Categories
WW1 Danish Armor

Gideon 2 T Panserautomobil

Denmark (1917)
Armored Car – 1 mock-up Built

Already before the start of World War I, most larger armies in Europe were introduced to the armored car in one way or another. During the war, armored cars were also quickly deployed on the battlefields in increasing numbers, making it a regular piece of equipment. However, for the Kingdom of Denmark, things were a bit different. Fielding only a small army, and avoiding involvement in the war, the concept of the armored car was not physically introduced. The military, however, were not oblivious of their existence and a commission was set up in 1915 to study the armored concept. In early 1917, this led to the creation of a truck equipped with plywood to resemble armor.

The only known image of the Gideon truck equipped with plywood. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Developments in Denmark

Modest motorization of the Danish Army began in 1908 when the first truck was purchased. The truck in question was a Fiat 18/24 hp which had been selected after evaluation of several brands. During the next year, the Army Technical Corps (Danish: Hærens tekniske Korps, shortened to HtK) was established. This unit became, among other things, responsible for the acquisition of new weaponry, including vehicles.

The first design office of the HtK was established in 1915. Captain C.H. Rye was placed in command of this new office. From 1902, he had served with the technical services of the artillery and, since 1909, with the HtK. The new office was tasked with developing the concept of an armored car for the Army. To get acquainted with the aspects and problems of motorization and armoring, Captain Rye was dispatched to Germany for four weeks to study their approach. Based on his findings, the design office started developing a variety of concepts, but none were able to be implemented.

Captain Charles Henry Rye, the commander of the design office of HtK that was established in 1915. By 1930, he was promoted to Major General. Source: skakenkrig.dk

That would change in early 1917. In 1916, the Army had ordered several trucks from the company Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S, which produced vehicles under the name ‘Gideon’. With the modest funds available, one of the 2-tonne trucks, with registration number HtK 114, was experimentally equipped with plywood resembling a proposed armor layout. Work was carried out during the spring of 1917 and subsequent trials proved the concept was successful. The HtK expressed the desire to continue the production of a real armored car. On 4th February 1918, HtK sent a letter to the War Ministry requesting continuation of the project and funds to construct an actual armored vehicle. Shortly thereafter, on 8th February, Mr. Munch, the Minister of War, responded negatively. He stated that it was not in the vision of the Ministry to buy an armored car, due to a lack of available funds.

Thus, the project that could have produced the first armored car of Denmark was canceled completely. The plywood was removed and the truck was rebuilt as a maintenance vehicle in 1918, to be used by the Army Aviation School (Danish: Hærens Flyvenskole). It was rebuilt yet again in 1920 and, at that time, also received HtK 14 as a new registration. Sometime in 1922 or 1923, it was disposed of and scrapped, finally ending the life of a truck that could have been Denmark’s first armored car.

The honor of being the nation’s first armored car was, instead, reserved for a vehicle built as a private initiative in the summer of 1917. This vehicle was based on a French Hotchkiss car and received the registration HtK 46 and is therefore known as the Hotchkiss Htk 46. This vehicle was based on a different design philosophy compared to the Gideon truck. Whereas the Gideon truck slightly resembled the German approach to armored car building, with a big superstructure and a fixed, round turret on the roof, the Hotchkiss took the Allied approach, with a smaller size, and open-topped construction, also seen with French and Belgian armored cars.

The Hotchkiss HtK 46 in 1917, just after it was built. Due to an overloaded chassis, this vehicle was not very successful and one can only wonder whether the Gideon would have performed better. Source: Det kgl. Bibliotek

Design

The German influence is visible in the design, most notably in the fixed round turret on the roof with gunports facing in several directions. The original design of the flatbed truck was largely left intact but with the open driver’s cab and open flatbed fully enclosed in a plywood body. In front of the driver was one large opening for vision. The original cabin doors were retained, and a further door was added in the rear superstructure. The engine bay and the lower portion of the driver’s cabin were not covered in plywood, but if an actual armored body was to be built, these parts would likely have been armored as well. A driver in the cabin, a commander in the turret, and possibly up to two gunners would have crewed the vehicle.

One gunport was placed in the front and one on each side. It is unknown if any gunports were made in the rear since the single known photograph only shows the front and left side of the vehicle. If the armored version had been built, it would have been armed with several machine guns. In comparison, the Hotchkiss HtK 46 was equipped with two Madsen 8×58 mm machine guns. A Gideon 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 14.8 hp, powered the truck.

The Gideon, compared to the German Ehrhardt E-V/4. Source Left: armyvehicles.dk, Right: Wikimedia

Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S

In light of the relative obscurity of the vehicle, it is also worthwhile to mention the manufacturer of the truck that was used. In 1891, Rudolf Kramper founded a company that started to produce agricultural machines. Besides this venture, he designed and started to build so-called Gideon engines in 1893. This production expanded and production commenced of several types of engines, with different purposes and different types of fuel consumptions. However, due to financial difficulties, Kramper had to file bankruptcy in 1901. This led to the formation of a partnership with Sofus Jørgensen and the company was re-established as Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S.

From 1913 onwards, the firm also started to build vehicles under the name Gideon, after the name of the engines already in production. Before the firm had to file bankruptcy again, in 1920, it had produced up to 160 or possibly even 184 vehicles. No other Danish vehicle manufacturer reached those production numbers.

The Gideon 2 T in question, either before armor-resembling plywood was added or after it was removed. After the plywood was removed, the truck was used until 1922/1923. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Conclusion

Glancing over the single photograph, one may think the Gideon was of improvised construction, but in fact, it was the result of over a year of study and conceptualization. Naturally, plywood is much lighter than actual armor plating so whether a real armored vehicle would have performed as satisfactorily remains speculation, although the increase of weight was likely taken into account during the trials. Like many other armored vehicle concepts, it was eventually killed due to a lack of funds. Although the Gideon can take the place as the first armored car project in the Kingdom of Denmark, the first armored car became the Hotchkiss HtK 46, which was privately funded.

Speculative illustration of the Gideon 2T armored car based on the only available photograph. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications

 

Crew 4 (Commander, Driver, several Gunners)
Propulsion Gideon 4-cylinder petrol, 14.8 hp (11 kW)
Armament at least one machine gun
Armor plywood simulating armor, proposed thickness unknown

Sources

Gideon 2 T Truck, armyvehicles.dk.
Gideon 2 T, 1917, armyvehicles.dk.
Charles Henry Rye, by Povl Gain, Danish Biographical Encyclopedia.
Luksusbil fra Horsens, Horsens Folkeblad, 14 May 1994, PDF.
Pancerni wikingowie – broń pancerna w armii duńskiej 1918-1940, Polygon Magazin, 6/2011.
Rud. Kramper & Jørgensen A/S, horsensbilleder.dk.

Categories
WW1 Danish Armor

Hotchkiss Htk 46

Denmark (1917-23)
Armored Car – 1 Built

The first armored vehicle which was built in and used by Denmark, the HtK46, is an obscure and widely unknown vehicle. It was constructed during the spring of 1917 but it performed very poorly. The vehicle was involved in an accident in 1920, and in 1923, the decision was made to scrap the HtK46. The vehicle was not built by or for the military, but it was a private gift for a civil guard unit.

The HtK46 in 1917, just after it was built. The vehicle is lacking several features, like headlights and a small shield-like armor plate that was mounted on the roof. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Civil Guard

The civil guard in question was the Akademisk Skytteforening (AS, Academic Shooting Club). It was founded in April 1861 with the purpose of familiarizing students with the firing and handling of guns. As a result of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, during which the Danish Kingdom tried to gain control over the Duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg but ended up losing them to the Prussian and Austrian Empire, civil guard units increased in popularity in Denmark. This led to the foundation of the Akademisk Skyttekorps (Academic Shooting Corp) in 1866, whose members not only practiced with firearms, but also received physical military training.

When World War I broke out in 1914, the neutral Danish Kingdom reacted by mobilizing the army, which took strategic positions near the border with the German Empire and manned the fortifications of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The Akademisk Skyttekorps was formed into a battalion as well and was stationed at the northern defense line of Copenhagen, where the unit had to erect field fortifications. Due to good training, the unit was soon regarded as one of the armies’ elite units.

Here the vehicle is seen from the front left. A Madsen light machine gun is placed in one of the notches. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

The Armored car

Maybe inspired by the stories about armored vehicles which appeared in Danish newspapers during World War I, one of the most renowned members of the AS, Director Erik Jørgen-Jensen, decided to gift an armored car to the battalion. Production of the vehicle commenced in 1917. As a base, a regular unmodified French Hotchkiss model 1909 car chassis was used.

Armor of an unknown thickness was added around the complete vehicle. The engine was protected by a trapezoid-shaped armored bonnet, the sides of which could be hinged open to access the engine. Two small hatches were located on the front, which could be opened to let air flow into the radiator, cooling the engine. If the vehicle was ever to see combat, the hatches could temporarily be closed to increase the protection of the engine, but never for too long, as the engine would overheat. This solution of small hatches was also utilized by the Belgian Minerva and British Rolls-Royce armored cars, among others.

From the bonnet, the armor plates were sloped upwards, protecting the front of the crew compartment. From there, the armor was kind of folded around the vehicle ending in a pointed shape at the rear of the vehicle. Although an armored roof was installed above the commander’s and driver’s position, the rest of the compartment was open-topped. Two visions slits faced forward, a third was located in the left side of the hull, and two others in the right side. The driver most likely sat on the right side, as that was the regular configuration in which Hotchkiss delivered their cars. Thus, the commander would have sat on the left.

The rear part of the crew compartment provided space for up to two gunners. Four notches were made in the side armor, two on each side, in which a Madsen light machine gun could be rested and fired. Later on, a low armor plate was mounted on top of the roof with two notches facing forwards, allowing the guns to be fired to the front as well. The vehicle was camouflaged in a grass-green color but received a camouflage pattern sometime during its service. Two headlights were mounted on the outside of the frontal plate of the compartment. On the right side of the crew compartment, a reserve tire could be carried.

The HtK46 during a later stage of its life when it received a camouflage scheme. Source: armyvehicles.dk

Into Service

It has to be noted that, although the HtK46 was the first Danish armored car, it was not the first attempt to produce an armored vehicle in Denmark. Already, during the spring of 1917, a Gideon 2-Ton truck was experimentally covered in plywood to resemble armor and was trialed successfully, but the request for its purchase with real armor was turned down.

During the second half of September 1917, construction of the vehicle was finished. A special armored car unit was founded within the structure of the AS battalion. Senior Lieutenant E. Gørtz was appointed as the commander of the vehicle, and Moltke-Leth was appointed driver. The vehicle received the registration number HtK46, according to Danish customs to use HtK-xx to register their military vehicles.

In October that same year, the vehicle was used during army exercises in North Zealand, an area north of Copenhagen. The performance was also observed by Jørgen-Jensen, the vehicle’s donor. During these maneuvers, the vehicle ditched itself but was successfully recovered.

It became apparent that the vehicle performed rather poorly because the car chassis was overloaded. It was unable to drive off-road and even driving on the road proved to be extremely difficult. In 1920, the vehicle was involved in an accident. An anecdote claims that the vehicle could not brake and it drove straight into a chicken coop. Although the vehicle was not very useful, it remained in service until 1923, when it was scrapped.


The only publicly known image of the HtK46 showing its actual registration plate. Also, note the spare rubber tire which hangs on the right side of the vehicle. Source: akademiskskytteforening.dk
A much clearer picture from roughly the same angle. Source: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

Conclusion

Being first does not always mean being best, and the HtK46 is a perfect example of that. Although it was the first armored car in the Kingdom of Denmark, it was one of the worst too. Nevertheless, the car remained in service for roughly five years. Fortunately for the Danes, it never had to prove itself in combat. The HtK46 was not the last domestically-built armored car in Denmark. During the early 1930s, several armored cars were designed, but these performed unsatisfactorily. Eventually, the Danish Army opted for several Swedish-built armored cars from Landsverk.



Illustration of the Hotchkiss Htk 46 produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Specifications

 

Crew 4 (Commander, Driver, 2 Gunners)
Propulsion 4-cylinder 2.200 cm3, 4-speed transmission
Suspension leaf spring
Armament: 1-2 x Madsen 8x58mmR light machine gun

Sources

Hotchkiss M 1909, Danish Army Vehicles.
Akademisk skytteforening Historie, Akademisk skytteforening.
Fyens Stiftstidende, En danks Panserautomobil, 13 September 1917
Esbjerg Avis, 10 October 1917.


Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

The third issue covers WW1 armored vehicles — Hotchkiss Htk46 and Schneider CA and CD in Italian Service. WW2 section contains two splendid stories of the US and German ‘Heavy Armor’ — T29 Heavy Tank and Jagdtiger.

Our Archive section covers the history of early requirements for the Soviet heavy (large) tank. Worth mentioning, that the article is based on documents never published before.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create a terrain for diorama. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of Northrop’s Early LRI Contenders — N-126 Delta Scorpion, N-144 and N-149!

All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
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