Categories
WWI British Other Vehicles

Wireless Communications Tank

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1917) Communications Tank – Unkown Number Built

The Wireless Communications tank was the first armored vehicle ever to carry equipment that granted the ability of two-way audio communication via morse-code. Prior to this installation, all tanks on the battlefield had to rely on either physical (eg, a written note) or visual communication.
Physical communication was achieved by using carrier pigeons. Four of these were carried in each tank in a wicker basket. They were launched, carrying messages attached to the legs, from hatches in the tanks sponsons. Visual communication was in the form of semaphore and signal flags. Different colored flags were used to indicate information for example if it had broken down, got stuck or was knocked out. Semaphore communication was achieved either by a mechanical mast fitted with paddles attached to the tank’s roof or by hand via hatches in the back of the tank.

There were problems with both methods, however. A pigeon was a one-way message and could not be replied too (not to mention it might get lost, shot or even eaten). Although it was a two-way method, Semaphore was not reliable at times of low visibility, such as early morning fog or the thick acrid smoke that so often accumulated on the battlefield. There were attempts at running a telephone cable behind some tanks so they could have audio communication. These were often cut by shelling or by getting snagged on battlefield debris.
The answer to dealing with such issues was wireless communication.


Caption for the 1st photo is Queen Mary of Teck inspecting tanks (Specifically a Wireless Comms Tank) and personnel at the Tank Corps Central Stores and Workshops at Erin, 7 July 1917. She is accompanied by General Hugh Elles, the Commander of the Tank Corps (on her right) and Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury (on her left). Photo: IWM 3234

The Mk. I Tank

The world’s first mass-produced tank, the Mk. I featured the rhomboid design that would become iconic in British tanks of the First World War. The tanks entered service in 1916, first seeing combat 15 September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette during the bloody Somme Offensive.
Slow, heavy and cumbersome, the Mk. I tanks came in two variants, known as Male and Females. The males were armed with two 6-Pounder guns, 1 in each sponson which was mounted on each side of the tank. They were also armed with three machine guns, one in each sponson and one at the front of the tank. The females were armed exclusively with machine guns, two in the sponsons on each side of the tank and a further machine gun at the front.
Designed to keep up with attacking infantry, the tanks were slow. Propulsion was provided by a Daimler-Knight 6-cylinder sleeve-valve 16-liter petrol engine, providing 105 hp and giving the 27-ton vehicle a top speed of 3.7 mph (6.0 km/h).

Wireless Equipment

W/T Trench Set Mk. I: 1917, Continuous Wave, Sending Frequency 500-1,400 cycles per second (hertz), Receiving Frequency 500-1,400 cycles per second (hertz), 30 Watt, Range 5 miles, Aerial 15 ft. Number produced (all users) 199.
W/T Trench Set Mk. II: 1917, Continuous Wave, Sending Frequency 340-1,850 cycles per second (hertz), Receiving Frequency 340-1,850 cycles per second (hertz), 30 Watt, Range 5 miles, Aerial 2 x 4 ft or single 15 ft. Number produced 133 (all users).
W/T Trench Set Mk. III: Continuous Wave, Sending Frequency 450-1,450 cycles per second (hertz), Receiving Frequency 450-1,450 cycles per second (hertz), 30 Watt, Range 2-5 miles. Receiver 17 lb, Transmitter 18.5 lb. Aerial 2 x 4 ft or single 15 ft. Number of transmitters produced 2,853, Number of receivers produced 2,650 (all users).

This photo shows the inside of the tanks right sponson and the Wireless set within. Photo: Imperial War Museum.

Use in Tanks

Experiments with mounting a wireless set inside a tank started in June 1917. That October, Continuous Wave (CW) receiving stations were used in battle. Older models of tanks, such as the Mk. I (the example in the available photos) were used as test subjects, with all weapons and corresponding internal equipment stripped out. They were successful enough to secure a place for Wireless Communication in Tank Signal organization. The original, intended method was to use the tanks as armored transport vehicles that would carry all the wireless receiving stations equipment that would be set down in suitable locations in no-man’s land after the main attack had breached and cleared the German trenches and started to move inland. When this was proved unsatisfactory, interest turned to mounting the antenna on the tanks themselves.
The sponsons usually carried the tank’s main armament. The tanks first had Vickers and Hotchkiss MGs and then were later upgraded when new MG mounts were fitted. These empty sponsons were used as the locations for the wireless equipment. The Wireless set was mounted in the right sponson, with a small operations desk added to the left. The set and accompanying systems were powered by two additional 10-volt accumulator batteries and a small dynamo fitted to the engine.

The morse-code was transmitted through a 15-foot (4.6 meters) tall aerial. When the tank was mobile, the aerial was stowed horizontally atop the tank’s roof. When transmitting and receiving, the tank would be stationary and the mast raised. The mast supported the aerial cable which connected through the tank’s roof to the wireless set. The length of the cable was approximately 200 feet (61 meters) long. A length of this cables was mounted to the left and right of the mast. Various aerial types were tried out in France and UK to test the effectiveness of air to tank wireless telephony communications. Below is the first page of Lt Arthur Wragg’s (8 Sqn. RAF) report illustrating two of the aerials. Later, the work was transferred to Biggin Hill.


Photo: Landships Forum
One of the other types of wireless/telephony receiving aerials tried out at Biggin Hill can be seen on official photos of Mk. IV ‘Supply’ tank 402. The ‘Flexible panel’ at the front of the tank between the horns has the aerial coming out of the right-hand vision port and appears to be attached to the bottom right of the ‘panel’.

Photo: Landships Forum
Another image of ‘402’ at Biggin Hill, appears to show a flexible ‘Whip Aerial’ sticking up from the rear of the right-hand sponson. This could be the same/similar to the ‘fishing rod’ type tried out in France.

Photo: Landships Forum


The Wireless Communications Tank based on the hull of Mk. I Female Tank. Illustration by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Service

Combat reports and corresponding photographs of the Wireless Communications tank are extremely rare. Though it is not at our disposal, there is photographic evidence of a Wireless Communication Tank in use at Neuve Eglise (Nieuwkerke) 7 miles South of Ypres in the West Flanders region of Belgium in June 1917.
It is also recorded that Wireless Communication Tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai (November 20th – December 7th, 1917). The sets used here, however, were the standard ones used by the Artillery and were carried forward by fighting tanks. They proved to be unsuitable in combat as the antenna had to be set up outside of the tank.

A head-on photo of the Communications tank showing just how tall the transmitting mast was. Photo: Landhips Forum
There is also photographic evidence to suggest that a least one Mark IV Tank was converted to the role Wireless Communication Tank in September 1917. There is a record of it being used around Menin Road of the Hooge area which was just 2 miles east of Ypres. This Mk. IV used that same aerial mast, but instead of it being mounted atop the tank, it was placed upright on the ground next to it.
So successful were the wireless set trials, that in August 1918, 288 Mk. III wireless sets and 96 120-watt sets were ordered by the Tank Corps. The last development in Wireless Tanks occurred in July 1918, when wireless telephones were trialed for tank-to-tank and tank-to-airplane communication. The war was over before implementation, however.

Further Tests

At the RAF and Tank Conference that took place at Advanced Tank Corps HQ on 1 September 1918, Colonel Hugh Elles gave the RAF information on how the Tank Corps Wireless system worked as the participants were working out how to link the RAF and Tank Corps systems to improve communications. This was reported in a letter to GOC RAF by Philip Game (BGGS of RAF) dated 4 September. A segment of this letter is presented below.


Photo: Landships Forum

Further Details

It is not currently known how many of these vehicles were built, where the conversions were made, and who by. At present, no ‘battle history’ reports have been found written by commanders of Wireless Equipped tanks in World War I.
Recently though, the Wireless Tank has been added to the multitude of tanks used in the Japanese Anime series ‘Girls und Panzer’.

Another photo of Queen Mary of Teck and company inspecting the Wireless Tank. Photo: IWM 3232

An article by Mark Nash

Specifications

Dimensions Length 26ft (7.92m).
Length with tail 32ft 6in (9.92m)
Width 8ft 4in (2.53m).
Width with Sponsons 13ft 2in (4.03m)
Height 8ft (2.44m)
Total weight 27.5 (female) 28.4 (male) tons
Crew N/A
Propulsion British Foster-Daimler, Knight sleeve valve, water-cooled straight six 13-litre petrol engine, 105 hp at 1,000 rpm
Road Speed 3.7 mph (5.95 km/h)
Range 28 miles (45 km)
Trench Crossing ability 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Armor From 6 to 15 mm (0.23-0.59 in)
Track links Length 8 1/2 inches (21.5cm)
Width 1ft 8in (52cm)
Sponson Hatch Length 2ft (61cm)
Width 1ft 4in (41cm)
Rear Hatch Length 2ft 3in (69cm)
Width 1ft 3in (37cm)
Total production N/A

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Priestley’s ‘The Signal Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918 (France)
Communications and British Operations on the Western Front, 1914-1918’ by Brian N. Hall
The History Press, Tank Hunter: World War One, Craig Moore
Landships Forum

Categories
WW1 British Armor WWI British Other Vehicles

Gun Carrier Mk.I

UK flag United Kingdom (1917) Self propelled gun – 50 built

Development history

The Gun Carrier was the world’s first self-propelled gun design, though it never fired a single shot in anger. Its invention led to the development of the famous SPG’s of World War II, largely based on the same concept: a modified regular tank chassis carrying a standard artillery gun in a semi-enclosed compartment.
Gun Carrier Mk 1 Darlington
Gun Carrier Mk.1 Darlington loaded with a howitzer. The loading ramp can be seen jutting forward under the gun at the front.
After the first deployment of the Mark I tank in 1916, it was realized that artillery would not be able to keep up with the pace of the advance. Without artillery support, an offensive would quickly be ruined. Thus, the creation of the Gun Carrier was imperative.

Design

A British Army engineer named Major Gregg, working at the company that built the Mark I tank, came up with a solution. Using parts from the Mark I tank, he proposed the design of a special mechanized artillery. On July 5, 1916, the production of a prototype was approved, and in July, work began. On March 3rd, 1917, the prototype participated in Tank Trials Day. Fifty vehicles were ordered by the Army, to be produced by Kitson & Co.
The Gun Carrier didn’t look much like the Mark I at all. Instead of high and angled tracks, they were low, almost flat. A superstructure in the rear protected the 105-horsepower Daimler engine and the Gun Carrier’s transmission, propelling it along at 6 km/h (4 mph). The double tail wheel attached to the end of the Mark I tank to aid in steering was retained on the Gun Carrier.
The Gun carrier Mark I was crewed by 6 men: a commander, mechanic, and two gearsmen; with the addition of a driver and brakesman above the front of each track. While the placement of the crew improved visibility, communication was difficult. The front held a choice of a BL 60-pounder gun or 6-inch howitzer behind a shield-like structure. Only the howitzer could actually be fired from the vehicle. In order to transport the guns, only the wheels were removed from the carriage and attached to the side of the Gun Carrier.


Hello, dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!


The Gun Carrier Supply tank

Gun Carriers were converted into Supply tanks, and used as troop carriers. At the beginning of June 1918 both Gun Carrier Companies were converted into supply companies. For the attack on the 8th August 1918, day one of the Battle of Amines, 22 gun carrier supply vehicle were allocated for use by the Australian Corps. Unfortunatly 16 of these vehicles were damaged beyond repair when one of them carrying explosives exploded on the night of the 6th-7th August 1918 near Villers Bretonneux.
Gun Carrier Supply tank
Colorized photograph of a Gun Carrier converted into a supply tank.
Supply tank converted from a Gun Carrier Mk1
Supply tank converted from a Gun Carrier Mk1

Gun Carrier Mk. II

A Wooden mock-up was built of a Gun Carrier Mk. II, housing the gun at the rear of the tank. They were never ordered into production, but the result was that the Gun Carrier was re-designated Gun Carrier Mk.I.
Gun Carrier Mark II
The Gun Carrier Mk II Wooden mock-up with the gun unloaded (IWM Q14524)
Gun Carrier Mark 2 WW1
The Gun Carrier Mk II crew would winch up the gun onto the roof of the tank chassis (IWM Q14523)

Operational use

48 of the 50 Gun Carriers were organized into Gun Carrier Companies, with 24 machines each. These entered service in the latter part of 1917. None of the Gun Carriers ever fired a shot, as no breakthrough materialized. They were used as supply tanks, and as troop carriers. It was estimated a single Gun Carrier could transport over 100 troops at a single time.

An article by Jerry Temple

Links & sources

The Gun carrier Mark I on Wikipedia
The Gun Carrier Mark I on militaryfactory.com
Additional photos and information on thefewgoodmen.com

The Gun Carrier Steam Crane

Two of the Gun Carrier Mark I chassis were turned into cranes. One was fitted with a large steam engine boiler on the rear of the chassis that powered a big crane arm at the front. The second was powered by the Gun Carrier’s engine. The crane arm was more modest. It was used for tank recovery, salvage and building work. Only one of each type was built.
Cun Carrier Crane
The Gun Carrier Steam Crane conversion was very tall. The steam boiler was mounted vertically rather than horizontally as found on railway steam engines and tractor engines.
Gun carrier steam crane
The Gun Carrier Steam Crane had a very long crane arm.

The Gun Carrier Crane

Gun Carrier Mark I crane conversion
This Gun Carrier Crane had a more modest crane arm. It was powered by the vehicle’s engine.
Gun Carrier Mk1 crane modification
To travel long distances the Gun Carrier Crane was loaded onto railway flat back wagons.

Gallery

Illustration

Credits : Wikimedia Commons & thefewgoodmen.com

Video about the Gun, Carrier, Mark I

Gun Carrier Mk.I specifications

Dimensions 32 x 8 x 7.5 ft (9.75 oa x 2.41 x 2.30 m)
Total weight, battle ready 28.45 t (56,900 lbs)
Crew 4 + gun crew
Propulsion Foster-Daimler Knight sleeve valve petrol engine, 105 hp (transmission inverted)
Speed 4 mph (6 km/h)
Suspensions None
Range 37.8 km (24 miles)
Armament BL 60-pounder (5-inch/127 mm) field gun/6-inch howitzer
Armor Maximum 8 mm (0.30 in)
Total production 50 (48, with two conversions to Gun Carrier Crane)

Gun Carrier Mark I
Gun Carrier Mark I (1917) with the 60-pounder.
Supply carrier
Gun carrier converted as an ammo supply tank

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW1 British Armor WWI British Other Vehicles

Tank Mark IX

British WW1 tanksUnited Kingdom (1918)
Armored personnel carrier – 34 built

The world’s first APC

In late 1917, after studying reports of previous tank actions, the British general staff agreed that the Tank Corps lacked a specialized supply model, which could also function as a tracked armored personnel carrier. This was the tank Mark IX, based on the long Mk.V* (star) for simplicity of design. It was originally intended to be quickly fitted with armed sponsons if needed.
The idea of an APC was not new however. Colonel Estienne had already envisioned that the Schneider CA-1 would carry four men plus its crew right to enemy the trenches; and the Daimler Guinness Armored Trucks had been put into service a year earlier. But what is amazing is that there will be no tracked APCs until 1944, when the Allies experimented with turretless tanks, the “kangaroo“, which showed the need for specialized tracked, heavily armored and well armed vehicles for troop transport. This concept was fully developed during the Cold War.

Design

As its first task was to carry troops at least to the first line of enemy trenches, engineers had to rework the Mk.V extensively. In itself the roomy Mk.V* was able to carry up to 10 infantrymen. However, they were confined in a highly gassy and extremely noisy fighting compartment. By the time they disembarked through the small doors not really suited for the task, they would have lost most of their combat abilities. But worst of all was that only ten infantrymen, even with full ammunition, would not last long as a fighting unit in itself when casualties amounted to hundreds in small spots.
The new requirement of the army command was the ability to carry no less than fifty infantrymen, or 10 tons of payload. A freight which could be placed either inside or outside, as part of the ammunition could be fixed in a roof housing for the superstructure. Another option was towing three carriages. Thus, the tank hull would have been significantly lengthened, while retaining almost the same height and width. The variant chosen had two large oval doors on the sides, fitted for effective mass landing and many pistol ports to fire from inside when approaching. Accordingly, the sponson idea was dropped and standard weapons restricted only to two 8 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss machine guns mounted on the sides.
The internal layout largely differed from the Mk.V*. In the process obtaining the largest compartment possible, the engine was shifted forward and the the gearbox backwards. Installed on the roof of the driver compartment was a low cylindrical commander’s cupola. The size of the central troop compartment was 13ft by 8 ft (4m x 2.45m). There was only 5ft 4inches (1.62m) of head room. Cramming fifty infantrymen inside was even in theory extremely difficult, so it was decided to accommodate only 30 men with full equipment.
The most important innovation was the installation of two roof exhaust fans to extract engine fumes. General protection remained similar to the Mk.V*. Enhanced armor protection could only be added at the expense of ride comfort (since it was unsprung), speed and mobility in general on soft terrain. As a result the frontal, sides and stern plates thickness did not exceeded 10 mm (0.39 in).
The wheeltrain consisted of 24 doubled rollers with blocked suspension, and front and rear guide wheel drive. Configuration was, as usual, of the rhomboid type, with metal links having a 521 mm (20.5 in) length shoe, and 194 mm (7.64 in) pitch. The upper part of the guide tracks was maintained by two tension rollers on each side.

Production of the Mark IX

Construction of the first prototype, dubbed “The Pig”, began at Marshall, Sons & Co. factory, Gainsborough, in June 1918 and completed in October. In tests the maximum speed was about 6.5 km/h (4.04 mph) but on rough terrain, this fell to just 1.3 km/h (0.8 mph). It could overcome trenches up to 3.8 meters (12.47 ft) large, and had a ground pressure of 1.95 kg/cm2.
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs
According to other data, the maximum speed on road was 13.5 km/h (8.39 mph) and the range 89 km (55.3 mi). During trials several changes were ordered, one of which was the installation of a muffler near the fans. Nevertheless the Mk.IX failed to completely get rid of all the disadvantages of rhomboid tanks. The still uncompartmented engine and excessive weight caused poor mobility in the field. Nevertheless, the Mk.IX was produced since the Allies were determined to implement “Plan 1919”, the large-scale, heavily mechanized final assault on Germany.
Among other things, it called for supply and transport tanks. As a result before the armistice only two tanks had been ready for field tests on the Western Front, and only one of the first three then assembled was ready during October and November 1918. This sole Mk.IX was used in France as a sanitary conveyor. The remaining 34 Mk.IXs were finished after the war, and none would see actual combat although they participated in some exercises.

The world’s first amphibious APC

Shortly before the end of the war the first Mk.IX tested the ability to install floats for wading. As such, it was emptied, and reinforced on the flanks and fore part of the hull. The landing doors were sealed and gaskets used for pumping air.
Movement in water was provided by the rotation of the tracks, but special blades attached to the links were added for extra grip. In addition, a roof compartment housed part of the gear-cutting equipment, and the exhaust went through it. The amphibious Mk.IX was unofficially called “The Duck” and began a test series in November 11, 1918, conducted at Dolly Hill.
These were considered successful, although the tank was very slow and had low water buoyancy. In addition, this configuration precluded placement of access doors and the installation of a powerful weaponry. In November 1918 the tests were terminated.
The only amphibious Mk.IX was subsequently scrapped, but the data obtained in the tests helped later in the construction of more advanced amphibious tanks by Vickers.
So far, only one Mk.IX, noted IC 15, survived, which is now exhibited at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Gallery

Sources

Wikipedia
Tank-Hunter.com

Mark IX specifications

Dimensions Length 31ft 11in (9.07m).
Width 8ft (2.44m).
Height 8ft 8in (2.64m)
Total weight 37 tons
Crew 4 + 30 infantry men
Propulsion Ricardo crosshead valve, water-cooled straight six petrol engine 150hp @ 1250rpm
Road Speed 4 mph (6.4 km/h)
Range 45 miles (72.42 km)
Trench Crossing ability 12ft 5in (3.8m)
Armament 2x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine guns
Armor Max 10 mm
Track links Length 8 inches (21.4cm)
Width 1ft 7in (52.3cm)
Side Hatch Length 4ft (1.21m)
Width 2ft 1in (63cm)
Total production 34

Video

Mark IX
Mark IX in its regular livery, Somme sector, October 1918
Mark IX Pig camouflaged
Camouflaged Mark IX “Pig” in 1919.
Mark IX Duck
Amphibious Mark IX “Duck” during tests, Devon.

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!