Categories
WW2 Italian Fast Tanks WW2 Spanish Tanks

Fiat-Ansaldo CV.35 L.f. ‘Lanzallamas compacto’

Nationalist Spain/Italy (1937-1939) Light Flamethrower Tank – 8 converted

In the everlasting quest of improving firepower, some of the tank manufacturing nations came to the conclusion that this could be achieved by equipping tanks with flamethrowers. In the 1930s, Italy decided to improve the firepower of their aging fleet of tanks by this method and modified at least one of their Fiat 3000’s with a flamethrower.
The CV-33 and CV-35 series would also have flame-throwing variants, this time by means of an attached trailer carrying the flammable liquid. These saw use in Ethiopia and well into WWII, with a few being sent to Spain for deployment with the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (C.T.V.) alongside Franco’s forces.
However, trailer equipped tanks had their limitations as maneuverability and combat value was restricted and, thus, alternatives had to be found.

Italian Tanks and Flame-Throwing in the Spanish Civil War

Soon after the Generals’ coup against the Spanish Republic in July 1936, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany sent aid to Franco and airlifted his main fighting force from the Spanish possessions in North Africa to southern Spain and the road to Madrid. There was a very limited number of tanks in Spain at this time and those that were available were effectively obsolete. Therefore, Italy and Germany provided Franco with modern tanks (CV series and Panzer I respectively), whilst the USSR did likewise with the Republic (T-26’s and BT-5’s).
From the very first tank engagement between the forces, the Soviet T-26 proved superior, wreaking havoc at Seseña in October 1936 by destroying 11 Italian tanks (CV-33’s including flame-throwing variants). The only Nationalist tanks able to counter the Soviet tanks were those Italian ones equipped with flamethrowers, or at least, when within the 60-70m of its firing range.
As a result, a series of projects to improve firepower by including more powerful guns such as the 20mm Breda (Pz.I Breda and CV 33-35 Breda) and flamethrowers were proposed.
As early as October 1936, the first experiments were carried out with the German Panzer I by equipping it with the Flammenwerfer 35 flamethrower with the flammable liquid container inside the tank. Its firing range was a mere 25-30 m, so plans were made to equip it with larger, more powerful flamethrowers, but, due to the cramped space within the tank’s turret and interior, this was abandoned. The idea of attaching external flammable liquid containers was rejected as it had limited construction and usage value. However, with time this idea was revived for the Italian CV series tanks.

Topolino gets a Flamethrower

In total, 155 tanks of the Carro Veloce L3/33 (CV-33) and L3/35 (CV-35) variants (including flame-thrower versions [L.f.]) were sent to Spain. These tanks did not gain much of a reputation there and were nicknamed ‘lata de sardinas’ (sardine tin) because of their small space and poor armor, and ‘topolino’, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse.
The new ‘compact’ flame-thrower version did not undergo many changes from the main L.f. variant; the trailer was replaced by a smaller capacity flammable liquid container placed atop the engine deck. The container could be removed to access the engine or to reinstate the original trailer version. This was not a completely new idea as the Italians had used CV’s using the same principle in Ethiopia, though in a more improvised manner by utilizing a metal barrel as the container. Furthermore, the first two transformations carried out in Spain, according to Colonel Babrieri of the C.T.V., were based on plans he had designed himself back in Italy for the modification of tanks planned for the 3rd tank regiment Bologna.

Only known photo of a ‘lanzallamas compacto’ in action in Spain, presumably taken during the Catalan Offensive – Photo: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 109.
In Spain however, the building of the containers and future transformations was requisitioned in ‘escrito nº455’ by Colonel Roberto Olmi of the C.T.V. to the Comandancia General de Artillería Nacional on December 14th, 1938. The construction of the armored containers, authorized on December 22nd, was undertaken in the recently captured Trubia factory, which had plenty of experience with heavy machinery.
The first two modifications were carried out with Babrier’s design and tested in front of a joint Italian and Spanish committee of members of the Reagruppamento Carristi (Tank regiment) of the C.T.V. and Comandancia General de Artillería Nacional who found the transformations satisfactory and drew up the final production plans.
After an additional six vehicles were transformed, production finished. The Italians found the vehicles satisfactory enough to transform more vehicles for the Regio Esercito.


Illustration of the Fiat-Ansaldo CV.35 L.f. ‘Lanzallamas compacto’ by Alexe Pavel, based on an illustration by David Bocquelet.

Spot the Difference

Given that there are two different versions of this ‘compact’ modification (Spanish and Italian versions), confusion can arise in distinguishing them, but the differences are easy enough to spot. The key is in the flammable liquid container. The Spanish containers are bigger, making them stand higher than the top of the tank, whilst the smaller Italian ones are in line with the height of the tank. Even though this limited the flammable liquid capacity of the container to 100 liters, it meant it was less vulnerable to enemy fire. The capacity of the ‘Spanish’ containers is unknown, but it can be assumed to be more than 125 liters.

Side photo of an ‘Italian compacto’ with the substantially smaller flammable liquid container. Note that the height of the container is in line with the top of the tank. Photo: Molina Franco & Manrique García, p. 47.

The ‘Spanish compacto’ with the bigger flammable liquid container. Photo: Mortera Pérez (2013), p. 156.

Conclusion

Not much is known about their active use or how successful they were, but there is a picture of one being used during the Catalonia Offensive of November 1938-February 1939, and it is possible they were also used during the Aragón and Ebro offensives earlier in 1938.
The ‘compactos’ were seen during the victory parades in Barcelona and Madrid along with other Italian tanks. It can be assumed that like much other Italian equipment, the remaining ‘compactos’ were left in Spain.

The vehicle leading in the center was a ‘Spanish’ modified ‘compacto’ recognizable by its larger flammable liquid container. The photo was taken during the victory parade in Madrid and shows the tanks next to the Cibeles fountain. Photo: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 109.
The main principal advantage the ‘compactos’ had over the normal flamethrower variant was their increased maneuverability, but they also had their drawbacks; increased mobility was gained at the expense of removing the trailer and thus, reducing the capacity for the flammable liquid (520 liters). Smaller capacity meant reduced operational time of the flamethrower, resulting in the vehicle having a very limited usage.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.3 m (10.4×4.59×4.27 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 3.2 tons
Crew 2 (driver, flame thrower operator)
Propulsion Fiat SPA CV3, 6 cyl, 43 hp
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Range (road) 125 km (78 mi)
Armament Flame thrower
Armor From 6 to 12 mm (0.24-0.47 in)
Total Production 8

Links & Resources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte I (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte II (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2013)
Javier de Mazarrasa, La Máquina y la Historia Nº2. Blindados en España 1ª Parte: La Guerra Civil 1936-1939 (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1991)
Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Italianos en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)

Categories
WW2 Italian Fast Tanks

Carro Veloce 29

Italy Kingdom of Italy (1929)
Light Tank – 25 Built

Italy was hit very hard by the First World War, losing hundreds of thousands of men and crippling its economy. The Italians had designed and produced their own tanks but instead of mass-producing their own, elected to produce a version of the French Renault FT instead. This tank, known as the Fiat 3000, formed the bulk of Italian armor in the post-WW1 era but was far from ideal for the requirements of the army, which needed to be able to patrol the vast expanses of open desert in North Africa just as easily as support infantry attacks in the Italian Alps. By the late 1920s, the need for an armored vehicle capable of operating in all terrains in which the Italian forces operated was identified. At the time, the only tanks available to Italy were the Fiat 3000, a single Fiat 2000, or foreign vehicles such as the Renault FT or Schneider CA1 among others. The Fiat 2000 was a dead project, too big, too heavy and too slow. The Fiat 3000 was also very slow and weakly armed with just machine guns (until a 37mm gun was finally added).

CV.29 during testing circa early 1930’s. Source: Capellano and Battistelli

A pair of Carden Loyd Mark VI’s during testing fitted with the Fiat 6.5mm Model 14 machine gun. The fact these are listed as the Carden Loyd Mark VI and not as the CV.29 suggests that this image was taken in 1929 prior to acceptance. Source: Ceva and Curami

Original Carden Loyd Mark VI light tank with Vickers machine gun. The tripod is stowed on the front of the machine on the right-hand side. Source: Beamish collection

Development

A faster tank was needed. The logical first step in such a program is to evaluate similar foreign vehicles to assess what is available on the market and either purchase that or modify it to suit your needs. In 1929, General Ugo Cavallero was aware of this need and set the ball rolling to examine a number of British-built Carden-Loyd Mark V* and VI light tanks for evaluation. Great Britain was seen as being at the forefront of tank technology by the Italians and so had a great influence upon the thinking regarding armored vehicles.

General Ugo Cavallero. Source Wikipedia

Testing

The Inspectorate responsible for evaluating the Carden Loyd Mark V* and VI was the Ispettorato Tecnico Automobilistico. A number of both vehicles were purchased via Captain Enrico De Braud in London and brought out to Italy for testing.

Carden Loyd Mark V* with Schwarzlose machine gun tested by the Italians. Source: Ceva and Curami
These 1929 trials were not completely successful. The Mark VI vehicle was under-armed for a start but was small enough to navigate some of the mountainous terrain of Italy’s north as well as being transportable by truck etc. which was ideal for colonial service and was therefore accepted into service as the Carro Veloce (Fast Tank) of 1929 (CV.29). The Mark V*, on the other hand, seems to have gained sufficient interest to later form the basis of some plans by Ansaldo for the mounting of other weapons.

Carro Veloce 29, registration RE 178, undergoing testing. The vehicle is displaying an official registration plate and markings for the vehicle belongs to 3rd Squadron, probably vehicle number 9. Note the view of the unusual and distinctive roof covers. Source: Iron Arm
Further trials of the CV.29 included trials in Genoa against anti-tank obstacles in 1930 and 1931, desert trials in Libya in March 1932 and later in Italian Somaliland in 1933.

CV.29 during trials. Circa early 1930’s. The vehicle belongs to 1st Platoon, unidentified Squadron. Source: unknown

CV.29 with Fiat 6.5mm Model 1915 aviation machine gun and small rectangular shield seen from the right-hand side. Source: Pignato

Line up on CV.29’s in service. Machine guns are covered and the roof hatches open. Source: Ceva and Curami

CV.29 during obstacle crossing trials January 1933


The Carro Veloce (CV) 29 light tank. Illustrated by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Production

Despite the shortcomings of the Carden-Loyd Mark. VI, there was no other suitable candidate available at the time and, as a result, kits for 25 Carden-Loyd Mark VI vehicles were purchased. The intention was to complete the assembly of the final 4 vehicles in Italy. The vehicles arrived in two batches, the first fully assembled comprising 21 tanks and the second comprising parts for a further 4 vehicles. In 1934, an exclusive licence was acquired by Terni from Carden-Loyd for the production of 100 more vehicles in Italy. Experience in using, testing and assembling the CV.29 would be put to use later with development in Italy for the successor vehicle, the CV.33 series.

Parade of 5 CV.29’s reviewed by Mussolini (on horseback). Vehicle registration numbers visible are RE178 and RE177 suggesting other three will be RE176, RE175, and RE174 respectively. Vehicles belong to 3rd Squadron. Source: Guglielmi collection

CV.29 zipping across the desert, February 1938. Source: unknown

Technical Details

The Carden-Loyd Mark VI was accepted into Italian service under the name ‘Carro Veloce 29’, ‘Fast Tank 1929’ (CV.29). The name alone identifies what the shortfall was that the Italian’s were seeking to address; that of speed. Power for the CV.29 came from a 2.9 liter Ford Model T 4 cylinder petrol engine producing 20 to 22hp at 1600rpm and permitting speeds of up to 48km/h on a hard surface. The 27-litre fuel tank was sufficient for a range of 100 km on a road or 2 hours of operation off-road.
Protection was provided by bulletproof plate bolted to a steel frame and, in total, ranged from just 4mm thick to 9mm thick. This was still very thin, barely bulletproof in fact. Armament for the Italian vehicle was a 6.5mm Fiat Model 1914 aviation machine gun in place of the water-cooled .303 caliber Vickers machine gun and, while sufficient for anti-infantry purposes, it was insufficient for use against enemy armor. The gun was mounted in the front on the right-hand side and serviced by the commander.
Istruzione Provvisoria sui Carri Armati Veloce (Instructions in the use of Fast Tanks) gave little guidance on how these new fast tanks were supposed to be used though. Despite a need for fast tanks being important enough to warrant the purchase, testing and domestic production of these tanks, there was little additional guidance as to how they were to be deployed. The only noteworthy difference for the Carro Veloce to that of the existing tanks (Fiat 3000) was that they were seen as being ideally suited to working with the cavalry and bersaglieri (an elite light infantry unit of the Italian Army) because of the increased mobility.
There was no intention for the tank to be used in the role of the direct assault on enemy positions or even for countering enemy armor. The philosophy was that enemy tanks would be sufficiently dealt with by Italian artillery.

CV.29 during comparative testing of it and the replacement Carro Veloce. Source: Ceva and Curami

CV.29 towing smoke production trailer, May 1935. Source: Pignato

Variants

The CV.29 was effectively a short-term tank, meant to provide for the needs of the army while a new tank was prepared and only 25 were purchased. Even so, at least one variant emerged, used for towing a smoke producing trailer. It was demonstrated in May 1935 and was capable of producing a smoke screen. The trailer into which the smoke unit was put could also be used for other purposes, such as for carrying ammunition. It appears to be identical to the Carden Loyd trailer which could be used either on wheels or with tracks. The number of these trailers the Italians purchased is not known and it may have been produced locally as well.

Smoke production trailer ‘cingolato nebbiogeno’. Source: Pignato

The Carden Loyd trailer seen without tracks on the same type of straight bar. Source: Beamish archives

Conclusion

The CV.29, like the Carden-Loyd Mark VI, was very small, lightly armored and lightly armed. It had the mobility the Italians needed both tactically with speed and strategically with its small size and ease of transportation. It was not ideal but it was available and formed the foundations for future development. In about 1938, a single example of the CV.29 was sold to the Kingdom of Hungary for L75,000. The vehicles were still technically in service into December 1940 by which time it was being referred to confusingly as the ‘L.29’. The fate of them is not known and none are known to survive.

CV-29 specifications

Dimensions 2.5 x 1.7 x 1.28 m
Total weight, battle ready 1.7 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander/Gunner, Driver)
Propulsion 2.9 litre Ford Model T petrol 20-22hp @ 1600rpm
Speed (road) 40 km/h
Armament 6.5mm Fiat Model 1914 aviation machine gun
Armor 9-14 mm
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Sources

Veicoli da Combattimento dell’esercito italiano dal 1939 al 1945, Falessi and Pafi
Italie1939-45.com
Iron Arm: The Mechanization of Mussolini’s Army, 1920-1940, John Sweet
Italian Light Tanks 1919-1945, Cappellano and Battistelli
“Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World´s Tanks and Fighting Vehicles”, Christopher Foss, 1978.
Carro Veloce C.V.33 e C.V.35, Storia Militare Magazine, March 1994
Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2, Pignato and Cappellano
Italian Armoured Vehicles of World War Two, Nicola Pignato
La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano, Ceva and Curami

Categories
WW2 Italian Fast Tanks

Carro Veloce L3/33 (CV-33)

Italy (1933-35)
Tankette – 1,200 built

The Carden-Loyd based CV-29 tankette

In June 1940, when Italy declared war to France, the CV-33 and 35 were by far the most numerous armored vehicles in service with the Regio Esercito (Royal Italian Army). This was a combination of three factors: the international export success of the British Carden-Loyd tankette, a lack of industrial resources and capacity, which prevented the construction of bigger tanks in the early to mid-1930s, and the need for a fast infantry tank for colonial conquest. The CV-33 would, indeed form the bulk of the Italian armored forces during the Ethiopian campaign. Eventually, no less than 2700 tankettes in three main versions were delivered to the Italian army in all, of which 1216 exported and 1506 in service with the Regio Esercito.
The licence for the Carden-Loyd tankette was acquired by FIAT in 1929. The first prototype was ready in the same year, called CV-29, for “Carro Veloce modello 1929”. Carro Veloce means “fast tank”, which was the main characteristic of the vehicle. This was well suited well with the Italian head of staff’s tactical theories. The aim was to create an effective mechanized division combining fast tanks and trucks carrying infantry. As such, the CV-29 was a lightweight, small and cramped machine, initially being armed with just one machine-gun. The CV-29 was minimally protected, being able to sustain only rifle bullets. Ultimately, twenty one of these “pre-production” models were built, used in exercises and serving as testbeds for improvements, which led to the large production model CV-33.

Design of the CV-33

The CV-33 was the first locally truly mass-produced tank in service in the Royal Italian army. 1200 were ultimately built by FIAT in Turin and the Ansaldo Company of Genoa until 1935 (Serie I). The Carro Veloce Modello 33 was slightly lengthened, widened and had a better engine, the petrol six-cylinder watercooled FIAT-SPA CV3, capable of delivering 43 horsepower (32 kW). The suspension and tracks were almost untouched, but the armor was slightly increased to 14 mm (0.55 in) for the frontal part and sides, and the overall weight jumped to 3.2 tons, while speed slightly decreased.
In theory, this gave these tanks the ability to withstand most rifle antitank bullets and heavy machine gun fire (12.7 mm/0.5 in). But the rear, roof and lower hull were still too thin for this. Plus, 1940’s modern AT rifles were capable of piercing this frontal armor with ease. As a consequence, in 1938, all CV-33s (then renamed L33/3) were retrofitted to the CV-35 standard. The Serie I was superseded by the Serie II in 1936, with a twin 8 mm (0.31 in) mount. This proved more effective, and all vehicles were thus retrofitted, save a few other Serie I conversions.

Main variants

One L3/33 based variant was the L3 Zapattori, a bridge carrier used by the Royal Corp of Engineers. The L33 LF (for “Lanciaflamme”) was a flamethrower version, adapted on L33/3 serie II and L33/5 serie I-II versions. This version was widely used in the African campaign, and proved valuable against British fortifications, but saw service starting from the Abyssinian campaign and as late as the Armistice. The L3/R was a radio version, largely used as command tanks during the African campaign.

Exports

Due to its low cost (86,800 lire in 1935), the Ansaldo-FIAT CV-33 and CV-35 were successfully exported to South America. Brasil, Bolivia and Paraguay received around forty units in all, which saw in action during the Chaco war. After a series of incidents on the border with Colombia, the Venezuelan army leadership decided to buy at least a few foreign tanks, cheap and simple to operate. The choice fell on the Italian CV-33, and two were purchased and arrived in 1935.
It is estimated that 16 CV-33s were purchased by Iraq. Their part in the 1941 anti-British rebellion is unknown, but two seem to have seen action in Fallujah on May 22, 1941.
China had become the largest customer of tankettes. In 1936, the Chinese army received a delivery of 100 CV-33s, locally equipped with 9 mm (0.35 in) Villar Perosa M1914 LMG or 7.92 mm (0.31 in) SAFAT. Those from the 2nd Tank Battalion were used against the Japanese during the war of 1937-1938.
The Spanish Nationalist forces also received a dozen or more CV-33s. They were used in 1939, at the very end of the war. It influenced the indigenous C.C.I. tipo 1937.
In 1935, CV-33s were acquired for the Bulgarian army, due to its relatively small cost and high operational reliability, and named “Ansaldi-Fiat”. On March 1, 1935, the vehicles were given to the 1st Engineer Regiment, part of the garrison of Sofia. They served for training with infantry, but intervened in South Dobrogea in September-October 1940, during the annexation of the province. During World War II, these vehicles were kept for training, but they were given in a hurry, in October 1943, to the 10th and 11th Armored Brigade Companies based at Sliven, and managed to survive until April 1945.
Austria signed a contract with Italy to provide the army with 36 CV-33 serie IIs in 1934, delivered in the autumn of 1935, and 36 more were received in March 1936. Schwarzloze 8 mm (0.31 in) machine guns were installed instead of Bredas. 4 tank companies were formed and stationed at Bruknendorf. However, in March 1938, during the annexation, these vehicles were seized by the Wehrmacht, distributed among four Leichte Panzerdivisions for tests and training.
Albania purchased some CV-33s in 1935, although Italy already had planed to occupy the Albanian territory, and these were quickly back with their former owners.

Wartime career of the L3/33

The L3 tankette’s career as a whole was quite impressive, spanning from the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) campaign to the surrender of Kesselring’s German troops in Italy, in May 1945. In Abyssinia, they tested their metal in several operations, and took losses in the battle of the Oasis of Gorrahey on October 11, 1935. In December, Ethiopian soldiers near Addis Abeba assaulted tankettes with any means available, capturing many prisoners in the process. Some CV-33s were also apparently captured almost intact and reused for a short period, with as many as 18 according to some western sources. The campaign was over in May 1936.
Other areas or operations and battle records includes the Spanish Civil War, Albania, Greece, British Somaliland and the Horn of Africa, Libya, the Eastern Front (Ukraine), the Balkans (Bulgaria, Yugoslavia), Sicily, Sardinia, the whole of Italy and the South of France (Cote d’Azur). It seems more CV-33s were exported than CV-35s, so the latter were comparatively more important in the composition of armored units. By 1942, the remainder of these tankettes were no longer in first line, and by 1943 they were generally given to small units responsible for anti-partisan operations in the Balkans, and later in Italy itself.
Despite of their poor battle records, the L3 family of tankettes were fast, with a low profile, which made them difficult to hit, and had low consumption. Available in large numbers, they were used as scouts, advanced screening and flanking forces, and for colonial and police duties, or derived into flame-thrower versions and anti-tank vehicles. The L3/33 had several nicknames which reflected the lack of confidence of Italian crews in its flimsy protection: “scatola di sardine” (sardine box) or “cassa di morto” (dead man’s box), or even “bara d’acciaio” (iron coffins).

Links

About the L3/33 on Wikipedia

L3/33 specifications

Dimensions 3.03 x 1.4 x 1.2 m (9.94 x 4.59 x 3.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 2.9 tons (4410 lbs)
Crew 2 (driver, machine-gunner)
Propulsion Fiat SPA CV1 6 cyl, 38 hp
Top speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range (road) 125 km (78 miles)
Armamen (see notes): Breda 7.92 mm machine-gun (0.31 in)
Armor From 5 to 10 mm (0.2 to 0.39 in)
Total production Around 1200

 

cv33 libya
Carro Veloce CV-33, early production (Serie I), 132nd Armoured Division Ariete, Libya, January 1940.
cv33 libya
CV-33 of the 13th Battalion, 32nd Regiment Corazziere, Corsica, 1942.
cv33
CV-33 of the 2° Gruppo Corazzato Leonessa, RSI, Turin, 1944
L3/33 CC
The L3/33 CC (“CC” stands for “Contro Carro”, or antitank version) was an adaptation of the elderly CV-33s of the “Centauro” division, which arrived in Libya too late, missing El Alamein. However, under Kesselring and Rommel, they performed a good fighting retreat into Tunisia. Some CV-33s were thrown at Kasserine pass against freshly landed GIs. The 20 mm (0.79 in) Solothurn rifle was produced initially by a firm controlled by Rheinmetall, in Switzerland. It was heavy, cumbersome and had a huge recoil, but a far better muzzle velocity than the British Boys, and were able to pierce armor up to 35 mm (1.38 mm). As a result, many L3s were successfully converted as antitank platforms.
Chinese L3
Chinese L3, 1939.
Greek CV.33
Greek CV-33, 1940.

Gallery



CV 33 LF (Lanciaflame) at the Bovington museum.

CV-33 in Greece, 1940

Video closeup in a museum


Regio Esercito, ww2 italian tanks poster