WW1 German Armor

Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-MULAG

German Empire (1916) Armored Personnel Carrier – 1 Built

The Gepanzerte Mannschaftstransportwagen (Eng: Armored Troop carrier) was, as the name suggests, an armored personnel carrier, built by the company Mannesmann-MULAG in 1916 on their own initiative with the German Army in mind as a potential buyer. Not much is known about this vehicle, but it would remain the only attempt of the company to build an armored vehicle. It is also one of the earliest examples of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and the first of its kind designed in Germany.

The front of the vehicle. This image is sometimes published in a mirrored version, however, the eagle has its head turned to the left, indicating that this is the correct perspective. Source: Motorbuch Verlag

The Company

In 1900, the Fritz Scheibler Motorenfabrik AG (Aktiengesellschaft: joint-stock company) was founded, based in the city of Aachen. In 1909, it fused with the Maschinenbauanstalt Altenessen AG which led to the new name Motoren und Lastwagen AG (Eng: Motors and trucks), shortened to ‘MULAG’. After one year, in 1910, the company was taken over by the brothers Carl and Max Mannesmann, who renamed the company in 1913 to Mannesmann-MULAG. Their main business was building cars and commercial vehicles. The company was disbanded in 1928, and taken over by Büssing.
During the First World War, the company repaired a variety of army vehicles, as well as aircraft engines. It also produced lorries for the army, referred to as Heeres-LKW (Eng: Army-lorry), based on a commercial model from 1913, with a 42 hp engine. In 1916, work started to build an armored vehicle based on this chassis. The drive shaft connected to a differential on the rear axle. The wheels, shod with solid rubber tires, were suspended on semi-elliptical springs at the front and rear.

The chassis of a Mannesmann-MULAG LKW, preserved at the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany. Source: Wikimedia

Why an APC?

The fact that this vehicle was specifically built as an Armored Personnel Carrier is very important as it would mean that this is one of the very first examples of such a vehicle. The design was a private project by Mannesmann-MULAG, which did not come from army doctrine, although the Supreme Command (OHL) had realized the potency of armored cars already at the end of 1914. By 1916, the Western Front had changed into a stationary war and no man’s land was transformed into a moon landscape, impassable for wheeled vehicles.

The armored car development, then going on in Germany, was slowed down by the fact that armored cars were nearly useless on a static front and only at the very end of 1915, the first three armored cars were ready. It would take several more months until these vehicles, built by Büssing, Ehrhardt, and Daimler were organized in an active unit. This unit was initially sent to the Western Front, but could not be used due to the terrain so, consequently, they were pulled back and transferred to the Eastern Front where they were rather successfully used against Romanian troops.

The Mannschaftstransportwagen shares some clear similarities with the other three armored cars, like the way machine gun ports are designed, which indicates that it was at least inspired by these cars. However, if the Mannschaftstransportwagen design was based on experience gained by the operational use of those armored cars is not clear and yet impossible to prove, especially given that no exact dates are known when work started on the vehicle or when it was completed, all that is known is that the vehicle is from 1916.
A wheeled APC could have been very effective on the Eastern Front which saw much more mobile warfare than the Western Front. On this front, the Germans sometimes used unprotected trucks carrying infantry to flank enemy troops. Although this worked, an APC would have provided much more protection for these troops.

Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-Mulag
Illustration of the Mannschaftstransportwagen Mannesmann-Mulag by Yuvnashva Sharma, Sponsored by our Patreon Campaign.


The Mannschaftstransportwagen retained the same layout as the truck it was based on with a 42 hp engine in the front, cab in the middle, and transport area in the back, but now completely armored. Louvers were installed in front of the engine for air-intake. The engine itself could be reached by opening hatches mounted on top of the engine compartment. One big headlight was located in front of the engine compartment and attached to it with three connections allowing it to be turned. Another light was mounted on a rotatable mount at the rear of the vehicle.

The cab could be entered through two doors, one at each side of the vehicle. There was a place for two crewmen, one being the driver and the other being an attendant or maybe a commanding officer. They each had one hatch to their disposal in front of them, consisting of two parts folding sidewards. In each part, one vision slit was located which were used when the hatches were closed in a combat situation.

A total of five shooting hatches were made in the sides of the passenger compartment (two per side and one in the rear) so when attacked, the soldiers could defend themselves by using their hand weapons or possibly machine guns. How many soldiers were supposed to fit in the vehicle is not specified, but probably about ten men. These men could enter through a door at the back of the vehicle. The shooting hatches were in a similar style as to those on other German armored cars like the Büssing A5P or Ehrhardt E-V/4 with two parts folding sidewards.

Only two images of this vehicle are known, indicating that it did not see (much) active service. Source: Motorbuch Verlag

Operational Use

Very little is known about any operational use of this vehicle. Built in 1916, it could have been used both at the Eastern and Western Front, however, if it actually did is unclear. The author Walter Spielberger mentions that it was used for delivering replenishments and for security tasks, but when or where is not specified. If used, the Mannschaftstransportwagen would be the only purpose-built APC in German service during the First World War.


Due to the lack of information, it is hard to say whether the vehicle was used by the army or not. However, the vehicle does not seem to be used during the revolution in Germany after the war ended, which indicates that the vehicle was already scrapped during, or at the end of the war.


Crew 2 (driver, attendant)
Passengers 10
Propulsion Unknown 42hp
Total production 1


Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918, B.T. White, Blandford Press London, 1970.
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WW1 German Armor

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V 506 ‘Mephisto’

This article was written by Queensland Museum, in partnership with Craig Moore. This Australian museum holds ‘Mephisto’, the only surviving A7V in the world.

The Rarest Tank in the World: 506 ‘Mephisto’

A mere twenty German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tanks were built during the First World War, in three production runs of 5, 5, and 10 vehicles, respectively. Fitted with either Röchling or Krupp armor plate, the first vehicle rolled off the assembly line in October 1917. Only one of these twenty tanks has survived, the vehicle bearing chassis number 506 named Mephisto.

The only surviving Sturmpanzerwagen A7V, Mephisto, as it stands today in the Queensland museum. A part of the armament and the markings are clearly visible in this photo, including the red devil carrying a British rhomboidal tank on the front. Source: Gregory Czechura, Queensland Museum
This A7V, which was captured and later recovered in the dead of night by Australian soldiers of the 26th Battalion during July 1918, survived thanks to its unlikely journey to Brisbane, Australia. 506 Mephisto is not only an incredibly rare tank but a significant artifact of the First World War. The centenaries of Mephisto’s operations on the Western Front and its eventual capture and retrieval (which commenced the tank’s connection to Queensland and Australia) were marked between March and July 2018.

After capture, Sturmpanzerwagen A7V 506 ‘Mephisto’ was painted with a British Imperial Lion putting its large paw on top of a German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank (Photo: Queensland Museum)

Mephisto being restored in Australia. (Photo: Queensland Museum)

The A7V

Tanks were developed as a weapon to break the defensive trench warfare that had prevailed on the Western Front since 1914. The Allies were the first to develop, produce and deploy tanks beginning in 1916 (Great Britain) and 1917 (France). The German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V represented a reply to the ever-increasing numbers of Allied tanks, but it suffered from being too few in number and too late in entering service to have any decisive impact on the outcome of the final battles of the war. Indeed, most of the tank force fielded by the Germans during the last years of the war was composed of captured Allied, mainly British, models.
The German A7V was essentially an armored box mounted on a tracked chassis that was powered by two water-cooled, 100-horsepower petrol engines. Although a fully operational A7V weighed around 30-tonnes, it was capable of reaching speeds of up to 10 km/h. Armament consisted of eight 7.92 mm MG 08 machine guns (females) or a 57 mm Maxim-Nordenfelt main gun and six MG 08 machine guns (males). The short combat career of the German A7V was due, in part, to lengthy bureaucratic delays and approvals, as well as correction of several crucial design flaws that resulted from the tank having to be built on an all-purpose chassis. The driver’s position, high atop the vehicle, compromised visibility and produced a blind spot directly in front of the driver’s field of vision, which resulted in individual A7Vs being driven into pits, quarries and, in one case, a village pond.

Mephisto in the garden of the Queensland museum next to some similar sized dinosaur models. Source: Queensland museum.
Like all First World War tanks, A7Vs were dogged by mechanical problems (especially overheating and transmission failures), as well as design problems such as low ground clearance, low track height and a chassis that flexed when the tank was in motion. These issues contributed to A7Vs suffering breakdowns and incapacitation by barbed wire and uneven ground in action and training. Modifications were carried out in the field and on the factory floor to rectify some of these problems. Despite these issues, the A7V proved superior to its counterparts, such as the British Mark IV, in both speed and firepower, especially when deployed on firm, even terrain, although when they met in combat for the first time at Villers-Brettoneux in April 1918, it was the British tank which triumphed.
Vehicle 506 was one of the first five A7Vs to be built as part of what is known as the First Lot (Röchling) production run. It was assigned to the first of three A7V detachments (Abteilungen) during December 1917-early January 1918 but did not reach Abteilung 1 at Beuveille until 20 January 1918. Features, including field modifications, of the first A7V production run can be seen on 506 Mephisto. These include a cupola with a single hatch for the driver and the commander, single sheet side armor, and a Blocklafette gun mount with open sights, among others.

Inside the front section of the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank 506 Mephisto. The 57 mm gun can be seen on the right and the machine gun mount on the left of the door. (Photo: Queensland Museum)

The History of ‘Mephisto’

A7Vs made their combat debut at St Quentin on 21 March 1918 during the 1918 German Spring Offensives. Five A7Vs were assigned to provide close support for infantry assaults on British positions south of St Quentin. Only two of the tanks were able to participate, a female (501) and 506, which was gun-armed. German and British accounts attest to the effectiveness of the gun-armed tank, in neutralizing strongpoints and concentrations of infantry. The A7Vs were then returned to their base near Charleroi for repair and maintenance. At this point, 506 was transferred to Abteilung 3, where it was repainted and named Mephisto after the Devil in the Faustus legend (another A7V, 503, was named Faust).

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V Mephisto after it has arrived at the Queensland museum. The original paint scheme and the imperial lion can still be seen. Source:  Queensland Museum, The Gregory Czechura collection
In late March and early April 1918, the Germans attacked the small, strategically placed town of Villers-Bretonneux, France in an effort to capture or neutralize the vital Allied transport hub of Amiens. Villers-Bretonneux was held after a successful Allied counter-attack led by Australian troops from 9th Brigade. The Germans staged a second attack on Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918 that included three groups of A7Vs. 506 Mephisto was assigned to the second group of A7Vs, consisting of six tanks, given the objective of taking objectives (Monument Farm, Monument Wood, and the Bois d’Aquenne) immediately to the south of Villers-Bretonneux. The German attack on the first day was successful and during the battle, the first tank versus tank battle was fought between elements of the third group of A7Vs and British medium and heavy tanks operating near Cachy to the southwest of Villers-Bretonneux. During the fighting around Monument Farm, Mephisto became stranded when the edge of a shell crater it was passing over collapsed under its weight.
Mephisto was abandoned by its German crew but not before being stripped of its machine guns, the gun’s breechblock and other essential items according to standard operational practice. Mephisto lay in No Man’s Land for three months before its capture by the 26th Battalion AIF (commanded by Major, later Lieutenant-Colonel, James Robinson) on the night of 17/18 July 1918 and its subsequent recovery, with the assistance of the British 1st Gun Carrier Company, from under the noses of the German troops opposing them on the night of 22-23 July 1918. The dangerous retrieval operation was carried out under fire on the very night that the Germans unleashed a heavy poison-gas barrage on the Villers-Bretonneux area. Most of the Australian and British soldiers involved in the recovery became gas casualties, but the operation was nonetheless successfully completed. The war prize Mephisto was now securely in Allied hands and quickly moved under cover in the nearby Bois l’Abbé.

Mephisto being moved into the Queensland museum yard. The two steamrollers used to tow it can be seen in the photo. Source: Queensland museum.
Mephisto was then moved to the British 5th Tank Brigade’s Training Ground at Vaux-en-Amienois where it became an object of curiosity and ‘canvas’ for soldier art, including that of a British lion resting its paw on an A7V. Among the soldiers who visited Mephisto were the six ‘TANK BOYS’, who left their names hammered into the rear armor of Mephisto. They were not participants in the capture and recovery of Mephisto but were part of the Australian contingent training and preparing to work with British tanks and crews in the planned Battle of Amiens and other Allied offensives along the Western Front in the last 100 days of the war.

A Home Down-Under

From Vaux-en-Amienois, Mephisto was moved to London via Dunkirk before being shipped to Brisbane on the SS Armagh, leaving England on April 2, 1919, and arriving in Brisbane on the June 2. It remained at the wharves for six months before being moved to the Queensland Museum, Fortitude Valley, on 23 August 1919. It was an eleven-hour operation which required the use of two Brisbane City Council steamrollers to tow Mephisto to its new home. It was initially placed on display outside, exposed to the elements in the gardens of the museum, where it remained as an iconic object greeting visitors for over sixty years.

Front view of the Mephisto at the Queensland museum. The top compartment, which housed the driver and the commander, is visible on top, along with their viewports. The wedge shape of the front armor is also apparent, used decades before the Soviet IS-3. Source: Gregory Czechura, Queensland Museum
In 1986, Mephisto was moved to Queensland Museum’s new location at South Brisbane where it remained until it sustained minor damage in the 2011 Brisbane floods when water reached the level of its tracks. Mephisto has undergone extensive conservation and restoration treatment during its time with the Queensland Museum, even at one time being preserved in a climate-controlled plastic bubble at the Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich. Between 2015 and 2017, Mephisto was loaned to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as part of the Centenary of the First World War.
After being held in the Workshops Rail Museum, Mephisto finally returned to the Queensland Museum, South Brisbane in late 2018. The tank now features as a major interpretative and commemorative element of the Queensland Museum’s new Anzac Legacy Gallery that opened to mark the centenary of the Armistice on Remembrance Day 2018.

Commemorative Book

To commemorate the centenary anniversary of A7V Mephisto’s capture and recovery, Queensland Museum has released a fully illustrated reference guide to the tank’s history and its journey to Australia. Mephisto: Technology, War, and Remembrance by Jeff Hopkins-Weise and Gregory Czechura includes detailed diagrams, technical schematics, damage reports, and photographs of Mephisto as it was during the First World War, and as it is found today. Mephisto details the history of this primitive armored vehicle against the backdrop of the industrial innovations and societal changes of the First World War.

The Queensland Museum has published a Mephisto discovery guide book covering the history of the tank. This is the front cover. (Photo: Queensland Museum)
Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance book is available now through the Queensland Museum Shop website HERE.
To see the single surviving Sturmpanzerwagen A7V tank in the world in person, entry is free to the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Australia.


Queensland Museum
Grey St & Melbourne St
South Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Illustration of the Sturmpanzer A7V number 506 ‘Mephisto’ in its original markings. Colors based on the restored version presently at the Queensland Museum, Australia. Illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #1 Republished

The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.

Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!

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!
Buy this magazine on Payhip!

WW1 German Armor

Büssing A5P

German Empire (1915-1918) Armored car – 1 built

The Büssing A5P is one of few armored vehicles built by the German Empire during the First World War. Its symmetrical design and great dimensions make it stand out from other designs of the time. With the order given to the company Büssing to design an armored car at the end of 1914, work progressed the following year and production of one vehicle started. Two other companies; Ehrhardt and Daimler, were also tasked to develop an armored car and all three companies finished their vehicle at the end of 1915.

The A5P after its completion, viewed from the front left, being presented to German and Austro-Hungarian army officials. Photo: Tankograd Publications


Although several armored cars were built in Germany before the First World War, like the Ehrhardt BAK and Opel Kriegswagen, both from 1906, the German army had no armored cars for tactical roles in their inventory when they went to war on August 1, 1914. This was due to the assumption of the Militär-Verkehrstruppen (Eng: military transport troops) that armored cars had not enough tactical or strategic impact in a war scenario, a view shared by many other European armies before the First World War. However, when the German troops encountered improvised armored cars at the front, such as Belgian Minervas, they quickly realised that the armored car actually had a great value.
The Oberste Heeresleitung (Eng: Supreme Army Command) was also convinced that armored cars had to be built, and on October 22, 1914, it requested the Kriegsministerium (Eng: War Ministry) to take the needed steps to start building armored cars as quickly as possible. The Minister of War approved this request five days later and ordered the Verkehrstechnische Prüfungskommission (VPK, Eng: transport technical testing commission) to make a list of requirements. Together with the Gewehr Prüfungskommission (GPK, Eng: Gun Testing Commission) and Abteilung A2 Infanterie (Eng: Department A2 Infantry) of the War Ministry, they presented a list on November 3, 1914.

Technical Requirements

The armored cars to be designed had to fulfill the following sixteen requirements:

  1. An armament of three machine guns, one of them being a spare. Both guns should be able to fire simultaneously in any direction.
  2. Ammunition load-out of at least 16,500 rounds.
  3. A crew of eight: Commander, driver, and six machine gun operators (later changed to a crew of ten with two extra drivers).
  4. Completely armored, with a minimum thickness of 5.5 mm (excluding roof armor).
  5. A maximum weight of crew, armor, armament, and ammo combined of 2,500 kg (2 MG: 75 kg, ammo: 660 kg, crew: 600 kg, armor: 1000 kg).
  6. The possibility of driving forward and backward at the same speed, without turning the vehicle.
  7. A turnable driver seat in the middle of the vehicle (not required with a driver in the front and rear), closable observation slits for the driver, machine-gun operators should not be hindered by the driver.
  8. Four-wheel drive.
  9. As good off-road capabilities as possible, therefore one gear with short gearing and carry wheel belts and ramps.
  10. A maximum speed of 40-60 km/h (forwards and backward).
  11. An engine of at least 40 hp.
  12. Sufficient engine cooling, despite covering armor plating.
  13. Steel wheels (when possible disc wheels, not steel spoked wheels).
  14. Solid rubber tires with armored protection.
  15. On both front and rear, two Acetylene headlamps, one movable electric searchlight, and electric lighting in drivers cabin.

The armored car unit in Buchsweiler (Bouxwiller). From left to right: the Daimler/15, Ehrhardt/15, and Büssing/15. Photo: Biblio Verlag


Armed with this list, the VPK approached the firms Büssing, Ehrhardt, and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, which all agreed to build one vehicle. When completed, the vehicles were to run factory tests, after which they had to be handed over to the army battle-ready. Due to time restrictions, the vehicles were not to be initially tested by the crews. After completion, the vehicles were instead to be assigned to one unit and sent to the front. The vehicle that performed best was likely to be taken into serial production.
However, when development was carried out, the Western Front turned into a static war, eliminating the battle worthiness of armored cars, meaning that priority was given to development and production of trucks, artillery towing equipment, infantry weapons, and ammunition. As a consequence, the production of the three armored cars slowed down. Finally, on December 10, the VPK could report to the Ministry of War that the Daimler/15, Ehrhardt/15, and Büssing/15 were completed and ready for testing by the factory, meaning that development and production lasted for a bit longer than one year.

The Büssing Company

Why was Büssing tasked with producing an armored vehicle? The firm Büssing was founded in 1903 by Heinrich Büssing, in the city of Braunschweig (Lower Saxony, Germany). It produced trucks, as well as omnibuses, of which 400 were delivered to be used in London before the War broke out in 1914. In 1908, the first steps were taken to build trucks to be used in the German army. From 1914, Büssing delivered three types: the Type III (3500 kg payload), Type IV (4000 kg payload), and Type V (5000 kg payload). Due to a subsidization program launched by the Prussian government which improved sales of trucks, together with military orders coming in, Büssing had a solid financial basis.
So around 1910, it was possible for Büssing to dedicate itself more to the development of new technologies in the area of commercial vehicles as they had the financial resources. In this way, Büssing could take a technological lead in Germany, which meant that during the First World War, Büssing could build quite a lot of special purpose vehicles for the German army. Some of these pioneering breakthroughs, just made before the War, were 4-wheel drive chassis with steering both forward and backward, and 4-wheel steering. So Büssing had the possibility to fall back on an advanced chassis, which was a reason for the company to accept the order to build an armored car.

The chassis of the A5P. Keep in mind that the steering wheels are at an approximate height of 2 meters. Photo: Panzernet


The design Büssing came up with had huge dimensions. With a length of 9.5 m, the A5P is still the biggest armored car that has ever been built and put in active service. Due to the size, the vehicle had a weight of 10,250 kg, which all had to be powered by a four-stroke, Otto type, six-cylinder, water-cooled engine, producing 90 hp at 850 rpm. Power was transmitted to all four wheels, which were shod with solid rubber tires. Furthermore, the vehicle could be steered from both sides with a driver in the front and one in the rear. All factors combined resulted in a maximum speed of 35 km/h, both forwards or backward.
The fully symmetrical armored hull, made of chromed nickel plates, had a thickness of 7.5 mm at the front and rear, and 5.5 mm on the sides, while the roof had a thickness of 3.5 mm. The 7.5 mm plates provided enough protection against S-bullets (Spitgeschoß, meaning pointed bullet) from over 100 meters.
On top of the vehicle, a fixed turret was located with four machine gun hatches, facing to the front, rear and sides of the vehicle. The box-like crew compartment had two driver positions, with each driver having one viewing hatch to his disposal. Beside each driver’s viewport, one machine gun hatch was located. Furthermore, two machine gun hatches were installed on both sides of the crew compartment. The crew could enter through two doors, one on each side.
During the design stage, it is likely that Büssing, Daimler, and Ehrhardt worked together as all three vehicles share common features, like the way the machine gun ports are arranged and the shape of the crew compartment with a slightly sloped roof at the front and rear, as well as a round fixed turret in the middle.


The vehicle carried three MG 08 water cooled 7.9 mm machine guns, of which one was a spare. They were in use with the German Army from 1908 onwards. A munition loadout carried consisted of 11.500 S bullets and 5200 SmK bullets, carried in drums of 100 bullets or boxes of 250 bullets.
Experimentally, the Büssing was equipped with a 20 mm Becker M II TAK cannon for a short period. The cannon was initially designed as a gun to be mounted on airplanes and was for the first time experimentally fitted to a Gotha bomber in 1915, however, after the first British tanks were encountered on the Western Front in September 1916, it was further developed as an AT gun. It could fire both single or multiple shots.
After it was tested, the weapon was withdrawn by the OHL, based on the belief that MG 08 machine guns firing SmK ammunition were superior in battle over the 20 mm gun.

20 mm Becker anti-tank cannon, which was experimentally used for a few months. Photo:


In January and February of 1917, the armored cars were equipped with a Funkentechnischen FT-Gerät (Eng: radio technical device), when they were in repair after their service in Romania. The conversion was completed at the end of February 1917. When installed in the A5P, the radio had a 30 km range, but only 15-20 km in the Ehrhardt and Daimler.

Photo guide

Being symmetrical, it could difficult to tell whether one is looking at the front or rear, but in fact it is not very hard to tell the difference. The main difference is that the front armor plate is flat, while the rear plate has a hatch in it with two handles.
Throughout its service, the Büssing received several different markings which can help to determine the time frame a picture was taken in. Initially, the vehicle was painted in a field grey color (probably grüngrau, RAL 7009). After being handed over to the army in May 1916, the abbreviation P.Kr.MG Z.1 was painted on the front and rear. It also bore the registration plate G 1595. When the vehicle was sent to Romania at the end of 1916, big black iron crosses on a white background were painted on the sides and front. It also received a different registration number and the abbreviation was changed to P.Kr.MG A.1
When the vehicle was sent to Ukraine in 1918, it received a camouflage scheme after a proposal made by the OHL in September 1918 in the colors green, ocher yellow, and russet. Furthermore, iron crosses were painted on the front and right side.


Only one vehicle was built, although it is sometimes mentioned that three vehicles were made, this probably comes from an error made by the editorial of Waffen Revue, because they describe an image that shows three Büssing armored cars. However, the other two cars on the picture are the vehicles built by Daimler and Ehrhardt.
There were several reasons why no more A5Ps were built. First of all, the vehicle did not always perform as hoped, mainly caused by the heavy weight, limiting its operational use. The 4-wheel steering caused also more problems than advantages. Secondly, the firm Büssing was not capable to produce more armored cars as they were already busy with the production of artillery tractors and lorries and also got involved in the A7V tank programme.
The most important reason, however, was that the OHL had ordered vehicles from three different manufacturers as a sort of competition to eventually end up with the best option. When it was decided in December that an additional twelve armored cars were to be built, an improved list of requirements was made. After reviewing these new requirements, it became apparent that both the Büssing and Daimler vehicles could not be improved in such a way, and as a result, Ehrhardt received the order to build these vehicles, which would become the Ehrhardt E-V/4.

The crew enters the A5P. A staged photo, taken during the summer of 1916 in the surroundings of the city of Bouxwiller, Alsace, France. Photo:

Operational Use

The sole vehicle was completed at the end of 1915. After running factory tests, the vehicle was handed over to the army on May 22, 1916. It was assigned to the Panzerkraftwagen-MG-Zug 1 which was at that moment already active at the Western Front in the area north of Verdun. On June 19, the A5P reached its unit. The armored cars could not be used effectively and were instead sent to Buchsweiler (Bouxwiller) at the end of June. During the following months, the unit saw only combat seven times while stationed in the Alsace.
It would be the introduction of British tanks to the battlefield that caused the vehicles to be redirected to the Eastern Front. The OHL, encountering something they never had seen before, wanted to hear the opinion on these tanks from the commander of the armored car battalion. During this circumstance, the staff chief of the 9. Armee, Oberst Hesse, became aware that this unit was basically doing nothing.
However, on August 27 1916, the until then neutral country of Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary. The Transylvanian Carpathian mountains were crossed, and several cities were occupied by the new belligerents. On September 9, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops went to counterattack. The German troops that took part in the counteroffensive were part of the 9. Armee, so Oberst Hesse lobbied that the cars should be moved to the new Romanian Front, which was approved by the OHL, and on October 12, the unit was on its way to Romania.

Situation in Romania

On October 18, 1916, the unit arrived in Transylvania. The unit was unloaded in Hermannstadt (Sibiu). The Büssing was put under command of the I. Res.-Korps from 23 to 26 October. The Ehrhardt and Büssing drove on the 24th from Kronnstadt (Brașov) to Oituz and performed several reconnaissance maneuvers, but the conditions were not positive for armored cars to be used so, on the 26th, they were sent back to Kronnstadt and reunited with the other armored cars.
On October 27, the vehicles moved from Sibiu to Hațeg, where it became apparent that there was a fracture in the rear axle of the Büssing, meaning that the vehicle had to be sent back to the factory in Braunschweig to be repaired; as a consequence, the Büssing was barely used in Romania. The other four armored vehicles (Daimler/15, Ehrhardt E-V/4, and two captured Belgian Minerva’s) were plagued by technical breakdowns as well. One after another suffered from severe breakdowns until only the Daimler/15 was left, however, on December 1, 1916, its engine broke too, meaning that all fighting vehicles were now out of service.


As long as these vehicles were in repair, the remainder of the Abteilung was stationed in Berlin. On March 18, 1917, the unit was put under command of the military in Antwerp, Belgium. On March 25, the Büssing arrived in Kapellen, North of Antwerp. The Daimler and Ehrhardt would arrive later.
The vehicles did not see any action, but a lot of training took place. In this period, the 20 mm Becker was tested, as well as training with the new radios which were mounted in the vehicles during the executed repairs. On July 11, the unit was sent back to Berlin where it arrived on July 13. In the same month, preparations were made to send some armored vehicles to the Middle East, excluding the Büssing as it was too heavy, however, it was realized that the roads in Syria were too bad for armored cars and the initial plans were abandoned.

The A5P in markings it had while operational in Romania. Photo:


Instead, while other armored car units were also formed with Ehrhardt E-V/4 model 1917 armored cars, it was decided that the 1st armored car unit was to be sent to Ukraine. The Büssing saw limited operation, caused by its heavy weight and big size. Eventually, it was assigned to another unit, Zug 2, which was located in Kiev. The decision was made as it was felt that the Büssing would perform better in a city which had good roads. The vehicle was stationed there until the end of the war. During this time, the vehicle received a camouflage pattern, and a nickname: Grobetier, meaning ‘Rough Animal’.


After the truce was signed on November 11 1918, which basically ended the war, German troops started to retreat to Germany, and the Büssing A5P was moved to the region Wünsdorf/Zossen. In 1919 it was still standing near the Kokampf Barracks at the city of Lankwitz and apparently saw no action, however, a user of the Landships forum mentions that he has a postcard from 1919, showing the Büssing A5P being used by the German Freikorps. It is still bearing the camouflage and nickname received in 1918.  The vehicle was very likely scrapped in 1919/20.

The Büssing A5P in Ukraine at the end of 1918. This camouflage and adaptation of iron crosses were the last changes made to the vehicle before the war ended. Note the new nickname for the vehicle: ‘Grobetier’, meaning ‘Rough Animal’. Photo: Ebay auction


Being the only armored vehicle built by Büssing during the war, it was a remarkable achievement to build such a behemoth, which survived throughout the war. However, having served at both the Eastern and Western Front, the vehicle did not live up to expectations.

Büssing A5P specifications

Dimensions 9.5 x 2.1 x 3.5 m (31.17×6.89×11.48 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 10.3 tons
Crew 10
Propulsion 6-cylinder Büssing “Otto” petrol, 90 hp (67.14 kW)
Speed 35 km/h (21.7 mph)
Range (road) 240 km (150 mi)
Armament 3 x Mg08/Mg15na 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine guns
Armor 3.5-7.5 mm (0.14-0.3 in)
Total production 1


Die deutschen Radpanzer im Ersten Weltkrieg Technische Entwicklung und Einsätze, Heinrich Kaufhold-Roll, Biblio Verlag, 1996.
Panzer-Kraftwagen Armoured Cars of the German Army and Freikorps, Tankograd No 1007, Rainer Strasheim, Jochen Vollert Verlag, 2013.
Die gepanzerte Radfahrzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L. Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, 2002.
Typenkompass Panzerkampfwagen im Ersten Weltkrieg, Wolfgang Fleischer, Motorbuch Verlag, 2017.
Waffen Revue 123, Karl R. Pawlas, Journal-Verlag Schwend, 2001.
Private Conversation with Chris (Landships Forum username ‘elbavaro’) concerning post-war images of the A5P.
Short film fragment, taken in Kiev, showing the Büssing A5P and an Ehrhardt E-V/4 1917. Note the crude way how the camouflage is applied: (WATCH HERE)

Büssing A5P Armored Car
The Collosal Büssing A5P Armored Car. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet, with correction by Leander Jobse

WW1 German Armor

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V

German Empire (1917) Heavy tank – 20 built

High command scepticism

In 1916, both the British and the French introduced tanks on the battlefield and gradually improved their performances and design through frontline experience. But still, even by 1917, the German high command still considered they could be defeated by using special rifle bullets and artillery, in direct or indirect fire. The impression they had was mixed, seeing their breakdowns and apparent difficult crossing of the heavily cratered no man’s land. But the psychological effect on an unprepared infantry was such that this new weapon had to be seriously taken in consideration.
The traditional view still prevailed, seing infantry as the most versatile way to make a breakthrough, notably the famous elite “assault squads”, or “sturmtruppen”, equipped with grenades, small arms and flame-throwers. They proved successful during the spring offensive and further hampered the need for a tank.

Designed by Joseph Vollmer

Despite initial resistance against tanks, their first, shocking appearance on the battlefield in the fall of 1916, led, in September of the same year, to the creation of a study department, the Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7 Abteilung, Verkehrswesen. (Department 7, Transport)
This Department was responsible for all the information gathering on Allied tanks and for formulating both anti-tank tactics and devices and specifications for a possible indigenous design. Based on these specifications, the first plans were drawn by Joseph Vollmer, a reserve captain and engineer. These specifications included a top weight of 30 tons, use of the available Austrian Holt chassis, ability to cross ditches 1.5 m (4.92 ft) wide, to have a speed of at least 12 km/h (7.45 mph), several machine guns and a rapid-fire gun.

The chassis was also to be used for cargo and troop carriers. The first prototype built by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft made its first trials on April 30, 1917, at Belin Marienfeld. The final prototype was ready by May 1917. It was unarmored but filled with 10-tons of ballast to simulate the weight. After successful trials in Mainz, the design was modified once more to incorporate two more machine-guns and a better observation post. Pre-production started in September 1917. Production started in October with an initial order of 100 units and a training unit was formed in the process. By then, this machine was known after its studying department, the 7 Abteilung, Verkehrswesen (A7V), “Sturmpanzerkraftwagen” meaning “assault armored motor vehicle”.

The only operational German tank of WWI

When the A7V was first introduced in the two first operational units, Assault Tank Units 1 and 2, it had already revealed some flaws, notably the relatively thin underbelly and roof (10 mm/0.39 in), not able to resist fragmentation grenades. The overall use of regular steel and not an armored compound, for production reasons, meant that the effectiveness of the 30-20 mm plating was reduced. Like contemporary tanks, it was vulnerable to artillery fire.

It was overcrowded. With seventeen men and an officer, the crew comprised a driver, a mechanic, a mechanic/signaler and twelve infantrymen, gun servants and machine-gun servants (six loaders and six gunners). Of course, the restricted interior wasn’t compartmented, the engine was situated right at the center, diffusing its noise and toxic fumes. The Holt track, using vertical springs, was hampered by the overall weight of the tall structure and its very low ground clearance and large overhang at the front meant very poor crossing capabilities on a heavily cratered and muddy terrain. With this limitation in mind, these first two units (ten tanks each) were deployed on relatively flat grounds.

The amount of ammunition carried was considerable, further reducing the internal space. Around 50-60 cartridge belts, each with 250 bullets, plus 180 rounds for the main gun, split between special HE explosive rounds, canisters and regular rounds. In operation more shells were loaded, up to 300. During operations, a single tank was converted as a “female” with two Maxim machine guns replacing the main gun. As initially no engine was powerful enough to move the 30 tons of the A7V in the restricted allocated space, two Daimler petrol 4-cylinder engines, each delivering about 100 bhp (75 kW), were coupled together.

This solution produced the most powerful tank of the war, with a speed even greater than British late tanks (Mk.V). 500 liters of fuel were stored to feed this engine, but due to the enormous consumption, the range never exceeded 60 km (37.3 mi) on road. Top speed off-road was limited to 5 km/h (3.1 mph) at best. The driver had very poor vision. The A7V was committed mostly on open terrains and roads, just like armored cars, were its speed and armament could reveal its true potential. Last but not least, the A7Vs were all hand-built and of great manufacture quality (and very high cost). Every model had unique features as no standardization was achieved.

The A7V in action

The first five squads of A7Vs from the 1st Assault Tank Unit were ready by March 1918. Led by Haumptann Greiff, this unit was deployed during the attack on the St Quentin canal, part of the German spring offensive. Two broke down but successfully repelled a localized British counter-attack. On April 24, 1918, however, during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, three A7V leading an infantry attack met three British Mark IVs, a male and two females. As the two females, damaged, were unsuccessful in damaging the German tanks with their machine-guns, they withdrew, and left the leading male (Second Lieutenant Frank Mitchell) dealing with the leading A7V (Second Lieutenant Wilhelm Biltz), in what was to become the first tank-to-tank duel in history. However, after three successful hits, the A7V was knocked-out and the crew (with five dead and several casualties) promptly bailed out.

The disabled tank was recovered and repaired later. The victorious Mark IV roamed the German lines, creating havoc and was joined later by several Whippets. But after murderous mortar fire, this attack was stopped in its tracks. Three Whippets were destroyed, as well as the Mark IV. This attack included all available A7Vs, but some broke down, other toppled into holes and were captured by British and Australian troops. The entire attack was deemed a failure, and the A7V removed from active service. The 100 machines order was cancelled and several were scrapped in November.


The commitment of all available tanks with poor results increased the resistance from the German high command. Some successes were achieved by the most numerous German tank in service during the spring offensives, the Beutepanzer Mark IV and V. Almost 50 captured British Mark IVs or Vs were pressed into service under German markings and camouflage. They showed the advantage of full-length tracks over difficult terrains. They influenced, along with the few captured Whippets Mark A light tanks, the design a new enhanced model, the A7V-U. U stands for “Umlaufende Ketten” or full-length tracks, a German-made but British-looking rhomboid tank.

Its featured two 57 mm (2.24 in) guns in sponsons and had a tall observation post similar to the A7V. Although the prototype was ready by June 1918, this 40-ton monster proved to have a high center of gravity and poor maneuverability. However twenty were ordered in September. None were completed by the armistice. All other paper projects (Oberschlesien), mockups (K-Wagen) and prototypes of the light LK-I and II also laid unfinished in November 1918. Starting late in the war, the Germans never had the opportunity to fully develop their tank arm both tactically and technically. This was achieved, mostly clandestinely, but successfully, during the twenties and early thirties. Nevertheless this early and deceiving attempt was a landmark in German development.

Links about the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V

The Sturmpanzerwagen A7V on Wikipedia

The first German tank

The only German tank to ever roam the battlefields of France and Belgium during WWI was nicknamed by the British the “moving fortress”. Big, tall and symmetrical, with sloped armor, surprisingly fast, bristling with machine-guns, it was indeed more akin to a moving fortification than a real tank. As it was basically an “armored box” based on the Holt chassis its crossing abilities were far from equal to the contemporary British Mark IV or V. With only 20 built of the 100 initially ordered, it was more a propaganda tool than an effective breakthrough apparatus.

Stürmpanzerwagen A7V
A7V replica on display at the Munster Panzer Museum. All A7Vs were christened by their crews. The “Nixe” for example took part in the famous duel at Villers Bretonneux, in March 1918. “Mephisto” was captured on the same day by Australian troops. It is now displayed at Brisbane Anzac museum. Other tanks were named “Gretchen”, “Faust”, “Schnuck”, “Baden I”, “Mephisto”, “Cyklop/Imperator”, “Siegfried”, “Alter Fritz”, “Lotti”, “Hagen”, “Nixe II”, “Heiland”, “Elfriede”, “Bulle/Adalbert”, “Nixe”, “Herkules”, “Wotan”, and “Prinz Oskar”.


An A7V at Royes
An A7V at Royes, during the spring offensives, March 1918.

by Giganaut
on Sketchfab

A7V specifications

Dimensions 7.34 x 3.1 x 3.3 m (24.08×10.17×10.82 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 30 to 33 tons
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 x 6 inline Daimler petrol, 200 bhp (149 kW)
Speed 15 km/h (9 mph)
Range on/off road 80/30 km (49.7/18.6 mi)
Armament 1xMaxim-Nordenfelt 57 mm (2.24 in) gun
6×7.5 mm (0.29 in) Maxim machine guns
Armor 30 mm front 20 mm sides (1.18/0.79 in)
Total production 20

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V
The StPzw A7V number four, one of the five tanks under command of Hauptmann Greiff committed to the attack of St. Quentin canal (British sector), part of the March 1918 offensive.

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!

WW1 German Armor

Flakpanzer A7V

German Empire German Empire (1917-18) Anti-aircraft SPG – 3 built

The rise of a Flakpanzer

In WW1, the Germans used the A7V chassis as a starting point to develop several other variations. Although most would be used for the A7V Überlandwagen rough terrain tracked supply vehicle, others were used to create unique vehicles, such as a trench digging machine and the anti-aircraft version known as the A7V Flakpanzer.
Plans were also made to produce an A7V Funkpanzer wireless communication tank fitted with a Graben-Funkstation 16 radio transmitter and large circling antenna on the roof.

In order to combat the ever more numerous amounts of aircraft in the skies, German Army needed something that could fend off the enemy aviators, but also be able to relocate to a more defensible position if necessary. Little is known about this mysterious A7V Flakpanzer save for a few photographs. Three prototypes were being trialed in the closing stages of World War One.

1918 trials of the A7V Flakpanzer anti aircraft tank
1918 trials of the A7V Flakpanzer anti-aircraft tank. Two ammunition boxes can be seen with their lids open behind each gun. Both guns are in the full recoil position – Photo – Thomas Anderson

The A7V Flakpanzer is the earliest recorded tracked anti-aircraft vehicle in history. The fate of these machines is unknown. It is possible that they were captured by the Allies and scrapped or they were dismantled and the parts were used for other things.
The guns themselves were positioned at each end of the platform. Ammo boxes were placed around the driving position and just under the guns themselves. The Flakpanzer A7V was very similar to the Uberlandwagen. It also had the A7V chassis and suspension, with the engines mounted centrally. The driving compartment was placed above them. This compartment was open and unarmored, but had a tarpaulin holder, to be used in bad weather.
The cargo bays were extended well over the front and rear of the vehicle, making the Flakpanzer longer. Each of these bays held an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pedestal.

These guns could traverse 360 degrees and could also elevate to fire at enemy planes.
Also present were two elevated guard rails, which seem to have had a double purpose. They could keep the crew from falling off the vehicle and serve as sitting places when moving. Under them were the ammunition compartments, which could be accessed from the outside of the vehicle, when the wooden side panels were lowered.
The crew consisted of around 10 men. Four men were needed to service each gun. There was also a driver and a commander, although it is not clear if these positions weren’t somehow amalgamated.

The Armament

There is no verified information on the armament used by the Flakpanzer. However, it is believed that two of the prototypes were equipped with captured Russian M1902/30 76.2 mm (3 in) field guns. They were mounted on a new trunnion and elevation assembly to enable high-elevation. This allowed the gun to be fired at enemy aircraft
The Germans had captured copious amounts of such guns from the Tsarist Empire and pressed them into service. They even manufactured the ammunition for them.

The third prototype A7V Flakpanzer was equipped with a German Krupp-manufactured gun. It is believed that it was a 7.7 cm (3.03 in) German leichte Feld Kanone (l.F.K.) 1896 n/a (7.7cm light field cannon). Only one gun was fitted to this vehicle.
Whether these guns were effective against their intended targets remains a mystery, as no paperwork related to these guns use has been found.
Geländewagen A7V at the factory with the cargo wooden panel sides in the down position
Geländewagen A7V at the factory with the cargo wooden panel sides in the down position

A7V chassis development

The situation in 1915 – 1916 was dire, as Germany, Britain and France had settled into a stalemate. In order to solve the ‘bloody equation’ formed by the artillery-barbed wire-machine gun combination, both Britain and France began development of a vehicle that had the ability to cross trenches with ease and be able to withstand enemy machine gun fire. This tracked vehicle would eventually revolutionize the battlefield. Thus the tank was born.
Although the tanks suffered from mechanical failures and inadequate crew training, they had a major physiological impact on the German soldiers. German intelligence subsequently submitted reports to the Oberste Heeresleitung (German supreme command or OHL for short), which then lobbied the War Ministry for an equivalent. However, some of the senior officers of the time were more focused on artillery and infantry tactics rather than the development of the tank or similar armored vehicles.

The committee, headed by chief designer Joseph Vollmer, rejected the trench crossing rhomboid shape track system as used on the British tanks because they wanted to build a chassis that could be used on a tank and a ‘prime mover’ heavy artillery gun tractor. This approach lead to problems.
Two Caterpillar-Holt tractors were obtained and adapted to build a working prototype. It had a better speed than the very slow British tanks but its trench crossing abilities were not as good.

Eventually, the Heeresleitung got some funding from the war ministry to make an equivalent. After months of testing and building, they came up with the A7V. The OHL ordered 100 chassis to be built. The rest were used to develop several A7V variants including the Überlandwagen and an Anti Aircraft version, called the Flakpanzer A7V.
Germany only produced 20 A7V tanks in World War One. Britain and France built over 8,000 tanks between 1916 – 1918. In the battles of 1918 the German Army used more captured British tanks than they did tanks built in Germany.
The Germans were not very imaginative when they gave a name to their first tank. The letters A7V stand for the committee of the Abteilung 7 Verkehrswesen (Department 7, Transport) of the Prussian War Office.

An article by Toby Harris and Craig Moore

Flakpanzer A7V Specifications

Armament 76.2 mm (3 in) Russian Field Gun M1902/30 or
7.7 cm (3.03 in) German leichte Feld Kanone (l.F.K.) 1896 n/a
Crew 9-10
Propulsion 2 x 6 inline Daimler petrol, 200 bhp (149 kW)
Speed ~15 km/h (9 mph)
Range on/off road ~80/30 km (49.7/18.6 mi)
Total production 3


German Panzers 1914-18 by Steven J Zaloga
Tankograd World War One Special A7V First of the Panzers
The Sturmpanzerwagen A7V on Wikipedia


Illustration by David Bocquelet
Three A7V tank chassis were used to build Flakpanzers motorised anti aircraft battery prototypes
Three A7V tank chassis were used to build Flakpanzers motorised anti aircraft battery prototypes – Photo – Thomas Anderson
Captured Russian 76.2 mm (3 in) Model 1902 guns were mounted on the A7V chassis with a new trunnion and elevation assembly to enable the gun to fire at enemy aircraft.
Captured Russian 76.2 mm (3 in) Model 1902 guns were mounted on the A7V chassis with a new trunnion and elevation assembly to enable the gun to fire at enemy aircraft.
Flakpanzers A7V
In this similar photograph you can see a metal frame above the driver’s position possibly used to support a bad weather canvas cover.
This photo of is believed to be the third A7V-Flakpanzer self-propelled anti-aircraft battery prototype.
This photo of is believed to be the third A7V-Flakpanzer self-propelled anti-aircraft battery prototype. It was only fitted with one gun, a German 7.7cm leichte Feld Kanone (l.F.K.) 1896 n/a
76.2 mm (3 in) Russian Field Gun M1902/30 at the Finnish Artillery Museum.
76.2 mm (3 in) Russian Field Gun M1902/30 at the Finnish Artillery Museum.
7.7 cm (3.03 in) German leichte Feld Kanone (l.F.K.) 1896 n/a (light field cannon)
7.7 cm (3.03 in) German leichte Feld Kanone (l.F.K.) 1896 n/a (light field cannon)

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!