing of German factories and supply routes, this production figure was never meet.

Proposed production figures – Russian Archives

A German document was captured by the Red Army. It showed predicted production numbers of vehicles like the Jagdpanther, Jagdtiger, Flakpanzer, Hummel and Hummel-Wespe from March 1945 to August 1945. It was translated by Senior Lieutenant Rubinshtein into Russian and kept in the Soviet archives.
On line 345, it shows that planned production of the heavily armed howitzer, the Hummel, was for 50 vehicles: 20 in March and 10 in April, May, June 1945 with production stopping in July. On line 346, it shows that planned production of the light armed howitzer, the Hummel-Wespe, was for 190 vehicles: 20 in March and 30 in April, May, June and 40 in July, August 1945.
There was a side note that an additional 10-20 new type Hummel/Wespe would be added to the number on April and May. This would have brought the planned production numbers of the 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe Artillery SPG to 220 vehicles by August 1945. Obviously, that did not happen as the war ended in May 1945.

Czechoslovakian Army 1948-54

Surviving Hummel-Wespe artillery self-propelled guns were used by the Czechoslovakian Army after WW2. They had twelve, but only eight vehicles underwent renovation and entered service in 1948. Between 1948-1949 they were officially called “Samohybné děla so 105 mm húfnicou”. Between 1949-1954 the official designation in army records changed to “105 mm samohybná húfnica vz.18/40”. They were withdrawn from Army service in 1954 and presumably scrapped. (Source – Vojenská história 4/2009 ISSN 1335-3314, VHÚ Bratislava)
Czechoslovakian Army records recorded the original German production chassis number (Fgst.Nr) of the eight Hummel-Wespe artillery SPGs that entered their service.
German Fahrgestellnummer 84407, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R114, army registration number 79.651
German Fahrgestellnummer 84412, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R107, army registration number 79.652
German Fahrgestellnummer 340003, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R108, army registration number 79.653
German Fahrgestellnummer 84410, date in service 4th May 1949,
Battery number R3397, army registration number 79.654
German Fahrgestellnummer 84422, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R113, army registration number 79.655
German Fahrgestellnummer 84419, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R109, army registration number 79.656
German Fahrgestellnummer 84420, date in service 20th October 1949,
Battery number R106, army registration number 79.657
German Fahrgestellnummer 84421, date in service 20th October 1949,
Tactical unit number R105, army registration number 79.658

The German self-propelled howitzers

The full designation of this self-propelled artillery gun was Panzerfeldhaubitze 18M auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) Hummel, Sd.Kfz. 165. The German word ‘Hummel’ means bumblebee. This armored fighting vehicle had a nasty sting. There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2. One was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the Hummel. A vehicle fitted with an artillery field howitzer was called a ‘Geschüetzwagen’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The letters ‘Sf’ stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. ‘Panzerfeldhaubitze’ means armored field howitzer.
Self-propelled artillery guns were developed to enable fast moving attacks to have artillery support that could keep up with the speed of advancing Panzer Divisions. They could use direct fire mode at targets they could see or, more commonly, use indirect fire at targets plotted on a map.
They were not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were motorized artillery guns that could fire high explosive HE shells over the heads of friendly troops. Most targets would have been given to the crew as map grid references by forward observation officers or infantry units under attack.
Quite often, the gun crews could not see where their shells landed, as the target was so far away. They would have to rely on the forward observer to tell them if adjustments had to be made.
The open-topped back design of these self-propelled guns had a number of advantages. The elevated commander’s position when standing in the crew compartment, behind the protective armored shield, meant that he had a good view on all sides. If there was the threat of enemy small arms fire, then the crew could use a twin lens range finder telescope that could peak over the top of the armored casement.
There was enough room for the crew to be transported towards the battlefield whilst protected from small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The vehicle had good mobility and could follow the infantry almost anywhere. The gun was quicker to get ready for action and fire on targets than towed artillery guns.
Putting the 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 howitzer on top of a tank chassis was a more efficient use of manpower from the traditional form of German artillery battery transportation. Even in WW2, horse power was still widely used although tracked vehicles were also employed when available. Each field gun would require a six-horse team to pull the gun and limber. The ammunition, supplies and kit would be kept in the limber, which was a very large box on a pair of wheels with seats on the top. Three men would ride on the left-hand horse of each pair to control them. The remaining six men of the gun crew would ride on top of the limber. Only a relative few were towed by the 3-ton halftracks.
High explosive HE shells came in two parts. The explosive shell was loaded first, followed by the variable charge canister. This meant that the Hummel/Wespe could only carry 18 rounds of HE. It could fire armor-piercing AP rounds but they were only effective at short ranges and used in self defense. The Hummel/Wespe was not meant to be on the battlefield front line. It was a support vehicle that provided artillery support from behind the infantry and tanks.

The Geschützwagen III/IV chassis

The powerful 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18/40 light field howitzer was mounted on a specially designed Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig lengthened German tank chassis called the Geschützwagen III/IV. Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J.
The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
On early versions of the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis, the front top of the hull had sloping armor with a raised armored compartment for the driver on the left of the vehicle. The front hull superstructure and driver’s armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944 and enlarged, covering the whole width of the vehicle. The radio operator and driver now had more space to work in. This design was used on all Hummel/Wespe artillery SPGs.
The exhaust system was also changed on the later model. It was moved from the original location below the rear double doors. The exhaust mufflers were dropped and the ends of the exhaust pipes were cut at a slant away from the tracks to avoid stirring up additional dust.
The Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis did not have a hull mounted machine gun. Crews were issued with a single MG34 or MG42 machine gun, carried inside the fighting compartment, for self-defense.
The Hummel/Wespe was designed to be operated by a crew of six: commander, driver and four gunners. They were protected by an enclosed high silhouette armored fighting compartment. Although it was open topped, the crew were issued with a thick canvas tarpaulin cover that could be used in bad weather.
In front of the driver, a metal wire grid was fixed into position to aid the driver maneuvering the vehicle in the correct fire position. These were designed to prevent grenades and mines being thrown into the vehicle as it moved through towns and cities.
A metal louvered cover ventilated the engine, but many later versions were fitted with an angled shield that opened upward. On the photograph of the Hummel/Wespe the metal louvered engine vent can not be seen on the sides of the vehicle. It looks like it has been fitted with one of the armored angled shields.
Three aiming stake poles would have been carried in brackets below the rear door. The gunner would use a large ZE 34 sight. The top lens aperture would point to the rear of the vehicle. The gunner used this aperture of the sight to locate the aiming sticks that a member of the crew had pounded into the ground at the rear at a known bearing from the vehicle, having used a compass (compasses did not work inside a metal vehicle in 1943). By lining up the red and white fire aiming stake, subtracting 180 degrees, he would be able to work out the correct bearing the gun barrel is pointing towards.
The upper fighting compartment superstructure walls were constructed using 10 mm (0.39 in) thick E11 chrome-silicon armor plates hardened to 153 kg/mm2 for protection against shell fragments. The 30 mm (1.18 in) thick front hull was made using face-hardened FA32 armor plates. The rest of the hull was made out of cheaper rolled SM-Stahl (carbon steel) that was hardened to 75-90 kg/mm2. It took 20 mm (0.78 in) thick plates of SM-Stahl to provide equivalent protection against penetration by SmK (7.92 mm AP bullets) as 14.5 mm (0.57 in) of E11 armor plate.
The early Geschützwagen III/IV chassis used the standard 1943 38cm wide SK18 track that had three smooth metal pads visible on the front face of the track. In winter some vehicles were fitted with track width extenders called Winterketten (winter track). These triangular pieces of metal were bolted onto the outer edge of the track to extend the width of the track and help the vehicle move across snow and mud by spreading the load over a larger area. They were problematic: they fractured and often fell off. In 1944, vehicles started to be fitted with the wider Ostketten (east track) to cope with the conditions found on the Eastern Front. The Winterketten extensions made the SK18 tank track 55cm wide. The one-piece Ostketten was 56cm wide and did not have bits falling off it.

The Hummel-Wespe - Illustration by David Bocquelet
The Hummel-Wespe – Illustration by David Bocquelet

Early version Hummel SPG Eastern Front Winter 1943
A regular Hummel SPG with the wire mesh protective cover

Wespe 146th Panzer Artillerie Regiment, Normandy.
A Wespe SPG with its 10.5 cm gun.

10.5cm Hummel-Wespe SPG model
A model of the 10.5cm Hummel-Wespe SPG made by Danis Stamatiadis

Hummel-Wespe artists impression of the SPG on the Eastern Front battlefield during 1945
Hummel-Wespe artists impression of the SPG on the Eastern Front battlefield during 1945 (Art work – Cyber-Hobby)
The Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm SPG had the louvered engine vents protected by an armoured shaped cover
The Hummel-Wespe 10.5 cm SPG had the louvered engine vents protected by an armored shaped cover (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)
The front hull superstructure and driver's armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944
The front hull superstructure and driver’s armored compartment were redesigned in early 1944 and enlarged, covering the whole width of the vehicle. The radio operator and driver now had more space to work in. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

The rear exhaust system was removed on the Hummel-Wespe SPG. The three aiming stake poles were stored below the rear hatch doors.
The rear exhaust system was removed on the Hummel-Wespe SPG. The three aiming stake poles were stored below the rear hatch doors. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

Fighting compartment of the Hummel-Wespe Spg
Fighting compartment of the 10.5 cm le.F.H 18 Hummel-Wespe SPG. (Photo – Cyber-Hobby)

The 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.

German Army 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer on display at the Finnish Artillery Museum, Finland
German Army 10.5 cm le.F.H. 18 light field howitzer on display at the Finnish Artillery Museum, Finland
The 105 mm (4.13 in) high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7 lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the high explosive HE projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case. Depending on the range of the target different sized bags of propellant were inserted into the cartridge. More bags were used for longer range targets.

An article by Craig Moore

Hummel-Wespe specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 7.17 m x 2.97 m x 2.81 m (23ft 5in x 9ft 7in x 9ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 23 tonnes (24.25 tons)
Crew 6 (commander, driver, 4x gun crew)
Propulsion 12-cylinder water cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM 11.9 litre petrol engine, 265 hp at 2600 rpm
Fuel capacity 400 litres
Top speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range (road) 215 km (133 miles)
Armament 10.5 cm le.FH 18/40 howitzer
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 machine gun
7.96 mm (0.31 in) MG 38/40 machine gun
Armor Front 30 mm (1.18 in), sides 20 mm (0.79 in), rear 20 mm (0.79 in)
Superstructure front 10 mm (0.39 in), sides 10 mm (0.39 in)
Total production 10-20?

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.10 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thomas L. Jentz
Panzer Tracts No.10-1 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten by Thomas L. Jentz
German self-propelled guns by Gordon Rottman
Panzer-Grenadier Division Grosssdeutschland by Bruce Quarrie
Panzerartillerie by Thomas Anderson
Restricted July 1944 – Allied Expeditionary Force – German Guns – Brief notes and range tables for allied gunners. SHAEF/16527/2A/GCT
Czechoslovakian Army records
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW1 American prototypes

Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank

USA ww1 USA (1918) Prototype – 1 built

Introduction

In 1917, when the American Expeditionary Force reached the shores of France, not a single tank was available to these units. Plans were made to produce some foreign-designed vehicles, but various difficulties and the American faith in their own capabilities lead to the design of several home-grown tanks.
The value of French light tanks like the Renault Ft was observed, being easy to produce in numbers and not requiring very powerful engines. However, it was noted that their trench crossing capabilities were inadequate.
US Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank 1953
Two American soldiers climbing over the US Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank at the US Army Ordinance Proving Grounds, Aberdeen in 1953
The Pioneer Tractor Company from Winona, Minnesota, proposed a rather strange looking vehicle. Trying to mimic the trench-crossing abilities of the British rhomboid tanks while producing a lightweight vehicle led to one of the most distinctive prototypes of the war. While the tracks encircled a structure of the shape of its British inspiration, the crew was encased in an armored box at the center of the vehicle, with a gun turret on top and an engine on each side of the compartment. The driver had a small horizontal vision slit at the front of the tank in the upper middle section of the armored box. The commander/gunner had a vision slit in the turret.
The tracks were carried on rigidly mounted rollers installed on a tubular frame covered with wood. The pipe construction would allow for the tank to be dismantled and shipped relatively easily and then be reassembled on arrival in theater. Another advantage to this tubular design was that if one of the pipes was damaged it could easily be replaced. By using wood, steel pipes and standard plumbing fixtures the materials and maintenance skills needed to construct, maintain and repair the Skeleton Tank were minimal.
Unlike earlier WW1 and later WW2 tanks, it could wade through deep water. It had over three feet clearance with only its track and frame making contact with the water. The open design of the tank meant that what was behind the tank was visible through the tank. It did not need a camouflage to merge in with its location.
The Skeleton Tank was also called the Spider Tank by local journalists
The Skeleton Tank was also called the Spider Tank by local journalists
The crew of two were protected by 0.5 in (12.7 mm) of armor. The driver sat to the front, with the gunner behind him, manning the turret. The proposed armament was a single .30 cal machine gun. One Beaver engine and its radiator was mounted inside each side of the armored compartments, while the transmissions were in a separate compartment at the rear of the vehicle.
The transmission had two forward and one rear gears, giving a grand maximum speed of 8 km/h (5 mph). Only one vehicle was built, sporting a dummy gun and turret. It cost $15,000 to construct the one prototype which is just under a quarter of a million US dollars in today’s money. The prototype was ready for trials by October 1918 but when the Armistice was signed in November 1918 most development programs were canceled. It was never used in active service.
It was paraded through the streets of Winona, Minnesota as part of it’s Victory Parade celebrations. This was reported in the newspapers. The tank went by different names in those reports: Skeleton Tank and Spider Tank were names used. The Skeleton Tank name was the most common used but it’s origins are unclear.

Who came up with the idea of a military tank first?

This is a disputed subject. The vice president and manager of the US Pioneer Tractor Company, Mr Edwin Wheelock, was contracted to manufacture the prototype Skeleton Tank. He insisted that he completed the blueprints for the Skeleton Tank and brought them over to England months before British Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Swinton had come up with his idea that an armoured vehicle was necessary to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by forcing its way through barbed wire obstacles, climbing over trenches and destroying or crushing machine gun nests.
Swinton’s proposal was submitted in writing to the British War Office on 20th October 1914. He was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1914 and had seen how bad conditions were on the front line. Swinton had seen American Holt agricultural tracked tractors and recommended that they be armored and armed with machine guns and an artillery gun.
In August 1914, Wheelock lost a contract to sell Pioneer tractors in Canada because of war being declared in Europe. He started to design a war machine based on the caterpillar tracks used on his tractors but lengthened to run along a rhomboid shaped framework. He tried to sell his idea to the Canadians but again they were not interested.
Meanwhile, in England, the British Government Landships Committee granted William Foster & Company of Lincoln the contract to build the first prototype British tank called the ‘Number One Lincoln Machine’. This happened in February 1915.
Back in Minnesota, Wheelock hired Mr. Frances J Lowe to try and sell Pioneer tractors and his war machine design to the British. Lowe took the blueprints and some tractors to England. In April 1915, he had a meeting with Colonel Sir Henry Capel-Lofft Holden, director of Mechanical Transport at the War Office in London.
Holden dismissed the design as being unworkable because, with the initially proposed weight of 25 tons, it was too heavy to cross bridges currently found in Belgium and France. Lowe, in a later interview for an American newspaper, said he was then introduced to a Lieutenant Walter Wilson, a Royal Navy Officer who was also an engineer. Wilson took the blueprints to study them further and was told that he would contact him if the War Office wanted to place an order. Lowe was never contacted.
Wilson went on to develop the first British tanks with William Tritton of William Foster & Co in Lincoln. The ‘Number One Lincoln Machine’ prototype was completed on 9th September 1915. It did not look like Wheelock’s design. The second prototype nicknamed ‘Little Willie’ did not resemble Wheelock’s design either. Walter Wilson’s third prototype called ‘Mother’, completed in December 1915 used a lengthened track to run along a rhomboid shaped framework to give the tank better cross country performance.
It was not until newspaper reports and photographs reached Minnesota of tanks being used for the first time in battle did Wheelock get a glimpse of what the British Mark I tank looked like. He was shocked at the similarity to his war machine design. He read that a £10,000 financial reward had been offered to the person who came up with the idea of using a tank in battle. He sent Lowe back to England to claim that reward and find out why his company had not been given the construction contract.
Lowe was not given any information. He could not even find out what happened to the company’s blueprints he had submitted. Because of the War, nearly all information was classified as ‘secret’. Wheelock made a formal claim for the £10,000 prize money but after two different hearings a British Prize Court awarded the money to Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Swinton.
Wheelock’s claim was not backed up by validated documentation. He never filed a patent or kept a copy of his blueprints. Lowe said he handed the only copy to the Wilson and was never given it back.
Realistically the British Government, when at war, would not have entered negotiations with a private company of a neutral state to develop and build a new weapon. That company would not legally be able to sell that weapon without breaching its country’s neutrality. There was also a risk, in 1914, of America entering an alliance with the German Empire and that new weapon being used by the enemy. Communications and logistics problems also made the idea of a contract being awarded to an American company not practicable in 1914.

Sources

Edwin M. Wheelock and the Skeleton Tank by Major Dennis Gaare -Armor – Jan-Feb 2002
Tank Warfare: The story of Tanks in the great War by F Mitchell
Was former Winonian battle tank inventor? by B Manderfield Winona Sunday News 22 Aug 1971
American claims share in Prize of $150,000 for Tank invention – NY Times 28th Nov 1925
Tanks in the Great War by J.F.C Fuller
Man who designed war tractor, former Winonian, never received reward for tank’s invention – The Winiona Republican 31 June 1942
Winiona sees Spider Tank – The Winona Independent 12 Nov 1918
Wikipedia

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 25ft x 8ft 5in x 9ft 6in
(7.62m x 2.56m x 2.89m)
Total weight, battle ready 9 tons
Crew 2 (commander, driver)
Propulsion Two Beaver 4 cylinder water cooled petrol/gasoline engines 50hp
Speed 5 mph (8.85 km/h)
Fuel tank 17 gallons
Fuel consumption 2 miles per gallon
Operational range 34 miles (55km)
Armament .30 Cal machine gun
Armor 0.5 in (12.7 mm)
Total production 1 prototype

Gallery


The Pioneer Skeleton tank showing off its tube structure. It is facing to the right. The crew compartment is in the middle and the transmission box is on the left, at the rear of the tank.
US Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank
Front view of the WW1 Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank at the US Army Ordinance Proving Grounds, Aberdeen. (photo – Bill Maloney)
Rear view of the Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank
Rear view of the Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank at the US Army Ordinance Proving Grounds, Aberdeen. (photo – Bill Maloney)
WW1 Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank being moved from US Army Ordinance Proving Ground Aberdeen to Fort Lee
WW1 Pioneer Tractor Skeleton Tank being moved from US Army Ordinance Proving Ground Aberdeen to Fort Lee, VA, USA. This vehicle is currently stored and is not publicly visible.
Skeleton Tank now sits in a tent at Fort Lee
Front View – The Skeleton Tank now sits in a tent at Fort Lee.
The Skeleton Tank now sits in a tent at Fort Lee.
Rear View – The Skeleton Tank now sits in a tent at Fort Lee.

Where is the Skeleton Tank now?

The vehicle was at the US Army Ordinance Proving Grounds in Aberdeen kept in the open exposed to the elements. In the early 2000s it was restored. All its parts are original except the wooden frame which had rotted and needed replacing. It has now been moved to Fort Lee.
It is currently out of storage and on display in the Fort Lee military base World War 1 training gallery being utilized for Ordnance students training. This vehicle is currently not on public display. Please send us any new photographs you have of it in its new location.

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
German Improvized AFVs

8cm Schwerer Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR 35(f) 

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1942)
Heavy Mortar

Captured Renault AMR 35 tanks

In German Army service, the few French Army Renault AMR 35 (Auto Mitrailleuse de Reconnaissance) tanks that were captured were given the official designation of Panzerspähwagen VM 701(f). They were used for training and police duties in occupied countries.
German 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled mortar
German 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled heavy mortar.
A variant called the 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(35f) self-propelled heavy mortar (abbreviated to 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f)) was fitted with an 81 mm (3.19 in) GW-34 heavy mortar in an open topped armored fighting compartment. The turret of the tank had been replaced with a lightly armored superstructure of riveted construction that enclosed the fighting compartment. The top and rear were left open. The armor plate used on the front of the superstructure was 13 mm thick set at a 15 degree angle. The sides were also 13 mm thick set at a 40 degree angle.
The fighting compartment included the space formerly occupied by the turret and the space above the engine compartment at the rear of the chassis. The mortar was mounted at the front to fire forward. The front of the compartment was not separated from the driver’s position. The crew had to enter it from the rear.
The 81 mm mortar tube rested on a base plate bolted to the top of the engine compartment. The bipod retained the normal cross-levelling, elevating and traversing mechanism, but the legs had been extended and were attached to a rack and pinion mechanism which permitted additional elevation, traverse and leveling adjustment. The mortar was equipped with a collimator mortar sight RA35.

Links

On Wikipedia
GBM, Histoire & Collection, about WW2 French tanks
On Chars Français (many photos)

Specifications

Dimensions 3.84 x 1.76 x 1.88 m (12.6 x 5.77 x 6.17 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5 tons
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Renault Reinastela 6-cyl, 84 hp
Speed 65 km/h (50 mph)
Suspension Horizontal coil springs
Range/fuel capacity 225 km (139 mi)/128 l (33.81 gal)
Armament 81 mm (3.19 in) heavy mortar
Armor (max) 13 mm (0.51 in)
Total production Not known

AMR-35
AMR 35 ZT-1 equipped with a heavy 13 mm (0.51 in) Hotchkiss machine gun with 1250 rounds. Fitted with the AVIS-2 turret, 80 built.8cm Schwere Granatwerfer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(f).
A rare German battlefield conversion, 8cm Schwere Granatwerfer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR(f) self-propelled heavy mortar.

Gallery

Front view of the 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f)
Front view of the 8cm Granatwerfer auf PSW AMR 35(f). It is being inspected by a soldier for the US. 3rd Army as it was found in their area. A report on the vehicle was sent back to America.
8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspahwagen AMR(35f) 
The mortar fixing points inside the 8cm schwere Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspahwagen AMR(35f)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
German Improvized AFVs

12.2cm FK(r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 built

Armored Trains

During World War Two, Polish, Soviet, German and British armed forces used armored trains. Germany had 21 armored trains in 1942, 29 in 1943, 44 in 1944 and 55 in 1945. The Soviets had a lot more including captured Polish armored trains.
The locomotive would be covered in protective armor plate and pull artillery wagons fitted with howitzers, anti-aircraft wagons bristling with flak guns for self-defence, anti-tank wagons with tank turrets mounted on top of an armoured coach, command and assault wagons to carry troops plus at the back a flat-bed tank transporter with ramps. The tanks could dismount from the train when needed and take the battle to the enemy by out flanking them or using direct assault under the cover of supporting fire from the train.
On 8th September 144 German Army PZ32 armored train was captured in St Berain, France.
On 8th September 1944, the German Army PZ32 armored train was captured in St Berain, France. Most German armored trains were on the Eastern Front.

The Lorraine 37L

During WW1, the French and British Army needed a way to transport ammunition and supplies to the front line. Men and horses were getting killed and injured from small arms fire and exploding shell fragments. Tracked armored supply vehicles were developed. This vehicle was developed by the Lorraine company in 1937 as a replacement for the smaller Renault UE. It could transport a heavier load and was faster than the Renault UE. Production began in January 1939. By the time France surrendered in 1940, a total of 432 Lorraine 37L armored supply tractors had been produced.
A Lorraine 37L tractor
The Chenillette Lorraine 37L armored tractor unit was designed to transport ammunition and supplies to the front line.

The 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) and Marder I SPGs

After the surrender of France in 1940, a lot of French Army military equipment was taken into operational use by the Germans. Some of the French tanks and armored tractors, like the Lorraine 37L, were converted into self-propelled guns. These vehicles would be able to keep up with the Panzer Divisions. There were two main types of self-propelled guns in the German Army during WW2.
One, like the Marder I, was fitted with an anti-tank gun and the other with an artillery howitzer, like the 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun. A vehicle fitted with an artillery howitzer was called a ‘Geschützwagen’ abbreviated to ‘GW’, which is literally translated as a ‘gun vehicle’. The word ‘Schlepper’ means tractor. The letter (f) indicates that the SPG’s chassis was French.

The 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f)

This vehicle was also built around a captured Lorraine 37L. It was used on the PZ32 German armored train in France. It would be at the end of the train on a flat-bed tank transporter wagon that had ramps. The driver would reverse the 12.2cm FK (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG up the ramps and onto the wagon.
Many observers have claimed that it was used as an anti-aircraft gun because in many photographs the gun barrel was pointed up into the sky. It was never used to try and shoot down aircraft. It was a long range artillery gun designed to deliver high explosive HE shells great distances.
The gun was fixed into position. It was not in a turret that could turn to face the enemy. It had a limited traverse left and right. It was envisaged that when the train got to the battlefield the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) SPG would be driven off the train, down the rear ramps and moved to face the direction of the target.
It could be used in direct fire mode at targets the crew could see, but more commonly it was used for indirect fire at targets plotted on a map. It was not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. It was a motorized artillery gun that could fire HE shells over the heads of friendly troops. Most targets would have been given to the crew as map grid references by forward observation officers or infantry units under attack.
Quite often, the gun crew could not see where their shells landed, as the target was so far away. They would have to rely on the forward observer to tell them if adjustments had to be made.

New Build or Battlefield Conversion?

The origins of the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) self-propelled artillery gun are not known. Was a Soviet 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer M1938 (M-30) used to replace the gun in a Marder I anti-tank SPG or a 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun? Was this vehicle a one off new build?
A company called Alkett, based near Berlin, built the first 10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery guns in 1942. German Army engineer Major Alfred Becker worked with the company to create these conversions.
The following year, he was in Normandy at the head of a Baukommando, a construction command unit. Becker’s men, engineers and mechanics converted more Lorraine 37L tractors into self-propelled artillery gun by fixing 10.5cm leFH-18/40 howitzers onto the top of these vehicles.
The design of the fighting compartment was slightly different on each version. By comparing photographs of the Becker and Alkett built SPG with the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) it can be seen that major work was done on the top section of the upper armor.
It looks like the original vehicle was an Alkett built 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f), as the upper and lower armor joints of the fighting compartment are low down. That joint on the Becker built vehicles was much higher.
However, where the fighting compartment upper side armor plates meet the front plates the joint angle is forward not backward as on the Alkett build.
Was it a converted Marder I which was also built on a Lorraine 37L chassis? There was no forward gun lock on this SPG as there was on the Marder I. The angle of the joint between the upper front and side armor was the same unlike on the 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f).
The author of the German book ‘Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht’, Walter J.Spielberger, had the benefit of an interview with Major Becker after the war and access to all the original documents. There is only one small paragraph about this vehicle in the book.
It does say that only one vehicle was built with a 12,2cm Kanone (r) on a Lorraine-Schlepper tractor. It does not say that the Soviet gun replaced a 10.5cm leFH 18 gun or a 75 mm Pak 40 L/46 gun. This vehicle could have been a new build rather than a battlefield conversion of an existing self-propelled gun.

The 122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30)

Between 1939 and 1955, Soviet factories produced 19,266 of these artillery howitzers. They were developed by the design bureau of Motovilikha Plants, headed by F.F.Petrov, in the late 1930s. It was used as a towed divisional artillery piece during WW2.
The Finish and German army reused captured guns. The German Army gave them the designation 12.2 cm s.F.H.396(r) heavy howitzers. Germany began mass production of 122 mm (4.8 in) ammunition for these and other captured howitzers, producing 424,000 shells in 1943, 696,700 in 1944 and 133,000 in 1945.
Soviet 122mm howitzer M1938 (M-30) captured by the Finnish Army. It is now on display at the Hameenlinna Artillery Museum in Finland
Soviet 122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30) captured by the Finnish Army. It is now on display at the Hameenlinna Artillery Museum in Finland
The German 10.5cm leFH 18/40 gun had a muzzle velocity of 540 m/s, elevation of 45° and a range of 12,325 m. The Soviet M-30 122mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 515 m/s, elevation of elevation of 49° and a range of 11,720 m. Both guns were similar but the German howitzer had a less powerful high explosive HE shell and its smaller maximum elevation made it less effective against dug-in troops.
The howitzer was designed to fire high explosive and smoke shells. In May 1943, a 122mm High Explosive Anti-Tank HEAT round became available. It only had a range of 2,000 m and the muzzle velocity was reduced to 335 m/s. This was meant for self-defence. This gun was an artillery howitzer not a high velocity anti-tank gun.

The Train – 1964 Film

‘The Train’ was a Hollywood movie starring Burt Lancaster and the PZ32 armored train that was captured in St Berain, France. The story is set in 1944, a German colonel loads a train with French art treasures to send to Germany. The Resistance must stop it without damaging the cargo. The 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) self-propelled gun can be seen at the rear of the train. It is not known what happened to the train or the SPG after filming had finished.

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L,W,H) 4.22 (without gun) x 1.57 x 2 m (13’10” x 5’2″ x 6’7″)
Total weight, battle ready 7.7 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Type 135 Delahaye 6 cylinder inline petrol engine, 70 hp at 2800 rpm
Fuel capacity 144 litres
Top speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Operational range (road) 137 km (85 miles)
Armament Soviet 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer M1938 (M-30) – 12.2cm sFH 396(r)
Armor (chassis) Front 9 mm (0.35 in), cast nose 12 mm (0.47 in), sides 9 mm(0.35 in), rear 9 mm(0.35 in)
Total production 1

Sources

Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht by Walter J. Spielberger
Armored Trains by Steven J Zaloga
Steve Osfield collection

122cm_fk_auf-gw_lorraine_schlepper-f
German Army 12.2cm FK (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schleppe(f) self-propelled artillery gun.

Which one was the donor vehicle?

Or was it a new build?

10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) (Alkett version)
10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
10.5cm leFH-18/40 auf GW Lorraine Schlepper(f) self-propelled artillery gun. (Baukommando Becker version)
10,5cm le FH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen 39H(f), sand livery
7.5cm Pak 40/1 auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135 – Normandy, 1944 Marder I

Gallery

12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) on the back of an armoured train flat truck with ramps
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) on the back of an armored train flat truck with ramps.
The ramps at the end of the armored railway wagon would allow the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) SPG to be deployed on the ground to fire at long range targets
The ramps at the end of the armored flat-back railway wagon would allow the 12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schleppe(f) SPG to be deployed on the ground to fire at long range targets.
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2 cm artillery gun spg
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
12.2cm FK (r) auf GW Lorraine Schlepper (f) SPG
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German prototypes

10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger IVb

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 or 3 built

The Grasshopper

The German 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ was designated a weapon carrier (waffenträger) and not a self-propelled artillery gun. The reason for this is that the turret could be removed from the top of the modified Panzer IV tank chassis by a block and tackle rig attached to a movable metal frame.
The idea was that the gun crew could keep up with the armoured Panzer Divisions. When needed to fire as an artillery battery, to give long range support firing high explosive shells over the heads of the German infantry and tank crews, The gun would be removed and placed on the ground where it could be fired like a normal artillery gun.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype at the Krupp-Grusonwerks factory
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ artillery SPG prototype at the Krupp-Grusonwerks factory
The heavy lifting metal framework could be swung upright into position by a hydraulic system or a manual back up system. When not needed it was lowered down and stored on top of the upper track guards on both sides of the tank chassis.
The vehicle could carry 87 high explosive shells. If more were needed the turret could be removed and placed on a gun carriage and towed behind the tank chassis. This allowed for more ammunition to be carried onto the battlefield. The modified Panzer IV tank chassis became a turretless armoured ammunition carrier. This configuration would have only worked in gentle undulating countryside or on roads. The gun carriage wheels and frame were carried on the tank chassis at the rear.
The 10.5cm howitzer could also be fired from on top of the tank chassis. There was no top to the turret. There were a few disadvantages of an open topped vehicle. The crew was exposed to the elements and were also at risk of injury from enemy thrown hand grenades, mortars and shrapnel from air burst enemy shells. A canvas tarpaulin rain cover was produced.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype
The side and rear of the open topped turret could be folded down to give more room for the crew to work the 10.5cm LeFH 18 gun

It was not a movable pillbox

Some books have argued that the reason for removing the turret was because it could be used as an armoured pillbox. This was not its function. It was an artillery gun that was designed to operate behind the front line. It was not an anti-tank gun. The protective armour that surrounded the gun was not of a thickness that would have stopped armour piercing tank shells. It was only designed to protect the gun crew from small arms fire and high explosive shell and mortor round shrapnel fragments.

Two competing models

The German armament factory of Alkett and Rheinmetall-Borsig based near Berlin had come up with a similar prototype design called the 10.5 cm leFH 18/40/2 auf Geschützwagen III/IV. It did not have the lifting gear on the side of the vehicle but the turret was removable just like the Krupp-Gruson design.
It used the standard Panzer IV tank chassis and had slightly better performance than the Krupp-Gruson’s Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper. The Alket Rheinmetall-Borsig model was completed in March 1944.

Design

In May 1943 German Army weapon designers decided to build a prototype Heuschrecke IVb. It would built using a Hummel SPG chassis and a 10.5cm LeFH 18/l light field howitzer in a removable turret.
In June 1943 the Krupp-Grusonwerk factory started work on building this new armored fighting vehicle using a new Hummel chassis number 320148. Other sources state that three prototypes were built, with serial numbers 582501, 582502 and 582503.
The Hummel self-propelled artillery gun had powerful 15cm sFH 18 L/30 heavy field howitzer mounted on a specially designed Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig lengthened German tank chassis called the Geschützwagen III/IV. It was also referred to as the IVb.
These prototypes were referred to as the Heuschrecke 10 or Heuschrecke IVb. The word Heuschrecke means Grasshopper. It was quite appropriate. The long folded metal lifting equipment kept on top of each track mud guard looked like a grasshoppers insect legs. The number 10 refers to the size of the gun, the 10.5cm. The number IVb refers to the modified Panzer III/IV tank chassis
Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J.
The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
The Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis did not have a hull mounted machine gun. Crews would be issued with a single MG34 or MG42 machine gun, carried inside the fighting compartment, for self-defence.
The Krupp-Gruson designers envisioned that the Heuschrecke IVb would start to replace the 10.5cm leFH 18 auf Gahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II Wespe self-propelled artillery gun in May 1944.
The tank engineers at the Krupp-Grusonwerk armaments factory made changes to the superstructure and chassis to enable the Heuschrecke turret to be fitted and the installation of the hydraulic mechanism needed to dismount the turret.
The Hummel was powered by a Maybach HL 120 TRM engine that was fitted in the middle of the vehicle to allow more room for the gun crew to work the gun at the back of the vehicle. This was changed for the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ prototype. The engine and the radiators were moved to the rear of the chassis.
The Heuschrecke IVb prototype turret was armed with the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 light field howitzer. The production models, however, were to have the newer, more powerful 10.5cm leFH 43 L/28.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffentrager IVb
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffentrager IVb SPG under going live firing trials. Notice the slightly different configuration of the early hydraulically operated arms for dismounting the turret compared to later photographs. The gun carriage wheels have not been fixed to the rear of the vehicle for these trials. The side and rear turret panels have been folded down to give the crew more room to work the gun.

Weapon Trials

The German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) sent weapon testing inspectors from the Gliederung Waffenamt Prüfwesen (Wa Prüf 4) artillery section to examine the new artillery SPG. They submitted a report following their inspection visit on the 28th September 1943.
On the positive side they noted it used mature tested parts. It could be traversed through 360 degrees and fired at high elevations when dismounted. The design worked and had adequate space for stowage of equipment and ammunition. It could carry 87 10.5cm shells.
On the negative side they concluded the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ would be expensive to produce and the dismounted turret wasn’t mobile.
The first trials happened on 11th October 1943 at Hillersleben. The hydraulic arms were used to dismount the turret. It was found to be too heavy. A lighter redesigned turret was manufactured and ready for testing by the end of December 1943.
At the end of January 1943, to complement the hydraulic turret dismounting system, the design team at Krupp started work on a backup hand powered system in case of problems with the hydraulics on the battlefield.
On the 28th March 1944 the Wa Pruef 4 artillery weapon testing inspectors were present at a second demonstration of the modified 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’.
Their recommendations after that visit were that a hand-operated crane, for dismounting the turret, be fabricated. Wheels were to be added to the dismounted turret frame, and installing a standard gun carriage and recoil management recuperator cylinder from the le.F.H. 18 gun.
On the 31st May 1944 the newly modified 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’, with a parallelogram hand-operated crane and wheels for the dismounted carriage, were demonstrated to the Wa Pruef 4 artillery weapon testing inspectors.
This time their report conclusion stopped any further development and design work on this project. They concluded that the 3.8 tonne dismounted turret was unusable on the battlefield. The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ never entered mass production.
There was no dramatic advantage to building this weapon over the 15cm Hummel, 10.5cm Wespe or 15cm Grille artillery self-propelled guns that were already in production. These vehicles were less complicated to produce and operate.

The 10.5cm gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105mm high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7lb). The armour piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case.

Surviving prototype

When the American Army occupied Germany at the end of the war they found a surviving 10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype. It was shipped back to the US Army Ordnance Corps proving grounds at Aberdeen, Maryland for testing and evaluation. It was transferred to Fort Still in 2012 and the Grasshopper 10 was restored by the Fort Sill Directorate of Logistics paint shop.

An article by Craig Moore

Gallery

10.5cm le FH18/1 (sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVB
Factory prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ painted in Dunkelgelb dark sandy yellow livery – Illustration by David Bocquelet
10.5cm le FH18/1 (sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVB
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ prototype in panzer grey livery – Illustration by David Bocquelet
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype.
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ prototype
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb rear view
The two large wheels at the back of the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ and the metal strut with the holes it on top of the track mud guards were used to construct a gun carriage.
Turret removal on the Grasshopper
10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb turret
Gun crews would erect the load carrying gibbet on the back of the vehicle chassis then remove the turret. It was placed onto a the gun carriage frame on the floor. Once it was locked into position it would be raised again so the gun carriage wheels could be fitted. The gun could then be towed.
grasshoper tank carriage

Surviving Grasshopper

10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA
Restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ at US Army Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA (Photo – Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb at APG
Before it was recently restored the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ was kept out in the open at the US Army Ordnance Corps proving grounds at Aberdeen, Maryland before being moved to Fort Sill.
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb GrasshopperClose up view of the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper turret whilst it was being restored at Fort Sill. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper under restoration in
the Fort Sill workshops. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
Side view of the restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper at Fort Sill with the rear arms raised. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
Rear view of the restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper at Fort Sill with the rear arms raised. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)

Waffenträger IVb Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 6.57 m x 2.9 m x 2.65 m
(21ft 7in x 9ft 6in x 8ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 24 tonnes (26.45 tons)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2x loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120TRM 12-cylinder water cooled gasoline/petrol engine, 285 hp
Fuel capacity 360 liters
Top road speed 38 km/h (24 mph)
Operational range (road) 225 km (140 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm leFH 18/6 howitzer with 87 rounds
Secondary Armament Hand held 9 mm machine pistol
Hull Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 16 mm – 20 mm
Turret Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 15 mm
Total built 1 or 3

Sources

German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain & H.L.Doyle
Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten Panzer Tracts No.10 by Thomas L. Jentz
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German prototypes

10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen III/IV

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 built

Alkett’s Waffenträger Weapon Carrier

The German weapons manufacturers Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig tried to compete with Krupp-Gruson to produce an amored fighting vehicle that would carry a 10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 light field howitzer onto the battlefield like a self-propelled gun, and also allow the gun to be lowered to the ground.
This then enabled the tank chassis to function as an armoured ammunition carrier. The driver could return to the nearest supply point and load the vehicle with more high explosive HE shells and propulsion canisters. The gun could also be fired from its armored open top turret on top of the vehicle without the need to lower it.
Alkett prototype
Alkett prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV artillery SPG
The Krupp-Gruson design was called the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb. The Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig design was given the name 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV. The German word Waffenträger means ‘weapon carrier’ and Geschüetzwagen translates to ‘gun vehicle’ (it was often abbreviated to just GW). Both words are appropriate to describe these vehicle’s function.
It was also called the 10.5cm leFh/40/2 (Sf) Geschutzwagen PzIVb, or 10.5cm leFh/40/2 (Sf) GW PzIVb or 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV. The letters (SF) stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer.
To remove the turret and gun on the Krupp-Gruson design, a large folding metal gantry was mounted on the rear of the vehicle. When it was folded down the long metal arms were stowed on top of the track guards. This vehicle was given the nickname of the Heuschrecke, the Grasshopper, as the folded metal arms looked like the legs of a grasshopper.
It is easy to tell the two designs apart. The Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig 10.5cm weapon carrier does not have any external folding metal struts on top of its track guards unlike the Krupp-Gruson design.
The 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 light field howitzer’s carriage rails and wheels were stowed at the rear of the vehicle on the outside. When the gun crew wanted to dismount the howitzer from the vehicle to use it as conventional artillery gun on the ground, they would unlock the gun from its mount and use a jack to lift it up and off.
The armored superstructure of the turret is hinged at the front to allow it to be folded forward to give more room to the gun crew during the removal procedure. The carriage, carriage wheels, and rear rails would then be reattached. A ramp down from the top of the vehicle would be fitted and a manual block and tackle winch system were used to lower the gun down to the ground. The reverse procedure would be used to remount the gun on top of the vehicle.
The howitzer could be fired from on top of the vehicle like a normal self-propelled gun. It could traverse through 360 degrees, as it was mounted on a turntable gun platform that was counter sunk into the top of the tank chassis.
There was no top to the turret. There were a few disadvantages of an open topped vehicle. The crew was exposed to the elements and were also at risk of injury from enemy thrown hand grenades, mortars and shrapnel from air burst enemy shells. A canvas tarpaulin rain cover was produced to give some protection from the elements.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV artillery SPG

Design and testing

Alkett submitted its designs for a 10.5cm howitzer weapons carrier self-propelled gun to the German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) Gliederung Waffenamt Prüfwesen (Wa Prüf 4) artillery section on 27th September 1943.
The first prototype was ready for testing on 28th March 1944. It was demonstrated to the Wa Pruef 4 weapons inspectors at Hiliersleben. The gun crew took around 15 minutes to dismount the howitzer and mount it on the newly designed Schiesspilz (firing pedestal). The gun could not be traversed a full 360 degrees on the ground.
The inspectors submitted a report that recommended the protective turret armor was to be increased in thickness, that the Schiesspilz (firing pedestal) be carried on the vehicle, and that the howitzer be modified so that it could fire to the rear of the vehicle at an angle of -5 degrees.
Alkett suggested that the turret superstructure armor could be angled to increase the gun crew’s protection. This suggestion was rejected as it decreased the amount of ammunition that could be stored.
The Wa Pruef 4 weapons inspectors re-evaluated the new modified prototype after a second demonstration on 28th May 1944. They were happy with the changes. As a Panzer III/IV self-propelled gun tank chassis was going to be used, it was felt that field trials would not be necessary as this chassis was already being used in the production of the Hummel and Nashorn self-propelled guns.
The design team at Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig had already lengthened a German tank chassis. It was called the Geschützwagen III/IV. Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J. The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV.
The first twenty-five production 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV were due to be completed by October 1944 but there were long delays at the factory. The German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) canceled the order on the 12th December 1944 before any were completed.
A revised design which did not feature the countersunk turntable gun platform was put forward and accepted. The gun would now only have a limited traverse when mounted on the tank chassis like a normal self-propelled gun. This was hoped to make production cheaper and simpler. An initial order for 250 of these vehicles was approved. The first 35 would be built by February 1945 and the rest to follow. There are no production report documents that suggest any of these vehicles were produced.
There was no dramatic advantage to building this weapon over the 15cm Hummel, 10.5cm Wespe or 15cm Grille artillery self-propelled guns that were already in production. These vehicles were less complicated to produce and operate.

The 10.5cm gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105mm high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case.

An article by Craig Moore

Sources

German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain & H.L.Doyle
Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten Panzer Tracts No.10 by Thomas L. Jentz
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.


The 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV prototype painted in Dunkelgelb. Illustration made by Jarja.

The same vehicle illustrated by David Bocquelet

Gallery

10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV
10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery weapon carrier self propelled gun.
10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery weapon carrier self propelled gun
Gun carriage wheels attached to the rear of the 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery SPG
Alkett prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV artillery SPG
A 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV in the middle next to a Nashorn SPG.

Surviving vehicle

Surviving 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype owned by Kevin Wheatcroft and kept in storage in Southern England
Surviving 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype owned by Kevin Wheatcroft and kept in storage in Southern England.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV
Along the top of the open casement superstructure are small D rings. These were used to tie down the bad weather tarpaulin.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV
Notice the empty retractable Gun carriage wheel holders at the back of this preserved 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.19 m x 3 m x 2.87 m
(23ft 6in x 9ft 8in x 9ft 4in)
Total weight, battle ready 25 tonnes (27.55 tons)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2x loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder water cooled gasoline/petrol engine, 265 hp
Fuel capacity 500 liters
Top road speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range (road) 300 km (186 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 howitzer with 85 rounds
Secondary Armament Hand held 9 mm machine pistol
Hull Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 20 mm
Turret Armor Front 10 mm
Sides and Rear 10 mm
Total built 1

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW1 German Empire vehicles

A7V Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger

German Empire (1917-18) Tracked Trench Cutting Vehicle – 1 built

The Pioniertruppe A7V-Schützengrabenbagger

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
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
Rear view of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger (source – Georg Garbotz)

A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger
Here you can see German senior officers inspecting the work of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger.

The development of the A7V tank 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.

Überlandwagen A7V
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.

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

Gallery

A7V-Schützengrabenbagger trench cutting machine
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG tracked trench cutting machine. Photo taken 28th October 1918 (source NARA)
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger trench cutter
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench cutter with its bucket jib in the raised position.
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger trench digger
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger LMG trench digger. Photo taken during digging trials.
A7V-Schützengrabenbagger
The earth dug out of the trench was dumped by a conveyer belt on the side of the A7V-Schützengrabenbagger.

A7V-Schützengrabenbagger Model

This amazing model of a A7V-Schützengrabenbagger tracked trench digging machine based on the A7V tank Chassis was scratch built by Alexander Shuvayev.
A7V-Schutzengrabenbagger
Scratch built model by Alexander Shuvayev.
A7V-Schutzengrabenbagger model
Scratch built model by Alexander Shuvayev.
A7V-Schutzengrabenbagger model kit
Scratch built model by Alexander Shuvayev.

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 German Empire vehicles

Überlandwagen Geländewagen A7V

German Tanks and armoured cars German Empire (1917-18) Tracked Supply Vehicle – 30 built

The German WW1 rough terrain supply vehicle

Überlandwagen Geländewagen A7V
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-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 revolutionise the battlefield. Thus the tank was born.
Although the tanks suffered from mechanical failures and inadequate crew training they had a major physiological 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.

A7V Gelendewagen with taller wooden side panels.
A7V Gelendewagen with taller wooden side panels.

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.

Überlandwagen A7V
Geländewagen A7V at the factory with the cargo wooden panel sides in the down position

The need for a tracked supply vehicle

The battlefield conditions during World War One were horrendous. The muddy, crater filled terrain proved too difficult and at times dangerous for both men and animals carrying supplies being moved to the front. The German Army felt a need to come up with a way of moving these vital supplies quickly but also safely.

In February 1918 the initial modified order for 100 A7V tanks was changed to just 20 finished units. The remaining A7V production chassis was diverted into making prime movers, tracked supply vehicles that could also tow guns and other broken down tanks, and anti aircraft vehicles.
The ‘prime mover’ supply vehicle based on the A7V chassis had a number of different names. The Germans made distinctions between Strassenwagen = Road vehicle. This vehicle crossed rough undulating ground and was called three different names A7V Geländewagen (Terrain vehicle), A7V Rauoenlastwagen (Caterpillar vehicle) and A7V Überlandwagen (Overland Vehicle).

The first eight A7V Geländewagen vehicles (chassis numbers 508 – 515) were completed by September 1917. In November 1917 they were in use with the German Armee Kraftwagen Kolonne (Raupe) III – AKK(R)111 (111th Tracked Army Motor Vehicle Column) in Northern France. By September of 1918 thirty were in services, with the AKK(R)111 and the AKK(R)1122 Army transport columns.

The A7V Überlandwagen’s carrying capacity was approximately 3 – 4 tons (2.7 – 3.6 tonnes). Although it was able to deal with the muddy terrain, it had limited success due its slow speed, poor rough terrain handling and lack of protection for the crew.
Identification number 583 or 588 can be seen on the front of the vehicle
The vehicle chassis number was painted on the right hand side at the front just under the over hanging cargo compartment. Only the number 5 can be clearly seen. This vehicle has a no drivers compartment canopy just wire rails on which a bad weather tarpaulin could be thrown over. It has the taller wooden side panels. The number 8 on a light background in a bordered circle may be the tactical symbol of the German Armee Kraftwagen Kolonne (Raupe) II22 – AKK(R)1122.

Those that did make trips to the front were well received by the soldiers, as the supplies that the Überlandwagen brought intact to the frontline were vital to the men. These supplies would range from clothes to medicine to munitions and at times food. The fate of these A7V Überlandwagens after World War One is unknown, it is possible that they were used sometime afterwards before being broken up and scrapped.

The twin Daimler 100hp engines were mounted side by side in the centre with the driving compartment, arranged for drive in either direction, placed on a platform above the engines. The driver did not have an armoured cab. The seats in the control position swivelled and the controls were duplicated for driving in either direction without the need for turning the vehicle around.

There was a canopy above the driver’s head. In some vehicles rails were added to support a tarpaulin cover over the load spaces. These rails went from the top of the canopy down to the four corners of the vehicle.

The walls of the driver’s cab were only about 2ft (0.6m) tall. He had four large open window that had no glass. In bad weather canvas sheeting was unrolled from the top of the canopy and secured to the bottom of the window opening to give the driver and crew some protection from the elements. The driver and the crew were very vulnerable.

A7V Überlandwagen supply vehicle
This A7V Überlandwagen supply vehicle has a straight end not a boat shaped bow and is not fitted with a cover for the driver.
Unlike the British that used armoured tanks as supply vehicles that could travel right up to the front line under enemy fire, the German A7V Überlandwagen supply vehicles had to stay out of range of Allied rifles and machine guns.
The suspension was derived from the Holt tractor suspension, the American tractor which had also provided the early inspiration for British and French tanks. The A7V-Uberlandwagen had a front and a rear cargo bay, with wooden panels on the side. Later versions had taller panels. For ease of loading and unloading the wooden panels could be unhitched and swing down on their hinges.

Two tow hooks were fitted to the front and back. These were used to tow wheeled vehicles and guns. They were also intended to be used to help tow broken down, knocked out or stuck in the mud German, British or French tanks back to safety.

Proving ground adjacent to the Damiler Plant near Berlin.
Proving ground adjacent to the Damiler Plant near Berlin. This vehicle was used to train drivers and mechanics of the German Armee Kraftwagen Kolonne (Raupe) III – AKK(R)111. The side walls on this vehicle are of the short variety.

Vehicle faults

Early reports were favourable but the A7V Überlandwagens suffered from the same mechanical and design problems as the A7V tanks: they had poor cross country performance and low ground clearance. Radiators and backboards were damaged if the load that was being carried was not sufficiently tied down. When the vehicle traversed very undulating ground the heavy load would slide around at fast speeds and hit the sides of the cargo areas causing damage.
The front and back of the cargo area extended past the tracks. This was problematic if the vehicle happened to descend into a big shell crater or trench. The nose of the vehicle got stuck in the mud wall on the other side of the depression. The tracks could not get a proper grip to drive up the wall. This was a design fault.

Fuel consumption was another big issue, especially in 1918 when fuel supplies were low. The A7V Überlandwagen required 10 litres of petrol/gasoline to travel one km. A wheeled truck only required 3 litres of fuel to cover the same distance. As a result they were not heavily used.

Specifications

Dimensions 7.34 x 3.1 x 3.3 m (24.08×10.17×10.82 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 30 to 33 tons
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 30

Sources

German Panzers 1914-18 by Steven J Zaloga
Tankograd World War One Special A7V First of the Panzers
The Sturmpanzerwagen A7V on Wikipedia
Landships

Gallery


Uberlandwagen A7V illustration

Überlandwagen A7V
You can clearly see the bad weather tarpaulin window covers rolled up just under the roof of the driver’s canopy in this photo and the wire cargo compartment cover rails which go from the top of the canopy down to the four corners of the vehicle.

Überlandwagen A7V
The driver’s canopy and cargo cover rails are missing from this vehicle. Also the crew are formally dressed suggesting that this vehicle is being used for driver training.

Überlandwagen A7V
Ammunition being unloaded from an Überlandwagen A7V near the front line.

Überlandwagen A7V
Fully loaded Überlandwagen A7V taking supplies up to the front on a sunny day in Northern France. The AKK(R) 111 unit swastika tactical symbol is painted on the front and the sides of the vehicle.

Gelandewagen trench crossing
An Überlandwagen A7V belonging to the AKK(R) 111 crossing a small trench during driver training.

A pair of A7V Gelandewagens in service with the AKK(R) 111
A pair of A7V Gelandewagens in service with the AKK(R) 111 believed on a training run and no load is being carried. The swastika sign in a white octagon insignia was the AKK(R) 111 tactical symbol. (photo NARA)

A7V Gelandewagen prime mover bringing supplies to frontline troops
An A7V Gelandewagen prime movers function was to bring supplies to frontline troops over rough terrain. In this photo senior German officers were being shown what it could do with a full load. (Photo NARA)

Nice symbolism with a team of horses in the trench below the Überlandwagen A7V: the new and the old
This image has nice symbolism with a team of horses in the trench below the Überlandwagen A7V: the new and the old. The old was still needed. The Germans used 1.8 million horses in WW1 and 2.7 million in WW2

An Überlandwagen A7V undergoing trials at the proving grounds of Daimler-Werkes in Berlin-Marienfelde.
An Überlandwagen A7V undergoing trials at the proving grounds of Daimler-Werkes in Berlin-Marienfelde. The side boards are of the smaller type. In the background a building of Fritz Werner Werkzeugmaschinen AG in Berlin-Marienfelde.

Überlandwagen A7V number 521 being driven of a flat-bed railway truck
Überlandwagen A7V number 521 being driven of a flat-bed railway truck
Überlandwagen A7V
Überlandwagen A7V waiting to be scrapped. It is believed that this photograph was taken in the early 1920s, in Aldershot, England. Several of these machines were taken for examination & testing.

Überlandwagen A7V
A fully loaded Überlandwagen A7V moves off the road onto a muddy field. This is what the vehicle was designed for.

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!