On 2nd April 1951, James Joseph Baldine (20/12/1910 to June 1974) of Hubbard, Ohio, USA, submitted a design for a one man tank and, like so many other one-man tank designs, Baldine’s had all the advantages of protecting a single soldier behind armor but also all the same disadvantages of a lack of fightability, observation, and vehicle control. He had, however, carefully considered the control aspect of the one-man tank and devised a foot-pedal control system which would allow the soldier inside to manage the steering and propulsion of the vehicle entirely with his feet allowing him to keep his hands free to operate a weapon. Baldine was no doubt influenced by current events, as the design was submitted at the time of the Korean War (1950-1953) but showed what can only be described as naive thinking in military terms, especially in a post-World War II era. Nonetheless, the design was a thorough one, producing probably the best of all of the one-man tanks and showing how many of the challenges for such a concept could be overcome.
Baldine’s tank did not separate the engine from the operator (this is what Baldine called the sole crewman), but placed it directly behind him, with the control pedals for steering/braking at his feet. The engine is described only as a four-cylinder, air cooled aviation type motor behind which was a conventional fluid transmission connected to the final drive for the tracks and a power-take-off with a small propeller allowing the vehicle to be propelled in water. Exhaust gases were vented directly out of the top but, with no provision for a fan, the operator would quickly become very tired from the proximity of this hot engine (despite the presence of a bulkhead between the operator and the engine) inside such a small machine. Directly under the crotch region of the pad, under the operator, was the petrol tank for the engine. The tracks for Baldine’s tank are not specified but he describes them only as “an endless track” with suspension of a ‘shock absorbing’ type.
The only mention of armament from Baldine is of a single machine gun in the front. The artwork submitted for his patent application in 1951 seems to indicate a .50 calibre machine gun like the M2 Browning. Fitted within a simple ball-mount in the nose of the tank, it would actually have a potentially wide arc of fire. Ammunition for it was fed from a magazine secured to the side of the nose-wall. A secondary weapon, in the form of a forward firing rocket launcher sticking out of the front, was located to the left of the operator. Fed from a magazine at the rear, the purpose of the rocket launcher is unclear as to whether it was for smoke or anti-tank or other purposes. The exhaust gas from the rocket was directed down below the vehicle to prevent it from giving away the position of the tank and the operator was provided with a sight to try and aim it. No other armament or smoke launchers were provided for, although presumably any soldier inside would also have their personal weapon as well, such as a submachine gun or handgun.
The tank itself was somewhat more complex than many other one-man tank concepts and also a lot larger. Unlike others, where the operator lacks enough space to sit up, Baldine proposed a taller vehicle with a pronounced dome directly over the soldier. Provided with ventilation slots, this dome would provide air and comfort for the solder but was not used for observation. Instead, all observation was conducted through the single large bulletproof glass window located directly to the soldier’s front over the main armament. Access to the tank was gained via a small sliding hatch located midway down its length on the roof, meaning the soldier would be exposed to enemy fire if/when the machine became stuck.
A common flaw in the one-man tank concept is the issue of comfort for the soldier crewing the vehicle. The operator is already very busy having to command, steer, and fight from the tank and obviously this is made harder if they are uncomfortable. Taking a prone position, where the soldier is lying on his front, can become very tiring after a while, particularly after travelling over rough country and having to lift their head up in order to see and fight, which produces additional strains. Baldine’s additional idea to assist his one-man tank concept was the addition of a specially designed sponge-rubber pad on which the soldier could lay.
Specially shaped, this pad would hold the operator in a steady position, providing support for his arms and chin as well as a wedge shaped block on which his crotch would rest. This crotch-block would prevent the solder from slipping down the mattress and raised edges on the sides and base would stop him from sliding laterally as well.
The one-man tank idea, something first proposed decades earlier and something which had never seen any successful mass production or use, was a dead idea by the 50’s. It can be surmised that Baldine was motivated by seeing the War in Korea and wanting to do his part for his country and to save the lives of soldiers or maybe just opportunism to try and make some money from an idea. Regardless of his motivations though, the design itself was not a terrible one by any means. As far as the concept goes, the design certainly had merit for the control of the machine and the layout, but the concept of a one-man tank was just fundamentally a bad one. A single soldier would be unable to adequately command, control and fight from the vehicle and the features of the vehicle inherent within the design, such as the low profile, giving low visibility, prevent such an idea being viable. As such, his one-man tank design might have been a very good one-man tank design but the concept was simply a flawed one. As such, his design suffered from those flaws and despite his best efforts could not overcome them. That ended his one-man tank idea.
Baldine also submitted a patent for a game teaching apparatus in January 1951. In 1963, he also designed a portable incinerator for a motor vehicle, designed as a means of disposing of cigarettes and paper items which could be fitted to a standard saloon car for disposing of litter on the move. Neither of those two designs were perhaps as adventurous as his one man tank idea, but Baldine had moved on anyway. It is not known whether Baldine received any financial benefit from his patents, but his one-man tank idea certainly went nowhere. His political career, as Mayor of Hubbard, was far more successful though, serving six consecutive terms. He died in office in 1974.
US Patent US2823393(A) Cushion pad for one-man tank, filed 2nd April 1951, granted 18th February 1958
US Patent US2722986 Braking and Steering Control Mechanism for one-man tank, filed 2nd April 1951, granted 8th November 1955
Hubbard News, 19th June 1974 – Mayor Baldine: an era has ended
World War 1, ‘The Great War’, as it was known, broke out in 1914 and brought into conflict the major European military empires of France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia, as well as Japan and the Ottoman Empire. As the war spread around the globe, it would eventually include the United States and cost millions of lives before it was finally concluded in a series of Peace Treaties between 1919-1922.
The names of many battles and operations have entered the common lexicon as synonyms for slaughter and sacrifice, such as Ypres, Flanders, Passchendaele, and Gallipoli, but there are also lesser known operations, including the plan by the British to launch an invasion (classified as a ‘Raid’) of the Belgium port of Zeebrugge.
This was to be no repeat of the failed landings at Gallipoli in 1915 which ground to a halt. This was to be a ‘raid’ en-forte – a raid to be supported by the new weapon of the war – the tank. With the support of Sir Henry Rawlinson, this bold endeavor was also highly secret, as reflected in the codename for it – Operation Hush.
“The enemy forces have been permitted to hold the Belgian coast for two years of the war. The advantages given to them by the possession of this coast have not been fully appreciated by them, or felt by us, because they possessed no sea initiative, no instincts of real naval strategy. They are a military, not a naval country. Their sea methods have been military, and not naval methods, and, therefore, they have failed to reap the great advantages that the coast of Belgium has placed within their reach.
I have no hesitation in asserting that, had the Germans had any real sea instincts, they could any day in the last two years have made a clean sweep of our forces in the entrance of the Channel, and until recently could have sunk in one swoop fifty to eighty of our ships in the Downs. They could, moreover, have repeated the operation more than once, and we should have been unable to retaliate efficiently unless protective vessels had been taken from the Grand Fleet to a very dangerous extent.
Ostend and Bruges provide two harbours which can accommodate destroyers practically in safety from attack. I have previously explained the reasons for the impossibility of destroying these harbours. The large batteries the Germans have installed on the coast prevent the near approach of our vessels. They have no shipping routes to protect, being able to obtain all their supplies by rail, and, therefore, they need not have any vessels in the offing. We, therefore, have no objective at which to strike.
We, on the other hand, have to protect our trade-route to the Thames and our transport routes to Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne – all within easy striking distance of their harbours. To do this we must constantly keep our forces patrolling at sea. To keep a force constantly on patrol, it is necessary to have in harbour, resting and repairing, a force larger than that keeping the sea. If, therefore, we are always to maintain at sea a force equal in number to that which the enemy can bring to attack us, we must allocate and keep in the vicinity a force nearly three times as great as that which the enemy can bring to bear.
Such a force is not usefully holding an equivalent number of the enemy, as he need not keep his force continually in southern waters. He can move them from the Elbe secretly and at will, and it must be a pure matter of chance if their advent is discovered, since aerial observation is the only form of reconnaissance available, and this is a rotten reed to trust to in the misty and cloudy area of the Belgian coast.
The enemy can, therefore, bring down and raid us with vessels which need not remain here, but which can operate in the north at will; he requires no vessels resting, as they merely raid and return to their base.
We should, for safety, keep at sea a force sufficient to deal with his vessels when they arrive, since it is useless in practice to treat vessels as ‘supporting vessels’ when those vessels are in harbour, as they have to get out of harbour, gather speed, and arrive at the spot attacked. In practice, before this can be done, the raid is over, the damage done, and the enemy well away to his harbours.
This is the penalty we should have paid more than once during this war for letting the enemy establish strong naval bases close to our main arteries of traffic. The Germans are learning daily; they have improved vastly in sea initiative; and we may expect trouble of this sort before long.”
Admiral Bacon reflecting in 1917in a memo on the need to
attack the Belgian coast and put the harbors of
Ostende and Zeebrugge (direct access to Bruges by sea)
out of reach of the Germans.
The Dover Patrol, as it was known, was an important command of the Royal Navy during the War, primarily tasked with ensuring the free passage of British and Allied commercial and military shipping through the English Channel into the North Sea, so that the trade routes to the Atlantic were protected from German coastal raiders and submarines.
Equipped with a variety of vessels, this was no minor naval force, comprising at the onset of war just 12 somewhat ancient and mostly obsolete Tribal-class Destroyers. It expanded into a force with a variety of vessels from Cruisers to Submarines of its own and it owned air support in the form of propeller-driven aircraft and airships.
Commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon KCB, KCVO, DSO (6/9/1863 – 9/6/1947), from 13th April 1915, the patrol’s work was a difficult one in an era without radar, sonar, and many of the other accoutrements required for minesweeping and anti-submarine work. As the war progressed, the Patrol would eventually take the lead role of blockading German-held Belgian ports to simply prevent the German ships and submarines leaving or arriving – an easier solution than hunting them on the open sea.
The Germans had invaded Belgium in August 1914 and rapidly occupied the majority of the country, leaving just a small portion in the west of the country free and unoccupied. The front line formed by the defence of Belgian, British, and French troops, most notably around the salient at Ypres, become a charnel house during the war as the scene of years of bitter fighting and little movement or progress had been made in freeing Belgium during this time despite the enormous sacrifices made to do so. The two main ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge on the North-West coast of Belgium provided the occupying German forces with direct access to the North Sea, from where ships and submarines would be able to harass Allied shipping in an era when travel from the USA and Canada to Great Britain and from Great Britain to France could only go by sea. The dominance of the Royal Navy had, however, managed to keep the Germans fleet at bay, having begun a blockade of German ports as early as August 1914. For the most part, the blockading had worked but, naval matters aside, the two ports also occupied a narrow front for the Germans to the sea around the neutral territory of Holland (The Netherlands).
This narrow gap, around 50 km wide on the coast, with two key ports and lying just behind the German front lines, was a very tempting target for landing troops. In theory, a raid on one or more of those ports would not only deprive German naval forces of a base but, if successful, could easily become a new front outflanking the stagnant northernmost front lines of the Western Front. Various occasional shelling of the harbours from August 1915 until March 1916 had been done by the Dover Patrol, but the Germans remained firmly ensconced. With shelling ineffective, blockading of mines and nets was to be the mode d’emploi for the Royal Navy through October 1916, when bad weather scattered the blockading forces through to the spring of 1917.
The major batteries covering Zeebrugge down through Ostende included the Tirpitz battery mounting modern 28 cm (11 inch) guns with an estimated range of 18 miles emplaced at Ostende. By 1916, the Germans had also installed a new battery, known as the Kaiser Wilhelm II battery, consisting of 4 x 30.5 cm (12 inch) guns at Knokke just up the coast from Zeebrugge. Other batteries included 15 cm (6 inch) guns of a naval type installed at Raversyde, down the coast from Ostende, and some old 28 cm (11 inch) naval guns in the Hindenburg battery installed east of Ostend harbour. In total, by the start of 1917, some 80 guns of 15 cm calibre or greater were arranged along the narrow Belgian coast
Those batteries posed a substantial threat to any ships coming within range of them, which meant any frontal attack by a relatively slow landing force could end in disaster before they even got to the harbor. The approaches to the harbors and the coast offshore were increasingly being heavily mined by the Germans as well, making the task of blockade a difficult and dangerous one, but more importantly creating a serious obstacle to a landing force. Moving the site of the attack would reduce the direct threat of the German gun batteries, although the approaching force would still potentially be in range of the Tirpitz battery or other shore shore defences. For example, the 30.5 cm guns of the Kaiser Wilhelm battery were able to shell blockading ships out to at least 17 miles (27.4 km). This was beyond the short-range (just 10 miles / 16.1 km) of the large guns on the monitors.
Defending the area along the coast behind the front line trenches at Nieuport was the German 1MarinesKorps Flandern consisting of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions. To their south lay the 199th Infantry Division covering the lines behind the River Yser. The two Marine Divisions were later reinforced by a third Marine Division in July 1917 and reserves from the 4th Army were also available. Some 33 concrete machine gun positions lay along the coast, one every kilometre. In addition to all of this was, after June 1917, the Pommern Battery, 3 km north of the town of Koekelare, was completed. Although just over 10 km south of the coast, the battery featured the 38 cm (15 inch) Lange Max (Eng: Long Max) gun, at the time the largest gun in the world, with a range of over 38 km for a High-Explosive shell containing 62 kg of explosives. The gun had more than a large enough range to strike any of the landing sites at Middelkerke (13.8 km), Ostende (12.7 km), and even Zeebrugge (28.3 km) with devastating effect.
It is important to note that an attack along the Belgian coast, on the face of it, might have caught the Germans unawares, but it was not so. In fact, Admiral Schroeder, Commander of the German Naval Corps, had also seen what Admiral Bacon had seen, albeit sometime after Admiral Bacon. In June 1917, he issued a memo to his divisional commanders on exactly that subject, even down to the best location. A memo which was then overridden in October 1917 by the exact opposite of what was to actually be the case for the British. In the October 1917 memo, Admiral Schroeder changed his mind from a landing at Westende to a direct attack on the harbors of Ostende or Zeebrugge – the precise opposite of the sequence of how the British actually went about selecting a location.
“A landing on a large scale is most unlikely because of the strong armament and garrison of the coast, with which the enemy is well acquainted, the great difficulties of navigation, and the lack of large fleet transports. The most likely operation would be a flank attack on the land front west of Westende Bains combined with a strong attack from the land side”
Memo from Admiral Schroder, June 1917
The Plan for Ostende
A plan for an amphibious landing on the Belgian coast had been mooted as early as the end of 1915 by Admiral Bacon, with the primary goal of stopping the German mine-layers which operated out of there. He was acutely aware of what effect this might have on the neighbouring nation of The Netherlands (a neutral country), which would be brought to understand its own vulnerability of its own coastal towns. How this could affect the war was unclear, but the possibility of Holland entering the war was not unimaginable.
Examining the vulnerability of the German flank on the Belgian coast and the defences, it was Admiral Bacon’s assessment that the area might be vulnerable to a sudden assault from the sea. Launched at daybreak, surprise would be the greatest asset, as ships would force their way into Ostend harbor. Landing at the jetty, troops could disembark supported by close fire provided by the monitors which would also bathe the area in a smokescreen from the burning of 50 tons of phosphorus. This plan relied on a rapid deployment of troops to overwhelm the defences and storm the batteries before they simply became target practice for the Germans.
This landing became more complex as Admiral Bacon worked through the details. It would require 10,000 men, carried on 90 trawlers (200 men each) formed into sections of 6 boats each (600 men and machine guns). They would still have to exit these boats via a gangplank onto the jetty and would be very vulnerable to a well placed machine gun with little chance of cover or escape if things went wrong.
Fire support would be in the form of 6 monitors. Each of these ships would carry a pair of 12 inch guns, two 12 pdr. 18 cwt. guns, one pom-pom, a 3 pounder, 2 Maxim machine guns and other light weapons, as may be required to suppress the enemy. Each of them would also carry up to 300 men who could be deposited into the shallow waters and wade ashore. Another monitor, carrying a single 9.2 inch gun, a 12 pdr. 18cwt. gun, one Q.F. 6 pdr., and a pair of Maxim machine guns would support those 6 close assault monitors. It was understood that, as the phase of combat in the town would be the hardest, having to clear buildings, that the primary support the monitors would offer was small arms fire locally and shelling on the outskirts and beyond primarily to the west of the town – the expected direction of German reinforcements. Large calibre fire in town could be done but wrecking local buildings and creating rubble would add to the defensiveness of the town, so was to be avoided where possible.
Once the jetties were secure, the 6 close-support monitors would land and deliver a cargo of field guns and armored cars to support the assault on the gun batteries and the exploitation of the hole in the German defences. The time scale for success was a narrow window of just 48 hours from the assault to the seizure of a line in preparation for a further attack up the coast.
Fire support would be available in the form of a single 12 inch Mark X gun weighing 50 tons (50.8 tonnes) on a 50-ton (50.8 tonnes) mounting which was landed by the Navy at Dunkirk. It was eventually installed 16 miles from the Tirpitz battery. Three 9.2 inch guns weighing 30 tons (30.5 tonnes) each, 8 x 7.5 inch guns, and 4 x 9.2 inch guns followed. These were to be followed by 3 experimental 18 inch guns, each weighing 150 tons (152.4 tonnes) and special mounts and could be based at Westende, just down the coast from the landing site and on the British side of the front lines. Able to fire over the German lines, these huge guns could support the troops advancing inland, but the plan had to be abandoned due to the lack of available mounting points on the coast. Instead, they were sent to the monitors to be mounted instead of their 12 inch guns and, so armed, could now shell the German-held docks from a distance of 20 miles (32.2 km) away at sea instead.
The purpose of this heavy artillery was to shell the Tirpitz battery to keep it busy and then to provide inland fire support for the successful landing. Although that landing never did take place, these guns found plenty of work in shelling both the Tirpitz battery and other German positions. The French would help as well. They had already provided two of the monitors, albeit ancient ships, they were, at least in firing condition. In addition to those ships already provided, they also brought two 9.2 inch railway-mounted guns able to fire on German positions in support of the British 12 inch guns.
The effectiveness of Admiral Bacon’s artillery support plan was tested by him on 8th July 1916, when the French railguns opened up on the Tirpitz battery. The British 12 inch guns fired 21 rounds at the battery as well. The counter-battery response from the Tirpitz battery was misplaced, hitting an abandoned British artillery position on the sand dunes and with 104 rounds fired at the French guns. The French guns, being rail mounted, were more vulnerable then the British position and the French High Command withdrew these valuable weapons. In order to disguise the fire from the British guns and avoid German counter-battery fire, Admiral Bacon devised a ruse whereby HMS Lord Clive, one of his monitors, would fire blanks whilst his land-based guns fired live rounds. In this way, the Germans would be induced to believe it was the Lord Clive which was bombarding them. That concluded a second day of artillery bombardment on the Tirpitz battery, after which the British 12 inch guns were worn out and needed relining. The damage to the battery was not great. All four emplacements had been hit and two had been put temporarily out of action. The artillery plan was, therefore, adjudged to be a sound one, capable of occupying the Tirpitz battery and thus allowing a landing force to arrive unmolested by them.
Certainly, this was a bold plan, but also a highly dangerous one. The narrow entrance and the length of water up which unarmored trawlers would have to be sailed before they could offload troops left them men on board dangerously exposed with few alternatives if things went wrong. Should one ship become ablaze, adrift, or damaged, it could also block the channel long enough to trap some of the assault force ahead or behind it with no support and easy pickings for German troops. With the erection of the Kaiser Wilhelm battery (referred to by the British as the Knokke battery) in February 1916 with modern 12 inch guns, the Germans would be able to shell Ostend harbor and this was a huge problem. Any British assault could be smashed by German shellfire into the harbor from that battery and, with that risk prominent in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief of British Expeditionary Headquarters, the plan was abandoned.
Plan 2 – The Middelkerke Option
The landing plan for Belgium had initially focussed on a direct assault on Ostende itself but, following the shocking weather at the end of 1916 and the creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm battery, this had been dropped.
The landings could not be moved North along the Belgian shore, as they would still be within range of the Kaiser Wilhelm battery well over the border with neutral Holland. The obvious solution was to move the landing to the south, out of the range of those guns and also closer to supporting British troops. Admiral Bacon was clearly disappointed that his bold plan to seize Ostende in a lightning amphibious strike had been nixed, but it was really not a surprise given the risks entailed. He did not, however, give up and the work he had already done on the proposal was still valid, just not for a direct assault on Ostende. This background work had put Admiral Bacon in touch with the best experts in each available topic in the assault, and this included Sir Henry Rawlinson. Together, in a unity of thought between the Army and Navy, they would work on a new plan and, as this new work developed, they also had the latest weapon in the British arsenal available for 1917 – the tank. The foreshore to the west of Ostende was a tempting target, but there was a problem. It was protected from erosion by the sea with a large concrete sea wall 30 feet (9.1 m) high and sloping at a 30-degree angle with a buttress at the top 3’ (0.91 m) high. With such a narrow coastal zone, this prospect, unpleasant as it was, was the only option, so a solution to the problem of this daunting obstacle had to be found.
Troops would not be offloaded from clumsy trawlers under this new plan, nor would vehicles have to be unloaded at a jetty. Instead of capturing a jetty at which to unload vehicles, Admiral Bacon devised a portable jetty instead, which the assault force would bring with them. Formed as two giant piers or pontoons, each weighing some 2,400 tons (2,439 tonnes), 200 yards (183 m) long, and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide, they would be pushed ahead of a pair of monitors which had been lashed together. These would also provide fire support. The sides of this pier was made of stout timber walls and, at the front, at the raft-portion, legs made from 1’ (30 cm) section timbers with iron feet 4 sq. ft. (0.37 m2) to drop into the sand to provide support were used.
This pushed-pier scheme was not Admiral Bacon’s. It was first proposed by Sir Henry Jackson (First Sea Lord at the time) in Autumn 1916 but Admiral Bacon was taking this idea in a new direction. Pushed ahead of the monitors, these piers fitted with guns of their own and laden with men and tanks would be moved to the foreshore and disgorge their contents on the awaiting and outnumbered German defences. There, the monitors could remain attached despite the large tidal range of around 8.5 feet (2.6 m). That had meant the piers had to be very long to keep the monitors, with a draught of about 9 feet (2.7 m), from bellying out on the sand as the tide withdrew, but it also provided a large platform on which an assault force could be assembled. At the very front of the assault pier or ‘pontoon’ was a flexible series of wooden rafts 150 feet (45.7 m) long made from two layers of timber 4” (102 mm) thick, which could move to accommodate any flex in the pier when moored and being offloaded.
Speed in the water was not great – just 6 knots (11.1 kph), and the landing was to take place as close to high tide as possible, so timing was a careful consideration. If they got the piers into the right place, the piers, each 200 yards (183 m) long, would extend over the majority of the long lightly shelving beach at Middelkerke. The distance from the low tide point to the sea wall was measured as just 275 yards (251 m), so there would be just 75 yards (69 m) of open beach to cover.
The planning for the operation was looking at a possible date of early September 1917, giving the offensive to the south at Passchendaele time to break through German lines.
Tanks were a novelty to the extent that no one had any experience at all with amphibious operations with tanks of any kind from which to take inspiration. Developments for the tanks would have to be played by ear and, initially, it was wondered if these new weapons would be of any use at all. The first real problem was the wall along the seafront. Smooth and concrete at 30 degrees, the leading angle of the British tank coming in contact with that wall would raise the front of it and bring little track in contact, posing the question of whether it could climb the wall.
If the tank could not be induced to climb the wall, they were useless, so a solution was needed. A replica of the sea wall at Middelkerke was created in concrete at Merlimont in France in April 1917 and other testing took place at Tank Headquarters. The replica of the wall was aided by the original architect being tracked down in France as a refugee. He still had the original plans for the wall. This point, made by Frank Mitchell in ‘Tank Warfare’ (1933), was contrary to what Admiral Bacon claimed in 1919, who claimed the mock-up was more severe than the real wall.
Large inclined ramps, stout enough to take the tank’s weight, were manufactured in Britain and shipped over for trials on the 28th April according to Admiral Bacon. This is disputed by Mitchell (1933), as he states that the ramps were made from steel.
Trials of these ramps took place on 30th April using a Mark II Female tank fitted with large wooden spuds attached to the track links. A Mark IV Male tank was tested at the same time, with the ramp attached to the front. Pushed in front of the tank, attached to a beam across the nose between the horns, the ramp was supported on wheels.
The spuds would provide better traction of the sand of the beach after offloading from the ramp, but the ramp also had a corresponding series of spuds fitted across its face. As the tanks climbed the ramp, these spuds would engage with each other and thus, like a ladder, the tank would climb the wall.
This method proved effective, but was less than ideal as, initially, the spuds fitted to the tank were hollow and too fragile. Replaced with solid planks instead, they proved robust enough and the whole contraption was handed over to the Tank Corps for their inspection and modifications. According to Admiral Bacon, the Tank Corps did not like his wooden spud concept and took them off, replacing them during experiments in Birmingham, England in June with a new type of grip. According to Admiral Bacon, the Tank Corps preferred a kind of wooden-pad in place of his inclined ramp idea, although he was unhappy with this solution. He implies in his account that some kind of special track attachment was also formulated, as this would have no use on the wall as it had no timber coping on which it could gain purchase. This implies some kind of steel type grip of some description in place of his timber ones. Although he did not like the switch from the inclined ramp, he very much liked the armor-plate spuds. He then described that officers from Birmingham would go to France to liaise with the Tank Corps on a climbing gear for the tank.
With the pier-delivery force undergoing training in the Swin Estuary, the troops of 1st Division, 4th Army, specially chosen by General Rawlinson for the mission, were ensconced at an isolated camp at Le Clipon, near Nieuport, France. Their training, like the monitor and assault piers, was to take place in absolute secrecy and practiced repeatedly scaling the replica of the sea-wall. After some practice, these troops were soon able to disembark a simulated assault pier within just 10 minutes, less than half the time Admiral Bacon had allowed for. They could also then climb the wall in full kit with ease, although guns, wagons, and other heavy items would have to be dragged or lifted up the ramp by the tanks. For this purpose a special type of cable winch system was designed for Operation Hush. The winch ran on the right-hand side of the tank and was powered by an extension to the secondary gearing which was run to the outside of the original side armor. Visible in the photo of Mark IV Male 29064 is the new bolt arrangement holding the end of this gearing extension into the new side armor panel covering the cable winch. No winch equipment was added to the left side of the tank, as there was simply no need. This single side-mounted extension was sufficient to haul up the guns, carts, wagons, and wheeled vehicles over the sea-wall. It may also have been proposed to use this as a means to assist a broken down tank as well, although this would have been a hazardous affair for the towing vehicle due to the winch being on one side of the vehicle. The exact capacity of the winch or cable is not known either but would be sufficient for at least the heavier of the guns and wheeled vehicles. Hauling a tank is a different matter.
The actual assault was to follow a similar timeline as the plan for Ostend. The attack was to take place at dawn, with as high of a tide as possible, and those requirements restricted the timing to just 8 days in any given month. It would also ensure that no tanks or men would have to wade through water any deeper than 3’ (0.91 m), which was fortunate, as there was no waterproofing on the tanks and, in any deeper water, they would have been flooded through the doors on the side. The best day for the attack was set as 8th August 1917, as not only would the tides and timing be right, but there would be no moon to illuminate the attacking force to the German defenders. General Rawlinson learned that a proposed attack at Ypres scheduled for 25th July was postponed to 31st July. This pushed the 8th August date back to either 24th August or 6th September for the conditions to be right once more. On 22nd August, however, more disappointment. Despite the request from General Du Cane (XV Corps) for the amphibious assault to precede his own attack as a convenient diversion for the Germans, Field Marshal Haig delayed the operation until an unspecified date after 6th September. It was never to get a new date, but the tactics remained unchanged from those determined for August.
One assault pier would be driven ashore at Middelkerke and a second at Westende, with the third between the two of them, creating an assault front 3 miles (4.8 km) wide.
An alternative to that all-out combined plan was proposed in July 1917 as a more modest option. This alternative, proposed by Admiral Bacon, was for the assault to simply destroy the shore batteries, comprising some 100 or so guns of various calibers in the area, and then to occupy and hold Westende. This would have prevented a direct join up with British troops and would have left the landing party isolated – having to be supplied by sea all within range of the remaining batteries. It would also have stabbed a substantial hole in the northern edge of German forces in the sector, allowing for any German defenses between Nieuport and Westende to be shelled and then assailed from both directions – an unpleasant thought for the Germans, who would have been trapped between these two fronts. It would also allow the Navy to land guns at Middlekerke with the range to shell the harbors of Ostende and Zeebrugge, as well as the docks at Bruges. This option was turned down.
The value of the harbors to the Germans disappeared. By Spring 1917, bombardments of Ostend and Zeebrugge had become so effective as to render them untenable as bases for the Germans. Combining this with the impacts of the blockading and mining taking place, the German Navy abandoned them and part of the need for these ports to be raided had evaporated. Of course, they could have served for that great flanking maneuver to encircle the Germans combined with a breakthrough of the trench lines at Passchendaele (July to November 1917), but with dates in August and then September set and then abandoned, the operation was looking less and less likely until, on 15th October, it was finally canceled.
The detection by the Germans of the British taking over the sector on the coast at Nieuport from the French had led to a spoiling attack in July 1917. Known as Unternehmen Strandfest (Eng: Operation Beach Party), the German attack used heavy artillery bombardment and mustard gas to break up two British Divisions and proved that this far northernmost flank of the Western Front was not going to be given up easily.
The battle at Passchendaele had been a slaughter, no breakthrough had been gained and 1st Division was a surplus troop of rested troops in good morale which were needed urgently to the south. The failure of the Army to secure that breakthrough meant that these plans never took place.
It was not to be the end of the plans by the Navy to stymie German efforts to use these Belgian ports, with plans for a direct assault on Zeebrugge originally planned in 1915 being revisited for 1917. An attempt on such a raid was eventually made in early April 1918 but was called off due to bad weather. Tried again at the end of the month, blockships were used to try and block the channel but failed, and the Royal Marines being carried as the assault party suffered terribly from machine-gun fire from the harbor during their attack on the mole.
Somewhat surprisingly for a major world power, the British seemingly forgot or did not care for this type of amphibious operation landing forces on an enemy-held beach, and virtually no work was done on the subject from this time until the outbreak of WW2. All the lessons which the Dover Patrol was learning and working through in 1916-1917 had to be rethought and reworked a generation later and some of the solutions would end up being the same. Little excuse can be accepted for the inability to have filled those intervening years with development work, however, and it was to be more than 25 years until the British actually fulfilled the promise of an opposed landing with tanks on an enemy-occupied foreshore in Normandy. Of all of the attempts to stop the use of the harbors by the Germans, it was the unsuccessful raid on Zeebrugge in April 1918 which had the most lasting legacy – a legacy that led to the successful raid copying many of the elements at St. Nazaire in March 1942.
Today you can take a virtual tour of a WW1 German shore battery at the Raversyde battery ruins and nature park just outside Ostende, and visit the Lange Max battery at Koekelare as remnants of this lengthy campaign. The harbors of Ostende and Zeebrugge remain busy seaports to this day, and the casino, so prominent in the assault plans for Middelkerke, is gone, although the sea wall around its jutting out onto the beach remains.
At the end of WW2, the US Army was using the 75 mm M6 gun-armed M24 Chaffee light tank, an otherwise satisfactory and reliable light tank. Nonetheless, by 1949, the US Army had decided to replace it, leading to the T41E1 and, which was eventually type classified as the M41. Fitted with the more powerful M32 76 mm main gun, gun stabilization (the British Vickers system), and a rangefinder, the M41 marked a step-change in the firepower of light tanks for US forces. Weighing just 23.5 tonnes (nearly 6 tonnes more than the Chaffee), the M41, powered by a Continental or Lycoming boxer 6 cylinder engine delivering 500 hp, was an agile tank with excellent firepower for its weight. Widely exported, it saw decades of use in dozens of armies around the world, but by the 1990s was seriously obsolete. An inadequate fire control system, no laser range finder, and a gun incapable of tackling even second-line Soviet tanks meant the M41 had had its day. Like other light tanks of WW2 or post-WW2 era, it was simply not able to offer a modern army what was needed in terms of firepower. Whereas particularly Western armies could afford the development of a new era of light, capable, and well-armed platforms offering increased protection, second-rate armies could not. Many armies around the world were still operating or had vehicles like the M41 or AMX-13 in stock or were looking to perhaps add some capability to their armored forces by adding a turret to an APC like the M113.
The Belgian firm of Cockerill, with a very long history of development and manufacture, offered exactly this option in the early 1990s in the form of a light turret with a new powerful 90 mm gun, offering performance similar to the well-regarded Royal Ordnance 105 mm gun but without the weight. This option, therefore, potentially allowed more cash-strapped militaries to upgrade otherwise obsolete vehicles to modern firepower standards or to add much-needed firepower to an APC or wheeled platform. For the purpose of tests and to potentially elicit sales, this new turret, known as the LCTS, was mounted on a surplus M41 Walker Bulldog, presumably from surplus Belgian stocks as the Belgian Army had operated 135 of them between 1958 and 1974. Despite the potential benefits on offer, this turret did not find any interest in itself, but its descendants are currently in service with the US Army and other forces around the world.
The M41 light tank was of a conventional layout, with the driver in the front, crew space in the central part, and engine in the rear. The turret was mounted roughly centrally on the vehicle and the new LCTS turret was mounted in exactly the same place as the original. The available photograph clearly shows the use of a turret-ring adapter mounted on the hull to match the new turret.
Only a single crew member was used in the hull of the M41 light tank and this crew member, the driver, was obviously retained for this demonstrator vehicle too. Sat in the front left of the hull, the driver, his controls, hatches, optics, etcetera would remain unchanged from the M41 or other platform on which the turret could be placed, notwithstanding any additional upgrading done at the same time as adding the turret. The previous crew complement of the M41 consisted of three more men, with the commander, gunner, and loader in the turret but, for this vehicle, that original turret was completely removed and so were these crew positions.
Inside the new turret was space for just two crew, seated roughly side by side. The first, the commander, sat on the left of the turret under a single-piece hatch. He was provided with a single forward-facing sight for the primary weapon and had 5 periscopes around his hatch for observations. Any additional sights, including a thermal sight, were presumably available as aftermarket options for potential buyers.
The second crew member in the turret was the gunner and he sat on the right of the turret, also with a single one-piece hatch. He too had a single primary forward-facing sight for the main gun and an array of 5 periscopes around his hatch for all-round observations. With no loader in the turret, the gunner would have to fulfill this function too, but it allowed for a substantially smaller turret as well, which was a substantial size and weight tradeoff for a reduced rate of fire available.
The M41 tank used a 6 cylinder Boxer-type petrol engine from either Continental or Lycoming AOS 895-3 delivering 500 hp at 2,800 rpm. This allowed the 23.5-tonne tank to reach speeds of up to 45 mph (72.4 km/h) on a road. Later versions of the M41, the M41A1, and M41A2 used a fuel-injected version of this engine, the AOSi-895-5.
The suspension was provided by means of 5 double road wheels with rubber tires and 3 rubber-tired return rollers, all running on tracks 21 inches (533 mm) wide. The CD 500-3 cross drive transmission was at the back driving the sprocket to move the tracks and a single idler wheel was located at the front. There is no information in Janes, from Cockerill, or from the photograph of the vehicle available to suggest any changes to the hull used. Any upgrade program from a buyer may obviously have included upgrades to whatever power plant or drive desired. The available photograph of the vehicle from Janes does show some reel on the back deck of the hull, but this does not appear to have any relevance to the design or automotive elements.
The turret was the whole point of the design. Able to be fitted to a variety of hulls, it was only fitted to the chassis of an M41 light tank for demonstration purposes. Using this hull was a clear sign of the potential market for a turret that could modernize existing light tanks, such as the M41 or AMX-13, which were still in widespread international service but which were otherwise obsolete. Adding this turret would offer potential clients a relatively cost-effective way to make an old platform into a capable modern vehicle without the expenditures needed to develop or purchase a completely new vehicle.
The LCTS turret was fitted with a pair of 7.62 mm machine guns of a type not specified, as these would be changeable by the client. One of the machine guns was fitted coaxially with the main gun and the other would be mounted on the roof of the turret for anti-aircraft protection. Up to 750 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition could be carried in the turret.
The main armament, however, was not changeable like the machine guns, as it was inherent to the design. Consisting of the 90 mm Cockerill Mk. 7 gun, this was mounted centrally in the narrow front of the turret. The gun was able to be rotated a full 360 degrees and was capable of -9 to +20 degrees of vertical movement. Turret traverse was powered and the speed of rotation was 30 degrees per second. This meant it would take 12 seconds to make a single full 360-degree revolution.
Two banks of four smoke grenades were carried on each side of the turret. Eight additional grenades were carried inside the turret. Up to 12 rounds of 90 mm ammunition could be carried in the turret, as well as some additional rounds in the hull of the tank, although this would depend on what the donor hull being used would be. For example, mounting the turret on an M113 would allow significantly more potential stowage than on an AMX-13 hull, so the exact stowage could not be determined. It is worth noting that the gun and turret, during various iterations, were trialed for several vehicles, including the British Saladin armored car at one point. Stowage on the M41 for its original 76 mm gun was 57 rounds with 13 in the turret, 11 in a ready rack, and 33 in the hull. For this new smaller turret, just 12 90 mm rounds were able to be carried in the turret and, assuming a substantially smaller or no space for a ready rack, this would still leave hull stowage for around 30 rounds in the hull. In total, therefore, perhaps around 40-45 rounds could be stowed using this turret on a modified M41.
The 90 mm Cockerill gun (also sold as the 90/46 KEnerga by MECAR), launched in around 1982, went through various stages of development. The Mk. 7 was a modification of the Mk. 6 and was itself modified and replaced by the Mk. 8 in 1992. Weighing less than ¾ of a tonne and with a length of 4.365 m (L/48.5), the 90 mm Cockerill operated at a pressure of just 310 MPa and produced a recoil stroke of just 350 to 370 mm.
Ammunition for the Cockerill gun was made by MECAR and included a potent Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot – Tracer (APFSDS-T) round with a muzzle velocity of 1,500 m/s able to defeat NATO triple heavy targets, High Explosive Plastic (HEP) to defeat bunkers, structures, light armor and also for indirect fire use, smoke, canister, High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT), and training rounds.
The hull armor for the M41, as would be expected from a light tank, was poor, with just 30 mm at 40 deg. on the front, 25 mm on the sides, and 20 mm at 40 deg. on the rear. The new LCTS turret was basic and based on a simple welded steel shell. The basic shell provided protection from small arms fire and could, if required, be supplemented with some additional layers bolted to the exterior to increase protection. This would also increase the weight from 2,400 kg and the ballistic protection improvements would not be sufficient to resist enemy tank fire and would only go as far as providing protection from heavy machine-gun fire. More than that would be somewhat pointless, given that the prospective vehicle on which this would be mounted was relatively lightly armored too.
The LCTS turret was similar in size to the ACEC AK90E turret as fitted to the ACEC Cobra a few years prior. It too mounted a 90 mm gun and seated the two crew side by side. The AK90E turret was larger though, weighing some 200 kg more and able to stow 17 more 90 mm shells than the LCTS. Given that both firms are Belgian, and offered these very similar turrets just a few years apart, it is hard not to see the LCTS as a direct development from the AK90E both on a purely visual comparison but also based on the technical specifications of the two.
Comparison between ACEC AK90E and LCTS Turrets
2 (Commander & Gunner)
2 (Commander & Gunner)
90 mm Cockerill Mk.7 or Mecar 90 mm KEnerga
Cockerill 90 mm
90 mm Ammunition (turret stowage only)
Coaxial 7.62 mm MG
Coaxial and roof-mounted 7.62 mm MG
7.62 mm ammunition
-10 to +25
-9 to +20
OIP LRS 5 incl. Thermal day/night sight and laser range finder
4 M17 observation periscopes
5 periscopes plus gun sight
4 M17 observation periscopes
5 periscopes plus gun sight
The LCTS, as shown, received no orders. It was undoubtedly a capable platform on which to mount the very capable 90 mm Cockerill gun and combined with some modern fire control and ranging would have provided a serious way to upgrade otherwise obsolete vehicles to a modern standard. Despite the lack of sales, Cockerill continued their development and refining and the descendant design of the LCTS 90 mm is the LCTS 90MP – a highly successful turret with a 90 mm gun in service, amongst others, with the US Army.
M41 LCTS 90 specifications
M41 or other vehicle hull weight plus 2,400 kg (turret) as mounted on the M41 estimates ~23 tonnes
3 (commander, gunner, and driver)(assuming donor vehicle uses a single hull crewmember – commander and gunner in turret)
6 cylinder Boxer-type Continental or Lycoming AOS-895-3 petrol engine delivering 500 hp at 2,800 rpm or the AOSi-895-5 fuel injected version
bulletproof – capable of being improved
90 mm Cockerill Mk.7 gun plus two 7.62 mm machine guns
12 x 90 mm rounds (turret) plus hull stowage, 750 7.62 mm rounds
MECAR. KEnerga 90/46 lightweight gun system advertisement.
The Dominion of Canada had a population of just 11 million people at the outbreak of WW2, yet the Canadian contribution to the Allied victory was enormous. A quarter-million men and women from Canada served in the Air Force alone during the war, along with nearly 100,000 in the Navy and 730,000 men and women in the Army. In total, nearly 1 in 11 Canadians was actively engaged in the armed forces in WW2 and yet, on the home front, the contribution was no less impressive.
Canada provided 40% of Allied aluminium (essential for aircraft production) and 95% of the nickel, as well as building nearly 500 ships, and an incredible 800,000 trucks. Canada alone produced more than twice the number of trucks made in all of Nazi Germany during the war as well as thousands of armored vehicles from tanks to light carriers. Canada’s contribution to WW2 was nothing short of exceptional and it is fair to say that an Allied victory would have been a much more difficult thing without it.
Canada also held a key role for the Allies in dealing with and evaluating a lot of experimental vehicle concepts and ideas. One of those is the ‘Armoured Trolley’. With a super low profile, front mounted guns and fuel tanks in the side, the trolley was an unusual hybrid of fighting vehicle and transport, but essentially was a vehicle without a clear need. As such, the Armoured Trolley was never built, it exists only in the remains of Canadian Army records from WW2, a footnote to an idea which was well-intentioned but essentially redundant. It was also an insight into the sort of ideas being considered during the war and suggested to the Allies, as well as being a rare Polish wartime design at a time when the country was already occupied.
What is not immediately obvious in the proposal for this Armoured Trolley is the proposer. He was not a Canadian but a Polish exile, General Stanisław Sochaczewski. In December 1943, he wrote to the British War Office in London with his ideas surmising his thought that “new weapons create new ways of fighting, [and] new tactics”. In his proposals for tactics and equipment, Gen. Sochaczewski made direct reference to a type of periscope rifle and sight, (referring to a patent submitted in 1942 for a small mirrored sight which could be attached to a rifle – UK Patent 555356), a cartridge bandolier cart for moving large amounts of easily accessible ammunition, and a lightly armored ‘trolley’ which was designed with the goal of “….greatly easing the pinning down of the enemy and paralyzing his firing line in a way which no tanks or Bren carriers are able to do so”.
The role for which the Armoured Trolley was intended was not the same role of many such small carriers fulfill, one of resupply, reconnaissance, observation, and as a prime mover and weapons mount. All of them were simple tracked vehicles with a large open cargo space that could be used for a variety of purposes, such as moving fuel, food, water, and ammunition to troops at the front or for hauling light field guns and trailers. This was exactly the role of the ‘Universal’-type carrier – a class of vehicles across many different makes and models and manufacturers. Sochaczewski saw the role of the Armoured Trolley completely differently, perhaps harking back to his days as a cavalry officer with a grand charge of some sort. Instead of an all-purpose vehicle, he foresaw their use as assault vehicles:
“The Tanks and armoured cars will be accompanied and preceded by swarms of armoured trollies. These light, extremely low motor vehicle, merely sets of defective armour on light endless track undercarriages, each carrying small crews of 2 or 3 men, lying low in a prone shooting posture, will boldly advance full speed straight to the enemy’s trenches and nests, defying the machine gun and rifle fire against which they are properly armoured on the front and both sides and suffering much fewer casualties than tanks suffer from the artillery and anti-tank shells, because of three times less height, hiding them out of sight in every waist-deep depression (as well as waist-high crops).
In such a depression nearest to enemy, they stop out of his sight and showing only small periscopes through which the men are aiming they shoot down nearly point-blank and with deadly accuracy everybody daring to peep out of the trench, wiping out enemy’s officers, observers, machine gunners, etc., pinning the enemy down to the ground, and completely paralysing his machine guns and rifle fire while the main attack is sweeping down, this non-stop massed infantry advance to final onslaught greatly shortening the duration of the ordeal of getting through the artillery barrage.
If made sufficiently close to the enemy’s firing line just out of reach of hand-thrown grenades and flame throwers, such a point-blank stand of those armoured firing squads can completely paralyse all defence, the enemy’s artillery being also unable to shoot at armoured trollies without inflicting more casualties to his own troops with their backs open in the trenches, and the mines and rifle thrown grenades being shot at such a steep angle that any decent accuracy is out of the question”
As a combat vehicle, the principle behind the Armoured Trolley was totally different from that of the carrier, although it was still building on the existing knowledge of these carriers. These Universal-type carriers were usually armed with just a single standard Bren .303 light machine gun and were not really suitable for sustained direct combat and assault, but at most for fire support of the infantry.
The design of the Armoured Trolley very much allowed form to follow function. The function called for a low profile vehicle with as many guns pointing forward as possible. Placing the engine in the rear meant that there was the maximum space ahead of it for stores or men, although there is no information as to where the designer was thinking of putting the transmission. On either side of the combat space were a pair of triangular-prism-shaped fuel tanks arranged longitudinally, with one on each side providing protection for the men inside. The front was also triangular in profile, with three firing positions cut into the top. There are no details for the driving position.
The tracks ran the full length of the vehicle and were presumably of a similar type and width as those on the Universal-type carrier. Due to shielding over the wheels concealing them, no information can be obtained as to the number of types of wheels and suspension used. Considering the size of the vehicle and weight likely similar to that of the Windsor Carrier (4.9 tonnes), a similar weight or less could be expected from the Armoured Trolley.
One of the key values of the design in the original suggestion was that this machine would be cheap in both money and material terms. It was estimated that each Armoured Trolley would cost between a twentieth and a thirtieth of a tank and need just a twentieth or even fortieth of the steel needed for one as well. In other words, in steel terms, you could produce 20 to 40 Armoured Trolleys with the steel taken by just a single tank and, finance wise, 20-30 Armoured Trolleys for the same price as a tank.
No information is available on the thickness of the steel armor envisaged for the Armoured Trolley, but an estimate of the protection can be deduced from the size and what little description there was. The Universal-type carrier was protected against enemy small arms with steel armor on all four sides up to 10 mm or so thick. Steel armor 8 – 10 mm thick would be sufficient to protect against enemy small arms fire and, on the Armoured Trolley, where the armor on the front and sides is steeply angled, this would provide a substantial improvement in protection over the existing vertical armor on the Universal-type carriers. Add into this protection over the suspension and that the sides were full of fuel as well, this vehicle provided excellent protection against enemy fire up to heavy machine-guns, although the top remained open, exposing the men inside to shells splinters, etcetera.
The standard Universal-type carrier was often seen carrying a single Bren .303 light machine gun and is often referred to colloquially as a ‘Bren-Gun Carrier’ but it was, in fact, carrying a wide variety of light weapons, notwithstanding its use for carrying or towing mortars and light field guns. The Canadians made good use of this platform and operated a version of the carrier armed with a single Vickers .303 water-cooled machine gun.
Looking at the Bren-armed version though, the Armoured Trolley carries more firepower. The surviving drawings and description provide details of a vehicle with 3 firing positions instead of just the one for the standard Universal carrier. The central firing position is clearly shown with a weapon with the distinctive curved vertical magazine of the .303 Bren light machine gun and what appears to be a standard infantry rifle on each side. The description, however, describes those rifles as of an “automatic” type but provided no further insights.
Following the theory that 20-40 Armoured Trolleys could be built for the steel-cost of a single tank, the designers suggested that to 20-40 light machine guns and 40-80 light machine guns and automatic rifles, respectively, carried by those 20-40 Armoured Trolleys provided substantially more firepower than a single tank.
Crew and Utility
Just like the Universal-type carrier, a single driver would be needed, and assuming they were to remain on the right of the vehicle, it would mean that the right-hand man would have to drive whilst lying prone in combat and also be unable to fire his rifle very well as a result. To provide the firepower required from the vehicle, therefore, would require a minimum of at least two men, one driver, and one gunner with the light machine gun. In normal travel, it would be expected that anyone in the vehicle would be sat upright to reduce fatigue, but in combat, due to the low profile, they would have to lie down in order to be covered by the protection of the Armoured Trolley’s armor. Despite the advantage of the steep angling of the Armoured Trolley, it falls seriously short of protection for the men as they would have the upper half of their bodies above the level of the armor when traveling normally.
The lying down part caused some serious additional problems as well. Firstly, making the men lie down meant that their eye level was significantly lower (compared to a man sat in a Universal-type carrier), around waist height on a standing man, which would mean even long grass would obscure their view. Secondly, laying prone exposed their whole backs and legs to enemy shrapnel from above, making them far more vulnerable to injury or death than if they would be sat in the front of a Universal-type carrier where the board rim of his helmet covered a large part of his body from shrapnel. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, laying down would take all of the space in the Armoured Trolley’s cargo bay. That way, it could not be used for stores or to haul ammunition, as the men would either not be able to lie down or would have to dump the stores being carried if they had to fight. Worse still, this would mean that the Armoured Trolley would not be a suitable platform on which to base a light field gun, mortar, or medium machine gun, removing almost all of the potential uses for the vehicle in the first place. This left the Armoured Trolley as little more than a fast attack platform with limited other possible uses, although the concept of the bandolier towing for ammunition resupply did at least address to a limited extent the problem of bringing supplies forward.
The Canadian Major General, acting on behalf of the Canadian Military Headquarters, assessed Sochaczewski’s design and replied just a few days after the submission. The review was polite but rejected all of Sochaczewski’s ideas. The Armoured Trolley presented no technical difficulties for production but likewise added nothing which was not already available as well as adding that the vehicle was particularly vulnerable to both anti-tank and aircraft fire. The mirror attachment for the rifle was rejected too, as there was no requirement for such a thing, as was the bandolier roller.
The Western Allies; Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, were already mass-producing a similar vehicle in size, known as the Loyd Carrier, Windsor Carrier, and T16 Carrier, respectively. Based on the ‘Universal Carrier’ (Loyd-type), the Windsor was longer and characterized by an extra roadwheel, not to be confused with the American-made T-16 Carrier which also had a lengthened body and 4 wheels. The designs were extremely similar and the point of them was identical – a tracked utilitarian vehicle with a lightly protected body (sufficient to keep out bullets and shells splinters) which was light, simple, and capable of a variety of tasks.
The American-built T16 Carrier and Canadian-built Windsor Carrier both feature extended bodies and a double set of road wheels.
The utility of a Universal-type carrier was unquestionably valuable. Canada alone produced nearly 30,000 of these small armored vehicles during the war and they saw service in all theatres for a myriad of roles from reconnaissance, to hauling guns, wounded men, carrying mortar carriers, ammunition, and even anti-tank guns on occasion.
It is true that a smaller cheaper vehicle with less steel, like the Armoured Trolley, offered some advantages as described. Less money spent to produce more vehicles and in terms of armament, it is also true that mathematically 20-40 Armoured Trolleys would be able to fire more bullets than a single tank. What is absent from that assessment of cost is that 20-40 Armoured Trolleys would also need 60 to 120 men to operate instead of just 4-5 for a single tank and the cost of men was an enormous one not included in the calculation.
On top of that was the obvious point that it would be far harder to bring the forward-facing armament of 20-40 Armoured Trolleys to bear on a single target than from a single tank and not to mention the utter lack of anything capable of taking on even lightly armored enemy troops or the ability to knock out an enemy bunker. The Armoured Trolley, for all its potential, was fundamentally flawed, offering very little above the carriers already in mass production. The most credible features of the Armoured Trolley, the sloped armor, and the use of armored side sponsons for carrying fuel were not taken forward either.
The Armoured Trolley never entered production. It survives today as little more than a sketch, but there is one small additional footnote – a suggestion to modify an existing type carrier instead. That idea got as far as another patent by Sochaczewski and he submitted that with a British woman called Isabel Smeaton, creating a two-tier armed carrier in order to address many of the problems with the Armoured Trolley.
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Sochaczewski Armoured Trolley Specifications
~1.2 m high
Total weight, battle ready
1 – 3
Crew weapons including automatic rifles and a light machine gun
Universal Carriers https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/vehicles/universalcarriers/universalcarriers.htm
UK Patent 568636 ‘Improvements in or relating to Armoured Vehicles, filed 6th September 1944, granted 13th April 1945
UK Patent 645416 ‘ Improvements in automatic small arms’, filed 11th December 1947, granted 1st November 1950
UK Patent 627207 ‘ Improvements in or relating to Recoil Operated Small Arms’, filed 21st August 1946, granted 3rd August 1949
UK Patent 555356 ‘ Improvements in or relating to Rifles and Like Guns’, filed 18th February 1942, granted 19th August 1943
UK Patent 567121 ‘Improved Wheeled Carrier for Bandoliers or Belts Packed with Ammunition’, filed 14th July 1944, granted 29th January 1945
UK Patent 540079 ‘Improvements in or relating to Appliances for Musketry and the like Training’ filed 27th March 1939, granted 3rd October 1941 (address formerly Mokotowska No.3, Warsaw, Poland – now at 20 Chesney Court, Shirland Road, London W9)
US Patent 2412697 ‘Wheeled Carrier’, filed 15th July 1943 (UK) 15th December 1943 (USA), granted 17th December 1946
Biography of Stanisław Zygmunt Sochaczewski at iPSB https://www.ipsb.nina.gov.pl/a/biografia/stanislaw-zygmunt-sochaczewski
Sochaczewski, S. (1943). New Fighting Equipment – Modified Infantry Tactics. London 1943. Canadia Archives Reference C-5829: 55/6276/1
Federal Republic of Germany (1970)
Light Tank – Design only
There are some ideas which are so bad they just keep being invented because their absence seems to give someone licence to believe they are needed. Whether it is mine proof boots or a helmet mounted gun, some ideas keep coming back around again and again. One such a mistaken concept is that of the one-man tank. Right from the first days of the tank in World War 1, there were ideas for cramming one man inside a vehicle, usually lying down, and tasking him with all of the roles of command, coordination, and combat.
Whilst we may forgive WW1 era ideas as being part of that early evolutionary process where some terrible ideas came and went and were left behind, they are less forgivable in WW2. By 1970, a time when the armies of NATO were facing off across Western Europe with the huge tank forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, when Johann Jank submitted his idea for a patent, the whole concept should have been obviously ridiculous, impractical, and pointless.
Little can be found on Johann Jank. From a variety of patents, we can get an insight into the man though. It is known from his filings between 1962 and 1970 that he lived in 8783 Hammelburg (Hammelburg Administrative District) and that he was the manager of the Johann Jank Company, Karosseriebau-Wagenau, Sägewerk, Hammelburg – a town in Bavaria. ‘Sägewek’ means ‘Sawmill’ and this likely explains 6 or the 7 patents in his name, as these are all related to saws of different types. To this day, the timber industry is still a presence in the area.
Not only is the Hammelburg area known for the timber industry, it was also home to an army training camp well into modern times and during the Second World War, home to a prisoner of war camp: Oflag-XIII. The camp is otherwise famous as the scene of the failed attempt by General Patton to rescue his son-in-law who was interned there as a POW, an attempt which lost 5 tanks and 32 men, with about 250 wounded in the ‘Hammelburg Raid’ by Task Force Baum.
Whether Jank was in the area at the time or what he did during the war is not yet known but, by 1962, he was living in this area and could not have avoided some knowledge of its war time fame. Perhaps it was this which sparked the idea of a one-man tank or maybe it was purely a vivid dream he put on paper, but whatever spurred it, this design, filed during the Cold War, would have been as hopeless in 1970 as it would have been in 1945.
Jank’s goal was to build a one-man tank, running on tracks, which was well-armed and highly maneuverable. Jank had done some research on the subject as, in his application for a patent filed on 5th May 1970, he wrote that a common failing of such one-man tanks was the location of the engine behind the operator, creating a relatively long vehicle due to the engine’s length being in addition to the length of the operator who would be lying prone inside. No engine type, size, or transmission were discussed at all, perhaps leaving the decision to any user who might be willing to purchase the rights to his idea. To this end, Jank envisaged the power plant being on the side of the vehicle, alongside the driver, under armor and creating a rather ‘fat’ looking machine, but one which was only marginally longer than the operator. This would have the advantage not only of a shorter vehicle but also meant it was easier for the operator to enter and leave from the rear via a pair of doors slightly recessed into the rear armor to provide some additional protection from enemy fire.
The overall shape of the vehicle was heavily curved, very low to the ground, and distinguished by the cannon projecting from the front, slightly off-center to the right. With the armament located in the front right of the machine and the engine behind that, it left the full left-hand side width of the vehicle for the operator.
Steering and propulsion would be controlled by the operator with his feet working pedals behind him and a pair of handles in the front, almost like the handlebars on a bicycle, for steering and firing the weapons. A set of gauges to his right would tell the operator the vehicle’s speed, etcetera. The tracks were surprisingly robust and together amounted for nearly a third of the width of the tank. The track was supported at both ends by large wheels, although the design does not make clear which (or both) of the sprockets would deliver drive. Four small road wheels held the vehicle on the ground and each appears to be on a small swing arm, suggesting either torsion bars under the operator or even that a torsilastic-type suspension was considered. Finally, two small return rollers would support the track around its run.
Visibility for the operator was poor, as he would have to lay down in the prone position the whole time with no option to sit up. He would therefore only be able to look ahead though two small view ports in the front armor and no periscope is drawn or discussed. Visibility, therefore, would have been limited to just the front, although two small headlamps are shown to help illuminate the way. Alongside these two ports is a third one containing the aimining devices for the weapons. Arranged in this way would be sure to render the vehicle unable to fire on the move, indicating perhaps Jank was thinking of this purely as some kind of low-profile weapon of ambush. One small note on the design is the small ‘pimple’ on the top for which there is no stated purpose. It is far too small to be a hatch and in the wrong place to get out of anyway. It is not marked by Jank as a feature worth discussing so it can only be assumed to be either some kind of vent, either for air for the operator or perhaps for an exhaust. No additional vents or air-supply for the engine or for cooling are shown or discussed.
The final point Jank makes on mobility is that the vehicle would be amphibious and able to be driven through water by means of a propeller, presumably from a power take-off (PTO) from the engine, although neither the propeller nor PTO are shown. From a point of view of safety, the metacentric height for this vehicle would likely be such that the rear was lower in the water. This would be due to the weight of the engine raising up the nose so that the viewports were above the water level although, with no other form of propulsion, the vehicle would be hard to navigate on even a slightly rippled surface. Far worse would be that the only egress, the rear doors, would actually be underwater at the back and have to be exited backward. There is simply no way a crippled vehicle of this type could be exited in open water, as the operator would not be able to kick open the back door against the force of water outside so would have to let the vehicle fill up with water before he tried to exit backward. By the time this happened, the vehicle would be gracing the lake bed as a coffin for the hapless and unfortunate operator.
No details of the armor are provided but, from the shape, it could be inferred that Jank was picturing a heavy construction, more than simply bulletproof and formed in a large casting with an extensively curved body including the sponsons over the tracks at the side and at the rear.
Two armaments are shown in the drawing and are described with this filing as “fully automatic, rapid-fire firearms” although no details are given. From the obvious size differences between the two guns drawn in the application, the larger of the two could be taken as a small anti-tank gun with the smaller gun, located coaxially, as a machine gun.
Jank’s design is very poor. There is simply no getting around the fact that a lone operator is overworked, having to manage communications with other troops, a weapons system, and the control of the vehicle at the same time. These were obvious flaws in WW1 and, in 1970, there was little excuse to not appreciate this, especially as he had already looked into some design background. The inability of the operator to be in any position other than prone would lead to fatigue, the impossibility of not drowning if the machine broke down in open water and had to be abandoned and the poor visibility made this a very poor design for fightability and survivability. The saving grace for Jank is the layout. He had clearly given some serious thought to the problems of a one-man tank and his design is a competent one at that, putting the engine and armament offset to create a more compact vehicle. The problem is that it is a competent design of an inherently flawed concept and that no matter how good he made it, it would never be a replacement for a multi-person crewed larger vehicle. No examples are ever known to have been built and Jank did not apply for more military-related patents. Presumably, he went back to what he knew and stuck with that instead.
Jank one-man tank specifications
est. torsion bar or torsilastic
est. fully automatic cannon and machine gun
DE1453031(a1) Adjustable Gang Saw, filed 17th April 1964, granted 12th December 1968
DE1877705 (U) Zerlegbare Campinghuette, granted 14th August 1963,
DE1849464(U) Schaltafel, filed 2nd February 1962, granted 5th April 1962
DE2342441(A1) Saw blade group adjustment on a saw, filed 22nd august 1973, granted 14th March 1974
DE1803267(A1) Gang saw, filed 16th October 1968, 14th May 1970
DE1503957. Adjustable Gang Saws, filed 28th January 1965, granted 28th August 1969
Land Rover, as a brand, has achieved somewhat of a cult status since the firm first unveiled the ‘Series 1’ vehicle at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948. The mindset behind the vehicle, right from the start under the control of Maurice Wilks, was to produce a vehicle based on the idea of a WW2 era American Jeep but with its mechanical problems resolved and capable of operating in the civilian world as a utility vehicle and tractor. The Land Rover or ‘Landy’, as it is affectionately known, proved in the years since 1948 to be a simple, reliable, and rugged vehicle. Affordable and relatively easy to maintain, the body, made of duralumin, was rust resistant, meaning these vehicles endured for decades. By the end of 1976, over 1 million vehicles across various marks had been built at the Solihull plant in Birmingham. This rugged, simple reliable vehicle had an established market with several armies, not least of which was the British Army.
At the end of 1977, the Anglesey-based firm of Laird sought to reshape the well-proven Land Rover in a new form to provide a more capable off-road platform for military use, capable of a variety of duties and with a higher load capacity than the Land Rover. Work would end in 1984, when markets for the vehicle dried up, leaving the Centaur one of just a few half-tracks of the modern era.
The Centaur of Greek Myth was the offspring of Centaurus, with many myths about them on their savagery, bawdiness, and even wisdom on occasions. In common parlance a Centaur, half man half horse, is simply seen as the amalgam of human knowledge with the speed and power of the horse. In this regard, the Laird Centaur was well named, combining the mature driving ‘human’ Land Rover half with the tracked back end from the CVRT.
Unveiling and Markets
With a strong history and a rugged proven platform behind the Land Rover, as well as potentially lucrative markets at home and abroad, the firm of Laird started work in November 1977 on making a cost-effective tracked off-road platform which would be capable of fulfilling various types of roles. This would be based around the front half of a Land Rover married to a lengthened high strength load platform carried on a modified shortened form of suspension taken from an Alvis Scorpion CVRT. Concept approval was gained in December 1977 and an engineering model was begun in January 1978. Completed in April 1978, it appeared at the British Army Equipment Exhibition in June 1978.
Following this concept, there was a period of modification which ran through September 1978 until a pre-production prototype was approved that month. Production of the first vehicle began the following month.
The Land Rover had been widely exported, as had the Scorpion, which meant there was a relatively small logistical footprint for operating and maintaining the Centaur. The first vehicle was finished at Laird’s works in Anglesey in April 1978 and began trials in May to show off its capabilities.
Testing of the first vehicle was finished by the Motor Insurers Research Association (MIRA) in April 1979, after having traveled 3,687 miles (5,934 km). This was followed by 3 months of cold-weather testing which took place in Norway, followed by tropical trials in Libya and Tunisia. The second prototype, P2, was sent on a sales tour of Nigeria from July to August 1979 and P4 was sent to Oman that August as well. P5 was allocated to the British MOD, and P6 was to be sent to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In total, the vehicle was 5.62 m long and just 2 meters wide, meaning it would fit into a variety of cargo aircraft fairly easily. The internal space in the back, behind the cabin, had a well in the center, between the sponsons that were over the tracks, measuring 1.05 m wide x 2.6 m long. Above this was the full cargo space measuring 1.78 m wide x 3.28 m long. Height varied by model.
Six pre-series vehicles were built and prepared in various configurations for testing. One was retained by Laird for their own use and promotion, another by Rover (owners of the Land Rover brand at the time), another (P3) went to Racal Tacticom for fitting out with electronics and radios, and the remaining four were sent for evaluation.
Three specific variants were proposed for feasibility studies by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD), although it is not entirely clear what those three were. Based on the trials, they would appear to be a rigid-body version as an ambulance/command post, a general duty soft top vehicle, and a hard-top armored personnel carrier. There were several other versions proposed, however:
Prime Mover/General Purpose – the ‘base’ vehicle, whether fitter for radio or not, with just a soft-top /canvas tilt for general haulage duties.
Fuel/Ammunition Resupply – a general-purpose vehicle carrying a 2,700-liter liquid bladder in the back.
Mine Layer – both as a carrier for the 72-tube Ranger EMI anti-personnel mine and for towing the British bar minelayer. It was able to scatter hundreds of anti-personnel bombs and lay up to 700 anti-tank bar mines in under an hour.
Command Post – rigid body with a pair of windows on each side with multiple radios fitted along with a map table.
Stretcher Carrier/Ambulance– with space for up to four full-length stretchers, the rigid body ambulance variants could go where other ambulances could not so as to retrieve wounded men and return them to the aid post. This is basically the same body as the command post variant but without the radios.
Tank Destroyer – drawn as fitted with a 120 mm Wombat anti-tank recoilless rifle mounted in the back.
Armored//Unarmored Personnel Carrier – the platform had a load capacity to enable it to be converted with a light ballistic body to serve as an armored personnel carrier. Even without this extra protection, the 5 mm hull floor protection and tracks enabled the Centaur to move up to 10 men across an area strewn with anti-personnel mines in relative safety. An enclosed canvas tilt would be able to keep the weather off and this was standard across all of the open-top variants. The fold-down tailgate acted as convenient access to and from the rear of the body just 0.43 m from the ground with simple bench seating along the sponsons above the tracks.
Reconnaissance – open-top with the upperparts and door removed, the Centaur reconnaissance version provided a mobile platform for scouting and was proposed with a pair of 7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG).
Missile Carrier – a missile carrier version was displayed at the Paris Air Show in 1979 fitted with missile mountings for either the French HOT or European MILAN anti-tank guided missile systems. Even as just a haulage vehicle, there was sufficient space for two such launchers, crews, and space for 27 missiles.
Air Defence – one option for the Centaur was to use its rugged platform as a dual purpose fire support and air defense version. Fixing a gun-shield-equipped S20 pintle mount to the rear deck, the otherwise unarmed and unarmored Centaur could provide highly mobile air defense. With the 20 mm Rheinmetall Mk.20 Rh 202 cannon, it was capable of providing protection for convoys or troops against targets up to 2,000 m and was capable of 1,000 rounds per minute. A second version was also trialed, mounting the Oerlikon GAM-BO 20 mm cannon instead.
Laird Centaur 06SP17 with Bar Minelayer. Source: Laird
Laird Centaur 48BT07 fitted with the 72-tube EMI Ranger anti-personnel mine launcher during testing. Source: IDR and Empire’s Twilight
Hard-top body painted up as an ambulance and an artist’s impression of a pair of them in use. Source: Laird
Unarmored and unarmed personnel carrier along with armored body version fitted with a single 7.62 mm GPMG on the roof. This light ballistic body could be used for moving troops with limited protection from enemy small arms or shell fire or as a box-body for other purposes. Source: IDR
Reconnaissance variant as proposed in artwork from Laird and fitted with a pair of 7.62 mm GPMGs and pictured with troops from Oman. Source: Laird
The structure of the automotive elements was as simple as could be managed. With the tracked part at the back based around elements taken from the Alvis Scorpion CVRT, no bespoke wheels, tracks, suspension springs, engine, transmission or other elements were used. The front part was just a Land Rover cab and controls with the same front wheels, steering rack and semi-elliptical leaf-springs with double-acting hydraulic telescopic dampers. One interesting note on the front wheels is that these were also offered with the Tyron run-flat safety bands, so even a puncture from the terrain or enemy fire would not cripple the drive. The tires ran on a track center of 1.33 m, whilst the tracks ran at 1.63 m, meaning that the rear footprint of the vehicle was slightly wider than the front.
The 5 double road wheels ran on Scorpion-type track but the wheels were smaller than those on the Scorpion. These track units were also shorter, putting down 1.06 meters of track on the ground at each side. The whole vehicle was powered by the 115 kW Rover 3.5 liter V8 petrol producing 1260 Nm of torque at 2,500 rpm. The engine was connected to the standard manual synchromesh gearbox from the Land Rover with 4 forward 1 reverse gears as well as the standard high/low ratio box allowing for all of those gears to operate in high or low range to create 8 forward and 2 reverse gears.
Not only are the front wheels driven like a ‘normal’ Land Rover operating in 4-wheel drive mode but the rear-drive, which would normally go to the rear wheels, instead went to Scorpion final drives to turn the sprockets. On either side of the ‘rear’ differential (at the front of the track units), there was also a pair of twin-caliper disc brakes to assist in steering. The ground clearance was 0.25 m. Of the 6 vehicles produced as prototypes P1, P2, and P3 were made in right-hand drive, and P4, P5, and P6 were built in left-hand drive. At some point after purchase in Oman, P4 was refitted with a Chevrolet 5.7 liter V8 petrol engine and an automatic gearbox – no details of the performance are available.
The share of drive to front and rear respectively was regulated through a differential built into the gearbox, providing equal power to both of which could be locked to improve traction over soft ground. The tracks, suspension at the back and drives were all interchangeable with the British Scorpion. The rubber-padded tracks made for a quiet and durable track for running both on and off-road. Suspension for the track section was provided by means of a torsion bar and tensioning by means of a hydraulic adjuster.
Enough fuel was carried in a single 200-liter petrol tank for up to 700 km of road use, although this would be reduced with a load it would carry or off-road, uphill etcetera. The fuel tanks in the Land Rover were normally held under the seats in the cabin in simple tanks, but here the tanks were made from ‘Explosafe’ to protect the tank from rupture. Fuel consumption was fierce and, during testing, the Centaur was found to use 4.15 mpg (1.47 liters per km).
To make it useful as a prime mover or other variants, the Centaur was provided as standard with a NATO compliant British tow hook. With this it could tow any of the standard NATO duty trailers or other equipment like a light 105 mm gun, fuel bowser, or even the Bar Mine Layer.
In general, the Centaur was unarmored, although there were some ballistic kits for the body on top of the normal ballistic kits already in widespread use, like the fiberglass and plastic-based vehicle protection kit (VPK) in use for internal security in Northern Ireland at the time. As a standard feature, however, a 5 mm thick steel plate was fitted underneath the whole vehicle as protection from mines.
The six vehicles produced by Laird, known as P1 to P6 which were extensively trialed. P1 was trialed in Libya and Tunisia. P2 was sent to Kenya and Nigeria for trials before being returned to the UK. P3 was modified for trials with a hardtop body fitted with radios for use as a mobile command post, whereas P4 was sent for testing in the deserts of Oman where it was purchased by the Sultan. P5 was fitted with the mine-launching rocket system and later fitted with a 20 mm cannon. P5 survives in the Bovington Collection. P6 was sent to Iraq in 1979 or 1980 for trials before being returned to the UK but was sold back to Iraq in 1980. Found in a scrapyard in Kuwait in 2005, the vehicle was recovered and is currently in private hands for restoration. Another vehicle based on the Land Rover Defender 110 (long wheelbase) was designated P7 and an eighth vehicle designated P8 remains incomplete at The Tank Museum Bovington.
The Centaur, for all of its potential and capabilities, was seriously expensive for what was really just a slightly better off-road 3.5-tonne truck. When it was shown off in 1978, the cost was GB£35,000, the equivalent of just over GB£175k in 2020 values (US$215k), and this seems to have dissuaded potential buyers from this otherwise interesting vehicle. There were no doubt other problems for the vehicle too, such as truly what it was for. As a general-purpose truck, it was no better than some wheeled options and more expensive. For air defense, the short range of the cannon was inadequate against helicopters. For reconnaissance, it was less useful than a lighter wheeled vehicle and it could not carry enough armor to be a useful armored vehicle. The Centaur truly seems to have died because it was designed without a clear role.
Specifications (Laird Centaur)
5.62 long x 2 m wide, height varied by model
Total weight, battle ready
3.05 tonnes empty
1 + other (Driver plus crew depending on body)
115 kW Rover 3.5 litre V8 petrol producing 1260 Nm of torque at 2,500 rpm
80 km/h (road)
700 km (road)
Various including: HOT / MILAN anti-tank guided missiles, Oerlikon GAM-BO 20 mm cannon, 20 mm Rheinmetall Mk. 20 Rh 202, 7.62 mm machine guns, 120 mm Wombat anti-tank rifle
Protected fuel tanks, 5 mm hull floor anti-mine protection as standard. Other ballistic protection options available
Semi-elliptical leaf springs and shock absorbers for wheels (front), modified (shortened) CVRT Scorpion tracks (rear)
70% gradient (31.5 deg. slope)
Tilt Angle (side slope)
100% gradient (45 degree)
Land Rover Owner International May 2018
International Defence Review February 1979
Cullen, T., Foss, C. (1993). Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence 1992-1993. Jane’s Information Group
Laird. Centaur Multi-Role Military Vehicle. Sales Catalogues – unknown publication years
An understanding of what is a very complicated picture of German heavy tank development in WW2 is incomplete without consideration of the program by Krupp as a rival design to the Maus from Dr. Porsche. Although Porsche was the overall design lead for the Maus (Typ 205), he was not responsible for the turret or armor, which were Krupp projects. Krupp had some very different ideas to Porsche on how a heavy tank should look and be protected and, whilst they worked together on the Maus, they were also rivals over whose design would better suit the needs of the military and get into production. Dr. Porsche’s design would eventually weigh-in at around 200 tonnes, but Krupp’s was a smaller vehicle, with removable side armor and nearly 70 tonnes lighter. Whilst Dr. Porsche’s design would eventually win out over Krupp’s, the Krupp design is arguably a better design and far more practical for production, as it reused off-the-shelf components being used in the Tiger II and Panther.
The vehicle which would later form the foundation of the E100 started life in a conversation about the 150-tonne tank ‘Maeuschen’ project (another rival to the Maus from Dr. Porsche) which took place on 11th September 1942. Here, the representative from Krupp (Obering. Woelfert) expressed that Krupp was interested in making its own conceptual rival design for a 150-tonne vehicle. In order to do this though, they needed information on engines and transmissions.
Promised that a 1,000 to 1,200 hp version of the HL 230 P30 (this would be known as the HL 234) was possible by supercharging*, Krupp’s idea was delayed for four weeks to a meeting of the Panzerkommission in 17th November 1942. This gave Krupp 4 weeks to develop their own rival 150-tonne Panzer concept. At that meeting, Krupp presented a conceptual design for their 150-tonne vehicle, but it was short of a full proposal and a decision on whether to accept Krupp’s design or the one from Porsche for the 150-tonne class Panzer was delayed after the 17th November meeting until the end of the year. This would allow Krupp a little more time to submit a finished proposal for consideration. Just for added confusion, the tank in question (for which no design had been set or approved) was also being known as the Maus even though it is very different from the well-known Porsche-Maus. For clarity, in this article, the ‘Maus’ designation will only be used for the Porsche-Maus unless otherwise stated. (*In his 1945 interview, Von Heydekampf was clear that even supercharged, this engine could only achieve 900 hp)
The First Design
The first design for this new 150-tonne vehicle submitted by Krupp had to meet a set of requirements and one of those was ground pressure. Originally, a maximum ground pressure of 0.8 kg/cm2 was permitted for the vehicle by the Panzerkommission (the body with overall responsibility for tank design and approval). This had, in turn, dictated to Krupp the layout of their design and had led to the adoption of a central turret (engine-rear) on the vehicle. When, shortly afterward, this ground pressure allowance was increased, Krupp changed their design to switch to a rear-mounted turret design (engine-forward). Although this had brought the ground pressure up to slightly exceed the new maximum, some additional minor changes managed to squeeze this design just within their criteria.
Original Krupp concepts November to December 1942
Engine Forward/Turret Rear*
Engine Rear/Turret Central
Engine Forward/Turret Rear
Engine Rear/Turret Central
est. 3,700 mm
Tiger I type (Henschel)
Tiger I type (Henschel)
Abandoned due to excessive ground pressure unable to meet 0.8 kg/cm2 maximum demanded.
Design meets ground pressure requirement.
Original idea readopted due to new ground pressure allowance of 1.1 to 1.2 kg/cm2.
* Arrangement based on the reading of the ground pressure figures.
Uses hollow armored track boxes (Raupenkaesten) over the sides to provide additional side protection. These had to be removed for rail transportation.
Uses hollow armored track boxes (Raupenkaesten) over the sides to provide additional side protection. These had to be removed for rail transportation.
** By the end of November 1942, this maximum possible figure was given as 800 hp instead, although 700 hp was the official rating for the HL 230. A modified version producing 900 to 1,100 hp was in development as the HL 234 using high-pressure fuel injection (Bosch) and superchargers.
It was the outline of a vehicle in drawing W1671 which met with approval, although the weight of the vehicle was already expected to grow from 150 tonnes to 155 tonnes, and by the end of November 1942 to 170 tonnes. Further, although it was to use the same drive-train as the Henschel Tiger (including the same engine), the HL 230, which had been promised as being able to deliver 1,000 hp, was now estimated to be able to provide just 800 hp. However, in his 1945 Allied intelligence debriefing interview, Von Heydekampf was clear that even supercharged this engine could only achieve 900 hp.
The next major step in this vehicle’s development was a meeting with Oberbaurat Kurt Kniepkamp on 1st December 1942. Here, the 150 tonne (now 170 tonne) vehicle being designed by Krupp and being referred to as ‘Maus’ was discussed. It is at this meeting that the two styles of tank Krupp was looking at were made clear. The first, with the turret at the back and the engine in the front, had a high ground pressure and was 3.7 m wide. This layout produced a much higher ground pressure than was achieved by putting the engine behind the turret and presumably offered a greater degree of protection to account for why it was otherwise larger and heavier. The alternative layout offered a much-reduced ground pressure and a narrower hull with the engine at the back and turret in the middle. The side armor though could be considered to be inferior to the other design as, apart from the thickness and shape of the armor, on this version, it had to be removable. This ‘removability’ was created by a series of hollow armored boxes (Raupenkaesten) which could be lifted on or off the hull by means of a small crane. Their removal allowed the vehicle width to be reduced to 3.07 m, meaning it would fit within the standard German rail gauge. It is not that the first design was unshippable by rail though, just that it would greatly impede other traffic on the railways as it would mean that no traffic could pass in the opposing direction. The advantages of using Raupenkaesten were obvious but it came at the price of using a technology that had not been produced before or tested.
This layout, albeit it a little unusual, met with approval from Wa Pruf 6 except that the drive-train was now going to be changed to share a commonality with Henschel’s Tiger II instead of the Tiger I. This would improve spares, support, and production, but meant that the lull and ground-contact length of track had to be lengthened slightly.
At the same time as forcing the tank to get longer and have a longer ground-contact length (to keep ground pressure constant on a bigger vehicle) by requiring a new drivetrain, the contrary was also proposed. Namely, it was proposed to actually shorten the ground contact length for the track, and instead to adopt a wider track, bringing the width of the vehicle to 3.27 m, the safe limit of width to stay within rail limits for opposing traffic on the rails. This option though also meant reducing some weight too and that meant reducing some of the armor being considered, and not by a little. Instead of the 150-tonne tank project which was currently weighing in at 170-tonnes before being made longer, the proposed vehicle was going to have to have nearly 50 tonnes taken off to get to 130 tonnes. A loss of some armor was considered an acceptable sacrifice to be made in order to avoid having to design and build a whole new heavy-weight steering system. Now, at 130-tonnes, it could use the same Lenkgetriebe L801 system from the Tiger II and still achieve 22 to 25 km/h, even with the Maybach HL 230 (HL 234) only being able to deliver 700 hp of the 1,000 hp originally promised.
Evolution of design W1674 1st December 1942
Krupp Engine Rear / Turret Central layout
Wa Pruf 6 suggestions (Longer 170-tonne version)
Wa Pruf 6 suggestions (Longer 130-tonne version)*
~1.1 kg / cm2
> 170 tonnes
Maybach HL 234
Maybach HL 234
Maybach HL 230
Power to Weight Ratio
22 to 25 km/h
New Krupp heavy-weight design (170-tonne)
New Krupp heavy-weight design (170-tonne)
Tiger I type (Henschel)
Tiger II type (Henschel)
Tiger II type (Henschel)
Uses hollow armored track boxes (Raupenkaesten) over the sides to provide additional side protection. These had to be removed for rail transportation.
* Known thereafter as ‘Maeuschen 130’
** Same as used on the Tiger II
+Based on the E100 hull being 8.733 m long and that the E100 hull comes from this project, the 130-tonne ‘lengthened’ hull is approximately the same length overall.
++ Modified HL 230 motor using Bosch fuel injection and supercharging known as the HL 234
Wa Pruf 6’s suggestions appear to have saved Krupp from descending ever more rapidly into a vicious downward spiral of the weight going up and up. Not only did Wa Pruf 6 help to rationalize the design by removing the need for a new steering system and the elusive engine of 1,000 hp or higher, but they had also effectively dropped plans for a 150-tonne class Panzer in the process. Their new concept was to have this vehicle weigh-in at around 130 tonnes and Krupp was duly instructed to redraw W1674 to accommodate the changes needed to make this lighter tank with a lot of parts-commonality with the Tiger II. This was ready by the start of December 1942.
15 cm L/37 and 7.5 cm L/24
83.4 tonnes (52 tonnes bare hull)
Maybach HL 230 700 hp
Max. possible 22.5 km/h, limited by steering system to 21.5 km/h*
Tiger II (Henschel)
* Possible to increase this to 23 km/h but this would overstress the steering system by 12%
On top of the already significant weight reduction from 170 tonnes to ‘just’ 130 tonnes, the vehicle still needed to shed some weight. Here, the problem was the turret. As a percentage of the overall vehicle weight, it was simply out of proportion to the weight of the hull and a heavy turret produced additional problems with the means of traversing and balancing it. Wa Pruf 6 were therefore interested in a new design of turret with a further reduction in weight (and thereby armor protection). No figures were provided as no work appears to have been done in this regard but, assuming that a figure closer to the 20% of vehicle weight as represented by the Tiger, this would give a turret closer to 25 to 30 tonnes.
Hull and Turret Weight Percentage Comparisons
130-tonne Panzer with lightened turret per Wa Pruf 6
130-tonne Panzer with lightened turret per Wa Pruf 6
Hull as a % of overall weight
Turret as a % of overall weight**
* Estimates for the purposes of illustrative analysis ONLY
** For comparative purposes, the Serienturm on the Tiger II represented 21.9 % of the vehicle’s overall weight.
A couple more design changes that came out of this meeting between Krupp and Wa Pruf 6 showed that this new 130-tonne vehicle could not use everything from the Tiger II but was, on the whole, satisfactory for further development (especially if the turret could be further lightened).
There were two mutually supporting desires for getting this design into production as soon as possible. First, Wa Pruf 6 wanted this heavy tank available as soon as possible, and secondly, Krupp wanted to get the vehicle ready before Porsche’s Maus design (even though he was stating that it should be developed in parallel with Porsche’s design). Moving to ‘off-the-shelf’ components for the design, such as adopting elements from the Tiger II and Panther, would assist in this work, reducing the time taken for design and testing. When Krupp’s representatives met with a representative of the Munitions Ministry on 8th December, they were in agreement with this plan. The 130-tonne Maeuschen was therefore half-way to approval and was only waiting on final approval from Reichsminister Albert Speer to get the go-ahead, representing one of the fastest design processes for a heavy tank which can be identified, just 3 months from concept to design and approval.
Such a success though lasted just one week, with information coming on 15th December that Speer had not approved production. The 130-tonne Panzer design from Krupp was canceled. Only Dr. Porsche’s Maus design would continue as a decision on that vehicle had already been made by Hitler on 2nd December.
In a last effort to get production authorized, Krupp’s representatives met with Wa Pruf 6 on 17th December 1942 to seek answers as to why their design had been stopped. Wa Pruf 6 reiterated that they liked the design of this vehicle but that, as the Porsche-design had already been authorized, Krupp’s project had to stop. Bearing in mind their experience with two rival Tiger tank projects, they were anxious not to repeat the same situation a second time.
Krupp was not to be dissuaded so easily and went to meet directly with Speer, seeking this contract. At this time, the project was being known as the 130-tonne Tiger-Maus. It was exactly that, a hybrid from the Maeuschen program using Tiger components and weighing 130-tonnes, and at the same time confirming that the plans to reduce the turret weight below the 45.5-tonne design had not been progressed with (as the overall weight would be in the region of 110 tonnes). Production of the tank as a decision was reconsidered and the question of approval was put to Hitler on 5th January 1943. Then, Hitler again accepted the Porsche design and the Krupp plan was dead.
Right from day one in its life, this project required a powerful engine to propel its 150-tonne bulk. At that 11th September 1942 meeting where Krupp’s representative had outlined nothing more than the company’s desire to be allowed to develop their own concept in this class, they were informed that Maybach was promising to be able to deliver a 1,000 hp version of their HL 230 P30 engine*, the HL 234.
This engine, was, in fact, a variant of their HL 230 (HL 234) which was modified with the removal of the turbocharger, replacing it with a supercharger and modifications to the fuel system to deliver it at a higher pressure (Bosch fuel injection). It would also have to run on ‘special’ fuel.
Using even a modified HL 230 P30 (HL 234) would make this new tank much easier to maintain and sustain in the field and in production, as that engine was already in use. This was not the only area in which commonality of parts was considered. The next area was in the drive-train. Rather than adopting a bespoke system for this tank, it would, instead, opt for using components from the Henshel-Tiger, although, with a power to weight ratio of just 4.5 hp/ton, this tank would be able to achieve just 20 km/h. One thing which would differ from the Henschel-Tiger’s drivetrain though was the steering system (Lenkgetriebe). If the design had retained the steering unit from Henschel as used on the Tiger, it would be limited to just 13 km/h so a brand new system was needed allowing for speeds up to 25 km/h. This was undergoing development by Zahnradfabrik, Maybach, A.E.G., and Voith working together on a new heavy-weight hydromechanical transmission and steering system (hydro-mechanisches schalt und lenkgetreibe).
Unlike the Maus, which adopted an electrical transmission, this design from Krupp was to go for a more conventional transmission (Schaltgetriebe) although there were several to consider. Krupp’s preference was for a newly designed unit either mechanical or electro-mechanical from Zahnradfabrik which would have to be able to deal with up to 1,200 hp and a top speed of 30 km/h from a tank weighing 170 tonnes.
Transmissions and Gearboxes considered for
Krupp’s 150-tonne (170 tonnes) Panzer
Zahnradfabrik AK 7-200
7-speed transmission also suggested for the Tiger II, November 1942
Zahnradfabrik Elektromagnetisches Getriebe 12 EV 170
Installed in a Tiger 1 for testing, November 1942
Brand new design in development November 1942.
Zahnradfabrik Elektromagnetisches Getriebe
Brand new design in development November 1942.
Possibly the same 10-speed electro-magnetic transmission suggested for the Tiger II, October 1942
OG 40 20 16
B type box used in Tiger II
Brand new design in development November 1942.
Favoured by Wa Pruf 6
This is possibly the 8-speed OG 40 16 36 suggested for the Tiger II October 1942
On 1st December 1942, Wa Pruf 6 approved Krupp’s design with the proviso that the drivetrain elements were changed (apart from the improved steering system) to share commonality with those of the Tiger II instead of the Tiger I. This meant making the hull a little longer.
Following calculations in December on the new steering system, a 130-tonne basis for the tank was adopted instead of the 170-tonnes it had grown to, an Olvar Schaltgetriebe transmission was combined with the L801 steering system (Lenkgetriebe) (from the Tiger II), and Maybach HL 230 engine. The design work, which included the use of thirty-two 800 mm diameter road wheels (16 per side) produced a design superior to the Porsche-Maus:
Porsche-Maus vs Krupp 130-tonne Maeuschen December 1942
Krupp 130-tonne Maeuschen
Out of gauge*
170 – 180 tonnes**
Suspension protected by armor
* The out of gauge issue related to the width which as a result of manufacturing tolerances made the Maus too wide. This was later rectified and a dedicated spezialtransportwagen designed to move it around to stay within gauge.
** The Maus would get heavier
Green (Better), Red (Worse), Blue (Neutral)
Although, as of the start of December 1942, the 130-tonne Maeuschen would be hampered by the limits of the Maybach 700 hp engine, it had delivered the advantage of making the design much simpler than the alternative plan which required a whole new steering system. The reduction in weight from 170-tonnes to 130-tonnes had delivered the required improvements over the Maus, with the problem being a loss in armor protection, although the protection was still considered to be acceptable.
The improved-performance Maybach was promised to be ready and available from September 1943 onwards, meaning there would be 9 months or so in which to finish the rest of the design work. This is despite the promise of that 1,000 hp performance, and even 1,100 hp performance from the engine never being reached* and any such increase in power would also require a new steering system and final drive to cope with the stress.
One key element of the 130-tonne Tiger Maus design would be the design of the turret. It is commonly assumed online that the 130-tonne Tiger-Maus would use the Maus II/E100 style turret with the flat front, but this is not correct. The design for that turret started in March 1944, over a year after the Tiger-Maus had been canceled as an idea in favor of the Porsche-Maus. This is confirmed by the fact that when, in 1945, the Allies captured Adler’s works, they found many files had been burned. Under their supervision, drawing 021A38300 was redrawn from the burnt scraps of the original.
That drawing showed the original Maus-shaped turret from the Typ 205 dating back to the end of December 1942/January 1943 rather than the Maus II turm which was the turret intended. The reason for this is fairly clear, the Adler workers were simply working off the left-overs from the Tiger-Maus program and this was the Krupp turret shown on that hull. This accounts for why the turret retains so many early Maus features such as the side viewports, rear crew hatch, and the lack of coincidence rangefinder. That turret weighed in excess of 50 tonnes and was abandoned long before the E100 started. It was later found that the E100 hull (with its lighter suspension), in fact, could not mount such a heavy turret – that was why they had to lighten the Maus II turm to make it work on that tank down to just 35 tonnes. The turret for the 130-tonne Tiger Maus, therefore, is essentially the same as the one depicted on the Typ 205 with the early-Maus features, such as the side view-ports and crew escape hatch in the turret rear.
The 130-tonne Tiger-Maus cannot, in fact, even be suggested to mount the Maus turret. The design of the Tiger-Maus ended on 3rd January and design work amending the turret design shown on the Typ 205 did not begin until 12th January. Certainly, had the Tiger-Maus been selected over the Porsche-Maus, the turret would have been modified, but the Tiger-Maus was not selected and therefore did not receive these considerations. The fact that, over a year later, the Adler workers were working from designs of the Tiger-Maus from Krupp (redrawn with new suspension), which still had this pre-January 1943 Maus-style turret, simply confirms this.
Although Krupp’s design had been better in some ways than the rival Maus design from Dr. Porsche, it had not met with favor from Hitler. Porsche’s design had been approved for production on 3rd January 1943 and the 130-tonne Krupp Tiger-Maus was not. At the time, the project was over, but the idea of another heavy tank in place of the Porsche-Maus was not. Ernst Kniekampf (Panzer Kommission) would, without informing Krupp, give their design over to the firm of Adler to complete a simple experimental version. That was part of his attempts to develop a newly rationalized program of German tank development with vehicles based on common components and delineated by weight class and roles. That work was conducted in secret and Krupp were not even aware of this until the following spring, over a year after being officially turned down. The 130-tonne Tiger-Maus was resurrected only as a 100-tonne experimental chassis, though there were changes made to the original design as well as to how it would look. The Tiger-Maus was already dead, but the E100 which was to follow it was actually built, proving that Krupp’s design did, after all, have substantial merit and that perhaps it was it, and not the Porsche-Maus, which should have been selected for production even if both tanks were a dead end for a country struggling with the problems of mass manufacturing and how to field increasingly heavy tanks.
Specifications 130-tonne Tiger-Maus
estimated 11.073 m long, 3.27 m wide, est. 3.375 m high
Total weight, battle ready
estimated 128.9 tonnes (126.8 tons)
6 (Commander, Driver, Gunner, Loader x 2, Radio Operator)
15 cm L/37
7.5 cm L/24
7.92 mm M.G.34 or M.G.42 machine gun
Maybach HL 234 producing 1,000 to 1,100 hp (900 hp actually achieved)
The Maus is possibly one of the most recognizable tanks ever made, despite only two hulls ever being finished. The entire history of the development, design, testing, and construction of the heaviest tank ever built is a long and convoluted one stretching from early concepts in 1941 to a finished and operational vehicle in 1945. At nearly 200 tonnes, the Maus was an enormous machine, more than double the weight of any other tank and, as such, is often the butt of scorn for being too heavy or a waste of resources. Such criticism though is belied by the technical achievement in making this machine move under its own power and producing a vehicle with armor almost beyond the ability of any Allied tank-mounted weapon to penetrate. Of course, no tank can operate independently and wars are not fought and won by single tanks, so ideas of one-on-one tank comparisons between the Maus and something like a Sherman are not only fruitless and pointless but also completely disingenuous. Certainly, the Maus was not a military success, it saw no combat and was indeed the recipient of a lot of time and effort which could have been spent elsewhere in the German war effort. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that, despite just two hulls and one turret for the Maus being finished, it was proposed to use it as a base for another vehicle. Almost every German tank from the Panzer I onwards served as either a platform for an anti-tank gun or self-propelled gun. These vehicles were combat proven to be effective and were easier and cheaper to make than turreted tanks. It should be no surprise, therefore, that even the Maus project touched on this area at one point. The story of this improbable idea dates to May 1944.
An ever-popular topic with model and game companies are the ‘what-ifs’ of German tank evolution in WW2 and, with few exceptions, most tanks received a tank-destroyer version. That is that the hulls were repurposed for the mounting of a fixed superstructure on top with a forward-facing gun. The Maus too followed this direction in a very short-lived concept from May 1944.
The Maus project had actually already been canceled in November 1943 following severe production delays thanks to the Allied bombing of Krupp’s factory in August 1943. Despite this, the idea of restarting the Maus production program was being pushed by Dr. Porsche in March 1944 and he continued to press for this through the summer of 1944. Whilst the Maus program was finally re-killed in July 1944 with an order to scrap the remaining unfinished hulls (hulls 3 to 6), there had been a meeting held on 9th May 1944 which had offered some prospect of continuing Maus-related work. At that meeting, representatives from Porsche and Krupp met to discuss a new heavy type of self-propelled gun. This design was to revolve around the possible mounting of a 15 cm L/63 gun or the 17 cm L/53 gun on a heavily armored chassis to create a new heavy Sturmpanzer based on the Maus. Krupp, as before, would have responsibility for the production of the armor and fabrication of the hulls (obviously not the turrets as this would be a casemate-type vehicle), with Porsche being the design lead for the vehicle. Together, Porsche and Krupp had been two elements in the trio of firms that produced the Maus, the third being Alkett, which had responsibility for the assembly of the Maus. It is a fair assumption, therefore, that had this Maus-based vehicle ever gone ahead, Alkett would once more have been responsible for assembly. The entire vehicle-concept was intended as a competitor to the similar idea based upon the hull of the E100 being developed at that time by the rival firm of Adler.
Post 9th May 1944
The idea might, in hindsight, seem impractical or even absurd to the casual observer, but this was not the case for Porsche and Krupp. They had met on 9th May and clearly, from that meeting, it was felt that this idea of using Maus hulls for this type of vehicle was a viable prospect. So much so in fact, that a follow-up meeting was held on 17th May to discuss what the new superstructure (casemate) for this Maus-hulled Sturmgescheutz would look like. This vehicle would therefore be known as (depending on which gun was mounted) either the 15 or 17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug.
It was during this meeting that Krupp was adamant that they only wanted to use the 15 cm L/63 gun, presumably because of the weight and size of the 17 cm L/53 and its ammunition. Krupp was obviously being very serious about the significant challenge to fit this enormous gun onto an admittedly enormous chassis, but one which was already absolutely crammed full of automotive components and where any available space inside the lower hull was used for ammunition stowage.
However, Dr. Porsche, it seems, was slightly less realistic and completely ignored the enormous size of the machine once more. Just as he had done with the original Maus turret development, he proposed a secondary turret mounting a 3 cm anti-aircraft gun (3 cm Flak-Turm) to provide air-defense for the vehicle. This idea was immediately discounted, as the vehicle would be escorted by air-defense vehicles, would be out-of-gauge for travel by rail, and would interfere with the breech of the main gun.
That idea was not accepted and nor was the Porsche/Krupp plan for using the Maus hull design either. The hull was too high and too heavy compared to the E100 hull. Instead, Krupp was contracted to produce a model for a 17 cm gun-carrying design based on the E100 chassis instead. With that contract, issued on 28th May 1944, there was literally no reason for Krupp to continue working on a Maus proposal and the idea was dead.
As it turned out, the E100-based idea did not fare much better either. If there were any lingering doubts on the matter, both concepts were over by the middle of the year after a meeting with General Guderian where he was shown the models. Guderian already disliked the Maus and had tried to kill that project by canceling all serial production, so the likelihood that he would agree to a new and heavier vehicle based upon one he already disliked was exceptionally unlikely. As could be expected, no further discussions or work on the project took place after this.
In total, therefore, this most unlikely of projects lasted from 9th May to no later than 28th May, 19 days in which to consider what a poor design choice it would be regardless of any consideration of what purpose this enormous vehicle was going to be put to. No drawings of the ideas from Krupp and Porsche survive for this project, if indeed anything more than a sketch was even prepared. What such a machine could have looked like is one of those essentially fruitless exercises in ‘what ifs’ so beloved by computer games and model makers but, aside from shamelessly exploiting an interest in ‘exotic’ German armor for commercial purposes, there are real questions to be asked of what any design could have looked like.
The primary consideration over what a 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug would have looked like starts with the hull. Obviously, the hull selected was that of the Maus and, given the incredibly tight space in which to operate the mechanisms of the hull, there appears to be no prospect for moving the engine, generators, or motor components around inside the hull. On top of this, any rearrangement of drive components etcetera would change the shape of the hull and the armor layout etcetera to such an extent that this vehicle’s hull would be very different from that of the Maus. Given that the name is ‘15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug’ – an assault gun based on a Maus hull, any interpretation of the layout must begin with a look at the Maus hull.
The Maus hull should be considered as existing in four sections. Right at the front, in the center, is the driver’s compartment housing the driver and radio operator under a single ovaloid hatch. Behind this was a large section for the engine and air intakes for cooling the engine and electric motors. It was on this section that three large shell deflectors were fitted to protect the grills. Behind the engine section is the turret area defined by four plates cut and welded together to form the opening for the turret basket and ring. More automotive elements were below this area.
Finally, at the back, there was another section of grilles out of which warm, spent air was forced out having been drawn through the vehicle to cool the engine.
What this layout means is that there could only be one place to mount a casemate for the gun for the vehicle, the area previously occupied for the turret. Removal of the 60 mm hull roof armor and turret ring at this point would provide the space for the casemate, although this would mean that the gun was mounted behind the engine. This was not generally favored for a vehicle as it caused numerous problems, such as access to the engine area for maintenance. It would also mean a relatively small amount of depression would be available. Nonetheless, there was simply nowhere else it could go without a complete redesign of the hull. If the casemate was limited to just the space between the vents on the hull it would also not be long enough for the enormous gun breech. Although no drawings of this idea survive it is perhaps logical to consider that a realistic solution to expelling this air could have been found in a similar manner to that on the Elefant/Ferdinand tank destroyer – by venting air out of the rear of the hull plate under the fighting chamber but without the drawings or a description this is purely speculative.
The next question which would arise would be the armor on the vehicle and this is easier to resolve. The armor for the Maus hull is already well documented and knowing where the casemate would have to go would create a casemate behind the engine. The face of this casemate would have to match or exceed the armor value of the front of the hull which was 205 mm angled back at 55 deg. The Maus hull was designed as 200 mm but, due to manufacturing tolerances, was measured as 205 mm in a post-war British examination. Assuming the same basis was to match 200 mm at 55 degrees, this would mean an effective armor of 283 mm line-of-sight thickness.
Assuming the front of the Maus-casemate would match that of the Jagdtiger (probably the best analog of this general design concept – 250 mm at 15 degrees = 259 mm) it would require a front plate sloping back at about 15 degrees with about 273 mm of thickness, or, at 30 degrees a plate 245 mm thick. On the Jagdtiger, 250 mm at 15 degrees was already more than adequate for the task. It is perhaps more realistic to assume a rough equivalency to that layout but with a front sloped perhaps more like adopted and favored by Krupp for the Maus II and E100 turrets.
Regardless of whether or not the actual armor had ever even been fleshed out on paper or not, the front of the casemate would have to be substantially well protected, just as would the sides. The Maus hull sides, in order to meet rail gauge requirements, were 173 mm thick and vertical but the turret sides for the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug could not be vertical as this would prevent it from fitting through rail tunnels. Indeed, the Maus had to have a special railcar designed for it to not only take the weight, but to also lower the height when being shipped by train so it could fit through a tunnel. As the Maus with a turret already was at the limits of the German rail gauge, there is no space for the casemate on top of a Maus hull to get either wider or taller, so therefore must have followed roughly the same dimensions and angles as the turret. That would mean sides sloping towards the roof at an angle of about 30 degrees, presumably at least the same thickness as the lower sides (173 mm) and possibly as thick as the Maus turret sides were (200 mm). The rear of the casemate is more complicated, as there is more room to create an overhang over those rear air exhausts. Armor could be reasonably assumed to be in line with the Maus, as would the roof. The shape and size of the casemate are simply dictated by the limitations of the hull already crammed with the drivetrain, and by the fixed restrictions imposed by the rail gauge. The biggest issue for the design was not the shape or position of the casemate, but the fitting of the gun.
There were only two guns in consideration for the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug and, as the name makes clear, these were a 15 cm or 17 cm gun. Krupp was adamant that he would do anything to avoid having to use the 17 cm gun. That 17 cm Sturmkanone (Stuk – assault gun) was 53 calibers long (L/53), longer than the 17 cm Kanone 18, and is often referenced online as being the same gun as planned for the Grille 17 (Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 17 (Sf.)), although that gun was an L/50 rather than the L/53 (3 calibers / 51 cm shorter) optioned for this design. The 17 cm Stuk. L/53 existed only on paper as of 22nd March 1944.
It is likely that the reason for Krupp’s desire to avoid the 17 cm gun was the sheer size of it as well as the weight, over 7 tonnes, the length (over 9 meters), enormous breech, and very large and heavy ammunition. Mounting and balancing such a heavy gun was no small task and that is before considerations over the speed of loading it in the tight confines inside the casemate, a task likely to require at least two loaders.
That 17 cm gun though, like the 15 cm L/63, had to meet a specific requirement set in April 1944 by General Guderian (Inspector General of Panzer troops) to be able to defeat up to 200 mm of armor at 4,000 meters, leaving no doubt as to a key intended purpose of this vehicle – the destruction of increasingly well-armored enemy tanks at long range. The focus was on this ‘smaller’ gun, as work had already been done on a 15 cm gun mount for the Maus when that gun was considered more suitable for the delivery of a heavy high explosive round to destroy concrete gun emplacements as well as for taking on enemy tanks with armor-piercing ammunition. The 15 cm Stuk L/63 would also be a very large gun but was at least manageable. Both the E100 and Maus were planned to be able to mount a 15 cm, although the longest 15 cm gun contemplated for the Maus turm was the 15 cm KwK. L/40. It is likely that neither of the planned guns, either the 17 cm L/53 or the 15 cm L/63, were actually made and so obtaining data on their performance and ammunition can only be inferred from scraps of available data.
The gun mounting for that 15 cm gun in the Maus turm was internal, that is the trunnions for the gun were behind the front armor of the turret. That turret had a serious potential flaw which was highlighted by Krupp, as the bottom half curved downwards and risked deflecting an incoming shell into the roof. This was highlighted in May 1943 by Porsche and the result was that, by the time of the Maus II turret in March 1944, it was to be replaced with a new, slope-fronted turret made from a single flat plate. That design change would obviate the problem of a deflected shot hitting the hull roof but it had also meant a larger turret ring and that the gun’s trunnions had to be moved onto the outer-face of the turret to cope with the new shape. That new gun mounting on the outside on the turret face would be repeated for the E100 turret and here, importantly, would have to be repeated for the face of the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug.
Once it can be logically established that the casemate would follow a certain shape, and that, in order to mount the gun on that casemate, it had to follow the same design process, then other parts of what the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug could have looked can be speculated. Firstly, the secondary weapon. The Maus, Maus II, and E100 all had a primary and a secondary gun, such as the 12.8 cm paired with a 7.5 cm, but for the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug no such arrangement was either needed nor suggested. The Maus had its two guns mounted side by side, which caused enormous problems with space in the turret. One improvement on the Maus II was to stack these guns on top of each other, freeing up internal space albeit at the price of some gun depression.
With no secondary gun needed, the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug could avoid both of those issues and would also have more space for ammunition which was significantly larger than the already large 12.8 cm shells on the Maus. Next, a machine gun. Both Maus and Maus II were to use a machine gun (MG.34 or MG.42) mounted on the left of the turret face and, although there is no mention of this weapon, it would appear extremely unlikely that one would not be considered for this vehicle too.
Finally, the range finder. The Maus was fitted with a rangefinder and this was improved with the Maus II by means of 2.1 m wide coincidence-type rangefinder across the roof of the turret. Later, this was to be further improved with a slightly narrower (1.9 to 2 m wide) rangefinder of the same type. There is no doubt that the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug would have to have a rangefinder, especially given the 4,000 m ranges at which it was going to be expected to deliver accurate fire against enemy tanks and structures. Given the common positioning of the rangefinder on the Maus II and E100, it is reasonable to assume a similar arrangement of a similar size/type of rangefinder would also have to have been used on the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug.
Obviously, it is not possible to determine exactly how many crew would have worked a vehicle that never even made it to the drawing board, but there is also scope here to consider the number of men needed to operate such a machine. The Maus, for example, required a crew of 6 men. A driver and radio operator in the front of the hull, followed by a commander, gunner, and two loaders.
Based upon the Maus hull, the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug would be unlikely to have changed the front crew section, as this was fixed into the hull. That would mean the driver and front radio operator would likely be the same. In the casemate, where the turret would previously have sat, the rest of the crew would be situated. This would have to include a commander, and a gunner making for at least 4 crew at a minimum. The gun obviously also required loading and thus, at least one loader would be needed. On the Maus, a second loader was retained as it had two guns and the shells were heavy and hauling them around would tire a single loader. Whilst the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug likely had no secondary gun to be served by a loader, the 15 or 17 cm shells were huge and heavy. A unitary (one piece) 15 cm shell, for example, weighed in excess of 34 kg and possibly over 40 kg depending on what ammunition might have been chosen. Moving those shells around would rapidly exhaust a single loader, so a second loader is almost essential just to make the machine viable. This would be aside from any loading assist systems which might have been considered, which theoretically could have reduced the crew to just a single loader.
Although the idea of the 15 cm or 17 cm gun using the Maus chassis had failed after a brief spark of interest in May 1944 with the E100 being selected in preference, it was not much of a loss. The E100 was to suffer the same fate by the middle of July, with Hitler stopping the development of such enormous and heavy weapons. The 15/17 Sturmgeschütz auf E100 fahrzeug, therefore, joined a long list of failed and abandoned Nazi projects.
Because it is not known what the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug looked like, much of this article has been speculative about the shape and look of the vehicle. No firm drawing were ever even produced and no initial sketches are known to survive. Nonetheless, the speculation over its appearance is more than just idle chatter, but a serious effort to consider the problems the designers and builders would have faced and the solutions open to them. At times, such speculative contemplation has been taken to ludicrous extremes by game companies or model makers, but the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug was still a very real idea. In hindsight, it may have been useless as a weapon and a waste of resources for the German war effort, but the idea was still made and seriously considered.
15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug specifications
estimated 10.085 m long (9.034 m without gun), 3.7 m wide (series max.), estimated 3.649 m high
Total weight, battle-ready
estimated 188 to 200 tonnes
5-6 (commander, gunner, 1 or 2 loaders, driver, radio operator)
Front – estimated 250 mm at 30 degrees
Sides – estimated 205 mm at 30 deg.
Rear – estimated 205 mm at 10 deg.
Roof – estimated 60 mm at 90 deg.Hull
Front – Glacis – 205 mm at 55 deg.
– Lower front – 205 mm at 35 deg.
Track guards – 100 mm at 10 deg.
Sponson floor – Front – 50 mm at 75 deg.
Sponson floor – Middle – 50 mm at 90 deg.
Sponson floor – Rear – 50 mm at 85 deg.
Side – Upper – 173 mm at 0 deg.
Sides – Lower (skirt) – 105 mm at 0 deg.
Side hull inner – 80 mm at 0 deg.
Rear – Upper – 153 mm at 40 deg.
Rear – Lower – 153 mm at 30 deg.
Floor – front – 100 mm at 90 deg.
Floor – middle and rear – 50 mm at 90 deg.
Roof – Front – 103 mm at 90 deg.
Roof – Middle – 60 mm at 90 deg.
Rof – Rear – 60 mm at 90 deg.
The Maus is an easily recognisable vehicle, marking the largest and heaviest production tank of WW2. At nearly 200 tonnes, the Maus, fully loaded and ready for combat, was a feat of engineering which lacked a purpose by the time it was finished. Despite having been ordered into mass production, Allied bombing had slowed deliveries and then all but a few hulls and turrets were finished when the project was scrapped. Even though the Maus was effectively dead as a project by November 1943, the story for the vehicle and even for a possible follow-up ‘Maus II’ was far from over. Maus II would not be a new vehicle, but the improvement of the first design, most noticeably in the turret.
The first mention of a Maus II was in March 1943. At this time, production of the original Maus vehicle had already begun, with the project having been approved for mass production shortly beforehand. The rush to deliver the Maus meant that production began quickly by Krupp and was well underway by the summer of 1943. Following an Allied bombing raid of the Krupp plant on 4th August 1943, production of the Maus ground to a halt, with work on 30 hulls at various stages of completion. The result of this bombing was that there was an interruption in production which led to a scaling-down of production followed by the cancellation of the project in November 1943. This permitted just 2 hulls and a single turret to be finished.
At this time though, there were several Maus hulls in various stages of completion as well as armor plating in various stages of rolling, milling, and welding for dozens more Maus available at Krupp’s factory in Essen.
It is important to note, at this point in the understanding of the Maus II and what it would look like, that all of these Maus hulls were not the same. In May 1943, after production had started, it was realized that, due to manufacturing tolerances on the very substantial side armor plates, the first hulls were ‘out-of-gauge’, namely they were too wide for the standard rail width in Germany. Rather than scrap these vehicles, it was decided to modify them along with the ones moving through the production line to bring them back into gauge. What this meant was that, by the time of the August bombing attack on the Krupp works, there were several marginally different Maus in production at the same time.
By the time of the project cancellation, the partially completed plates, hulls and turrets were still at Krupp’s Essen plant and only one hull was actually operable. A second hull would follow later and would be paired up with a finished Maus-turm and be used for testing, but, for all intents and purposes, by the end of 1943, the Maus idea was dead in the water.
Having considered that several vehicles were already in various stages of completion, Krupp had a lot of time, money, and material invested in the Maus project, as did Dr. Porsche, the designer. However, it was not until March 1944 that Hitler would intervene. That month saw Hitler demand an update from Wa Pruef 6 as to the status of the Maus program and demanded that the Maus which had been completed to undergo testing and further development. At this time, the Maus was still mounting a test-weight ‘turret’ known as the Einsatzgewicht to load the hull as if a turret was mounted. The second hull arrived at Böblingen around this time too and mounted the newly produced turret.
Following Hitler’s demands, an assessment at Krupp was clear that production could, in fact, restart and that hulls 3 to 7 had been welded up and were sat in the armor workshop. Post-war evidence also suggests that all of these hulls also had Maus-turm turrets welded-up ready for them, as these four hulls and turrets were found by Allied forces after the capture of Krupp’s factory and testing ground in 1945.
Maus II, therefore, was not a recycling of one of the original Maus-turms, but a new turret and this was mentioned by Porsche when he requested a ‘Maus-II turm’ from Krupp. At this time, the Maus II-turm did not exist outside of some sketches of the initial design, as a contract for the production of a 1:5 scale Maus model with Maus-II turm was not issued until 8th April 1944. This contract is important, as it was exactly a week after the assessment of resuming production at Krupp was delivered. That assessment had shown that a resumption of Maus production at Krupp would need an additional 200 workers per month and could deliver vehicles at a rate of just 2 per month, just a fifth of the 10 per month which had originally been suggested. This production though would be starting from hull number 8 (for which armor had been cut) onwards.
Maus II Turm (turret)
On 8th April 1944, a contract had been issued for an improved Maus turret to be modeled in 1:5 scale. The model was to have the same armament as the original Maus, a 12.8 cm gun paired with a 7.5 cm gun, but rather than being side by side with each other like on the original Maus, these were to be stacked: the 7.5 cm gun was to be mounted above the 12.8 cm gun. No plans seemed to consider the possibility of a 15 cm gun.
Bearing in mind that, when Porsche first saw the Maus-turm on the full-sized mockup in May 1943, he disliked the curved front, concerned that it could deflect shells into the hull roof, it should be no surprise that the Maus II-turm would look quite different. Dr. Porsche had made a series of suggestions to modify the original turret, including wholly impractical ideas for sub-turrets and anti-aircraft guns, but his primary suggestion of note was to change the front profile of the turret by turning the curve in the bottom half the other way.
A second change was the gun mounting, although it is not clear whose idea this was. The mount would go from a side-by-side mounting with the 12.8cm Kw.K. 44 L/55 gun on the left and the 7.5 cm gun on the right to an ‘over-and-under’ mounting with the smaller gun mounted on top. This was not the same 7.5 cm gun as used on the Maus-turm. The mounting of that gun had caused problems because the position it occupied meant that fumes from the muzzle after firing could be drawn down into the engine bay, meaning that instead of a 7.5 cm L/24 gun the barrel had to be lengthened to avoid the problem. The result was a 7.5 cm L/36 as the secondary armament on the Maus turm. By mounting the 7.5 cm gun above the primary armament, much of that problem was removed as the gun was much higher up and this meant that the original 7.5 cm L/24 could be used instead.
The general shape of this new turret was ready by 15th March, as the changes needed to the hull to accommodate it had to be worked on by Porsche. A month or so later, on 16th/17th April 1943, Krupp met with Wa Prüf 6 to discuss the improvements to the Maus-turm.
These were to include an improved ventilation system in the turret with a fume extractor directly over the 12.8 cm ammunition bin and a new breech for the 7.5 cm gun which opened horizontally rather than vertically, as this would make loading possible. Mounting the 7.5 cm gun on top of the 12.8 cm and with a vertical breech would leave it almost impossible to reload otherwise.
Most importantly, though, was the incorporation of Porsche’s concerns over the front shape. Gone was the curved front and it was replaced with a single flat plate angled back. This design had the advantage of preventing the possibility of deflected shots striking the hull roof, but also reduced the space available for the gun trunnions (the mounts for the gun), which were originally behind the front plate. Keeping this arrangement would, in fact, have reduced the space so much that the 12.8 cm gun would not have been able to fit in the turret properly.
Where the front-curve design had ensured these trunnions were protected, the shape of the front of this new design got around this problem by simply putting the trunnions on the outside of the plate. This kept the gun-forwards in the turret, maximizing space inside, and simply required a large rounded casting on the front to protect them. On top of this casting was a second large steel casting forming the mantlet around the gun.
The new turret was a significant improvement over the original Maus-turm, providing a better ballistic shape, being easier to produce (no more bending a 240 mm thick steel plate to form the front) and having improved ventilation, but in order to fit it to the hull, certain changes were needed.
On 15th May 1944, the contract for the 1:5 scale model of the Maus-II turm was changed to include an additional model in 1:10 scale to incorporate a new range finder (EM – entfernungsmesser), which was slightly narrower than the original one (1.9 to 2 m long instead of 2.1 m). Krupp’s work on this new turret was underway by August 1944 in both options (the 1:5 and 1:10 scale models with and without the new rangefinder, respectively), but to make them he was forced to scavenge parts from the original 1:1 scale model for the first Maus turret which was at Kummersdorf.
The only practical difference between the Maus II turm and the turret selected for the E100 design by Adler was that the armor on the turret was changed to reduce the weight. In this way, the E100 turm can be seen as a ‘light’ version of the Maus II turm. Visually, they would have been very similar, with only the slightly narrower rangefinder distinguishing the two from the outside. Obviously, any upgunning of the E100 turm to a 15 cm or 17.4 cm gun would cement the visual differences between the two.
Maus II Wanne (hull)
The outline of the new Maus turm was ready on 15th March 1944 in order to allow for necessary changes to be made to the hull in order to mount it. Firstly, the turret ring was to be enlarged on the hull to accommodate this new and improved turret, which would also make it more stable and make the vehicle less cramped. The original Maus turm was sat on a turret-race attached within a 2,959 mm diameter opening in the hull, allowing for the 2,388 mm diameter basket to rotate within it. The Maus II turm required a larger turret ring. This would mean that the turrets would not be interchangeable between the Maus and Maus II.
Improved ventilation in the hull roof was also meant to be added, with improved or additional gratings which allowed for more air to be drawn in for cooling.
As of 4th August 1943, it is known that armor plates had been cut for Maus hulls 8 and 9, delivered from the armor works for hull 10, and another 20 Maus-worth of armor plate rolled ready for cutting. Bearing in mind the first 7 vehicles would in the event of a resumption of production clearly be finished as Maus with the Maus-turm, it is a fair assumption that plans for this second turret would be intended for hulls 8 onwards, with a potential to finish at 22 tanks in this manner using the armor already available (for the hulls). If that was the case, there would be 8 Maus I tanks and 22 Maus IIs potentially even before considering any new contracts for renewed mass production to the original Maus I levels.
One additional and rather speculative element to consider for a Maus II is the drive train. It is understood that the original Maus was, at one time or another, envisaged with a rather large variety of engines and options and that, whilst it eventually got a modified version of the Daimler-Benz MB 517 1,200 hp V-12 Diesel engine, it had suffered through using the less-powerful MB 509 1,080 hp V-12 Petrol due to shortages of engines. Given that the MB 517 was not available or installed prior to the end of 1944, it seems a fair assumption that either this engine or one of equivalent power would have been fitted to any Maus II or Maus tanks from vehicle 8 onwards. There were also numerous other ideas for even more powerful, lighter, smaller power plants for tanks, but so far as is known in the development of Maus II, the MB 517 is the most likely option.
Whether or not Maus II would have retained the electric transmission of the Maus or would have adopted a hydraulic or mechanical transmission is not clear, but given a demand to save weight and reduce the use of strategic materials (such as the copper in the electric transmission), a switch or at least consideration of a switch is also very likely. Evidence supporting this would come from a later plan envisaged for the E100 using the 8-speed Mekydro transmission – a mechanical/hydraulic type system.
One thing less considered is the suspension. It could be assumed that a new order for Maus production in the form of Maus II would have led to a replacement of the twin-bogie system. Dr. Porsche had always favored torsion bars and had adopted external horizontal torsion bars for his Tiger P/Elefant/Ferdinand. These had also been planned for the original Typ 205 from the end of 1942. As the weight of that design had steadily increased, Dr. Porsche had reluctantly gone to a spring suspension from his much favored torsion bar system. A new, larger and more resilient external torsion bar system could therefore easily be seen as a logical development in Maus II from Dr. Porsche if it had been ordered back into production. However, without drawings, plans, or documentary evidence, this remains speculative only.
Just like the original Maus, the idea for Maus II was to partner the high velocity 12.8 cm gun (12.8 cm KwK.44 L/55, known as the ‘12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 (Maus)’) with a 7.5 cm gun. For the Maus, it was a long-barrelled (to avoid gas from the propellant entering the hull-roof vents when it was fired) 7.5 cm gun (7.5 cm Kw.K. 44 L/36), but this was not required on the Maus II as a shorter 7.5 cm gun could be used. Also unlike the Maus, which mounted these two guns side by side, the Maus II design was to mount them in an ‘over-and-under’ style, with the 7.5 cm gun mounted on top. The only major change this required was the switch to a horizontal breech for the 7.5 cm gun so it could be loaded from the side. The unusual arrangement had several considerable advantages over the former arrangement. Firstly, mounting the 7.5 cm gun higher up ensured no gases could go into the hull roof-vents even with the shorter barrel. Secondly, it reduced the width of the gun mounting in the turret face, which meant a lighter mounting as well as a narrower hole being cut in the turret face. More importantly, though, was that by sharing the same vertical axis, these two guns were now much easier to range for the new rangefinders being considered.
The story of the Maus II, an improved version of the Maus, is a complicated one and one for which the entire story may never be known. Even after the original Maus hulls (3 to 6) were ordered scrapped in July 1944, work was continuing on models of the Maus II turret. This can be seen as confirmation that the Maus II was a viable new tank that needed a new hull – hence the non-reuse of the old hulls, or simply that the turret project had not been canceled or possibly was intended for the E100 or something else instead.
Likewise, the fact that hulls 3 to 6 for the Maus were not, in fact, scrapped has also been seen as evidence supporting the idea that Maus II was not much more than an improved turret for the original hull. Analysis of the information about this turret shows that this latter conclusion cannot be correct. The Maus II turret was too large for the original Maus hull and, at the very minimum, would have necessitated the removal of the original hull roof and replacing it with a ring large enough to take the new turret. Considering that hulls 3 to 6 had manufacturing tolerance issues and needed reworking just to fulfill the needs of the Maus, it is perhaps more likely that Maus II would simply have started from Maus hull 8 onwards, incorporating the manufacturing improvements needed to stay within gauge.
It is not even clear quite when Maus II was completely terminated, as work on the turrets was still going on in August 1944, a month after the spare Maus hulls were ordered scrapped. The relationship between the E100 turret and that for Maus II is almost equally as opaque. Whilst they are assumed to share a common turret-ring size (larger than that of the original Maus), and the same guns (12.8 and 7.5 cm over-and-under) and same general layout, they were not the same. The E100 turret offered much less protection than the Maus II turret and, at only 35 tonnes, significantly lighter than the 50+ tonne turret of Maus II. The E100 turret was announced as finished by 17th May 1944, yet work on Maus II turret was still continuing, suggesting further changes were still being considered, but after this date the project disappears. Likely, it was simply canceled by the end of the year as redundant. The Maus program had been canceled and those workers and resources were needed elsewhere. No Maus II was ever built and no turret finished.
Pz.Kpwg. Maus II specifications
est. 10.085 long (9.034 without gun), 3.7 wide (series max.), 3.649 m high
Total weight, battle ready
Est. 188 tonnes (50 to 55 tonne turret)
6 (commander, gunner, 2 x loaders, driver, radio operator)
12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 L/55
7.5 cm Kw.K. 44 L/24
7.92 mm M.G.34 machine gun
Front – 220 mm @ 30 deg.
Sides – 200 mm @ 30 deg.
Rear – 200 mm @ 15 deg.
Roof – 60 mm @ 0 deg.
Hull – as Maus
Est. Daimler Benz MB 517 V-12 Petrol 44.5 litre – 1,200 hp @ 2,500 rpm
Light tank – Single partial prototype and design. (1938-41)
United Kingdom – None built
Many people interested in tanks have likely heard the name Walter Christie and are aware that he produced several prototype tanks during the period between WW1 and WW2. Whilst his vehicles had some good features, overall they were not a commercial success for Christie, who had amassed a lot of debt in developing and building them. The result was that some of his assets, his tank prototypes included, ended up being used to pay off his debts and his ‘high-speed tank’ was one of them.
Sold to pay off Christie’s debts, this vehicle ended up in the hands of a German-born American businessman, Siegfried Bechold. This new owner rebranded the tank, had some additional design changes made and then, at the start of WW2, tried to sell the ‘new’ design to both the Belgians and the British.
The Belgians needed tanks urgently but this design would come too late to help them. The British expressed interest as the light weight of the machine was suited to their need for a tank for airborne operations, and by 1940 the British Purchasing Commission was actively considering the vehicle for production. Nonetheless, the idea was over by 1941, when British attention switched to a vehicle with more armor and firepower than the ‘Bechold’ tank. Even so, this early design and the consideration of it adds to the story of how the British were trying to develop their own ideas for a new kind of mobile warfare and airborne operations.
The enigmatic Mr. Bechhold
The name Siegfried Bechhold means very little even to the most ardent tank enthusiast. However, just prior to WW2 and into its first years, Bechhold was one of the most prominent men involved in tank design and production in America, despite never having produced any tanks. This peculiar state of affairs takes some digging to get to the bottom of, as does the man himself, not helped by his name appearing variously as Bechhold, Bechold, and Buchhold.
Siegfried Bechhold appears to have been born in Bavaria, Germany in 1900, although a newspaper article from January 1941 puts his birthplace as Holland. This is likely one of those situations where people de-Germanized themselves to try and disguise their German ancestry, something which was a common occurrence at the time, especially with the switch from ‘Deutsch’ to ‘Dutch’ in terms of self-description. Another account of his early life (from April 1941) stated that he was born in Bavaria and lived in Germany until he was 11 – so maybe his family moved to Holland or maybe he was just hiding his background.
Bechhold recounted his story that, at the age of 16 (so ~1916), he was, like tens of thousands of other German boys, drafted into the German Army during World War One, although it is not known if he saw any active service or not. By 1922, with WW1 behind him but in a country ravaged by economic and social problems, he managed to make the transatlantic voyage to the United States, arriving in New York with just US$40 to his name.
His first jobs were very poorly paid but, by the late 1920’s, he was living as a tenant at 34 East 62nd Street between Madison and Park Avenues (this house was demolished in an explosion in July 2006). He had been learning English at night school and had managed to get a job as a salesman, which proved very successful for him. So successful was it, that this man, who had arrived in the USA just a few years before, could now afford to travel back and forth to Europe. He would later claim that he used these trips to pass on information about German rearmament efforts during the early 1930’s and that he believed that Germany was far ahead of other countries in weapons development, although this sounds more like his sales-speak for selling tanks than the serious recollections of an international spy.
What is known though is that during this time, he, like many others, saw the tanks of Walter Christie. These were very well covered in the newspapers and newsreels of the age with Christie’s penchant for publicity stunts. Seeing a potential business opportunity, Bechhold was interested in these tanks which were significantly faster than other tanks of the age, and in many ways the most advanced tanks in the USA at the time.
Bechhold later reported that he was encouraged in his interests by Congressman Ross Collins of Mississippi, although how these two men knew each other is unknown. It was, according to Bechhold, Collins who encouraged him to produce tanks in the United States but Bechhold was not a technical man nor an engineer despite being Vice President of the Bethlehem Engineering Export Corporation of Wall Street, New York. He was skilled in salesmanship and finance. He was, however, despite his lack of engineering skills, to be credited in the US press as coming up with the idea of putting lightweight aircraft engines into tanks in place of ordinary diesel or petrol engines, although this too sounds more like the pitch of a salesman, as Christie had already done this years beforehand.
As an aside to his tank work and to give a flavour of the way in which Bechold was trying to avoid being labelled as anything other than as a patriot, he embarked on a vigorous self-justification campaign in the media, making sure no one was in any doubt as to his loyalties. As a result, in June 1941, it was reported that Bechhold, a naturalized citizen and “intense” patriot, had refused to sell his tanks to the Russians at the time of the War against Finland. Furthermore, it was claimed that, in the new war against Hitler, he would only sell them when the Russians went to war with Hitler, even though there seems to be no evidence whatsoever for this claim.
The Tank Company
By the end of the 1930’s, Bechhold had his opportunity. Walter Christie, a man of undoubted technical gifts, was running short of investors who wanted to keep losing money on his tanks. One vehicle of his, a “high-speed tank”, had to be handed over to the partners of the Hempsted Welding Company of New York, William and Alfred Christ, as a lien against unpaid debts owed to them by Christie. Exactly which of Christie’s vehicles this was in unclear but as the M.1938 was later presented by a Mr. Bigley with some involvement from Christie suggests that Bechhold got hold of the M.1937 high speed tank from Christie as the basis of his design. However, whilst exactly which vehicle may not be known, Christie’s creditors were to be appeased with a tank available for purchase to pay his debts.
Bechhold had, through Bethlehem Engineering Co. been engaged in a commercial contract with Christie which started on 9th August 1938 whereby Bechhold and his company were granted exclusive rights to sell and manufacture the design from Christie for the princely sum of US$5,000 (just over US$91,000 in 2020 values). The idea of the partnership was simple. For this initial outlay of cash to Christie, Bethem Engineering would take the full blueprints of the design, market them globally and grant manufacturing licences for US$50,000 to each national licensee. This US$50,000 (US$915,000 in 2020 values) would be split 50:50 between Bethlehem Engineering and Christie for which the licence got not only the blueprints but also a master mechanic or draughtsman from Christie. This agreement simply fell apart not least in part to how appallingly badly written and complicated it was. In the words of the New York Second Circuit of Appeals in July 1939 ruling on whether to grant an injunction against Christie for breach of his contract:
“This contract is so obscure, and, strictly taken, so incoherent, that nobody can be sure of its meaning, but so far as we can spell it out, this is what it was. The defendants made the plaintiff its exclusive agent to sell licenses to prospective manufacturers of their tank in foreign countries — perhaps also in this country as well, though apparently it was not included. The plaintiff was not free to sell such licenses generally, but only for those countries where the parties thought it “practical” to do so. The minimum license fee was to be $50,000, but the plaintiff was to try to get more, and the parties were to discuss the amount in advance: probably this implied that they should agree upon it.”
105.F.2d 933 (2nd Cir. 1939)
With the case between them ending in confused acrimony, Christie and Bethlehem Engineering’s relationship was over. Christie had won that case due not least in part to how confusing the agreement was between them over rights and whilst he had retained his rights over his design he was also financially crippled.
Bechhold too had moved on and was no longer involved with the Bethlehem Engineering Expert Company and, instead, on 25th July 1939 (just 2 weeks after the ruling), formed the Armored Tank Corporation (A.T.C.), incorporated in New York. Initially, this company had just 100 shares of stock (30 Class A, and 70 Class B) at a value of US$50 each (Total nominal value US$5,000).
The purpose of the company was to acquire the Walter Christie high-speed tank from William and Alfred Christ. On 31st July 1939, this tank was purchased for an undisclosed sum along with 34 shares (Value US$1,700) in the new company (6 more were given to the attorney for their legal services). The Armored Tank Corporation (A.T.C.) of New York was now in possession of the Christie High-Speed Tank, the rights over which had fractured the relationship between Christie and Bethlehem Engineering. Bechhold now had the vehicle and also the more difficult task of making money from it.
Within a few months of formation of the company and the purchase of this High-Speed tank, Bechhold was recruiting a draughtsman. Between December 1939 and January 1940, A.T.C.’s draughtsman prepared blueprints and drawings of this Christie tank with some modifications. During this time, a license agreement for the production of this modified Christie high-speed tank was acquired in Belgium. The Belgium firm, Ateliers de Construction de Familleureux, paid an advance royalty of US$10,000 for this license. Whatever plans there were in Belgium for this vehicle though are unknown, as the nation was overrun by the Germans in May 1940, with no Christie tanks produced.
By the end of 1940, the first glimpse of what A.T.C. was working on can be seen. In November-December that year, it was advertising ‘Super-Tanks’ in the US Army Ordnance Magazine as being “built in all weights” by the Armored Tank Corporation at 30 Church Street, New York. This was formerly the location of numerous businesses such as the National Manufacturing Company, American Locomotive Sales Corporation, and the New York Railway Club (close to the site of the World Trade Center Complex today and now the location of the Century 21 Department Store). The same advert appeared that same month as being constructed by the Pressed Steel Car Co. as well.
Although the tank was never built as shown, there is some information available from contemporary press reports too. Also, bearing in mind that the vehicle was based on the Christie design (purchased in 1939), and that it was advertised as being “Built in all weights”, a brief analysis of the vehicle shown is possible.
In December 1940, Bechhold was reported to have been producing ‘Medium Tanks’ for the British and had also submitted a design for an airborne tank. This tank was at the time being reported in the press as weighing 10 tons (9.1 tonnes), 14 ½ feet (4.42 m) long, fitted with armor one-inch (25 mm) thick with a single 37 mm gun and a machine gun. Also noted was that it would carry two sub-machine guns, suggesting a crew of just 2 or 3. A final note is that it was designed to be carried under “a Douglas plane”.
This description is immediately reminiscent of the Christie promotional idea of an underslung high-speed tank from 1936. In that artwork, a 3-wheel Christie turretless high-speed tank was pictured being carried under an Air Corps bomber.
An idea of quite how a system for carrying a tank in this manner under a plane would work can be found in a May 1941 Patent. This was filed by Alfred Anderson, assignor to the Armored Tank Corporation for a ‘Hook-on-and-Release-Mechanism for Fighting Tanks’. This invention describes an invention for attaching tanks to aircraft, specifically slung below the plane, and for dropping the tank when in flight. This is a different system to the one from Christie – that one used a pair of scissor arms to grab and retract the tank.
Instead, four upside-down triangular fittings would be attached on the underside of the fuselage of the aircraft. Each held a hydraulically controlled actuator with a large stud pushed out on a spring. When hydraulic pressure was applied, this spring would compress withdrawing the stud back inside the actuator. This would release the tank, as these four studs were attached via holes into the body of the tank. These would not be disengaged simultaneously, but in pairs. The rear pair would disengage first, allowing the bottom of the tank to hang down as the carrying plane swooped in suicidally low over the ground. At a suitable point, the front studs would also then be disengaged releasing the front of the tank. The back end of the tank was then supposed to hit the ground first from a lower height, with the front end following. This method was intended to overcome the turning effect on the vehicle. The dangers to the vehicle crew and to the aircraft performing this maneuver cannot be overstated; this was really a system designed to get the plane and its tank shot down. Even if it did work and the tank was deposited safely to the ground, one wonders how long it would take the crew to become operational after such an experience.
The vehicle shown in that 1936 promotion art for Christie is different from the vehicle in the 1940 ATC advert though. For sure, ATC got a Christie High-Speed Tank but its vehicle is much closer to a vehicle the size of the M3 Stuart or even the M1 Combat Car. What can be seen from the advertising image is that it was a small tank with a distinctive rounded back end to the hull running on four closely-spaced Christie type wheels (and presumably Christie spring suspension too). No track guards or mud guards at all are shown. The track itself is very similar to the flat plate track of the Christie tanks.
The nose lacks any indication of the pointedness of the earlier Christie High-Speed tanks but is uniformly rounded leading to a long glacis sloping up to a slightly inclined driver’s plate. Where the glacis meets the driver’s plate, there are two structures that appear to be mounts for fixed hull machine guns. In 1940, it should have been obvious that fixed, forward-firing machine guns were utterly useless but it was an easy way to add what was thought of as additional firepower to a design and many tanks subsequent and independent of this one retained this feature, including the M3 Grant, M4 Sherman, and Canadian Ram.
The driver’s plate featured two rectangular hatches, each with a vision slit. Out of the front of the left hand hatch was what appears to be a heavy machine gun. From the position of the hatches and hull weapons, it would appear to have had a driver mounted on the right and hull machine gunner on the left. A third man, the commander, would most likely occupy the turret. The turret itself, as drawn, is very unusual, looking like an overturned cooking pot. On the roof was a full size (it occupies the entire roof) hatch in two parts, each opening sideways. A series of slits were placed around the exterior of the turret and at least two machine guns, one forwards and one to the left. In total, the firepower for this vehicle as drawn was 4 machine guns and one heavy machine gun.
Presumably, the part about being built in ‘all weights’ was to mean that different options in terms of fittings, armor, and weapons were potentially on offer. Certainly, the specifications and look of the vehicle were very up to date given the parlous state of US tank development at the time. The T4 medium tank, for example, from 1935/1936, was a very promising design but was 13.5 tons and capable of just 35 mph with 3 machine guns. The Bechhold tank was, at least on paper, better armed, better armored, smaller (about 50 cm shorter), and faster. No surprise then that it was an interesting prospect for investors interested in lucrative future army orders.
The potential of the A.T.C. tanks from Bechhold’s company had indeed gained attention. In June 1940, a British Purchasing Commission had arrived in the USA to look at the possibility of producing and purchasing tanks for the war effort. Great Britain had, of course, been at war since September 1939, and June 1940 was just after the evacuation of Dunkirk, a time when a lot of British armor had already been lost on the continent with the fall of France. Great Britain and its Empire now stood resolute against the Axis of Germany and Italy but it desperately needed tanks and arms to fight the war.
The same month, Bechhold managed to interest John MacEnulty, the President of the Pressed Steel Car Company, in tank production and a five-year contract (renewable for up to 2 years) was signed on 23rd July 1940. Under the terms of this contract, Pressed Steel would gain exclusive rights to the production of tanks from A.T.C. (notwithstanding that a non-exclusive Belgian production license had already been signed). Under the terms of the contract, Pressed Steel would pay A.T.C. a royalty of $750 for each vehicle of A.T.C.’s design ordered for production by the US or Foreign Governments at Pressed Steel. A.T.C. was to provide plans, drawings, technical advice and, if required, a skilled engineer to assist in production.
On 25th October 1940. Pressed Steel entered into an agreement with the British Purchasing Commission for the production and delivery of 501 M3 Medium tanks. These were not tanks designed by A.T.C. but Bechhold did assist in the completion of the contract arrangement and the British sent an advance of US$500,000 to Pressed Steel. The next month, November 1940, Pressed Steel paid A.T.C. US$75,000 under the terms of the July 1940 contract with US$300,000 remaining to be paid.
It is not clear though why Pressed Steel paid this commission to A.T.C. as the vehicles being produced were Grant tanks and not the Christie-based tank design from A.T.C. Despite the huge sum paid to ATC, it was in trouble. Bechhold had finagled matters so that after October 1940, only he held all of the Class A shares in the company, and therefore had exclusive voting rights for A.T.C. He had also increased the number of shares available from 100 to 10,000 (3000 Class A and 7000 Class B) with a reduced value of just US$1 each.
The desperate need for tanks meant that the British were rapidly building their own in industries repurposed from civilian work to war work, but they were also looking for American production too, as this would not be affected by the manpower shortage in Britain or by German bombing. As well as the order for the M3 tanks from Pressed Steel, various other options were being considered and the work of the Purchasing Commission continued into 1941.
One particular type of vehicle that the British were interested in was an airborne tank,namely a tank which could accompany parachute or glider-borne troops. The lightweight and compact Bechhold tank was obviously of specific interest. On 27th February 1941, on behalf of the British committee in charge of evaluating tank designs, a telegram was sent to the Consul General in New York regarding the tank situation. The British were clear on what they needed from an airborne tank:
3 man crew
37 mm gun and .30 calibre Browning in a 360 degree rotating turret (quite why a 37 mm gun was specified in preference to the 2 pounder which was already an excellent gun and fielded on the A.17 Tetrarch is unknown but it is probably to do with the 37 mm being easier to produce in the USA)
Space for a wireless
Maximum Speed 40 mph (64 km/h)
Radius of Action 200 miles (320 km)
Armor basis ‘preferably’ 40-50 mm on the front and turret. 30 mm thick sides
Weight about 9 tons (9.1 tonnes) (anything under 9 tons was felt to lack the fighting qualities required) (for reference: the A.17 Tetrarch weighed just 7.6 tonnes)
“Not very interested in dropping Tank from a height of two feet”
In other words, the idea of dropping the tank from a plane was not wanted at all. Either it had to be landed directly (some various schemes for adding wings to tanks were considered), or it had to be unloaded from an aircraft. Dropping it from underneath a plane was, quite rightly, seen as a terrible idea. These requirements exceeded those of the Bechhold tank from A.T.C. That vehicle lacked the armor and firepower required and was inferior to the available A.17 Tetrarch when what was wanted by the British was basically a better armored version of the Tetrarch. The British were also anxious to get an airborne tank as soon as possible and were hoping for interest from the USA in manufacturing the vehicle. The Bechhold tank was, therefore, not suitable for their needs as it was noted that a pilot model had not yet been built.
By the end of March 1941, British plans for “the Bechold [sic: Bechhold] Project” were over. Having analyzed the tank, the British reported that: “The tank will not have the essential fighting qualities for the operations in view” and would also divert production from heavy bombers. The matter was left in the hands of American authorities to pursue and oversee its development. In its place came consideration of a 9-ton (9.1 tonnes) tank to be carried by towed glider. A final comment on the matter, from 30th April 1941, was that it had become clear to the British that the “American War Department feel they have no capacity to devote to the development of air-borne tanks”. As the decision was that Bechhold’s tanks should be overseen in America rather than from Britain it was decided that no action be taken on the Bechhold tanks.
The British had not been convinced by Bechhold’s salesmanship. They had, after all, already been down the Christie suspension vehicle route with the purchase of a Christie M.1931 which became the A.13E1 in 1936/7 and they had extensive experience with light Cruiser type tanks already. They also had plenty of small light tank designs including the A.17 Tetrarch. They had been clear on what they wanted but Bechhold was either unable or unwilling to comply, or simply could not produce a prototype, which was required before a decision could be taken. With the British unconvinced and an already lucrative deal with Pressed Steel in place, Bechhold had other plans.
Shenanigans and Taxes
In February 1941, A.T.C. sold its original Christie tank for just US$3,500, (Bechhold had bought it for US$5,000 in 1939) and on 18th August that year, A.T.C. incorporated as a corporation in Delaware to avoid payment of New York franchise taxes. This was completed on 20th August and the shares changed to just 100 Class A and 9,900 Class B shares with Bechhold, of course, retaining all the Class A shares and the voting rights that went with them (he also held 6,400 of the Class B shares too). Between 2nd and 4th September 1941, A.T.C. signed over all assets and the July 1940 contract (with Pressed Steel) to a newly incorporated body in Delaware, meaning the New York ATC effectively disappeared, although it was not formally dissolved until 11th September 1941. Mr. MacEnulty of Pressed Steel wrote to Bechhold on 4th September 1941 informing him that the July 1940 contract was now canceled due to alleged misrepresentations by Bechhold and a legal fight ensued.
Bechhold was insistent that he was owed money from Pressed Steel and, despite being offered US$300,000 (the remaining balance from the British Purchasing Commission contract), Bechhold refused due to the tax liability involved. His counter-offer was US$1.5m and this was immediately rejected. Instead, Pressed Steel suggested it should buy all of the remaining shares of ATC for US$50 per share (10,000 shares at US$50 would mean a US$500,000 payday). This would mean the end of Delaware A.T.C, which would have to surrender all its designs including an “aero” (airborne) tank concept, a full size model of the hook and release mechanism for releasing a tank from an airplane, designs of various other tanks and flamethrowers, and cash. This offer was considered and changed on 3rd October 1941 with a value of US$37.50 per share (US$375,000), but this would be only the existing July 1940 contract, no other plans or designs. This was agreed to by the voting members of Delaware A.T.C., which was just Bechhold, who of course approved of this arrangement.
In order to facilitate this transaction, the Delaware incorporated A.T.C. was changed from any mention or use of Armored Tank Corporation to the ‘Illinois Tank Corporation’ (I.T.C.) on 14th October 1941. On this day, just as Armored Tank Corporation (Delaware) was bought out by Pressed Steel and changed to Illinois Tank Corporation, Bechhold started a new company in Delaware. He called this new company the ‘Armored Tank Company’ once more receiving all of the assets from the original A.T.C., other than the contract, which had now gone to I.T.C. The next day, the new A.T.C. handed over all of its shares to I.T.C. which was then distributed to the stockholders, which also included Bechhold.
From these corporate shenanigans, Bechhold netted himself a cool 100 Class A shares (100% of the voting power), and 6,400 Class B shares valued at US$243,750 in total. This 15th October 1941 payment of US$375,000 (tax year 1941-1942) was to have serious consequences for Bechhold and his creative accounting.
Following this 15th October takeover though, the original July 1940 contract was finished. Bechhold probably felt he had made enough money and the entire business of the Illinois Tank Company was wound up suggesting that what assets in terms of tank designs it might have had leftover had little to no value. I.T.C. formally dissolved on 22nd November 1941.
The substantial pay-off which Bechhold had received was classed as personal income. He, and the other stakeholders, were found to be personally liable for taxes of this income. If there is one certainty greater than death and taxes, then it is taxation in time of war. Taken to court for non-payment of taxes, Armored Tank Corporation admitted an error in its tax liabilities and was assessed to be liable for the sum of US$390,144.91 (including US$78,028.98 in tax penalties on top of its original 80% tax liability of US$312,115.93).
This was not the end of it either, for the individual shareholders of the Armored Tank Corporation/Illinois Tank Corporation were also found personally liable for back taxes and penalties. Stockholders Philip Steckler and Hamilton Allen were found liable for US$33,750, and US$22,500 respectively, and Max and Siegfried Bechhold were found liable for US$243,750 and US$45,000 respectively. A massive combined penalty of US$735,144.91 (over US$12.8m in 2019 dollars) for not paying taxes on that US$375,000 (US$6.5m in 2019 dollars) income demonstrated the danger of trying to dodge taxes in wartime.
A.T.C. did not just produce a tank design. One of the more unusual things it designed and produced was a trailer for vehicles. This design appears in a letter dated 19th May 1942 from the Office of the Chief of Ordnance to the Commanding General of Aberdeen Proving Grounds (A.P.G.). Confusingly though, the product in question was produced by the ‘Armored Tank Corporation’ of Jersey City, New Jersey, suggesting that Bechhold kept working on designs incorporated in a different state. It is unlikely to be a mistake as A.T.C. (NY) had ended in September 1941 and I.T.C. (DE) ended November 1941. It is undoubtedly the same firm reborn, however, as the person providing information to A.P.G. on behalf of A.T.C. (NJ) was none other than ’Mr. Bechhold’ himself.
The proposal to the military was not this time a tank, but a trailer capable of being used for hauling supplies, equipment, or fuel. According to Mr. Bechhold, the British were interested in this trailer and the report recommended that APG experiment with it over a 250 mile (402 km) course to assess its viability, showing it off to the army and British representatives respectively.
This trailer was known as the ‘ROTA-TRAILER’ and the name stenciled on the side during trials stated this was the ‘Model 4’, suggesting the other 3 models or designs were less well refined. This Model 4 trailer consisted of two large hollow wheels fitted with a 40 inch (101.6cm) rubber tire 5 inches (12.7cm) wide. The wheels were unsprung but could hold up to 60 imperial gallons (272.8 liters) of fuel, either petrol or diesel, and were covered in rubber to provide a ‘self-sealing’ effect if the wheel hub were punctured by ammunition up to .50 caliber. Between the two wheels was a large rectangular cargo compartment made from ⅛” thick (3.175 mm) thick welded steel. This large space inside could be fitted with an ammunition rack for tank or artillery shells (34 rounds of 75 mm or 108 rounds of 37 mm), small arms ammunition boxes, ration boxes, water or fuel cans, or other items that were required. A second, smaller compartment below this was specifically designed to hold four boxes of .30 ammunition.
At the back of the trailer lay a third compartment, smaller than the first, and which contained a hand-operated fuel pump and supply hose long enough to feed the towing vehicle. Below this compartment lay a fourth compartment (just like the one at the front) which held stowage space for tools.
Overall, the trailer was very complex containing many bespoke parts that made for complicated maintenance. The doors to access the items inside were fitted with wing nuts (butterfly nuts) but were overly laborious to unscrew to access the contents. This is something that could easily have been rectified in a production model.
The Rota-Trailer not only had these internal compartments for stowage but also the ability to have a multitude of items carried on top. A special frame was fitted which held three 5-US gallon (18.9 liter) oil cans, and various tie-downs allowed other accessories such as nets or tarpaulins or other stores to be lashed to the top of the trailer.
Despite looking good on paper, capable of extending the fighting range of a tank, the trailer had serious problems. It was tested by an M4 Sherman and two different half-tracks over a 26 mile (42 km) cross country course and 250 miles (400 km) of gravel roads and, whilst it was on a flat surface, like a road, it worked well with little bouncing. The trailer was heavy too: each wheel weighed 400 lbs (180 kg) empty and 800 lbs (360 kg) when full in addition to the weight of the other material carried. The weight of the trailer placed additional strain on the drivetrain of the towing vehicle and, during rough travel off-road, the stress and strain on the trailer risked serious damage. On top of this, the trailer reduced the maximum speed of the vehicle towing it because the instability of the load caused by the sloshing liquid in the wheels threatened to result in sideways skids at high speeds.
Even as it was, the semi-rough terrain traversed ended up with all of the cans of water inside or on top of the trailer becoming deformed and leaky but the trailer did at least provide self-floatation in mud due to the width of the fuel cells. Another downside was that the lower front compartment, just 8.75 inches (222 mm) from the ground had a tendency to become filled with mud which was forced into it.
A final problem with the trailer was that it made reversing more difficult. During testing with an M4, the trailer skewed to one side and the stress caused damage to the towing arm and the tank tracks rubbing against the trailer body.
Overall, the tests of this A.T.C. product were a failure and the vehicle was not recommended for use. Its main faults were:
Difficult to reverse
Additional strain on the drivetrain of the towing vehicle
Reduces maximum possible speed of the towing vehicle
Too heavy to move easily by hand
Too little ground clearance
Steel body is not resistant to small arms fire
None of these faults were to stop further ideas, designs, and experimentation with trailers for hauling fuel or stores by tanks, but the work from A.T.C. (NJ) on this matter was effectively dead. No more is known of A.T.C. after this time; possibly Bechhold’s resources had simply run out and this venture failed, although it is noteworthy that on 1st February 1943, despite the failings of the Rotatrailer, the British still ordered 600 of them anyway, although how many were finished or delivered is less clear.
In the Army
Siegfried Bechhold, aged 42, in October 1942 joined his second Army. His first was a German one in WW1, his second, an American one in WW2. He served as a private being sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. He is not believed to have been sent overseas.
Re-born once more?
The back end of the hull of the Bechhold Tank seen in the November/December 1940 advert is very similar to the vehicle shown to the US Army Ordnance Department in May 1942 known as the Bigley Gun Motor Carriage suggesting a possible link to that vehicle. Was, in fact, the Bigley GMC the M.1938 High-Speed tank from Christie, bought and modified by A.T.C. and then sold off, redeveloped and re-submitted by another firm? Or is it in fact the other Christie tank, the M.1937 sold off by his creditors to Mr. Becchold. On the balance of the evidence, the former case appears to be correct.
By the end of WW2, Bechhold had left the field of tanks and the complications of military work. By 1948, he was living in Florida where he headed the Ribbonwriter Corporation of America, selling parts for typewriters. Siegfried Bechhold died in California in 1956.
Army Ordnance. (November-December 1940). Super Tanks. Vol. XXI.
The Camden News. (27th June 1941). Russians now seek to buy tank designs refused them during Finnish War. Arkansas, USA
Cypher Telegram. (8th March 1941). No.1456 Supply to the Consul General in New York. For Dewar from Burton T-59.
Gray, C. (16th July 2006). A Notable Block with a Hole in its Heart. New York Times, New York, USA
Second Circuit of Appeals. (10th July 1939). Bethlehem Engineering Export Company v Christie 105.F.2d 933 (2d Cir. 1939)
Indianapolis Star. (26th January 1941). U.S. Help Brings Joy to Greeks. Indianapolis, USA
The Jewish Floridian. (24th December 1948). New Typewriter Device Produced by Dania Firm.
Keough, F. (November 1918). Contents. American Industries: The Manufacturers’ Magazine. Vol. XIX, No.4. Nielsen, K. (2012). Pressed Steel!. Author House Publishing
Ogden Standard Examiner. (1st June 1941). Flying Tanks. Utah, USA
Pearson, D., Back, R. (9th August 1941). The Washington Merry Go-Round. Nevada State Journal.
Popular Mechanics. (May 1936). Fast-Tank and Plane Latest War Machine.
Pinedale Roundup. (29th October 1942). No Cellophane Commission. Wyoming, USA
Railway Age. (2nd December 1939). Meetings and Conventions. Railway Age, Vol.107, No.23.
Railway Engineering and Maintenance. (January 1938). Supply Trade News.
San Bernadino Sun. (13th April 1941). Breaking Nazi Morale. Volume 46, 1941.
San Francisco Examiner. (8th February 1956). Siegfried Bechhold dies in Santa Rosa Hospital. San Francisco, USA
Strausbaugh, J. (2018). Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers during World War II. Twelve Publishing.
United States. (1949). Reports of the Tax Court of the United States, Volume 11. US Government Printing Office
Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Bigley Tank, OCE, Washington D.C., USA
United States Tax Court. (20th October 1948). Armored Tank Corporation v. Commissioner. Docket No. 9786, 9769, 9770, 9771, 9772, 11916, 1919, 11920, 11927
US Patent US2310887(A). Hook-on-and-release mechanism for fighting tanks. Filed 6th May 1941. Granted 9th February 1943.
Weir J. D.G. Mech. E. (24th March 1941). Memo to Sir James Lithgow.
Weir J. D.G. Mech. E. (24th March 1941). Memo to Air Marshall Dawson.
Weir, J. D.G. Mech. E. (30th April 1941). Memo to A.R. 2 War Office via DAFV.
Wrynn, C. Major. (1st February 1943). Rota Trailers – Memo.. 1/Rel/ Equip Armd/1 The Chieftain’s Hatch 28th March 2014. Trailer, Ammunition and Fuel Part 1. Christie, J. (1985). Steel Steeds Christie. Sunflower University Press, Kansas, USA
United Kingdom (1956)
Heavy Tank Destroyer – Design only
Cerebos was a project designed by the 7th Tank Technical Officers (T.T.O.) Mechanical and Gunnery AFV design exercise held at the British Royal Armoured Corp (R.A.C.) School of Tank Technology (S.T.T.) in 1956. In the study, the designers were tasked with coming up with a heavy tank destroyer using guided anti-tank missiles as its primary offensive weapon. It had to be able to operate on the front lines of a European conflict, have relative immunity from Soviet guns at combat ranges, and a very high chance of scoring a direct hit and killing any Soviet vehicle of the day.
The concept of a heavy and super-heavy missile vehicle had already been on the minds of British AFV designers for a few years during the early part of the Cold War. The Anti-Tank Guided Missile (A.T.G.M.) was a relatively new technology in an era when tank guns were still relying on ranging machine guns for calculating the distance to the target. The ability to effectively engage a tank at twice the effective range of such a gun and to effectively track and guide the missile to the target was highly desirable. This fact, combined with the huge leaps in armor penetration capabilities from shaped-charge (SC) technologies used in High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) type warheads, especially compared to ‘conventional’ anti-tank ammunition of the period, made many think the era of the conventional armored tank was over. This was simply because, using conventional armor technologies, no tank could hope to survive against HEAT warheads such as the French SS.10, Soviet AT-1 Snapper, and later the Mosquito or Swedish Bantam. In order to stop such weapons, steel armor would need to have been over 500 mm thick, which in turn would have led to impractical machines. One result of this technological shift away from conventional armor was a generation of very lightly armored main battle tanks like the German Leopard. Whilst this shift was recognised early in Western nations, despite projects like the British Conqueror and some American heavy tank/tank destroyer projects, it took longer to be recognised in the Soviet Union, at least in the eyes of the West. Tanks like the IS-3 and T-10 loomed large in the imagination and nightmares of Western planners along with some incorrect assessments of the armor of a new generation of Soviet medium tanks. This meant that new means of countering this Soviet armor were needed.
The debate over the end of the tank has been waged since almost the very beginning of the weapon. For each new anti-tank weapon, a new defense innovation was found and, conversely, for each new step-up in armor, a new weapon to defeat this armor was found. In this way, to a broad extent, the evolution of anti-tank weapons very much reflected the evolution of tank armor. Within this context, there are few evolutionary leaps that were as profound in tank terms as this first decade or so after the end of WW2. The A.T.G.M. had gotten to the point where it was closer to forcing the tank into obscurity than ever before and, were it not for the vast fleets of tanks in Soviet service that remained an active threat forcing NATO to maintain its own significant fleet of tanks, armored warfare may have taken a very different route.
In the meantime, all nations were still churning out regular tanks expected to fight other tanks and so, much like the Second World War, tank destroyers were still being developed and built with the sole aim of breaking up enemy tank formations at long range. For the British, the appearance of heavy Soviet armor and the prospect of large enemy armored formations posed a particular threat. Many of those vehicles were virtually immune to the UK’s best tank-guns then in service and in such large numbers that even if they could match Soviet armor with British firepower they could still be overwhelmed.
There was little the British could do to counter the enormous numerical advantage of the Soviet forces in Europe but there was something which could be done about the guns and this fed into the motivation behind the development of the Royal Ordnance L7 105 mm rifled gun and eventually the L1 120 mm rifled gun too. Despite some heavy Anti-Tank concepts in the UK, the 7th T.T.O. Course opted instead for an A.T.G.M.-based Anti-Tank platform over a gun-based solution. The weaponry for this option consisted of a version of the Malkara missile, and this, it was felt, would provide the offensive power required to counter the Soviet threat. It also provided the additional benefit that the avoidance of a turret allowed all available protection to be focussed on the hull instead and all for less weight than a conventionally armed and armored gun-tank.
This was the context and logic behind the Cerebos, a turretless guided-missile tank destroyer with heavy armor. It was intended to operate on the front lines, have enough protection to withstand strikes from enemy tanks using conventional guns, and ideally use the chassis of a vehicle already in service as a platform. It was desired to have a missile able to destroy the heaviest Soviet vehicles then known in service or considered to potentially enter service. An ideal rate of fire of four rounds per minute was requested, with a minimum of two rounds per minute, with two missiles ready to fire at any time.
The goal was to reuse, as far as possible, the hull of an existing vehicle and Cerebos did just that and was based around a heavily modified Centurion tank. This meant a high degree of commonality of parts between Cerebos and the standard battle tank of the British Army of the day, which would reduce the logistical burden of the vehicle. The modifications, though, were extensive. Instead of the sloped glacis of the Centurion, Cerebos used a steeply angled ‘pike’ type nose, similar in style to that on the Soviet IS-3 tank. The driver sat along the centreline of the tank with a forward observation window cut directly out of the armor. The commander sat directly behind him, and the loader sat even further back on a swivel chair that allowed him the freedom of movement to assemble the missiles.
The missile bin had to be as equally protected as the vehicle itself and yet maintain a potential 360° arc of fire. This was somewhat problematic, as adding a conventional missile rack on the top of the vehicle would add not only excessive weight but would also result in a large and conspicuous target that would be vulnerable to small arms fire, shell splinters, etc. It would also be heavy, requiring dedicated hydraulics just to operate. To overcome these issues, the designers had the missile bins located inside the hull of the vehicle in a vertical arrangement, with 5 additional missiles stowed vertically running alongside the left and right sides of the inner hull. On firing the missile, the silo roof would fold open in two triangular parts. The weapon was then fired and guided on to its target by the commander. Once the missile was away, a new one was selected and attached to what amounts to a ‘potter’s wheel’ type base. This base rotated 360 degrees in the missile chamber, with the four fins being added from a separate supply located in front of each missile. This might seem odd as an idea, but the fins were the part of the missile which increased their storage volume and this semi-assembly of the missile attaching the fins meant that a larger number of missiles could be stowed inside the tank.
Cerebos was based on the Centurion but it was better protected from enemy fire than the Centurion. Sporting heavy frontal armor with a glacis plate 120 mm thick angled back at 65° and a lower front plate 120 mm thick angled at 55°, the Cerebos was felt to be well-enough protected to be able to take any reasonable enemy fire which might be forthcoming from the Soviet tanks of the day. In more conventional UK armor terms, the sides were still quite weak though, with just 25 mm on the upper sides (at 8°) tapering to 20 mm (at 10°) on the lower hull sides. The roof and rear were 25 mm thick, just enough for protection from small arms fire and shell bursts. The belly plate, just 20 mm thick, was sufficient to provide some protection from landmines but the focus of armor was on the front, facing the enemy, making the best use of the weight allowance available for maximum effect.
Power for Cerebos was provided by a 9-liter Jaguar 90° V8 petrol engine delivering 350 b.h.p. at 3,750 rpm connected via a Merritt Brown 6-speed (4 forward and 2 reverse) gearbox. Drive was delivered, just like the Centurion – to the rear sprockets. This engine was expected to permit the 21-ton (21.3 tonnes) Cerebos to achieve a top speed of 28 mph (45 km/h) and operate for a maximum range of 220 km at 14 mph (22.5 km/h).
The primary armament proposed for Cerebos was a Manual Command to Line-Of-Sight (M.C.L.O.S.) type anti-tank missile that looked somewhat like a slightly smaller and sleeker Malkara missile, measuring 5 ft. (1.5 m) long and 10 inches (254 mm) in diameter. Unlike the High Explosive Squash Head (H.E.S.H.) warhead on the Malkara, this 20 lb. (9 kg) warhead was a shaped charge High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) type. The total missile weight was expected to be 85 lb (38.5 kg) and these would be launched vertically from within the missile tube. Once assembled with its fins, it was ready for launching and this could be done whilst a missile was already underway as the targeting was being carried out by the commander with missile assembly taking place independently.
A pair of launchers and 12 missiles (two already assembled and ready to fire, with another ten stowed) could be carried. Although no performance data for these missiles was given, it can be estimated from the diameter of the warhead and the performance of contemporary missiles to achieve a penetration of approximately five times its diameter, which would equal about 750 mm of armor plate – more than sufficient to defeat any known Soviet tank in service at the time.
The maximum range for the missile was just as impressive as the anti-armor performance expected – far exceeding the range available from a conventional tank gun. Cerebos was to be able to engage targets at ranges of up to 6,000 yards (5.4 km), although the missiles did have a minimum safe distance as well – 500 yards (460 meters). With a flight-speed of 350 feet per second (107 m/s), the missiles had a potential maximum flight time of about 50 seconds. For ease of stowage, the missiles were kept without their fins. The gunner would have to assemble the bare missile, attach the fins individually by means of the snap-on fasteners and then load a missile into the missile bin. This whole process was estimated to take not more than 2 minutes per missile. This would mean (assuming two were already loaded) that up to 4 missiles could be fired in a 4-minute window.
Secondary armament for Cerebos was primarily for self-defense and consisted of a single Browning .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun remotely operated from within the hull with a 360° degree arc of fire and provided with 4,250 rounds of ammunition. Six No.36 smoke dischargers were provided, with 3 per-side, and the crew was provided with grenades and small arms.
For its time and era, the wings being clipped on was nothing new and this type of missile-build-before-launch concept was also to be added into the FV4010 heavy missile vehicle, as the later fold out missiles and overall lighter materials were still some years away. Two flaws not raised in the original documentation but more observable with hindsight are the lack of a telescopic mast or periscope allowing firing from the reverse side of slopes and the poorly placed second cupola that had much of its view blocked by being located behind the first. Other issues are the commander acting as the missile gunner, guiding it to its target, placing undue stress, and preventing him from monitoring the battlefield. The Cerebos was no more than a design project and never built, however, many of the ideas and features later appeared on the Malkara launching FV4010.
Bovington Tank Museum Archives, STT section, Cerebos box
21ft 5.5 inches x 9ft 10 inches x 8ft 4 inches (6.53 x 3.00 x 2.54 m)
3 (commander/gunner, driver, loader)
Jaguar 9 liter 90° V8, 350 bhp
28 mph (45 km/h)
17 inches (0.43 m)
Track Center Distance
8 ft. 4 inches (2.54 m)
Length of Track on Ground
14 ft. 7 inches (4.45 m)
Normal ground pressure
8.4 psi (57.92 kPa)
Vertical obstacle crossed
3ft 8 inches (1.12 m)
7ft (2.13 m)
Manual Command to Line-Of-Sight (MCLOS) ATGM
0.5/12.7 mm HMG.
Maximum, Minimum Missile Range
6000 yards/5.4 km, 500 yards/457 meters
350 fps (107 m/s)
12 High Explosive Anti Tank Missiles
Front: 120 mm @ 65 degrees
Sides: 25-20 mm
Rear 25 mm
Bottom 20 mm
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