Categories
Cold War Soviet Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Soviet “Turtle” Tank (Fake Tank)

Soviet Union (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
Cold War Chinese Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Type T-34 (Fake Tank)

People’s Republic of China
Medium Tank – Fake

Fake Until Proven Real

“Type T-34” is a made-up designation for the T-34/76 in Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) service. The only suggestion of the PLA operating the T-34/76 comes from the video game, World of Tanks, and their Chinese client company, Kongzhong. It is claimed that these tanks were supplied to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) in the early 1950s by the USSR, along with thousands of other tanks. Whilst it is true that the PRC was sold as many as 3000 AFVs in the years 1950-1955, neither company can provide any proof for the T-34/76 being included in these arms sales. As such, the use of the T-34/76 by the PLA can only be concluded to be a hoax, intended as a credible means of filling up the World of Tanks “Chinese tech tree”, which is riddled with both historical inaccuracies and pure fantasies but remains presented as historical fact, rather like the rest of the game.

Supposed History

World of Tanks gives the following information for historical background to the “Type T-34”:
Among the 1,800 T-34 tanks supplied by the U.S.S.R. to China in the early 1950s, there was a number of T-34-76s. After the tanks saw service in the PLA, almost all of them were sent to North Korea. The usefulness of these tanks was extended by Chinese-designed upgrades, including a new engine and modernized suspension.

Reality

Known T-34 Exports

The T-34/76 was a fairly rare export compared to the T-34-85 but still made its way to various countries including (but not limited to) North Vietnam, East Germany, (who used theirs mainly for training), Poland, Czechoslovakia, and North Korea. As such, it is plausible that other countries, such as the PRC, received the T-34/76.
However, arms sales from the USSR that took place between 1950 and 1955 are not recorded as including the T-34/76. Dr. Martin Andrew (a historian of the PLA) reports that the PRC received 1837 T-34-85s, 82 IS-2s, 40 ISU-122s, 67 ISU-152s, 99 SU-100s, and 704 SU-76s between 1950-1954, as well as 89 ARVs at least some of which (possibly even most) were based on the T-34 chassis (some others were based on the ISU chassis – at least two; almost certainly more). These numbers are estimates, and other sources have slightly different figures. For example, Zhang Zhiwei (author of The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949) claims that the PRC received as many as 1964 T-34-85s by 1955. Regardless of exact figures, Dr. Andrew advises that there is no evidence of the PLA receiving the T-34/76, or any suggestion predating World of Tanks that he is aware of.
Furthermore, if “almost all” of the alleged PLA’s T-34/76s were sent to North Korea, then this raises two questions: ‘Where are the implicit rest of these tanks?’ and ‘Why has no evidence of these tanks (which were “later given new engine[s] and modernized suspension[s]“) come to light?’
In reality, North Korea received all of its tanks directly from the USSR in February 1950, when a military advisory group was sent along with small arms, aircraft, artillery, and other military equipment types. This was enough to equip eight field divisions and other combat units consisting of 100,000 men. A such, the idea that all North Korean T-34/76s are actually ex-Chinese T-34/76s falls flat.

Chinese Upgrades?

The suggestion of the T-34/76 receiving Chinese-designed upgrades sounds highly dubious, too. The only known Chinese upgrade to the T-34 is the Type 58 upgrade standard of the T-34-85, and this did not include a suspension upgrade. The context of the World of Tanks description does not make clear if the Chinese designed upgrades were done to the remaining Chinese T-34/76s, or North Korea’s T-34/76s. Some images of North Korean T-34/76s in the post-Korean War era indicate that some modernization features were added such as sidesaddle fuel tanks, starfish roadwheels (first introduced by the Soviets in 1969), and perhaps some other smaller details. It is plausible that these upgrades were designed with Chinese assistance, which might be the source of this suggestion, but very little is known about the post-1953 service of North Korean T-34/76s, and there is nothing to suggest that their suspensions have been upgraded based on the highly limited evidence that there is.
Furthermore, in World of Tanks, the “Type T-34” can be fitted with a 57mm gun designated “55-57FG”, which appears to be a copy of the Soviet 57mm ZiS-4. Without a doubt, this is not real because the Soviets abandoned the 57mm gun for tank use in 1943, as it was considered obsolete. Having said this, the PLA is known to have fitted an unknown number of LVT(A)-4s and LVT-4s with 57mm ZiS-2 and 76mm ZiS-3 field guns in the 1950s, but details around these conversions are lacking. Regardless, these LVT conversions were done using Soviet-supplied field guns and should not be used as even circumstantial evidence of the Chinese developing their own 57mm tank guns, which, again, would have been totally obsolete by the 1950s for anti-tank duties. As such, the LVT conversions were most likely a means of having mechanized artillery as opposed to tank destroyers.

Name

The name “Type T-34” seems rather dubious as no sources pre-dating World of Tanks make reference to this name. It is likely that name was made up by World of Tanks and/or Kongzhong to distinguish the vehicle from the Soviet T-34/76 in their video game.
For reference, the designation “T-34/76” is also a fairly modern designation. The USSR used “T-34” to refer to the /76 variant, and “T-34-85” to refer to the 85mm gun variant in Divisional records. However, sometimes these are not differentiated in historical documents. In such documents, unless a reference is made to ammunition type, it is difficult to be sure which variant is being referred to. Therefore, documents with “T-34” written are not sufficient proof enough of a Chinese T-34/76 unless guns and/or munitions are also explicitly referenced, or other contextual details suggest the /76 variant.

Korean War museum T-34/76, Liaoning Province

There is a widely circulated photograph of what appears to be a Factory 183 built T-34/76 in the Korean War Memorial Hall in Dandong city, (Liaoning province, PRC) which is sometimes cited as evidence of PLA T-34/76s. In short, the vehicle’s provenance is somewhat unclear, but its construction suggests it to be a modern rebuild for museum purposes as opposed to a former PLA-operated vehicle.

A T-34/76 (most likely Factory 183 built) in the Korean War Museum in Dandong, Liaoning Province, PRC. The tank is made from a mixture of odd parts and is clearly not original. The SU-100 may actually be Chinese, as 99 were sold to China by the USSR in 1954. This SU-100, like the T-34, does not have any apparent PLA markings. Source: ‘T-34 Interest Group’ on Facebook.
The vehicle is made from a mixture of odd parts such as T-34-85 modernization wheels (almost certainly modern acquired, as they were made in 1969 at the height of the Sino-Soviet Split), the tracks are T-55 style, the sprocket is also from a T-55, the engine deck handrails are non-standard (probably handmade), and there is also a T-55 searchlight cage on the glacis plate (next to the driver’s hatch)Most tellingly, the tank has a pressed turret’s gun mantlet, but the tank is a soft-edge turret – this indicates that the tank is an inaccurate museum restoration, and may be simply a Type 58 made to look like a T-34/76 using parts which (may) have been acquired recently. That said, the handrails on the hull are typical of T-34/76s (although they may be handmade), and the hull machine gun position may also be that of a T-34/76 tank (this is not entirely clear, as the only indicator of this would be the casting nubs, not visible in these photos). It is therefore also possible that the hull is a T-34/76 hull that was acquired recently but has nevertheless been restored inaccurately. It is even possible that this tank was acquired from North Korea, as some modern footage shows a North Korean T-34 to have very similar production features to this T-34.
Most tellingly of all, the vehicle also does not have any PLA markings on it, thus suggesting that the tank is not intended to portray a PLA T-34/76, but may instead be intended to portray a North Korean T-34/76.
It can therefore be concluded that this tank is a post-Korean War acquisition that underwent an inaccurate restoration for museum purposes and should not be seen as evidence of the PLA operating T-34/76s.

The Historiographical Problem

As indicated, the crux of the issue is that there is no credible evidence (be it photographic or literary) to suggest any T-34/76s being used by the PLA that is available for scrutiny by non-Chinese historians. As mentioned, Soviet evidence for arms sales to China which indicates T-34/76s being sold is also lacking.
Kongzhong are reportedly able to access Chinese military archives and report what they find to Wargaming in order to make Chinese tanks for the video game. It is said that Kongzhong’s researchers are only allowed to take personal handwritten notes whilst researching, and materials found in the archive cannot be reproduced (which is the case with many archives). As such, the existence of the “Type T-34” hinges on the word of Kongzhong, which is highly problematic.
Kongzhong is known to frequently take substantial creative liberties, or even to totally make up Chinese tanks (for examples of this, see the Type 59-Patton, 121B, WZ-132A, WZ-132-1, and the ‘tank destroyer tree’ which is filled with imaginary riffs on existing or semi-existing chassis), meaning that their credibility as a historical source is completely lacking. World of Tanks, too, is infamous for being jam-packed with fake tanks (a jarring example being the G.W. E-100, amongst many others), and having tanks operated by the wrong country (for example, the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f) being in French service). Given that World of Tanks also has this reputation, they cannot be trusted as a credible source either. Such imaginations are not in of themselves an issue, but their presentation as real tanks is.
In sum, no credible evidence to suggest the existence of the “Type T-34”, or any of these supposed Chinese upgrades, is available to non-Chinese historians, and with the claim being made by two companies of dubious reputations as historical sources, it can only be concluded that the “Type T-34” does not exist until further evidence is put forward and evaluated.

Artist’s interpretation of a T-34/76 (produced by Factory 174, Omsk) painted in regular PLA colors based on T-34-85s as seen on National Day parades in the 1950s.

Artist’s interpretation of a T-34/76 (produced by Factory 174, Omsk) painted in typical PLA camouflage as seen on Chi-Ha Shinhotos and a T-26 M1937 on the 1st October 1949 foundation of the PRC parade. The same scheme has been seen on Type 59s in the early 1960s on National Day parades.
Both tanks were illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Jaycee ‘Amazing Ace’ Davis based on technical drawings by Mark Rethoret.
Image result for Type t-34
The ‘Type T-34’ as it appears in World of Tanks.

T-34/76 (an inaccurate rebuild of a Factory 183 tank) in the Korean War Museum in Dandong, Liaoning Province, PRC, albeit at a different point in time to the other photo in this article. The tank is wrongly labelled as a T-34-85. Unfortunately, the plaque gives no hints as to the tank’s origin, but merely generic (if somewhat inaccurate) information about the T-34. Put simply, this tank is not proof of the Chinese PLA operating a T-34/76 because it is a modern restoration and rebuild for the museum. Source: ‘Surviving T-34/76 Tanks.pdf

‘Type 58’ ‘404’ in the Beijing Tank Museum. To its right is a Type 59, followed by two M3A3 Stuarts. Source: ‘T-34 Interest Group’ on Facebook.

A still from a North Korean propaganda film, reportedly from the 1960s, showing two T-34/76s. The tank in the foreground has a turret manufactured at Factory 112 (Krasnoye Sormovo), but also shows signs of T-34-85 modernisation such as sidesaddle fuel tanks (112 did issue some tanks of this type with this fuel tank arrangement, but most were post-WWII upgrades) and starfish roadwheels which were first introduced in 1969. The tank in the background has a ‘hexagonal’ style turret and also sidesaddle fuel tanks. The North Koreans are believed to have been supplied their T-34/76s by the USSR via China as an intermediary. Source: wwiiafterwwii.wordpress
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A Soviet-made T-34T Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) in the Beijing Tank Museum. Up to 79 ARVs were supplied to the USSR between 1950 and 1954, most of which were T-34-based. Source: militaryreview.su 
The museum’s information panel reports the following:
“T-34 Tank Recovery Vehicle is a technical support vehicle produced in 1940s by the former Soviet Union. This vehicle began to enter service with Soviet Army in 1940, and was withdrawn from service in the late 1960s. T-34 Tank Recovery Vehicle, as a support vehicle for T-34 tank, is used for towing and recovering the trapped, toppled, or damaged tanks in the war. In 1950s, China began to buy this vehicle and put them into service with PLA, now all the vehicles are phased out of service. The vehicles bought by China went into the front line of Korean War together with Chinese volunteer troops, and played a significant role in the technical support in the war.
Specifications: Combat weight: 22-25 tonnes. Max speed: 55km/h. Max range: 300km. Max traction: 1584N(14t). Armament: 1 x 7,62mm machine gun.”
Source: Beijingman.blogspot


One of Kongzhong’s blatant imaginations – the so-called ‘T-26G FT’ as it appears in the video game ‘World of Tanks’. World of Tanks reports that “during the 1946–50 civil war, a number of vehicles were captured by the People’s Liberation Army in eastern China in 1949. In 1950, they were used as a basis for the creation of at least two modifications of tank destroyers.” In reality, three T-26s were captured from the Kuomintang (Nationalists) during the Huai Hai Campaign (6th November 1948 – 10th January 1949) one of which was pressed back into service and was photographed on the October 1st 1949 Victory Parade in Beijing. It is likely that this tank was phased out shortly after, seeing as though Soviet arms sales of more modern tanks began in 1950. Some other T-26s were captured during the Civil War, but appear to have been lost before October 1949. The other two vehicles may have been wrecked beyond repair. There are other vehicles that World of Tanks suggests the PLA used but there is no proof for, such as the Renault NC-31.
Discussion with Francis Pulham regarding T-34 production variants.
Discussion with Dr. Martin Andrew regarding Chinese T-34s and Soviet arms sales to the PLA.
Special thanks to Leo Guo for providing translations.
Special thanks also to the members of the “T-34 Interest Group” on Facebook for their comments.
Tuo Mao: the Operational History of the People’s Liberation Army“, PhD dissertation by Martin Andrew, submitted to Bond University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2008.
The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949” by Zhang Zhiwei, Humanism Print.
Worldoftanks.eu
Beijingman.blogspot
Chinese Tanks Q&A with Will Kerrs” – thearmoredpatrol.com
“KongZhong: WG’s Certified Fake Tanks Provider” – thearmoredpatrol.com

Categories
Fake Tanks Fictional Tanks WW1 British Fake Tanks

H.G. Wells’ Land Ironclads (Fictional Tank)

United Kingdom (1903)
Tank – Fictional

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 Mr. C. Ryan, paid for by DeadlyDillema through our Patreon Campaign!

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 Polish Fake Tanks

CP Armoured Tractor (Fake Tank)

Republic of Poland (1939)
Artillery Tractor – Fake

The CP armored tractor is a plastic model kit produced by the Polish RPM company. According to the story mentioned in the model instruction:
“When reinforcing the armored units with heavy weapons, the Polish army planned to design cannon-armed vehicles able to provide direct support during an attack. The result was the TKD. It was based on the TK chassis, armed with a 47mm “Pocisk” cannon mounted in a half-armored emplacement. After performing trials of the prototype, a small series was produced. As the “Pocisk” cannon was not used by the Polish army, in order to standardize the armament, the guns were dismounted and, according to unconfirmed information, sold to China. The vehicles were converted to tractors for the wz.1897 field cannons with a modified chassis (rubber wheels).”
During the Second World War, a number of tanks and other armored vehicles were disarmed and used as carriers. The best examples are the Allied ‘Kangaroo’ vehicles used as tracked APCs or German ammo carriers (like the Munitionsträger Hummel) which were just disarmed self-propelled guns. The CP armored tractor is such a converted tractor, but fictional. It is based on the real TKD self-propelled gun but without armament. The disarmed TKDs are claimed to have been slightly modified and assigned to tow the 75mm wz.1897 cannons (the version with rubber wheels).

The box art of the RPM model kit of the CP armored Tractor.
The wz.1897 was actually a French mle. 1897 gun that was used by the Polish army – it was one of the most popular cannons in the army of Second Polish Republic. Some of these guns were improved with tyred wheels, however, most of them had wooden spoked wheels. These guns were towed by horses or by C4P half-tracks. The wz.1897s were used in the September Campaign during all significant battles, frequently in an anti-tank role.
There is no reliable source that confirms the existence of a vehicle called “CP”. Also, no such conversions of TKDs are mentioned in literature. However, TKD self-propelled guns were used in 1938 (during the annexation of Zaolzie) and later probably in the September Campaign (in defense of Warsaw). Moreover, a photo from September 1939 show an abandoned TKD without its cannon – so it is possible that some TKDs were really disarmed and used as tractors or carriers. However, they also might have just been disarmed to prevent the invading Germans from using them. Also, the kit shows a plate being bolted or riveted over the gun aperture, which is also missing from the vehicle in the picture. This plate would have been hard to remove (and for little gain) or to have been blown out if the vehicle was destroyed.

A TKD self-propelled gun abandoned on the side of a road with its gun missing, probably in September 1939. However, it doesn’t look like the fake CP armored tractor – Source: odkrywca.pl.
Thus, a second life of the TKDs as disarmed carriers is possible. Nevertheless, the existence of the claimed “CP” type vehicles can be declared as fiction, as nothing confirms the other changes shown in the model kit, apart from the cannon disarmament.

Modifications

The main difference from the TKD is, of course, the lack of a gun. Its place in the frontal armor is covered with a riveted armor panel. The vehicle has two headlights, one on each side, not only on the left (like on the TKD). Moreover, the CP has a hook at the back of hull, used to tow the cannon. However, this hook looks a little too fragile for something destined for towing a cannon weighing about 1.5 tonnes.
The only armament of the CP is a machine-gun placed on the left side of the hull for self-defense, on the standard stand, known from regular Polish tankettes (TK-3 and TKS). It is a 7.92mm wz.25 machine gun, however, the kit also includes a 7.92 wz.30 machine-gun. Both of these were used in Polish vehicles against aircraft or infantry attacks.

In Retrospect

The CP is certainly a fictional vehicle, however, its design could have been pretty successful. The similarity to the British Universal Carrier or French Renault UE tankette is clearly visible. These vehicles were very useful support vehicles, being used until late in the war. The CP, as the Polish counterpart of Universal Carrier, could have been a good multi-role support vehicle, as the TK3 on which it was based was a decent vehicle. The German army kept using captured TK vehicles even in 1944 – and mainly as tractors and carriers.
It is uncertain if the CP could have been a suitable tractor for the wz.1897 cannon. Unlike the real C4P, the fictional CP had no space for the wz.1897 cannon’s crew nor for its ammo. Also, it was certainly underpowered if it was meant to tow a 1.5 tonne gun. The specialized C2P tractor was able to tow wz.1897, but it was a purpose-built tractor – the CP is portrayed as an improvised vehicle. The C2P had a strengthened chassis and a solid towing hook.

A built model of the CP armored tractor – Source: karopka.ru


Illustration of the fake CP tractor by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Bernard “Escodrion” Baker

Sidenote: Tractors in the TK family

The Polish specialized tankette-based tractor was the C2P. Designed in 1932 and based on the TKS tankette, it had an improved chassis with new side clutches and bigger wheels at the back. Initially, the Polish army rejected this machine (in favor of a horse rig). However, it was later used especially for the 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun. Unfortunately, the low budget of the Polish army hindered modernization effort and precluded the C2P from being used with other types of cannons. The production that started in 1937 was stopped by the war. The German army gladly used captured C2Ps. These tractors were used on all fronts to the end of the war.

C2P tracked tractor – Source: Public domain, taken from Wikipedia
During 1930s, Polish engineers designed special trailers to be towed by tankettes. One type of trailers – with tracks – was designed for spare parts. The second type – wheeled – was designed for barrels of fuel and oil. Another trailer was designed for the RKD long-range radio and a crew of 4 men. The actual use in service of these trailers is barely known.

TK3 tankette with a tracked trailer – Source: Derela Republika
The German army used captured TK tankettes for reconnaissance, against guerillas and sometimes just as support vehicles. These vehicles were used on all fronts until the end of the war. Sometimes, they were further modified by Germans. Some photos show a TKS with a simplified gun mount or a TK-3 reworked into a tractor very similar to the C2P.

A very interesting vehicle, this is not a C2P armored tractor. It is a TK3 tankette that has had its armor cut out and a windshield installed by the Germans – Source: Derela Republika

Specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 3 x 1.7 x n/a m
Crew 2
Propulsion Polski FIAT 122AC 6 cyl, 42 hp
Speed 40 km/h
Armament Wz.25 or wz.30 (both 7,92mm) machine gun

Links, Resources & Further Reading

www.super-hobby.com
derela.republika.pl (1)
derela.republika.pl (2)
Wrzesień 1939 magazine, nr. 3, FIRST TO FIGHT Sp.z o.o., Warsaw
Wrzesień 1939 magazine, nr. 33, FIRST TO FIGHT Sp.z o.o., Warsaw

Fake CP Armored TractorFake CP Armored Tractor prints

By Bernard “Escodrion” Baker

Prints of the Fake Polish CP Armored Tractor

Buy this print on RedBubble!


Tracked Hussars Shirt

Charge with this awesome Polish Hussars shirt. A portion of the proceeds from this purchase will support Tank Encyclopedia, a military history research project. Buy this T-Shirt on Gunji Graphics!

Categories
Cold War French Fake Tanks Fake Tanks

Projet Tigre (Fake Tank)

France (1959)
Light SPG – Fake

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

A German Idea

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

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

Mr. Neufpierre’s original sketch of Tigre

Tigre Description

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


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

The End of the Tigre

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

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

Sources

French documents probably

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 Soviet Fake Tanks

T-26s with Kremlin Armory Cannons (Fake Tank)

Soviet Union (1941)
SPG – Fake

April Fools

This article was originally published on Tanks Encyclopedia on 1st April 2018, as part of our April’s Fools Day celebrations. The information contained within is mostly fictional but some parts are actually true, such as the use of the prototype vehicles from Kubinka in combat, or the use of an antique cannon in the Syrian Civil War. Some other things are partly true, such as improvised AT mines made from tin cans, which actually happened at the siege of Odessa, 1941.

Old Weapons, New Invaders

Since the opening up of Soviet archives following the collapse of the USSR, all fields of history have been enriched by the flood of esoteric knowledge. In the field of military history, archival access has proven invaluable to those studying tank prototypes and concepts. In February 2018, Russian historian, Iourii Kasholot, announced he had found evidence of a previously unknown Soviet endkampf plan, regarding the fear of Moscow being entered by the Wehrmacht in 1941.
Among other things, the documents he found revealed that all of Moscow’s citizens, regardless of age and sex, would have been conscripted to fight in the Red Army and armed using archaic weapons of the Kremlin armory museum. Moreover, another suggestion of the plan was that if tanks began to run out of munitions, a new battalion should be formed of tanks equipped with gunpowder cannons from Kremlin armory stocks. As a result, the concept of T-26s with Kremlin Armory cannons was suggested. Even today in the Syrian Civil War, evidence of gunpowder cannons being used can be found, proving that archaic weapons are still relevant.
Fortunately, the plan was never implemented due to the German halt on 5th December 1941.

The Documents

The documents in question are the minutes and transcripts of a secret meeting of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and some Marshals of the Soviet Union which took place on October 22nd 1941. This meeting took place following various early defeats around Moscow, such as the Red Army’s 21st Tank Brigade’s failed assault on Kalinin.
Unfortunately, the documents from the meeting themselves cannot be reproduced, rather like other secret documents such as those on Chinese prototype tanks destroyed in nuclear testing or blueprints of Japanese superheavy tanks. However, Kasholot provided some summaries with some direct quotes.
A basic outline of key points of this endkampf plan is thus:

  • All factories are to continue production of war materiel until they are captured or ‘turned to rubble’ (Rus: гребаный разбитый) and will be subordinated to a specific battalion’s needs. Reference here was made to avoiding supply problems as witnessed in Kiev in 1939, during mobilizations for the invasion of Poland.
  • All soldiers are to initially stand their ground in Moscow’s suburbs, fighting building by building.
  • If the suburbs of Moscow are captured, all remaining units must withdraw into the center.
  • Discussions were made on the possibility of total conscription of all civilians and arming them with weapons from the Kremlin armory, but no plans were agreed.
  • All armored vehicles were to withdraw to the Kremlin and fight from there.
  • A suggestion was made about equipping tanks with cannons from the Kremlin armory, but this appears to have been rejected in the meeting.
  • Scrap and prototype tanks from the Polygon were to be put into service (Note: this part of the plan was actually enacted in December 1941)
  • The destruction of all bridges and railway lines leading away from Moscow should take place following any Soviet withdrawal as part of a scorched earth policy.
  • Discussions of partisan operations following the capture of Moscow.
  • The relocation of the capital city to Kazan.
  • The possibility of negotiating a treaty with Hitler was mentioned but quickly dismissed by Stalin.

Mobilizing the People

During the Battle of Moscow, an estimated 250,000 women and teenagers had already been conscripted to build anti-tank fortifications and dig trenches at the Mozhaisk defense line, protecting the west of Moscow as far as Kalinin. All civilian production centers had long since been converted to wartime production.  By the start of October, twenty smaller factories were producing (or were at least organizing production of) weapons and munitions. Many of the weapons produced by these factories were improvised, such as trench flamethrowers made from soda water cylinders, and even AT and AP mines, made from tin cans (thus, somewhat humorously labeled ‘Caviar’, ‘Khalva’, etc). However, this was not seen as enough. 660,000 Red Army soldiers were already encircled at the towns of Vyzama and Briansk, approximately half of the Red Army’s overall manpower at the Battle of Moscow, meaning that more manpower might be necessary if the Wehrmacht were to advance further into Moscow.
According to transcripts provided by Kasholot, there was talk of ‘total conscription’ (Rus: каждый человек для себя) of all peoples in Moscow, regardless of age and sex. When Marshal Zhukov asked Stalin what the people were to be armed with, Stalin replied: ‘We had to find our own weapons in the civil war, now we have an entire armory [meaning the Kremlin armory] here in Moscow – find some old rifles and cannons – everything can be mobilised against the Fascists!

T-26s with Kremlin Armory Cannons

Discussions then went on to talk about the effectiveness of such a move and whether it was really worth risking the lives of civilians armed with outdated weapons against Panzer armies. After a while, Stalin suggested that if Moscow’s suburbs were breached, the citizen conscripts would not be fighting alone because tanks should be pulled back to the Kremlin walls to fight using indirect fire methods. Marshal Vasilevsky then replied that if the tanks pull back to the Kremlin, they would be useless because they would not have any munitions besides some machine guns.
Stalin replied that these tanks, too, can be armed with weapons from the Kremlin armory, suggesting that ‘If a huge blunderbuss is good enough for a small boy, then a great licorne is good enough for a T-26. We will defeat the invaders with the weapons that the last ones [IE, Napoleon, thus referring to Napoleonic war cannons] used!‘ Kasholot suggests that this caused a moment of silence at the meeting, before Stalin continued that such tanks could be converted even now, and form an independent battalion. However, the conversation was quickly moved on by Zhukov’s suggestion of taking prototype tanks out of the Polygon testing ground, and fielding them instead. This was agreed upon, and further matters were discussed.
Fortunately for the Politburo, and indeed, the citizens of Moscow, this endkampf plan as a whole came to nothing because the German advance was halted on 5th December. Soviet resistance and counter-offensives had managed to stave off attempted further German advances from mid-November. By this time, the cold weather had set in, and the winter of 1941-1942 was the coldest winter of the 20th century. As a result, no further German advances were attempted, and the Soviets began their successful counterattacks.

Prototypes in Combat

Despite the plan coming to nothing, one part was enacted. Between November and December 1941, various tanks were taken from the Polygon and were then pressed into service. This included regular vehicles in the scrapyard such as T-26s, which were reassembled from discarded parts, but also various prototype / experimental vehicles.
The T-100Y and SU-14 prototypes were used for indirect fire roles as part of an ‘Independent Artillery Division for Special Duties’ to the west of the Polygon at Kubinka. At least one SU-14 is believed to have engaged targets from a long range, but no further information on their combat is known. The T-100Y and one of the SU-14 prototypes stand today in Kubinka Tank Museum (the other SU-14 prototype was scrapped in 1960).
The T-29 medium tank, as well as the A-32 and A-20 (T-34 prototypes) are reported to have been fielded in 1942 as part of a special detachment, also. Information is limited, but the T-29 was last photographed at Zavod 100 in Chelyabinsk in 1942. It was recycled in 1943 along with several other experimental vehicles, including the KV-7.
 


Artist’s interpretation of a T-26 with a cannon from the Kremlin armory by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Amazing Ace.
Image result for kremlin arsenal guns
Example of a cannon at the Kremlin Armory, as used in the Napoleonic Wars. Source: russianreport.wordpress
Female Muscovite volunteer workers digging trenches for the defence of Moscow. Source: wikipedia.

The T-29 at Zavod 100, 1942. Source: Tankarchives.blogspot

Syrian Civil War antique cannons

The Rahman Corps, a Syrian rebel group in Damascus, was seen operating an antique cannon strapped to the rear of a lorry. Videos show the vehicle in use between July and November 2016. This proves that despite weapons being antiquated, they can still be viable for a war effort.

Rahman Corps footage of their antique cannon SPG, Damascus, July 2016.
Sources:
A summary of the transcript from a meeting of the Politburo of the CPSU, October 22nd 1941, provided by Iourii Kasholot
The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II” by Andrew Nagorski
Battle of Moscow 1941–1942: The Red Army’s Defensive Operations and Counter-offensive Along the Moscow Strategic Direction” by Richard W. Harrison
Rukkas, Andriy, ‘The Red Army’s Troop Mobilization in the Kiev Special Military District during September 1939’, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 16 (2003), 105-136.
Barnes, Steven, ‘All for the Front, All for Victory! The Mobilization of Forced Labor in the Soviet Union during World War Two’,  International Labor and Working Class History 58 (2000), 239-260.
tankarchives.blogspot
Note: The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the Tanks Encyclopedia team, or reality.

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 Polish Fake Tanks

Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 (Fake Tank)

Republic of Poland (1939)
Medium/Cruiser Tank – Fake

A Fake More Famous than the Real Thing

The 14TP is a little known Polish tank project of the late 1930s. While the information regarding it is vague and no photos have survived, some pieces of information about the project remain. The 14TP was based on the previous 10TP, but with more frontal armor, without the ability to run on its wheels alone and with a different engine.
However, the image most widely associated with the 14TP on the internet looks nothing like the lighter and better-known 10TP. It is the ‘Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39.’

A sketch of the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39, as presented in an article written by Janus Magnuski – Nowa Technika Wojskowa nr 6/1996

A Historical Fake?

The Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 was first published by Janus Magnuski, a Polish historian, in his articles in the Nowa Technika Wojskowa 6/1996 and the Poligon 1/2009 magazines.
According to Magnuski, after the war, the sketch of a tank named the “Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39” (“Polish Tank T-39”) was found in the documents of the Abwehr (Nazi German intelligence service). According to Magnuski, this tank looked like a cruiser-medium tank with a Christie-like suspension, similar to the 10TP, it was assumed that this was the German interpretation of the 14TP, based on whatever intelligence the Germans could get about it before or after the invasion.
While this story is plausible, no evidence was offered to support it and the original document, if it existed, has not emerged.

A ‘what-if’ drawing showing a Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 in action – Source: User bartekd on the odkrywca.pl forum
The Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 bears little resemblance to the 10TP, on which the real 14TP project was based. While it is often used to represent the 14TP, it most certainly bears no relationship to the real thing.
Of course, intelligence services are not infallible, and it possible that the T-39 was based on very poor-quality information obtained by the German agents in Polish territory. Alternatively, it is also widely postulated that this was a deliberate fabrication deliberately planted by the Poles in order to fool the Germans.
It is also possible that the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 is a more recent fabrication, produced by Magnuski or supplied to him by somebody else. Until the original document will be found, it is hard to tell.

The Design of the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39

The feature that brings the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 closest to the 10TP and 14TP is its Christie-like suspension. The T-39 has five large rubberized road wheels on each side, which also supported the track return. In the case of the real vehicles, each wheel would have been connected to a large coil spring sandwiched between two layers of armor.

‘What-if’ illustration of the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39, presented as the real 14TP – Source: WW2 Drawings, illustrated by V.Bourguignon.
The Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39, as shown in the outline from Magnuski, was significantly longer than the 10TP, with one more road wheel. Most of the lengthening seems to have gone to the engine bay. This partially relates to the real 14TP, which was meant to have a more powerful engine.
The front part of the lower hull extends significantly in front of the superstructure, a feature that is common to frontal transmission vehicles.
The rather large turret is mounted centrally in the vehicle, between the rear engine compartment and the front driver compartment. It does not resemble any Polish turret in use at that time. The front of the turret has a very pronounced curvature.
It is noteworthy that the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39, as shown, does not have any machine-gun visible, either in the turret or in the hull.


Illustration of the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 by Jarosław Janas.

Another illustration of the 14TP, done “Escodrion” Bernard Baker

The Fake Document

Since the appearance of the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39 in the 1996 article by Magnuski, a document has appeared and widely circulated on the internet, often purported to be the original Abwehr document from which the T-39 project was ‘discovered’ by Magnuski.
However, a careful look reveals several problems with this document. First off, it is extremely clean, both in its writing and in its preservation. While this does not necessarily mean it is fake, it is a warning sign.
It must be noted that a large part of the original Abwehr documents was methodically destroyed during the war, to prevent their capture by the enemy.
Furthermore, the German used in the document is full of grammar and phrasing mistakes. Whoever produced it was clearly not a native speaker, especially not one writing official intelligence documents!
The drawing in the document also perfectly matches the T-39 drawing widely available on the internet. This might mean that Mister Januski was very thorough in reproducing it or that whoever produced this document used the image available online.
Another interesting thing to note is that German documents did not feature drawings in them. The drawings were usually attached as annexes, and not present along with the text.

Conclusion

The ‘Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39’ is not the 14TP. However, it has become widely mistaken for the real 14TP. Many websites and magazines, when writing about the little-known 14TP, use this fake tank to illustrate their pieces, often omitting to make any distinction between the two.
Also, some people have tried using the ‘Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39’ to spin the 14TP into a far more advanced vehicle than it was, one that would be on par or superior to anything else of the time. New information, however, indicates it was not such a super-vehicle.
It is possible that Magnuski indeed saw the ‘Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39’ in a German document, but until such a document appears, it should be treated with care. There is also no source where this ‘document’ was found or by whom or even when.

The supposed document showing the Polnischer Panzerkampfwagen T-39. It is almost assuredly a fake – Photo: As taken from a post by Raznarok on the World of Tanks forums

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Polish forum thread discussing various designs, including the 14TP
Poligon magazine 2010/1
Modern Drawings


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Fake Tanks WW2 Hungarian Fake Tanks

Tas rohamlöveg (Fake Tank)

Hungary (1944)
Assault Gun – Fake

Tas rohamlöveg mockup by Á. Bíró
Tas rohamlöveg mockup by Á. Bíró.

Introduction

After the end of the Second World War, under the soon established communist regime in Hungary, it was unwise (and unrequested) to publicly talk about any involvement in the military developments of the previous, condemned era. Therefore, the designers of the Hungarian 44M. Tas heavy/medium tank also chose to remain silent and its history soon faded away.
Nobody bothered to research the history of the Hungarian tanks and armored fighting vehicles until the late 1970’s, the time when most of the primary sources, the key people involved in it had already passed away. This made it even harder for the new generation of historians to form a coherent story because most of the time they had to rely on the few remaining, sometimes contradictory written documents or on the memories of the people who only played a minor role in the stream of events.
Consequently, because of the lack of primary sources, some outdated books and articles falsely claim that a self-propelled gun on a Tas chassis would also have been designed in parallel with the 44M. Tas development.

Historical authenticity issues

The ‘myth’ of the Tas rohamlöveg (literally ‘Tas assault gun’) dates back to the 1980’s when the son of the former chief engineer of the Weiss Manfréd factory, Pál Korbuly, first started to collect data about the almost completely forgotten 44M. Tas. His study was mostly based on oral sources, the memories of those who were involved somehow in the Tas project.
When Korbuly found out that in some cases two sets of Tas components were manufactured, he suspected that one set was for the prototype of the 44M. Tas and the other set must have been made for something else, e.g. for an assault gun variant of the Tas, based on the same chassis. This would have been a logical assumption considering how successful the – at that time of the Tas development recently deployed – 40/43M. Zrínyi II was. Without any knowledge about the little surviving documentations in the archives, Korbuly jumped to the conclusion that the designers of the Tas must have copied that proven idea on the basis of their vehicle as well. The result would have been similar to the German Jagdpanther.
Tas by P. Korbuly
Tas rohamlöveg by P. Korbuly
Tas and Tas rohamlöveg cardboard mockups made by P. Korbuly as illustrations for his research results in the early 1980’s. Both of them were made before the first photographs or blueprint parts had been found and were only based on the reminiscences of the people involved in the Tas development. Both of these mockups are completely outdated by now.
Nevertheless, the most recent studies have found evidence contradicting Korbuly’s theory. According to some original documents – which have been found in the Hungarian archives only in the late 2000’s – both sets of components were intended to be used in the 44M. Tas development. It turned out that the Hungarian Ministry of Defense ordered two Tas prototypes from Weiss Manfréd instead of just one and there are no mentions about an assault gun variant anywhere. There is no physical evidence that supports Korbuly’s claim. Therefore, it must be assumed that no such thing ever existed in the first place or only as a vague proposal at the very best.

Alleged characteristics

As the Tas rohamlöveg most likely never existed in the first place, its characteristics are only limited by the fantasy of the authors who wrote about it.
In the old articles about this vehicle, it was assumed that the armor and mobility of the assault gun variant would have been more or less the same as on the controversial Tas.
In turn, most of the debate was about its would-be armament. The invented options ranged from the 7.5 cm (2.95 in) Kw.K. 42 L/70 (the gun used on e.g. the German Panther tank) to the 8.8 cm Kw.K. 43 L/71 (the gun used e.g. on the Tiger II heavy tank). In any case, it was agreed that the gun must have come from abroad because the most powerful, domestically manufactured, dedicated anti-tank gun of the time, the 43M. 75 mm L/43 gun would not require such large and expensive platform when it could be fitted in the Zrínyi I.
Anyhow, the question of how would Hungary acquire any of these German guns in adequate quantities has been conveniently ignored in these articles.

Reality

The designers of the 44M. Tas were struggling to finalize the blueprints and finish prototypes even for the conventional tank variant because of the lack of resources, raw materials and, most importantly, the lack of time during the end stages of the Second World War. Even if they thought about creating such a self-propelled gun variant, they probably could not afford to waste time or energy to design something nobody asked them to.
Up until any valid proof of its existence will be found it must be assumed that the Tas rohamlöveg never existed.


Tas rohamlöveg by Jarja – Jarosław Janas.

Tas rohamlöveg by I. Bajtos
Artistic impression of how the Tas rohamlöveg could have been looked like (if it would have been designed properly at all) by I. Bajtos. Created in the early 1990’s based on P. Korbuly’s works. The armament on this drawing is the German 8.8 cm (3.46 in) Kw.K. 43 L/71. Note how little the gun could depress if this assault gun would have been looked like this.

Tas rohamlöveg by Á. Bíró
Another artistic recreation of how the Tas rohamlöveg could have been looked like by Á. Bíró.

Gun of the Tas rohamlöveg by Á. Bíró
Á. Bíró’s artistic illustration how the 7.5 cm Kw.K. 42 L/70 anti-tank gun could be fitted in his Tas rohamlöveg model.


3D model of the Tas rohamlöveg based on Á. Bíró’s articles.

Sources and further read

Bíró, Ádám – Sárhidai, Gyula: A Magyar Királyi Honvédség hazai gyártású páncélos harcjárművei 1914–1945. 264.
Bíró, Ádám: A Tas nehéz rohamlöveg I. rész. In: Haditechnika 2009/3. 27-31.
Bíró, Ádám: A Tas nehéz rohamlöveg II. rész. In: Haditechnika 2009/4. 59-63.
Bombay, László – Gyarmati, József– Turcsányi, Károly: Harckocsik 1916-tól napjainkig. 112.
Bonhardt, Attila – Sárhidai, Gyula – Winkler, László: A Magyar Királyi Honvédség fegyverzete. 102-103.
Hajdú, Ferenc – Sárhidai, Gyula: A Magyar Király Honvéd Haditechnikai Intézettől a HM Technológiai Hivatalig 1920-2005. 49
Poór, István (editor): Harckocsik és páncélozott harcjárművek típuskönyve. 163.
Turcsányi, Károly: Nehézharckocsik – Összehasonlító értékelések, műveleti alkalmazások és a magyar TAS tervezése. 233-234.

Categories
Fake Tanks WW2 Polish Fake Tanks

PZInż. 126 (Fake Tank)

Republic of Poland (1940)
Command Tank – Fake

Model kit

The PZInż. 126 (PZInż – Państwowe Zakłady Inżynieryjne – National Institution of Engineering) is a fictitious tank invented by the model-kit firm RPM. It was a part of a series of model kits of vehicles based on the British Vickers Mark E light tank (7TP, T-26, etc.)
The cover art for the PZInż. 126 model kit from RPM.
The cover art for the PZInż. 126 model kit from RPM.
The description of the vehicle from the model kit instructions reads: “The plans of modernizing the armored branch did not encompass only the production or purchase of a new tank, but also trials to upgrade the vehicles already in service. According to the Polish leadership, the Vickers E tank was too weakly armoured, and its armament was downright symbolic. Arming the TKS tankette with a 20 mm FK wz.28 cannon markedly increased the battle value of these obsolete vehicles, and made them able to fight with a potential enemy (their capability was proven during the invasion in September 1939). The small dimensions of these tanks did not allow the installation of a high power radio required to create command vehicles for the armored formations. This is where the retired Vickers E entered the fray. It was planned to remove the original turrets and replace them with the turret of the PZInż. 130 tank with a 20 mm gun. In place of the second turret, a radio station with essential accessory was to be installed. This potent command vehicle was created on the chassis of the old vehicle. However, the September invasion ruined these plans.”
The PZInż. 126 is pictured as a “what if” plan, a tank designed by the Polish engineers and meant to be built in 1940 – if the war had not happened. However, the model kit description doesn’t mention the fact that no plans of the PZInż. 126 were ever created. The number “126” is not included in the list of PZInż. projects/products. This project is not recorded in any historical documents. This tank is a fictitious invention.
Unfortunately, the RPM firm has disappeared, and it was impossible to contact them for comments.

Supposed design

The following section talks about the design of a fictitious vehicle. The information presented is inferred from the model kit description and analyzing the kit itself, along with some historical context.
The PZInż. 126 would have been a scout and command vehicle for the Polish armored formations. The crew would have probably consisted of three people, situated in the middle placed crew compartment. These were the driver on the right side of tank, the radio station operator on the left side, in place of the original left turret and the gunner on the right, in the turret. The crew is not specifically mentioned in the description, but is easy to infer from the vehicle layout. The gunner or the radio operator should have also acted as the commander.
This vehicle is meant to represent a conversion of the British Vickers Mk. E Type A light tank. In 1931, Poland bought this design and started to improve its construction, leading to the 7TP. However, the Polish-built tanks had considerable improvements in construction, that do not appear in the design of the PZInż. 126.
The original British vehicle was powered by an Armstrong-Siddeley “Puma” engine. This engine had a capacity of 6.67 liters and a power of 91 horsepower. The Vickers tank did not have large enough air intakes, which led to problems with cooling the engine.
In effect, this vehicle would have looked very similar to another tank based on the 6-ton Vickers: the Soviet HT-26 flamethrower tank. On both vehicles, the right-hand turret was changed with a new one, and the left-hand one was removed.
A view of the left side of a PZInż. 126 model - Source: cmorrismodels
A view of the left side of a PZInż. 126 model – Source: cmorrismodels
The turret would have been derived from that of the experimental TKW tankette. That turret was also used on another prototype tank, the PZInż. 130. It had a top hatch and two rear doors. The turret would have contained the only weapon of this vehicle, a 20 mm gun. In the model kit description it is identified as the NKM wz.38 FK-A light cannon, but the model and the illustrations seem to represent the Solothurn S18-100. This gun had a shorter barrel and was placed lower in the turret than the NKM wz.38.
The wz.38 gun was never mounted in this turret, although it was planned for the PZInż. 130. Another model kit shows this gun mounted on the TKW, but this is also a fake.
The place of left turret was taken by a hatch, periscope, antenna and the radio stations. The radio type is not mentioned.

Retrospect

The idea of a vehicle that is meant to house a unit commander and provide him with mobility and protection while also allowing him to control his troops is a tested and verified one – German command vehicles, like the Sd.Kfz.265 or Pz.Bef.Wg.35(t), were very useful for the Panzer Divisions.
However, in order to make use of a vehicle analogous to the German Panzerbefehlswagens, the Polish army needed a change in structure. Such vehicles were highly useful inside the German Panzer Divisions, which were dedicated tank units. The Polish army, on the other hand, perceived tanks as infantry support weapons, split into small units and working in close cooperation with the foot soldiers. The infantry command structures also had control over the Polish tanks. Thus, tanks meant as a liaison between other tanks (like the PZInż. 126) were redundant. The Polish engineers did start a project to design a tank with a powerful radio, but this concept was not perceived as essential.

Wireless sets in Polish tanks

The main Polish vehicles used for mobile long-range communications were trucks, but the idea of wireless equipped command tanks was not totally foreign. However, there was a problem. The wireless sets that could have been used in these command tanks were rather weak and did not have a long range.
The first Polish tank equipped with a radio was the French Renault TSF – a converted Renault FT with a radio set inside a large box-structure on top of the hull instead of the turret. In 1926, the Polish engineers swapped the French radio sets with Polish ones with a range of 20 km. In August 1931, all the TSFs were reworked to normal FTs. Before 1936, a single Renault FT was equipped with a radio set as an experiment but unfortunately, there is no further information available about this particular conversion.
After 1936, the Polish Army equipped a few TK3 and TKS tankettes with short-range RKBc radio sets. These would have been operated by the vehicle commander. Nevertheless, these vehicles were not meant to command other tankettes, but to keep in contact with the local headquarters and possibly relay scouting information. In September 1939, Poland had around 50 TKS tankettes. The number of tankettes with the RKBc radio set is unknown, but it was at least 5. Converted tankettes are easy to identify; they had two boxes with accessories on the back (left and right sides) of the hull and a long antenna.
A TK3 with the RKB-C radio. Notice the two large boxes at the rear and the large antenna - Source: derela.republika.pl
A TK3 with the RKB-C radio. Notice the two large boxes at the rear and the large antenna – Source: derela.republika.pl
In 1936, one Vickers E (twin turret; number 1359) was converted to carry a large radio set as an experiment. However, when the new single turret 7TP version, which had a radio set, appeared, the radio-equipped Vickers Mark E project was rejected. The intended prototype was never equipped with a radio set.
In 1938-1939, four Vickers E Mark A tanks were converted into radio vehicles (probably with the type N2/C radio set). These vehicles had a big antenna with two brackets on the hull. The specifications of this type of vehicle are unknown. However, the Vickers Mark B (single turret), which were issued to commanders, had low-power Marconi SB4a radio sets.
A row of Polish Vickers Mark E tanks. The last vehicle seems to have an antenna and might be one of the radio equipped vehicles - Source: derela.republika.pl
A row of Polish Vickers Mark E tanks. The last vehicle seems to have an antenna and might be one of the radio equipped vehicles – Source: derela.republika.pl


Illustrations of the PZInż. 126 Polish Fake tank.

The first page of the PZInż. 126 instruction sheet.
A twin turreted Vickers Mark E, for comparison

When the single turret version of the 7TP was made, the engineers decided to mount a Type N2/C radio set (type N2/C) in the tank from the get-go. The back of the prototype’s turret was enlarged in order to accommodate the radio set. This arrangement became a standard on the single-turret 7TP. There were 7TPs that lacked the radio set, and used this extra space for ammunition stowage. The range of the radio set could be improved by means of a 6 metre long antenna – Source: derela.republika.pl

A Polish 7TP with the antenna visible on the roof. It is the thin white line going from the turret roof to the upper edge of the photo – Source: derela.republika.pl
The first page of the PZInż. 126 instruction sheet.
The first page of the PZInż. 126 instruction sheet.

Rear right side view of a PZInż. 126 model – Source: mojehobby.pl
A twin-turreted Polish Vickers Mark E. This was the supposed base vehicle for the PZInż. 126 - Source: Derela.Republika.pl
A twin-turreted Polish Vickers Mark E. This was the supposed base vehicle for the PZInż. 126 – Source: Derela.Republika.pl
The PZInż. 130 amphibious tank. This vehicle had the same turret as the one shown on the fictional PZInż. 126.
The PZInż. 130 amphibious tank. This vehicle had the same turret as the one shown on the fictional PZInż. 126. The prototype remained unarmed, but it was envisioned to mount a 20 mm wz.38 FK-A cannon at some point – Source: Derela.Republika.pl

The later version of the TKW tankette prototype. This is the same turret as the one used on the PZInż. 130 and the fictional PZInż. 126. It was only armed with a machine-gun – Source: Derela.Republika.pl

Links

The TKW tankette on Derela Republika
The PZInż. 126 kit on Super Hobby

PZInż. 126 specifications

Dimensions 4.88 x 2.41 x 2.00 m
16.37×7.9×6.74 ft
Crew 3 (driver, gunner, radio operator )
Propulsion Armstrong Siddeley Puma, 80-92 hp
Suspension Leaf sprung bogies
Speed 35 km/h (21 mph)
Range road/off-road 160/90 km (100/55 mi)
Armament 20 mm NKM wz.38 FK-A light cannon
Armor Front hull – 13 mm
Side hull – 13 mm
Back hull – 8 mm
Top hull – 5 mm
Bottom hull – 5 mm
Turret (all sides) – 8 mm

 


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Fake Tanks Fictional Tanks WW2 British Fake Tanks

Walmington-on-Sea APC (April Fools)

United Kingdom (1941)
Improvised APC / Ambulance – 1 Built

The armored might of the Home Guard

When the Home Guard first began in 1940 (under the name ‘Local Defense Volunteers’), there was barely any provision of weapons due to the huge loss at Dunkirk forcing arms production to go directly to the main core of the armed forces. Even with orders placed with the US for old WWI weapons, the HG still lacked firepower, thus leading to Volunteers carrying shotguns, knives on brooms, and even breaking in to museums in order to appropriate weapons. Vehicles were no exception. To mount an effective defense and rapid response against German paratroopers, vehicles were seen as a necessity. This article will focus on Lance Corporal Jones’ Van (unofficially named the Walmington-on-Sea APC in this article’s title), which was a humble butcher’s van converted into an APC/Ambulance, for the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
Of course, the vehicle came from the hit British comedy TV series Dad’s Army (BBC, 1968-1977), and was a plot point for only one episode of the show, and after that, a recurring, but minor gag. For the purposes of this April Fool’s article, a section on the story of the van (according to the show’s canon) has been written, followed by a speculative section on how the vehicle might well perform in real WWII combat. There is a section on the van in real life which gives a glancing look at its history after the end of the show, and there is also an integrated overview of real life Home Guard armored vehicles.

Design process

The idea came from two members of the Home Guard from the coastal town of Walmington-on-Sea. In roughly March, 1941*, Private Walker convinced Lance Corporal Jones, the local butcher and five-time war veteran, to loan his 1935 two-ton Ford BB Box Van to the platoon as transport, in order to gain petrol coupons from the military (and so that Walker may also use the van at night to “transport certain things“).
After working “practically non-stop” over three days, the van was converted into an APC. It was hardly luxurious. There were no seats provided to sit on in the rear of the van, although there were also roughly four racks provided for stretchers, which also doubled up as seats. It was also hardly sophisticated – sandbags were placed knee-high, which “made it bulletproof“, and marble slabs (as taken from Jones’ Butcher’s shop) were placed on the floor in order to make the vehicle landmine-proof; although these slabs were ordered to be removed until an actual invasion takes place. There were five pistol ports on each side of the truck, and another five on the roof for shooting at aircraft.
However, the roof-portholes would be useless after their demonstration to the rest of the platoon. Captain Mainwaring had telephoned GHQ about the vehicle and the reply was that the vehicle should be taken to RAFC transport pool and converted to gas power in order to save on petrol. This led to the van having a large balloon of gas placed on top with a pipe leading down the crew cabin, which fueled the engine.

Combat

The biggest limitation of the vehicle was its gas powered system. The balloon on top now meant that it has hardly an aerodynamic vehicle. Worse still was its safety – the fuel pipe was very brittle. During the drive back to Walmington-on-Sea from the RAFC transport pool, Lance Corporal Jones’ bayonet accidentally put a hole in the pipe, which caused both him and Walker to laugh and sing incessantly, feel light-headed, drive erratically, and even a gas-explosion was almost caused when Walker lit a cigarette. If the vehicle were to see any combat, it would take only a few rounds from small arms to render the vehicle little more than a static pillbox.
With space for roughly 5 passengers, plus a driver and co-driver, it was also hardly a spacious vehicle – Bedford and Opel Blitz trucks could carry at very least 12 soldiers and two drivers.
The inclusion of the marble floor slabs is also dubious. Whilst not only making the vehicle heavier, it is unlikely that they would protect against landmines. In fact, they would probably create more shrapnel, thus making the vehicle a huge hazard.
The vehicle’s capabilities were also directly correlated to its crew’s competence – something that was lacking. For example, Lance Corporal Jones once forgot the key for the rear doors during a first aid exercise, thus meaning that all crew and casualties would have to embark through the small hatch in the cab. Communication between the driver and platoon commander was also done by banging on the side of the van. This was a highly confusing system, which meant that the vehicle often drove off before its crew could embark on several humorous occasions.
One good thing to say about the vehicle is that it had an ingenious camouflage system. By keeping the original paintwork, it would hardly be associated with military purposes, thus meaning that it would be inconspicuous during a German invasion, and would not necessarily be stopped at German checkpoints.

The W-o-S APC in reality

In real life, the van was found in a terrible state in Streatham, London, by Frank Holland, a BBC assistant property manager, and was fixed up for use during the filming of the hit comedy-WW2 TV series, Dad’s Army. The first episode the van featured in was “The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones“, season 3, episode 1, and could be seen in further adventures in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea, mainly used as general transport for soldiers. After Dad’s Army ended, it was sold to a Ford Dealer in Finchley, and sold again in 1990 to the Patrick Motor Museum, Birmingham for £11,200 ($16,197). It was then sold at auction with four manikins of Dad’s Army characters in 2012 by Bonham’s for £63,100 ($91,256). It was bought by a syndicate of two Norfolk families for the Dad’s Army museum (located in Norfolk), although since its purchase, there has been fundraising in order to repay the families. In February, 2016, apprentices at the Ford Dagenham plant gave the vehicle a full mechanical overhaul.

Real Home Guard armored cars

Using Jones’ van as an APC was not exactly a far cry from the reality of the real Home Guard. Details of Home Guard improvised armored cars are sketchy at best, but according to photos, the Home Guard made plenty of improvisations ranging from a Humber Saloon car being armored up, all the way up to taking Mark IV #2324 male tank out of a local museum for active service! One of the most interesting examples is the “Malcolm Campbell Cars“. The famous land and water-speed record holder, Malcolm Campbell, was the commander of the 56th London Division Home Guard unit, and built a prototype of a Dodge armored car. Seventy were built in by Briggs Motor Bodies of Dagenham by August, 1940. Some even featured weapons taken from crashed German aircraft, in order to increase firepower. These vehicles should not be confused with the French improvised “Automitrailleuse Dodge” trucks.
The similar “Bison” was a series of lorries which were converted into ‘mobile pillboxes’ for use by the RAF to protect airfields, as well as use by the Home Guard. The concept came from Charles Bernard Matthews, who was the director of Concrete Limited in Leeds, and previously in the Royal Engineers in WWI. After presenting some prototypes to military officials, and having made some changes, several types of this truck (based on any available trucks) were produced using concrete armor, due to a steel shortage. Somewhere between 200-300 trucks were made. Whilst hardly effective protection against heavy weapons, they would defend nicely against German paratroopers. One semi-replica remains in Bovington Tank Museum today.
However, by 1942, as weapons became available to the Home Guard, these improvised weapons and vehicles were almost certainly replaced with things such as the Standard Beaverette. Apart from which, the threat of a German invasion had substantially diminished by this time.
Sources:
Dad’s Army, Season 3, Episode 1: “The Armoured Might of Lance-Corporal Jones“, first broadcast 1th September, 1969, BBC.
History Revealed, Issue 26, February 2016“, a magazine publication
Arming the British Home Guard, 1940-1944” by D.M. Clarke, Cranfield University
Dailymail.co.uk (Information on the auction)
bonhams.com (Online auction listing)
bbc.co.uk (1st story) (Information on the vehicle after auction)
bbc.co.uk (2nd story) (Information on the vehicle after auction)
classiccarsforsale.co.uk (Information on the vehicle after auction)
Dad’s Army on Wikipedia
Jones’ Van on Wikipedia
Bison Concrete Armoured Lorries on Wikipedia
ifelic.co.uk (Home Guard Mark IV tank) Note: Not necessarily reliable
militaryhistorynow.com (Improvised weapons of the Home Guard)
war44.com forums (More Home Guard vehicles)
ww2incolor.com (More Home Guard vehicles)
ww2photo.se (More Home Guard vehicles)
*date based on a later episode which announces the sinking of the Bismarck

Jones-APC
Rendition of Jones’ van.
7502674070_30cd2256ee_b
Jones’ van as it stands today.
600px-Dads_M1917
The Walmington-on-Sea APC during presentation to the Platoon. There was a total of fifteen pistol ports.
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View of the cab interior after conversion to a gas-system. The gas-feed pipe can be seen. Photo taken moments before the bayonet caused a gas leak. Left: Lance Corporal Jones. Right: Private Walker.

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Mark IV tank #2324 at the HMS Excellent (onshore training school), 1940. It was reportedly refurbished for Home Guard service the same year.

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An improvised armored car based on a Humber Saloon in service with the Home Guard. It had space for six passengers, and windows were replaced with metal sheeting with slits as firing ports.
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Type 3 “Bison” armored car. It used concrete for armor due to the steel shortage.
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Another improvised armored car of the Home Guard, London, 1940. Believed to be based on a Rolls Royce. Many other unnamed one-off improvisations exist.