Categories
Cold War Italian Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Progetto M35 Mod. 46 (Fake Tanks)

Italy (1946)
Medium Tank – Fake

The popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) published and developed by Wargaming (WG) has many tens of thousands of players and a wide variety of historical and semi-historical armored vehicles to play. It also has a few ‘fake’ tanks as well, that is, tanks that never existed in either drawings or material. The Progetto M35 mod.46 Medium tank is one from the latter category. The tank is very handsomely represented with a 3D model, but it is a fake, as the tank never existed. However, the vehicle in-game is not wholly fabricated, as it has a minuscule basis in fact.

WoT Representation

In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is, as might be expected from its name, represented as a project dating from 1946 for a 35 tonne (hence the ‘M35’) medium tank. There is even a short ‘history’ provided:

“Conceptualization of a draft design developed at the request of General Francesco Rossi who believed that only light vehicles weighing up to 35 tons would be effective in a new war. Such an innovative design was not approved; development was discontinued when Italy joined the Standard Tank project.”

WoT Wiki extract.

This ‘history’ is a half-truth at best.

Progetto M35 mod.46 as represented by Wargaming in its World of Tanks game. Source: Wargaming

In-Game, the Design is as follows

Engine

The engine for the Progetto M35 mod.46 in the WoT game is given as a 652 hp ID36S 6V CA engine. Although the manufacturer’s name is not provided, the Italian firm of Isotta Fraschini did make a series of engines known as ID-36. These were 9.72 litre marine diesel engines with 6 cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ shape (hence the 6V in the name for a V6 engine) and producing 500 hp. Measuring just 92.5 cm high, 92 cm wide, and 137.2 cm long, this engine weighs just 890 kg. In WoT, the engine module weight is given as 1,200 kg, more than the actual engine. With an output of 652 hp, the engine in-game it is also much more powerful than the real engine, although static-engine versions of the ID-36 are available which produce in excess of 700 hp, like the Fire-pump version (725 hp)

Isotta Fraschini ID-36 series marine diesel engine. The particular model produced 500 hp. Source: mfc-ve on ebay.it

The engines have only been around since the early 1980s, although the company itself dates back to the early years of the 20th century. Whilst the engine is neither for tanks and was not available in 1946, the engine is essentially genuine. They are still in use today for motorboats for example, as they are valued for their compact size and reliability. Their most notable use is in the Italian Lerici-class minesweeper ships of the Italian Navy. Other versions of this engine with 8 and even up to 16 cylinders are available producing up to 2200 bhp. The ‘CA’ added to the end of the WoT module in-game is simply to denote Carro Armato (tank use), although as already stated this engine was never used for tanks.

Suspension and Tracks

The suspension for the WoT Progetto M35 mod.46 is given in the game as ‘Progetto M35 mod.46’ suspension, although what sort of suspension this is open to question. With six evenly spaced road wheels on each side and a noticeable offset between the wheels on the left and right, it appears to be suggesting the adoption of torsion bar suspension for the tank. No such mention of this type of suspension or any other type of suspension is mentioned by General Rossi so this choice is entirely fictional/speculative on the part of WoT.

Secondly, the choice of tracks for the model is very odd too, as, with three rectangular rubber pads across each link, the tracks bear an uncanny resemblance to the British ‘hush puppy’ type of tracks as used on the British Centurion tank. There is no evidence that Italy ever operated a Centurion tank or the ‘hush puppy’ tracks for it either. Further, those types of tracks were not introduced on the Centurion until the 1960s in an effort to reduce the damage to paved roads. Therefore, even if Italy ever did get some of these tracks for some purpose, they would clearly be unsuitable to model on a tank from 1946.

Front view of the tracks on the Progetto (left) bear a striking resemblance to the British ‘hush-puppy’ (right) tracks. Source: WG WoT & Mark Nash

Armament

In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is shown using what is described as a 90/50 T119E1 main gun. This is a 50-caliber long 90 mm gun with a cylindrical muzzle brake/blast diffuser. The gun is a very interesting choice, as the history of the T119 gun makes it clear that it is entirely inappropriate as an option for this design.

For a start, the gun is American, not Italian. The T119 gun originated from the development of the US T42 Medium Tank which did not even reach the wooden mockup stage until March 1949. When it did, it was fitted with the M3A1 90 mm gun, but this was considered substandard and had to be improved with revised specifications for an improved pressure breech capable of withstanding 47,000 psi (324 MPa) instead of 38,000 psi (262 MPa). It was this revised 90 mm gun which became the T119.

T119 90 mm tank gun fitted with a single baffle muzzle brake. Source: Hunnicutt’s Patton

This T119 gun was able to fire the 90 mm ammunition of the M3A1 90 mm gun, but not the other way around, as it was a higher pressure (the cases were even modified to prevent an accident loading on the lower pressure gun with the higher pressure rounds).

The T119 gun fired the T33E7 AP-T shell (mounted in the T24 case) at 3,000 ft/s (914 m/s) as well as the M71 HE round (in the T24 case). At 177.15 inches (4,500 mm) in length, the T119 had a length of 50 calibers.

Manufacture of the T119 90 mm gun was not even authorized by the Ordnance Technical Committee for production at Watervliet Arsenal until 20th October 1948. This gun was still considered ‘new’ and experimental (hence the ‘T’ designation) in January 1950, when it was modified into the T119E1 and finally became the T125 gun (later standardized as M36) as part of the development of the M56 Scorpion (then the ‘Carriage, Motor, 90 mm Gun, T101). This T119 gun was originally fitted with a single baffle muzzle brake, but this was later replaced with a cylindrical blast deflector by the time it was mounted on the T42 Medium Tank. The gun on the Progetto M35 mod.46 is certainly a real gun, but it is neither an Italian gun nor in existence at the time of the vehicle. This is before even taking into account considerations of when a brand new and experimental American gun could even have got to Italy and certainly not an autoloader for that gun for Italy.

Other points of consideration for the Progetto M35 mod.46 include the armor. Data given by WoT states that the hull armor is supposed to be 60 mm thick frontally with 30 mm on the sides and rear for the hull, and 80 mm, 60 mm, and 25 mm on the turret front, sides and rear respectively. These figures are not based on any design but are purely a function of balance for the game.

Francesco Rossi

Having dissected the tank as claimed by WG, it is important to consider the man, General Franceso Rossi, claimed as the source and what he really wrote. General Rossi is certainly a real person. Born on 6th December 1885, Rossi was a professional soldier who was a Lieutenant Colonel by 1926. Through the 1930s, he rose through the senior ranks with appoints in Rome as Chief of Military Transport and then as the Commanding officer of various artillery regiments. By 1939, he was the Commanding Officer of an Artillery Corps and then Intendant of the Italian 1st Army. Through World War Two, he continued his rise going from the Commander of II Corps to Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff in March 1941. He was made a Lieutenant General in October 1942 and, in March 1943, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Chief of the Supreme General Staff of the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito – RE). It was in this capacity that Gen. Rossi was to play a crucial role during the Italian Armistice of September 1943 (the Armistice of Cassibile).

General Franceso Rossi. Source: Generals.dk

The Source of the Claim

The origin for the WoT claim is from a book written by Gen. Rossi, published in 1946, entitled “La Ricostruzione dell’ Esercito” – the reconstruction of the army. Written in 1946, this paper predates the Paris Peace Treaty of February 1947 and was outlining how a new Italian Army should be organized and the sort of equipment it needed. WW2 had been utterly devastating for Italy with a large but ill-prepared and usually rather poorly led army suffering severe defeats at the hands of the British and Americans. Germany, Italy’s ally in WW2, was not a particularly gracious ally at times either and, following the armistice with the Allies in September 1943, Italy basically collapsed into a civil war with some of the military remaining loyal to the Axis and the rest joining the Allies. This second half had suffered harsh reprisals from the Germans, who from then on had acted as an occupying power. Such a split in Italy required a lot of mending after the war. In this sense, Gen. Rossi’s short book was very well-timed. The Army was totally broken by the war and was still operating a few Italian vehicles left over from the war along with a mishmash of tanks and armored cars provided by the British and Americans. A total reorganization was certainly required. It is worth bearing in mind though, that Article 54 of the Paris Treaty of February 1947 strictly limited the Italian military to not more than 200 heavy and medium tanks and, through Article 61, a total of 250,000 personnel (Army and Carabinieri combined). The likelihood of authorizing the expensive and time-consuming development of a home-grown tank by Italy was simply neither likely nor realistic. It is hard to imagine that Gen. Rossi, from his senior position in the Italian military, would not have been aware of the parlous state of the Italian economy and military post-war.

Article 54 of the Paris Peace Treaty 1947 limiting Italy’s tank strength. Source: US Dept. of State

In his book, “La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito” Gen. Rossi wrote:

Italian Original:


“Accenno anche alle caratteristiche che dovrebbe avere un carro armato di produzione nazionale, unicamente per completare la visione dei mezzi meccanici, per il caso sia giudicato possibile ed opportuno, come io ritengo, procedere a studi ed anche all’approntamento del prototipo.”
“Carro armato veloce, ben corazzato, non mastodontico, perchè resti nei limiti consentiti dalle nostre ferrovie e dalle nostre opere d’arte, ma tale da tener testa ai più progrediti carri esteri: peso dalle 30 alle 35 tonn., cannone di calibro intorno ai 75 mm, motore di 5-600 H.P. di tipo appositamente ad iniezione per la minor facilità di incendio del gasolio rispetto alla benzina.
Dal carro armato potrà trarsi il cannone semovente, utilizzando lo stesso scafo per un cannone da 90, od un obice di calibro maggiore”

– La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito, 1946

English translation:

“I mention the characteristics a national production tank should have solely to complete the vision of the mechanic vehicles, if it is considered viable and appropriate, as I think, proceed to studies and the preparation of a prototype.
Fast tank, well armored, not too big and heavy [like an elephant], provided it stays within the limits allowed by our railway and artwork [bridges, tunnels, etc.], but able to stand up to the most advanced tank of foreign countries: weight between 30 to 35 tons, cannon of a calibre around 75 mm, 500/600 HP engine specifically of injection type due to lower risk of fire compared to a gasoline engine.
From the tank, a self-propelled gun might be derived using the same hull for a 90 mm cannon or a howitzer of a larger caliber”

General Rossi’s book and dust jacket cover binder, 1946. Source: Author

Despite the obviously weakened state of the Italian economy in 1946, Gen. Rossi was still hoping, perhaps vainly, for a new nationally produced tank at least to the level of the production of a prototype. To this end, he outlined the features it should have.

Firstly, powered by a fuel-injected diesel engine (due to the lower fire risk than a petrol engine) producing between 500 and 600 hp. The vehicle had to be quick, able to keep up with the most advanced foreign tanks. At the time of writing, the primary foreign tanks Rossi was likely familiar with would be the American Sherman, British Cromwell, Russian T-34-85, or even the German WW2 Panther with top speeds under ideal conditions of about 48 km/h, 64 km/h, 38 km/h, and 55 km/h respectively. Quite how much Gen. Rossi might have known about the most modern tanks from Britain, American, and Russian though is questionable, but he would certainly have been familiar with at least these WW2 tanks.

Weight-wise, Rossi was very clear, a tank of between 30 and 35 tonnes in weight and of sufficiently modest dimensions to be transported by rail. Armor-wise, the tank was supposed to be well armored yet not too large, hardly a thorough description but then that is because this was not a design – it was a concept of what tank Italy needed for a new army.

At 35 tonnes, this would still be heavier than the heaviest tank Italy produced during the war, the 26-tonne P.26/40 and around 10-tonnes lighter than the German Panther. The weight range given actually closely matches that of the American M4 Sherman. This is not the only similarity either. The gun called for by Gen. Rossi was one of a caliber of 75 mm or thereabouts. The British Cromwell was using the QF 75 mm gun, the American M4 used the M3 75 mm gun or the 76 mm M1A1 series. The British Comet had the 77 mm HV, whilst the German Panther had used the 75 mm KwK 42. Which, if any of these, Gen. Rossi might had been considering is unknown – perhaps he was considering an Italian gun in that caliber range, but he was clear on what he considered a suitable caliber – 75 mm or thereabouts. Bigger guns, like a 90 mm piece, were destined to be on a tank destroyer preferably based on the same chassis.

One of the more unusual elements of General Rossi’s book completely unrelated to its content is that the pages were actually printed and folded before being bound meaning that the majority of pages were still bound along at least one outer edge. Source: Author

That then, is literally ‘it’. There is no design, no model or plans and not a lot of specifics. This was 1946 too, so options were very limited for Italy. Gen. Rossi may have wished for a new tank to be produced in Italy- it would, afterall, be very good for Italian industrial rebuilding as well as for an independent army, but in 1946 this was wishful thinking. WoT’s “such an innovative design…” claim is simply false. There is no design and none of the features he mentioned were in any way innovative.

There was also no need at all for a new and expensive tank for Italy, especially a tank which, after all, would offer nothing that existing available and cheaper designs did not already offer. By the end of the 1940’s, the Italian Army had tanks and tank destroyers which matched what Gen. Rossi had been calling for in the form of Sherman tanks of various types armed with 75 mm, 76 mm and 105 mm guns, Sherman Fireflys armed with the British 17 pounder gun, and the American-supplied M36 Jacksons as tank destroyers armed with a 90 mm gun – a tank destroyer based on the chassis of a Sherman tank, just as Gen. Rossi had wanted back in 1946.

Conclusion

The Progetto M35 mod.46 is a fake. Not a completely made-up-from-nothing fake, but without doubt still a fake. The call from Gen. Rossi for a new tank made it clear that the 90 mm gun was not for this tank, but for a different vehicle. Not only that, but the 90 mm gun selected by WoT was simply not possible to be fitted to a tank in 1946, let alone one in Italy. The tracks, assuming they are ‘hush puppy’ tracks are neither Italian nor available in 1946. The engine certainly is a real thing, but it was not used in tanks and was not around in 1946. All this predated the attempts to develop a single tank as a ‘standard panzer’, sometimes known as the ‘Europanzer’ project.

Whatever Gen. Rossi might have been considering as a tank is unclear, but certainly what he wrote cannot be described as a design. The vehicle, as represented in the WoT game is simply not possible and purely invented.



Illustration of the Progetto M35 Mod. 46, produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Agarossi, E. (2000). A Nation Collapses: The Italian Surrender of September 1943. Cambridge University Press, UK
Data Sheet ‘Motore termico/ciclo Diesel/a quattro tempi/6 cilindri a V a 90: Isotta Fraschini Motori
Dunstan, S. (1980) Centurion. Ian Allen, England
Estes, K. (2016). M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956-1970. Osprey Publishing, England
Hunnicutt, R. (1971). Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series. Feist Publications, California, USA
Hunnicutt, R. (1984). Patton: A History of the American Medium Tank . Presidio Press, California, USA
Isotta Fraschini. (1985). Industrial Diesel Power for Military Applications by Isotta Fraschini (advert)
Pettibone, C. (2010). The Organization and Order of Battles of Militaries in World War II, Volume VI – Italy and France. Trafford Publishing, USA
Rossi, F. (1946). La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito. Editrice Faro. Rome, Italy.
Symth, H. (1948). The Armistice of Cassibile. Military Review, 28(7). Command and General Staff College, Kansas, USA
US Bureau of Naval Personnel. (1990). Manual of Navy Enlisted Manpower and Personnel Classifications and Occupational Standards. US Dept, of the Navy
US Dept. of State. (1947). Treaties of Peace with Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Roumania and Finland. US Dept. of State, Washington D.C., USA
World of Tanks Wiki
Biography of Lt. General Rossi


Categories
Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Soviet “Turtle” Tank (Fake Tanks)

USSR (1951)
Self-Propelled Gun – Fake

There is no doubt that working in the field of espionage is a difficult occupation. Human intelligence sources are often unskilled or untrained and their information requires vetting and assessment. Even technical intelligence from eavesdropping or copying of documents is fraught with errors, counter-intelligence, mistakes, and, sometimes, complete fabrications. Experts in one field may not be experts in others and ‘fake’ information can be obtained even from an honest and reliable source who has been ‘fed’ fake information by the other side. This interplay of espionage and counter-espionage intelligence work can produce its fair share of false intelligence and the ‘Turtle’ tank of 1951 is certainly a contender in this category.

Side view of the Turtle tank. Source: Central Intelligence Agency

Verification

Before a substantive discussion on the technical elements of the Turtle tank, it is worth examining the one and only source for this information. It comes from the reading library of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and, whilst still heavily redacted to protect the identity of the source, it provides some data on which to vet the information.

The source of the data is a group of unnamed ‘German experts’ examining a report from an informant. The German experts are not identified and it is not known in which field they have expertise. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that their expertise is in the arms industry, as not only do they provide a technical evaluation of the ‘Turtle’ but also relate some information that this relates to improvements of a design first identified in 1943, during the war. Further, the CIA would have no reason to hand a report from an informant to some experts if they were not specialised in armored warfare in some capacity.

The expert analysis states categorically that the design shown is impractical and not in keeping with either modern armored warfare or Soviet doctrine describing the original informant as “a rank amateur on the question of armored vehicles”. With that said, it is worth noting the characteristics relayed to these German experts on this new and secret Soviet tank.

Plan view of the Turtle tank showing crew positions. Source: CIA

Armament

The first and most obvious sign that something appears to be wrong with the informant’s data on this Soviet tank is that the primary armament is given as being an ‘8.8 cm L/56 type gun’. This was a German gun, most famously in the form of the Kw.K. 36, as mounted on the German Tiger I. Although the experts stated that it was possible that the tank described could be improved with an L/70 version of that gun (as fitted to the Tiger II), this was still a German gun. In 1951, there is simply no reason to suppose that the Soviet army would need to use, reuse or produce their own clones of this WW2-era German gun for their own purposes.

The secondary armament is also unusual as it is described and shown as consisting of two machine guns; one firing forwards and another to the rear. Each is mounted in a ball-joint capable of 90 degrees of movement left and right.

Front view of the Turtle tank showing a somewhat non-tanklike, but very curvy-looking front profile. Source: CIA

Layout

The layout and shape of this tank are unusual and quite unlike any Soviet tank known to have existed at this time. The dimensions of the vehicle given by the informant are 7 m long, about 3 m wide and about 2 m high, with a weight of just 30-35 tonnes. The entire body is made from a giant curved structure with a single entrance hatch on top and with the gun in the front and center of the hull. There is no turret but, with the gun mounted towards the mid-point of the tank and with a machine gun at both ends, there is little room inside in which to squeeze the gun recoil, crew, and ammunition. At least five crew positions; commander (top left), front gunner (front left), driver (front right), loader (rear center), rear gunner (rear right) are provided for within the design, although there is no mention of a gunner for the primary weapon. An arrow on the sketch with the report indicating either the position of the engine or gunner is redacted. Unless the commander is also doubling-up as the gunner, a sixth crew member would be needed to operate the primary weapon. All of them, apart from the rear gunner, are provided with a forward facing vision slit for observations and the top positions for the commander and possible gunner have sideways facing observation slits. If indeed there were only five crew, as indicated by the informant, then there would be no crew member in the top right and there would be no need for a vision slit. The predominant feature of the design is the heavily curved body extending about half-way down the suspension of the vehicle. Where the body goes over the tracks this is described as an “armored” or “chain” apron (chain as in the tracks).

Automotive

The engine is described as lying between the driver and rear gunner, which would place it approximately underneath the center of the vehicle with the commander, loader and gunner sat over it. The engine itself is rather implausibly listed as being a 600 hp petrol engine of US manufacture rather than of Soviet origin, although the make and type are not specified. The informant gave the top speed as 25 km/h, although the German experts reviewing the data from the informant suggested that an 800 hp engine could be substituted instead to provide up to 50 km/h for the tank.

Armor

Despite the shape of the Turtle tank indicating a cast body, the informant provided data that the body was of welded steel. The data provided for the armor gave a value of 80 mm for the front, 50 mm for the sides, 30 mm for the rear, and 20 mm for the floor. In light of that, the informant’s claim that even 105 mm and 180 mm shells had no effect on the armor was justifiably considered to be ‘nonsense’ by the German experts.

One further suggestion of note regarding the analysis of the armor was that the German experts considered it possible that the vehicle could use a protective coating 12.7 mm to 25 mm (½” to 1”) thick over the surface which would remove all the seams and make it invulnerable to limpet-type mines. This reference to limpet-type mines and protective coatings is an interesting reference to anti-magnetic coatings, the most famous of which is the German Zimmerit of WW2.

The informant seems to have suggested some new type of steel alloy was used for armor but this was discounted by the German experts on the basis that there were so many German scientists ‘honeycombed’ within Soviet industry post-war that such a development would have become known.

Nonetheless, the assessment was that the tank with this shape would benefit from being able to deflect armor-piercing and delayed-action high explosive shells fired at close range but parts would remain vulnerable to shells fired from an 8.8 cm L/56 or those with a shaped charge.

Conclusion

The Turtle Tank is not even a tank, it is instead clearly an assault gun with a fixed, forward-facing gun in a casemate. The Soviets made some very competent assault guns based upon the hulls of existing tanks like the T-34 or IS-series with a roughly similar arrangement, but nothing like this Turtle Tank. The date is 1951, so there are not a lot of possible candidates for what real vehicle the informant might have been referring to and this presupposes that the informant actually saw a real vehicle. If it is something genuine then perhaps the best candidate is something related to the ASU-85 assault gun which was in the early design phase at around this time but even so, the resemblance is terrible.

Perhaps it was/is some kind of top-secret Soviet assault gun which has been hitherto undiscovered by Soviet and Western tank historians, perhaps the informant was simply mistaken, or lying, or perhaps the experts were subject to a counter-intelligence ruse by the Soviets.

The German experts were unconvinced by this informant’s information. It was not that the vehicle was not possible, but that it was not plausible, with the experts stating that it would “constitute a complete departure from known Soviet policies”. The idea that this vehicle, so totally different from the Soviet assault guns of the day such as the SU-100 or ISU-152, has subsequently gone undiscovered is somehow unimaginable.

That said though, the German experts assessing the information from this informant seem to have agreed on the most likely outcome being the latter of the possible options, a counter-intelligence ruse. Namely, Soviet intelligence deliberately supplying false intelligence to a suspected informant or double agent, and, to back this up, they compared it to “similar methods used by the Nazi regime”, probably referring to the ‘Panzer X’.
Nevertheless, regardless of how or why this information got to the West, it was given a proper examination, by experts, and assessed to be implausible.

The informant’s claim that a pilot model of this vehicle was actually built, and demonstrated to the East German paramilitary police is also unlikely. Whilst a design which may never have left the scribblings of an engineer’s notebook might have gone unnoticed for nearly three-quarters of a century, the existence of such an unusual vehicle, with such unusual features, and departing as it does from Soviet experience, means that the Turtle tank can be fairly assessed to be a fake tank.

What it does do though is provide an excellent case in point as to the difficulties of gaining intelligence of the latest weapons from an adversary (in this case the US spying on the USSR) and the caution which should be exercised post-script in reviewing these historic documents.


turtle tank
Illustration of the ‘Turtle’ Tank produced by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7 x ~3 x ~2 meters
weight 30-35 tonnes
Crew 6 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver, Front Hull Machine Gunner, Rear Hull Machine Gunner)
Propulsion 600 hp American petrol engine (possible to fit an engine up to 800 hp)
Suspension Independant torsion bar
Speed (road) 25 km/h (up to 50 km/h with 800 hp engine)
Armament .8cm L/56 gun (possible to substitute 8.8 cm L/70) and two machine guns (1 forwards facing and 1 rearwards facing)
Armor welded steel 80mm front, 50mm sides, 30mm rear, 20mm floor
Total production 7 prototypes

Source

CIA Report ‘German Experts’ Analysis of the Alleged Soviet ‘Turtle Tank’ dated 4th April 1951.


Categories
Fake Tanks WW1 British Fake Tanks

H.G. Wells' 'Land Ironclads' (Fictional Tanks)

A Story Ahead of its Time

Few people have influenced the world through works of fiction like Herbert George Wells. Through his famous classics like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, he has set the foundations for the genre of science-fiction. He, along with other early science-fiction greats like Jules Verne foresaw many technologies that would shape the 20th century. One of his lesser-known works is ”The Land Ironclads”, a short story from 1903 published in “The Strand” magazine. It was a story written in the time when the next great European war loomed over the minds of many people and speculative stories exploring possible European conflicts of the future were as popular as they were provocative. H.G Wells’ story served as inspiration for Winston Churchill, one of the people that helped establish the Landships Committee. In the story, two sides find themselves locked in a trench warfare stalemate which is broken with the use of the titular Land Ironclads, 30 meter long heavily armed and armored behemoths powered by steam. This early vision of a future battlefield not only helped inspire the development of tanks but also foresaw the style of trench warfare in which real tanks would be fighting 13 years after it was written.

Summary

The story, told from the point of view of a war correspondent, begins in the middle of a war between two nations. Neither nation is named, instead, they are referred to as “the invader” (devitalized townsmen pressed into the role of a soldier) and “the defender” (tough soldiers and old-school patriots). The invader had attempted to march straight for the defender’s capital but was stopped by a prepared defensive line of trenches. The invasion ground down to a stalemate as both sides attempted to beat the other back. This stalemate was soon changed as the invader brought 14 Land Ironclads. With the use of these massive landships, the invader had assaulted the defender’s trenches. Having no artillery immediately available, the defenders could only plink the ironclads with their rifles as they got cut down by automatic fire. The defending forces relied on these machines being unable to cross the gap of their trench network, but they were proven wrong as the ironclads effortlessly crossed the gap and continued onwards. Eventually, the defenses were overrun and the heavy guns of the defender destroyed before they could be a serious threat. The entire defending army was reduced to ruin by a technologically superior force.

He looked at his watch. “Half-past four! Lord! What things can happen in two hours. Here’s the whole blessed army being walked over, and at half-past two——

Tactics of the Near Future

The disparity between the opposing forces was notable. The defenders were professional soldiers, the invaders were civilians pressed into the military. This disparity is noted by one of the defenders the war correspondent talks to before the attack. This, as well as the use of trenches, comes unsurprisingly as Wells drew a lot of notes from the Second Boer War for the story.
“Their men aren’t brutes enough: that’s the trouble. They’re a crowd of devitalized townsmen, and that’s the truth of the matter’ They’re clerks, they’re factory hands, they’re students, they’re civilized men. They can write, they can talk, they can make and do all sorts of things, but they’re poor amateurs at war. They’ve got no physical staying power, and that’s the whole thing. They’ve never slept in the open one night in their lives; they’ve never drunk anything but the purest water-company water; they’ve never gone short of three meals a day since they left their feeding-bottles. Half their cavalry never cocked a leg over a horse till it enlisted six months ago. They ride their horses as though they were bicycles—you watch ’em! They’re fools at the game, and they know it. Our boys of fourteen can give their grown men points….”
The invaders are devitalized townsmen, very much like the Boers who stood in stark contrast to the professional British army.
However, despite their lack of skills with war, the invading forces and their ingenuity proved more than a match for the less advanced but more skilled defender. H.G Wells vividly showcased modern war as a place where science and technology triumph, over strength and martial prowess.
Trench warfare is another very critical element of the story. While trenches have been used in warfare for far longer, mostly in sieges, in Wells’ story they took on a much more important role. Here too he drew notes from the Second Boer War which saw the use of trenches. However, in his fictional war, trenches take on a much more notable role, very reminiscent of the one they played in the Russo-Japanese war and World War 1 on many fronts. Furthermore, the Land Ironclads, like tanks in WWI, were used in the role of breakthrough, being able to cross trenches with ease and resist small arms fire. In the later parts of the story, invader cyclists and cavalry can be seen following the Ironclads after the breakthrough was made, taking care of the surrendered defenders and securing the advance. This too is very similar to the planned way that tanks were to be utilised on the Western Front. British commanders envisioned cavalry being used to exploit the gaps that tanks would create. In reality, that idea never materialized but it did reflect upon post-war tank tactics with fast tanks of the Russians and cruiser tanks of the British.
The Land Ironclads

“The daylight was getting clearer now. The clouds were lifting, and a gleam of lemon-yellow amidst the level masses to the east portended sunrise. He looked again at the land ironclad. As he saw it in the bleak grey dawn, lying obliquely upon the slope and on the very lip of the foremost trench, the suggestion of a stranded vessel was very great indeed. It might have been from eighty to a hundred feet long—it was about two hundred and fifty yards away—its vertical side was ten feet high or so, smooth for that height, and then with a complex patterning under the eaves of its flattish turtle cover. This patterning was a close interlacing of portholes, rifle barrels, and telescope tubes—-sham and real—-indistinguishable one from the other.” -The first full sighting of the tank in The Land Ironclads
The Land Ironclads were 14 large landships built by the devitalized townsmen to assault the defender positions. The machines consisted of a large steel framework borne upon eight pairs of pedrail wheels, a predecessor to tracks which actual tanks would use. On top of the iron-armored roof was a retractable conning tower with vision ports for the ironclad’s commander.
The ironclad’s armament consisted of rows of sponson cabins which were crewed by riflemen. The cabins were slung along the sides, rear and front of the ironclad. There is a notable absence of heavy weapons on such a large vehicle, however, considering it wasn’t designed to fight against anything but infantry and an occasional gun battery its armament is more or less suitable. Each gun was magazine fed and operated by a rifleman. They featured an optical sight that projected into the gunner’s cabin a camera obscura picture he would use to aim. The Rifleman would fire the gun using an electronic trigger. Each porthole had a dummy gun and optic to minimize the risk of damage to the real ones. In case an optic or a gun was damaged, the rifleman could repair either. From the text it can also be presumed that the ironclad carried spare guns and optics to replace damaged ones.
There are no solid values on the ironclad’s armor, however, the adjustable skirt is noted as being 12 inches (304.8mm) thick iron plating. Thus it can be assumed that the rest of the ironclad is equally if not better protected. It should be noted this was probably for dramatic effect. If this would have been the case, in reality, the ironclads would have had a hard time moving at all and would have sunk into the ground due to their incredible weight. Not to mention iron is not a good material for this purpose, steel would have been a lot better choice.
The land ironclads were pushed forward by compact steam engines which allowed them to travel at the speed of at least 6 mph (9.66kph). The entire thing moved on eight pairs of pedrail wheels. The pedrail wheels consist of a series of “feet” connected to pivots on a wheel. Each of the eight pedrail wheels was driving wheels set free to swivel upon long axles all around a common axis. According to Wells, this system allowed them to cross very rough terrain and keep moving steadily even on large slopes. This too is rather far-fetched if we take their supposed weight into consideration, they would stand a better chance plowing through a hill rather than crossing it.
The gunner cabins opened up into the central gallery which was like a long corridor running through the ironclad. On each side were the steam engines that ran it, together with various engineers maintaining them. The captain was located in the middle, with a retractable ladder that led to the conning tower. He raised and lowered the ladder via a wheel to climb into the conning tower which he could then raise and scout the surroundings.
Overall, the land ironclads can be considered more akin to wheeled naval warships on land then they would be to even the earliest tanks. However, some of the concepts and ideas behind them, like gun ports on all sides and large heavyweight chassis, can be found present in designs of actual landships some nations experimented upon. Perhaps the most similar real-life counterpart could be the Flying Elephant, a design made by the British Landships Committee.

The Technologies

There are a number of technologies featured in the story. To skim over more minor ones, there’s the idea of bicycles being used alongside cavalry, and indeed bicycle units did exist in armies of the time albeit on a smaller scale. Notable is also the presence of large guns and howitzers in the defender’s ranks, artillery pieces that would come to later define the battlefield.
The ironclads themselves feature three different technologies which ranged from mere prototypes to (at the time) complete fiction.
“It had humped itself up, as a limpet does before it crawls; it had lifted its skirt and displayed along the length of it—feet! They were thick, stumpy feet, between knobs and buttons in shape—flat, broad things, reminding one of the feet of elephants or the legs of caterpillars”

The most striking of these is the pedrail wheel which was mentioned earlier. It was invented by Bramah Joseph Diplock in 1903 sometime before the story was written.
“Mr.—Mr. Diplock,” he said; “and he called them Pedrails…Fancy meeting them here!””
The wheels were designed to aid in the crossing of muddy or otherwise treacherous terrain. Some more advanced versions even had suspension for every individual ‘foot’. However, the pedrail wheels never saw use in armored fighting vehicles (save perhaps a few prototypes, like the Orionwagen). Diplock abandoned this design in 1910 and went on to develop chain tracks which were the first to demonstrate advantages tracks hold over wheels.
The weapons the ironclads were armed with were, on their own, technologically ahead of their time. In 1903, self-loading magazine-fed rifles were mostly prototypes with the exception of the 1902 Madsen which, by that time was in production. The automatic weapons of the period were few and mostly either pistols or belt fed heavy weapons.
The way the guns were aimed is interesting in its own right. The sight through a camera obscura picture onto a table that the rifleman stood next to. The picture had a cross in the middle that indicated where the gun was aimed. The rifleman had a divider which he used to adjust for elevation and a knob with a button on it, the knob would rotate the gun and the button would fire the gun by sending an electric charge to it through two copper wires. Overall, the system worked by using a projected image for the gunner to observe and an electronically triggered magazine-fed automatic rifle, which suffices to say well ahead of its time.

“These were in the first place automatic, ejected their cartridges and loaded again from a magazine each time they fired, until the ammunition store was at an end, and they had the most remarkable sights imaginable, sights which threw a bright little camera-obscura picture into the light-tight box in which the rifleman sat below. This camera-obscura picture was marked with two crossed lines, and whatever was covered by the intersection of these two lines, that the rifle hit. The sighting was ingeniously contrived. The rifleman stood at the table with a thing like an elaborately of a draughtsman’s dividers in his hand, and he opened and closed these dividers so that they were always at the apparent height—if it was an ordinary-sized man—of the man he wanted to kill. A little-twisted strand of wire like an electric-light wire ran from this implement up to the gun, and as the dividers opened and shut the sights went up and down. Changes in the clearness of the atmosphere, due to changes of moisture, were met by an ingenious use of that meteorologically sensitive substance, catgut, and when the land ironclad moved forward the sites got a compensatory deflection in the direction of its motion. The riflemen stood up in his pitch-dark chamber and watched the little picture before him. One hand held the dividers for judging distance, and the other grasped a big knob like a door-handle. As he pushed this knob about the rifle above swung to correspond, and the picture passed to and fro like an agitated panorama. When he saw a man he wanted to shoot he brought him up to the cross-lines, and then pressed a finger upon a little push like an electric bell-push, conveniently placed in the center of the knob. Then the man was shot. If by any chance the rifleman missed his target he moved the knob a trifle, or readjusted his dividers, pressed the push, and got him the second time.”

Influence on reality

H.G Wells was a great thinker and, before war broke out in 1914, he had written many wars of his own, mainly global in scale, and Land Ironclads is no different. He always believed that we have overdone war and that the march of technology will create such powerful weapons that could obliterate mankind.
But he wasn’t the only one. As a matter a fact, he was but a part of the entire wave that came out of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. The mind of Europeans was abuzz with possibilities of future large-scale European conflicts. The first of its kind was Battle of Dorking, made in 1871 by George Tomkyns. Many soon followed, notably Sir William Laird Clowes speculating naval warfare of the future in “The Captain of ‘Mary Rose’”. In France, Henri De Nousanne’s “La Guerre Anglo-Franco-Russe” was notable, and in Germany, the “Der Kriege gegen England” proved popular after The Navy Bill of 1900. In England, between 1903 and 1914 when Wells wrote the story, speculative war stories of a war against Germany were becoming even more common, some simply inflammatory while others were more comedic in nature. The Land Ironclads is one of the high-quality works of that time, Wells didn’t put emphasis on nationality. While he did try to hint at certain things, his combatants were merely dubbed the Invader and the Defender. The focus of the story was the machines.
The dimensions and design aspects of ironclads were not very realistic, but the idea they presented was. The Land Ironclads did indeed inspire the British Lord of Admiralty, Winston Churchill. He read the story and was convinced it could work in reality. He was an important figure in pushing the Landships Committee into action in 1915. First tanks rolled out in 1916 and, in 1925, during the Royal Commission testimony, Churchill testified under oath that the first person to foresee tanks was H.G Wells.
Churchill’s claim can be put to the question, however. There were authors before Wells that envisioned an armored vehicle of sorts, akin to a tank. It should be noted that Sir Ernest Swinton, an important driving force behind the creation of the first tank also wrote for “The Strand” at the same time as H.G Wells wrote his story. An inventor, James Cowen, half-a-century earlier, had envisioned armored vehicles with repeating weapons and, on the French side, Albert Robida envisioned his own armored vehicles in 1883.

Small armored vehicles with large lumbering ones, not too dissimilar to the ironclads in the background from Robida’s works.
In retrospect, while Wells’ predictions were not the most accurate, and there were stories of tanks before it, The Land Ironclads definitely benefited towards the creation of the very first tanks, which sparked a new way to fight wars that lives on in modern Main Battle Tanks.

Resources & Links

gutenberg.net.au
PDF copy of The Land Ironclads By H.G. Wells.
www.troynovant.com
H.G Wells: Traversing time by W. Warren Wagar


A reconstruction of H.G.Wells’ Ironclads based on contemporary drawings and its description within the novel. Illustrated by Airborneleaf, paid for by DeadlyDillema through our Patreon Campaign!

Categories
Fake Tanks

Tankenstein (Halloween)

World of Tanks Blitz (2015)
Improvised Heavy Tank

In the past year, Wargaming’s mobile version of its flagship game, ‘World of Tanks: Blitz’ has been no stranger to some less than authentic tanks. The first of this type of vehicle was actually something rather unique and original. During Halloween 2015, after completing a series of special in game missions the players could unlock the Tankenstein heavy tank. A tier VII heavy tank with premium benefits.

Background

The World of Tanks developers came up with a made up story about the tank’s origins; in the German-esque town of Middleburg, a Doctor Tankenstein drew up plans to create a monstrous, fire breathing weapon of unequaled strength and power. Gathering parts from some of the most powerful of histories tanks, he created Tankenstein.
It draws inspiration from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein”. The name of the vehicle is also derived from that of the famous book. However, a common mistake is perpetuated, as the Frankenstein name refers to the doctor who created the ‘monster’, and not the ‘monster’ himself.

Composition

worldoftanks.eu
The Tankenstein as it appears in the game. Source:- worldoftanks.eu
The vehicle itself is mostly an amalgamation of three vehicles. The hull is that of the Porsche’s concept for the Tiger I competition, the turret comes from one of the KV-4 variants (possibly from V. Dukhov’s design). The main armament isn’t fixed, the players being able to chose between the 105 mm T5E1 from the American T29 Heavy Tank concept or the 130mm B-13-S2 from the Soviet SU-100Y SPG prototype.
Mounting the 105mm gives the tank increased frontal turret armor as the T29’s thick mantlet is also added. The 130 mm gun is more powerful inside the game, but it lacks the above mentioned mantlet, which lowers the vehicle’s frontal turret armor
The vehicle is adorned with abnormal features, including ventilation piping on the right of the turret, two large sickels in place of pioneering tools on the right of the hull, metal “Stitches”, a Vickers machine gun in a ball mount on the left side of the turret, spiked rivets, spiked drive and idler wheels (front left is broken), somewhat flimsy Schürzen looking side skirts cover the road wheels, and a large hot-rod style exhaust at the left rear, which emits flames when the engine is running.

More Fictional Vehicles

WoTB fakes
A collection of some of the Fake tanks in ‘World of Tanks: Blitz’. Source:- Wargaming/Mark Nash
The Fictional tanks keep coming in Blitz. The most recent being the IS-3 ‘Defender’, and electrically powered, 3-shot Autoloader IS-3 (also designed by “Dr Tankenstein”) . The ‘Angry Connor’, an Irish version of the Archer 17-pdr, complete with large whiskey barrel.
Along with these, came the Panzer IV Anko Special and Tiger I Kuro Mori Mine tanks from the Girls und Panzer anime series. More of such vehicles were recently added to the game, in the shape of two vehicles from the Valkyria Chronicles video game series, these are the Edelweiss and Nameless Tank.

Halloween 2016

Drac and helsing
T6 Dracula and Helsing HO promotional art. Source:-Wargaming.net
The Halloween tradition continues in 2016. This tme featuring 2 vehicles achieved in the same way as Tankenstein. This time the tanks are based of the legend of Dracula and Van Helsing, in the form of 2 unique Tier VII tanks. The T6 Dracula is a Modified AMX CDC with cape like accents, and a black paint job. The Helsing HO is a turreted Tank Destroyer featuring a Double-Barreled main gun.
Each tank has it’s own unique ammo. The Dracula has Claw (AP), Fang (APCR) and Swarm (HE). The Helsing has Stake (AP) and Belt (APCR).

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Wargaming’s official launch poster for the Tank. Source:- worldoftanks.eu

Real life Tankensteins

While the Tankenstein is purely fictional and exaggerated in its construction, such ‘Cut-and-shunt’ tanks do exist in the real world. Sweden, Indonesia and most notably some middle-eastern countries have all had experimental or serving tanks of this type in their respective militaries. While there are many in existence, too many to list here, as such a select few are described below.

Nazi Germany

Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) “Oswald”
This vehicle was a mating of a captured British Matilda Mk. II with a 5cm KwK 38 gun. The turret was removed and replaced with the 5cm and its gun shield. “Oswald”, as it became known, was used as a training vehicle in the Wehrmacht.
Full article on the “Oswald” can be found HERE.

Egypt

M4A4/FL-10
This tank was a mating of an AMX-13 turret, mounting the 75mm SA50 and the hull of a M4A4 Sherman. The vehicle was powered by the diesel engine of the M4A2. Only around 50 of these vehicles were produced. A number saw military service, taking part in action in the Sinai desert during the Six Day War of 1967.
T-100 (T-34/100)
Another modification from Egypt, this was a T-34/85 fitted with a 100 mm BS-3 anti-tank gun in a specially modified turret. The extra weight at the front of the vehicle some what affects it’s stability and makes it nose heavy. A number of these vehicles fought in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
T-122 (T-34/122)
This is another Egyptian modified T-34. The turret has been modified in much the same way as the T-100, and the D-30 122mm howitzer has been mounted.

Republic of China/Taiwan

Type 64
The Type 64 (TL64, Chinese: 六四式), was a light tank built by mating the American M42 Duster hull with the turret of the M18 Hellcat. It mounted a 76 mm rifled gun. Its development started in Minguo 64 (1975), hence the name Type 64. Just over 50 of the vehicles were produced, the last tank rolling off the assembly line in 1979.

Soviet Union

Odessa Tank / Na Ispug
At the Siege of Odessa, 1941, the Soviet defenders came up with a plan to turn militarized tractors (namely the STZ-5) into tanks. By using naval steel borrowed from the local naval base, salvaged (and improvised) turrets, and a variety of weapons (usually machine guns), locals began producing these improvised tanks. 55-70 were made between August 20th and October 16th. These tractor tanks were able to fend off the might of the Romanian army until it was decided by the Soviets to evacuate the city.
Full article on the Odessa Tank can be found HERE.

Second Spanish Republic

Hispano Suiza MC-36 con torreta de T-26
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), many vehicles were captured by the opposing side and reused. One such vehicle was a large pre-Civil War armored car designed for the police, which was flung into the furnace in the early stages of the war on the side of the Republicans. At some point, likely 1937, a Nationalist captured MC-36 was given a T-26 turret in place of its more humble Hotchkiss machine gun-armed dome turret. It served as the command vehicle for “Agrupacion de Carros del Sur“.
Full article on the Hispano Suiza MC-36 can be found HERE.

Sweden

STRV M/42-57 Alt. A.2.
In an effort to up-gun their already vastly outdated Stridsvagn m/42, a meeting was held on February 15th 1952 on possible improvements. One design was to mount the French AMX-13 turret and gun on to the M/42’s hull. This idea never saw production, but the M/42 did later receive an upgraded turret and was redesignated Strv 74.

United States of America

T26E4 “Super Pershing”
This was an up-gunned M26 Pershing with salvaged Panther tank armor fixed to the bow and mantlet. Two large external recoil springs were also added to deal with the increased recoil force of the larger gun. 1 vehicle served in West Germany, early 1945.
Full article on the Super Pershing can be found HERE.

An article by Mark Nash

Tankenstein

Propulsion 550hp Stein Type 1
Speed (road) 35 km/h (26/14 km/h)
Armament 105mm T5E1 or 130 mm B-13-S2
1x Vickers MG, 1x MG-34.
Armor 200/80/80mm on the hull, 150/120/80mm on the turret

Links & Resources

The Tankenstein on wiki.wargaming.net

Wargaming’s launch video for the Tankenstein.

Tankenstein T29 gun
The Tankenstein with the T29’s T5E1 Gun and mantlet. Source:- Stan Lucian/Mark Nash
Tankenstein SU Gun
The Tankenstein with the SU-100Y’s B-13-S2 Gun. Source:- Stan Lucian/Mark Nash