Categories
WW1 Italian Armor

Schneider CA and CD in Italian Service

Kingdom of Italy (1917-43)
Medium Tank – 12 Used

As the belligerents dug into defensive positions to cover themselves from machine-gun fire and artillery, they deployed wire to protect themselves and ensnare enemy troops. Whether it was the Western Front or, as Italy knew it, the North Eastern front, the result was the same, a brutal stalemate with relatively little movement from each side and very high casualty rates. Great Britain, France, and Italy were all brought to the same conclusion at around the same time. A vehicle capable of crossing the shell shattered ground and wire obstacles with armor to protect itself from enemy machine-gun fire was going to be needed.

Schneider CA number 212 as supplied to Italy. Source: Pignato

The Italians, for their part, whilst having their own developments underway, dispatched a team of their own experts led by Major Bennicelli (an artillery officer) to see the vehicles developed by their allies, Great Britain and France, following their use of tanks in 1917 and to report back.

Examination of the Schneider

A thorough examination of the French CA Schneider was conducted as part of this study in February 1917. The Schneider CA was an unusual vehicle, weighing 13 tonnes and classed by the mission as a Medium Tank. Six meters long, 2 meters wide and 2.25 meters high, it was powered by just a 60hp petrol engine and protected by just 11mm of armor plate. Offensively, it carried a short 75  mm gun in the right-hand side and two Hotchkiss 8 mm machine-guns. Ammunition supply was 90 rounds for the main gun and 2400 rounds for the machine-guns. All this was to fit along with the 5 crewmen, making it a cramped and uncomfortable vehicle.

The novelty of a track run machine meant that the experts reported the means by which a track laying machine worked as well as the basic elements of the structure such as it being constructed based on two longitudinal beams and suspension by means of large springs. Examining the motor, it was reported to use a dry-plate clutch with a 3-speed gearbox connected to a transverse shaft carrying two opposing gears for driving the driving sprockets of the tank. To steer, the driver used a combination of the clutch and brake to vary drive from one track to another. As one track slows or stops, the other, still moving, turns the tank in the direction of the slower track. The driving arrangements were poorly arranged though, and the interior cramped. On the plus side, the use by the French of a multi-colored camouflage scheme was excellent and Major Bennicelli was impressed that the French also painted their artillery this way.

Schneider CA number ‘212’ during Italian trials still in the original French camouflage scheme, but having difficulty crossing a standard trench. Source: Pignato

Obstacle crossing was a primary area of concern for the designs. In examining the Renault ‘Tipo Leggero (Light tank) – the Renault model FT, in comparison to the Schneider machine, Major Bennicelli made the following points. Standard trenches, which any design would have to negotiate, were up to 1.7 or 1.8 metres wide and vehicles should be able to negotiate steep slopes. The Schneider vehicle could only manage a 55% grade (less than 30 degrees) whereas the lighter Renault FT could manage a 100% grade (45 degree slope). This would be made even worse by the effect of artillery and rain on the ground, rending it very difficult for any machine to cross. Neither vehicle was, in any way, fast. Despite both being technically capable of between 2 and 8 km/h, it was his view that in the terrible ground conditions of the front lines, just 3 km/h could be expected with an operating time of just 6 to 8 hours.

Schneider CA number ‘212’ still in its original French camouflage scheme during Italian testing. Source: Pignato

Despite the excellent use of camouflage though, the Schneider has serious limitations and several changes were recommended. The primary one was the exposed location of the fuel tank at the front. It was too exposed to damage by the enemy and, being petrol-powered, posed a huge risk of fire. Next, it was suggested that a door to exit or enter the vehicle should be added in the side of the machine in addition to the rear door. This would assist crews escaping in the event of fire or breakdown. Two final suggestions were to improve the lot of the drive with an improved type of clutch to make steering easier, and the adoption of a periscope to aid visibility around the machine.

A repainted Schneider CA number ‘212’ seen at Fort Tiburtino, Rome, 1920. Source: Pignato

The Italian Machine

Despite the complaints about the machine being difficult to control and with issues over its performance crossing a trench or on an incline, the Italians obtained a single example from the French for an unknown price in April 1917. Schneider CA chassis number ‘212’ did not feature any of the recommended changes to the design, but it was slightly different to the standard French machine. It lacked any of the additional spaced armor and, for whatever reason, the exhaust fitted to it had come from vehicle serial number ‘101’. It was eventually painted grey and green in replacement of the French camouflage, but only after some initial tests.

Schneider CA number ‘212’ seen outside Bologna in 1937. Source: Pignato

Once in Italian hands, the vehicle was evaluated in the area of the Piave in northern Italy to see how it handled the difficult and mountainous terrain. Given the relatively poor showing of it in France, it is likely that following a similar outcome in Italy the idea of buying any more seemed remote. None the less and perhaps as a result of lack of experience, the High Command deemed the performance satisfactory and decided to buy more anyway. Negotiations, however, did not go as expected and for whatever reason, Italy was not able to secure orders for any more machines or a licence to build their own in Italy. The vehicle was not scrapped and it was transferred to the Departmental Headquarters for the nascent Tank Regiment in Bologna.

The vehicle remained there, presumably for display and teaching, until about 1936, when it was supposed to be transferred to a museum, although a photograph shows it still outside at that location in 1937. It was still a running vehicle at the time as it received registration number ‘R.E.1053’. No trace of the vehicle remains and it is assumed to have either been repurposed for use as a tractor or for training during WW2.

Tactical Employment of Tanks by the French

Major Bennicelli’s visit had not provided Italy with a successful or useful tank design in the form of the Schneider. It did have some success with the Renault, but more importantly, he also gathered evidence as to the tactical use of tanks by the French. In reporting on French tank organization, Major Bennicelli wrote that the vehicles of the Schneider type were divided into ‘Groups’, each of which was comprised of 4 batteries of 4 tanks, totaling 16 tanks each. Four such groups were organized with each of these larger groups having a dedicated supply section attached.

In combat, tanks were to be used to accompany the infantry, destroying machine-guns, with the infantry following to clear out enemy trenches. As a result, it was necessary that the tanks would have to be incorporated into infantry units. To promote smooth tactical coordination between tank and infantry, it was expected that the two branches would exercise together for months. There would also have to be some kind of provision for supporting and countering air power. It was absolutely essential that neither tanks nor infantry became separated from one another as neither could advance without assistance from the other. Tanks, he felt, should be used making the most of natural covers like dusk or fog and expressly so during a surprise attack. The tank could act as a mobile shield for up to 3 men at a time, but, as the enemy would concentrated artillery fire on the vehicles, the bulk of the troops should stay away from the tanks following as the second wave to seize the primary trench line. All of this information about the use of tanks would influence how Italy would eventually develop its own strategy for using tanks too.

Schneider CD artillery tractor with the new cabin at the front. Source: Francois Vauvillier

Back in Use For a New War

By the time WW2 had started, Italy was still unprepared for a protracted war against modern professional armies. It was, amongst other issues, seriously short of a variety of equipment, including tractors for towing medium and heavy artillery.
As a result, the Italian Army was supplied with at least 11 examples of the Schneider CD by the Germans from captured French stocks. The Schneider CD was the same basic vehicle as the CA tank but with a different and unprotected superstructure creating a driving cabin at the front. Able to tow loads of up to 5.4 tonnes, albeit slowly, the CD was an ideal addition to artillery units, and these 11 captured examples were officially registered into Italian Army inventory on March 12th 1942 with registration numbers ‘11155’ to ‘11165’ (both inclusive). None of the 11 vehicles used by Italy are known to have survived to this day.



Illustration of the Italian Schneider CA produced by Tank Enyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 6.32m x 2.30m x 2.05m
(20ft 9in x 7ft 6in x 6ft 9in)
Total weight, battle ready 13.6 tons
Crew 6
Propulsion Schneider 4 cyl petrol, 60 hp (45 Kw)
Speed 8 km/h (5 mph)
Range on/off road 80/30 km (50/19 mi)
Main Armament 1x Schneider 75 mm (2.95 in) blockhaus gun
Secondary Armament 2x Hotchkiss M1914 8 mm (0.31 in) machine guns
Armor 11 mm + 5.5 mm spaced (0.43+0.21 in)
Total Used 12

Sources

Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Nicola Pignato & Filippo Cappellano
Italie1939-45.com
La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano, Ceva and Curami


Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

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

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

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

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


Categories
WW1 Italian Armor

Renault FT in Italian Service

Italian ww1 tanksKingdom of Italy (1917)
Light Tank – 4 used

As the belligerents of the Great War dug into defensive positions to cover themselves from machine gun fire and artillery, they deployed barbed wire to protect themselves and ensnare enemy troops. The results of the North-Eastern front for Italy were the same as for the British and French on the Western Front of France and Belgium, a brutal stalemate with relatively little movement from each side and very high casualty rates. France, Great Britain, and Italy all reached the same conclusion at around the same time; a vehicle capable of crossing the shell shattered ground and wire obstacles with enough armor to protect itself from enemy fire was going to be needed. In January 1917, an agreement was made between the Italian and the French Governments for the supply of tanks to Italy by France, but also the expedition of a small team (1 officer, 1 NCO, and two men) to France to test drive the tanks and report back. As a reciprocal gesture, the French requested the delivery of an Italian Florio truck for use in the mountains and that it be delivered to Lyon.
The Italians, for their part, had their own tank developments underway and dispatched a team of their own experts, led by Major Bennicelli, an artillery officer, to see the vehicles developed so far by their allies, Great Britain and France, and to report back.

Girod turreted Renault Model FT, serial number 66947 supplied to Italy, 1918.

Examination of the Renault

One type of tank examined was the Renault ‘Tipo Leggero’ (Light Tank), which was built at the Renault factory at Billancourt. Major Bennicelli described the vehicle as not varying much from the Schneider tank. Obviously, this is not correct visually, but he was meaning technically, as that was his primary focus. Mechanically, the vehicles had some similarities but the Renault machine had a centrally located revolving turret armed with a machine gun and ‘slots for automatic fire’, unlike the turretless Schneider.
The Renault Tipo Leggero weighed half as much as the Schneider, just 6.5 tonnes and was significantly smaller, just 4.1 meters long, 1.7 meters wide and 2.14 meters high. In contrast to the Schneider’s crew of 5, this vehicle had just 2. The engine was less than half the power of the Schneider at just 40 hp, meaning this light tank was only capable of just 4 to 10 km/h depending on ground conditions and fuel for just 8 to 10 hours of operation. On the plus side, however, the machine gun with up to 3000 rounds of ammunition was able to be substituted for a 37mm cannon.

Major Bennicelli climbing out of a Renault FT with the original cast turret. This is the original Renault FT, and Italy was not supplied with this vehicle or type of turret, indicating this photograph was taken in France. Photo: Papo

Tactics

Major Bennicelli also gathered evidence of the tactical use of tanks by the French. French tank tactics dictated that they were to be used to accompany infantry and destroy machine-gun nests, with the infantry following behind to clear out enemy trenches. As a result, it was necessary that the tanks would have to be incorporated into infantry units.
To promote smooth tactical coordination between tank and infantry, it was expected that both elements exercised together for months. There would also have to be some kind of provision for supporting and countering air power. It was absolutely essential that neither tanks nor infantry became separated from one another, as neither could advance without assistance from the other.
In reporting on French tank organisation, Major Bennicelli described that these vehicles were divided into a battalion of three companies consisting of 25 tanks.

Obstacles

Obstacle crossing was a primary area of concern for the designs, and in examining the Renault ‘Tipo Leggero (Light tank) – the Renault model FT – in comparison to the Schneider machine, he made the following points. Standard trenches (which any design would have to negotiate with), were up to 1.7 or 1.8 metres wide and vehicles should also be able to negotiate steep slopes. The Schneider vehicle could only manage a 55% grade (less than 30 degrees), whereas the lighter Renault FT, could manage a 100% grade (45-degree slope). This would be made even worse by the effect of artillery and rain on the ground, rending it very difficult for any machine to cross.

Piacenza 1918. Renault driven by Major Bennicelli ploughs through a barbed wire entanglement during a demonstration. Only one 37mm armed vehicle was supplied, making this tank 66947. Photo: Papo

Examples

Initially, the Schneider CA seems to have been the preferred vehicle for Italy, but they were unable to obtain more than just a single machine for testing, and negotiations over buying more or a license to produce the Schneider tank in Italy fell through. The only other option from France, therefore, was the Renault FT. The first vehicle may have been received as early as March 1917, suggesting that the French were willing to supply a sample of both the FT and the Schneider. By May 1918, four Renault FT’s had been sent to Italy for an unknown sum of money. Two of the FT’s mounted the standard Girod cast type turret. One of these vehicles mounted a 37mm Puteaux gun (serial number 66947) and the other (serial number 67657) a single Hotchkiss Model 1914 machine-gun, which was subsequently replaced with an Italian 6.5mm SIA machine-gun instead.
The other two FT’s were fitted with the Berliet polygonal turret made from riveted plates. Both were also armed with the Hotchkiss Model 1914 machine-gun and, just like the Girod turreted version, had them replaced with an Italian machine-gun, the Fiat Model 1914 (registration A.1003).

Girod turreted Renault FT, serial number 67657, during a public demonstration in Italy. This vehicle was later registered by the Italian Army as vehicle A1001


The Renault FT in Italian service. This model has the Girod turret and is armed with the 37 mm gun. Illustration by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Orders

All Renault FT’s arrived by May 1918 and, by August, were ready for presentation to the Army High Command. Major Bennicelli was in charge of the demonstration which took place on 2nd August 1918, which met with the approval of the authorities. As a direct result, several firms were contracted to manufacture elements for the local production of these vehicles to meet the demands of the Italian Army, namely Ansaldo (armor), Breda (machine guns), Fiat (engines), Vickers, Terni, and Armstrong. It is not known how many vehicles were going to be ordered, but by the time the Italian Government was ready to place an order, the Armistice of 11th November 1918 had taken effect, and to all intents and purposes, hostilities between the great European powers stopped.
As a result, this initial order was canceled and instead the Italian Ministry of War sought to buy an additional 60 Renault FT’s from the French. By the start of 1919 though, this had still not taken place and lacking tanks, the Ministry had no choice but to revisit domestic production of the vehicle once more. In January 1919, the Ministry placed an order for 150 vehicles, probably with Ansaldo, but unable to produce them, the order was switched to Fiat in April 1919 and the quantity ordered reduced to 100 examples. The first Italian built example of the Renault FT started in June 1919 and rolled out of the Fiat plant in June 1920. This vehicle would go for testing and would eventually be accepted after some modification to form the backbone of the Italian tank force until World War Two. This vehicle was to be known as the Fiat 3000.

First prototype of the Italian-produced Renault FT made in 1920 which was later modified to become the Fiat 3000. Note this vehicle retains the hull doors of the FT rather than the single glacis of the later Fiat 3000 production vehicles

Whence the Renault

Piecing together what happened to the Renault FT’s in Italy, it is known that serial number 66947 was completely dismantled by Ansaldo, presumably during their brief 1919 contract period. This would indicate that the vehicle pictured at Fort Tiburtino was almost certainly serial number 67657. 66947, even though it was dismantled, did not disappear as it was rebuilt to be used for a different project in 1919.
At least two of the Renaults are known to have been sent to Libya in 1919 as part of the efforts to quell a revolt there and reassert control over the colony. Photographic evidence shows one of the vehicles to have the polygonal Berliet turret and the other to have the cast Girod turret. As the other Girod turreted vehicle (66947) is known to have had the 37mm gun and that it was dismantled at this given time, the lead vehicle can be identified as 67657 which mounted the Hotchkiss machine-gun.
At least one of the two Berliet turreted vehicles had been rearmed with a Fiat Model 1914 machine-gun by January 1923 for training, and official army records for January 1924 show 3 Renault’s still on the Army’s inventory in Italy. A fourth reappeared on the inventory in December 1924, probably having returned from an overseas unit, but by this time, two of the four were listed as Fuori Servizio (F.S.), meaning they were out of service.
Photographic records show one vehicle on display at Fort Tiburtino, where it presumably had been used for training, as late as 1927 armed with the Girod turret and 6.5mm SIA machine-gun.
It is not known what happened to the vehicles after this date, but the Army did come into possession of some more Renault FT’s after the 1937 ‘War in the North’ campaign during the Spanish Civil War, with up to 22 FT’s being captured or destroyed by Nationalist forces. Any that the Italians took were handed over to the Spanish Nationalist forces, as they were obsolete by this time.

Renault FT serial number 66947 was dismantled for inspection by Ansaldo.

Two of the four Renaults supplied to Italy seen in Libya during the revolt. Source: Pignato

Renault FT specifications

Dimensions 4.95(with tail)/4.20 x 1.74 x 2.14 m (16.24/13.77×5.7×7.02 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.7 tons
Crew 2 (commander/gunner, driver)
Propulsion Renault 4 cyl petrol, 39 hp (24 kW)
Speed 7.5 km/h (4.66 mph)
Range/consumption 65 km (40.38 miles)
Armament Hotchkiss 7.9 mm (0.32 in) or Italian 6.5mm SIA machine gun, or
Puteaux SA 18 37 mm (1.45 in) gun
Armor 22 mm (0.87 in)
Total production 3700 (France), 4 supplied to Italy.

Resources & Links

Papo, P. (2015). The first 40 years of Italian Armoured Vehicles. Pagine Militari, Rome
Pignato, N., Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano. Ufficio Storico.
Italie1939-45.com
Les chars de la Grande Guerre, Paul Malmassari, 14-18, le magazine de la Grande Guerre
Ceva,A., Curami, L. (1994). La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa.

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Categories
WW1 Italian Armor

Fiat 2000

Kingdom of Italy (1917)
Heavy Tank – 2 built

The Kingdom of Italy fought on the side of the Allied powers of France and Great Britain in World War 1, declaring war against the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and Germany in August 1915, October 1915, and August 1916 respectively. Their battlefields were mostly different to the open trench covered battlefields of northern France and Belgium, however. Other than the plains of the north-east, most of northern Italy is rugged mountainous country and Italy’s war on its northern border was one of the most brutal of a very brutal war. Any tank for Italian use would have to not only fill the need to fight in very mountainous terrain but also in colonial wars in Africa. The British had already deployed tanks in World War I and so had the French. The use of the Renault FT by France had been witnessed by Italian observers in 1917, and tanks were the crucial element that was helping the British to advance in France. As a result, inquiries were made to obtain a number of both Renault FT and Schneider CA1 tanks direct from France.

The Fiat 2000 was a true heavyweight, well armored, well armed and well conceived. (Fiat 2000 Prototype 2). Source: Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra di Roverto

Development

In a contract dated 13th October 1915 the Fiat company had already been tasked by Major General Giulio Martini with the design of a 40-tonne armored vehicle with a 65mm gun in the turret and armor superior to an armored car. It is unclear exactly how much was done to fulfill this contract until the end of 1916 after the British had used tanks, but the requirement for such a vehicle so soon after entering the war was an indication of the commitment to the war effort and the faith in Fiat to create a machine to help win the war. It is unknown why this requirement had been delivered so soon after the entry into the war but it could be speculated that it resulted from seeing the battles already fought on the Western Front, or as a result of a sharing of information from its allies, Britain and France.
By the time a design was ready by Fiat though official interest was being shown in the French tanks instead. The Fiat design, from the pen of Carlo Cavalli (a technical director at Fiat) and Giulio Cesare Cappa (formerly a car designer at Aquila, famous for racing cars) was finally ready in January 1917. This design under the original contract was ‘Automobile blindata d’assalto tipo 2000 and this design from Fiat was instead to now be commonly known as the ‘Fiat 2000’ although at least one blueprint refers to it as a ‘mobile fort’.
Design and construction caused a lot of friction between the two industrial giants of Fiat and Ansaldo. The project was very expensive and Ansaldo did not have a formal contract from the army for production of the armor plate used. This armor was to be the best available at the time, high-quality vanadium armor plate from the Ansaldo works at Terni, which had originally been destined for the warship ‘Cristoforo Colombo‘. Whatever the exact details of the dispute were, it was resolved by Mario Perrone (Ansaldo). The armor would be supplied by Ansaldo and assembled at the Fiat San Giorgio plant at Sesti Levante.

Original Fiat 1:5th scale wooden model built for Fiat in 1917 in Turin and sold in 2017. The pattern and color of the grey-green/brown camouflage can still be seen and it retains the original aluminum tracks. The plaque shows the vehicle to have been designed by the Quarello studio in Turin. Note that this is clearly Prototype vehicle No.2. Source: vonmorenburg.com

Trials

Prototype vehicle number 1 was still incomplete by June 1917 when it started trials. Only the hull was complete and it was still lacking the upper-structure, which constituted the fighting compartment of the tank. Unlike contemporary British tanks, the Fiat 2000 did not use the ‘all-round’ track but instead, a more conventional track run going around two large diameter wheels at each end and protected by armor over the sides. Drive from the rear mounted engine was taken to the front via a longitudinal transmission shaft which drove the front sprockets by means of a chain drive. Cooling was by means of air drawn in through the large radiator grille at the back. The second vehicle would not be completed until February 1918.

Original 1:10 scale plans for the fighting section of the Fiat 2000 from 1917. The plans clearly indicate the use of a dome turret destined for the Royal Italian Army and adds the reference number for Gio.  Ansaldo and Co. as ‘A1145fa’. Source: Fulvio Miglia

Front view of finished Fiat 2000 No.2. The drive chains to the front sprockets can be seen each side of the nose. The large square hatch in the ‘nose’ is for the driver. Source: Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra di Rovereto

Arrangement

The vehicle layout was simple but effective. The lower section comprised the engine, transmission and all of the running gear. It was divided by a bulkhead from the space above. This unusual construction also had the advantage that it kept the engine area sealed off from the crew space. This was very advantageous from the perspective of reducing the risk of smoke intoxication of the crew and safety in a fire and allowed the vehicle to be made in separate facilities and then put together later.
Prototype number 1 received a flat-topped round turret and it is not known when this was switched to the distinctive dome-shaped turret. Prototype number 1 can be distinguished from number 2 by the construction of the armored skirt on the lower half. Prototype No.1 had a multi-piece armored skirt whereas No.2 had a single piece skirt. The upper sections and number of openings were also different and, crucially, the guns at the front and back are in the corners on No.2 but only in the front and rear faces respectively for No.1. For the turrets, the second prototype vehicle built seems to have gone straight to the dome style turret. In video footage (IWM #460) of the Fiat 2000 Prototype No.1 during trials she can be seen climbing a stone step the height of its own tracks and at the end indications that the original flat-topped turret was just a mockup as it appears to come loose.

A parked and weatherproofed Fiat 2000 Prototype No.2. Source: unknown
The driver sat in the front center of the tank in a bulbous nose which afforded a very good view of the route ahead via a periscope or from the large hatch which could be opened to improve visibility and airflow. Access to the fighting space was by means of a large door on the left side of the fighting compartment and the plans and photographs show what appears to be a circular ventilation fan in the front left-hand side of the vehicle on No.1, another feature sorely needed on WW1 tanks. At some point, a multi-tone camouflage pattern was applied too.


Fiat 2000 Prototype No.1 hull during trials during 1917. The upper ‘fighting’ area has not yet even added but the driver’s position is wide enough that two men are sat in it. The rest is obscured by a large tarpaulin covering the central part of the tank. Source: Pignato
The large boxy structure of the vehicle was made from 20mm thick armor plate as described before with only the rear of the tank being thinner at 15mm. This armor thickness is low by WW2 standards but in WW1 this was more than sufficient for any machine-gun fire or even the German anti-tank rifle. Large skirts made from the same material covered the whole suspension arrangement of 4 sprung bogies on each side and the tracks. One additional note is that Prototype No.1 has small sections covering the bottom part of the large wheels at each end. The purpose of these is not known but they are not present on vehicle number 2 and appear to have been removed from vehicle number 1 later too.




Prototype Fiat 2000 No.1 seen during trials late 1917 to early 1918 with upper structure partially completed and first model cylindrical turret. Note the lack of corner mounts for weapons in the upper structure. Sources: Pignato and Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra di Rovereto

Completed and armed Fiat 2000 No.2 during testing, probably 1918. Photo: La Stampa

The Duke of Aosta, Commanding officer of the Italian 3rd Army seen near the front lines in 1918 with Fiat 2000 No.2. Photo: Pignato
Power for the Fiat 2000 was provided by a 6 cylinder 250 hp Fiat A12 aviation petrol engine providing the design with a power to weight ratio of 6hp/t and a top speed of 7.5 km/h.

Artist’s impression of a fully armed Fiat 2000 No.1 with the prototype turret. Note the additional sections over the lower parts of both wheels and the multi-panel lower armored skirt. Source: unknown
The machine was still very large, too large in fact to be ideal for use in the Italian mountains and very heavy. The Fiat 2000 had a mass of 40,000 kg, making it significantly heavier than the British tanks and even the German A7V. Despite this large size, the fighting compartment was still cramped although not as cramped as other tanks of the era. The fighting space was perched on top of and around the mechanicals with space for the crew. A crew of up to 10 men is sometimes quoted in order to man all of the weapons but 8 is more likely due to the space considerations and that not all of the weapons needed to be manned simultaneously. The difference may also stem from the variations in fighting space arrangements from vehicle No.1 to vehicle No.2, with fewer fighting loopholes. Unlike its far more cramped British counterparts though, most of the crew could, in fact, operate the weapons standing rather than in the very uncomfortable semi-squat position needed to operate sponsons guns on the British designs.

Fiat-SPA A12 engine. Photo: IWM

Armament

For armament, the original Fiat 2000 was bristling with firepower. Up to eight machine-guns (Fiat M.1914 6.5mm) (three at the rear, two forwards, and one on each side) could be mounted in the various portholes in the sides but the main gun was fitted into a small dome-shaped turret mounted on the roof. The low round turret from the prototype, which likely only suited a machine-gun, was gone and this much taller dome turret provided far more room for a cannon. One source claims that a 14mm heavy machine-gun was suggested for the design during development which could be the answer to what was intended for the first turret but there is insufficient information to say for sure either way.
Major Alfredo Bennicelli (the Italian Artillery officer who was responsible for bringing the Renault FT to Italy) seems to have been pushing for a 75 or 76 mm gun for the turret (the most probable choice being the 75/27CK) and in May 1918 it was suggested instead to select a 77 mm cannon instead. In the end, it was the 65mm mountain howitzer which was selected. The selection of a howitzer and the unique turret design would permit the Fiat 2000 to not only fire direct but also at a high angle as a howitzer, the drawback being a large dead spot close to the vehicle which the main gun could not cover. This was a gun more than capable enough to fulfill the functions of the tank for assaulting enemy positions or providing fire support for attacking troops. The 65mm Turin Arsenal M.1910/M.1913 mountain gun was in good supply, had armor piercing and high explosive shells as well as shrapnel rounds available to it at the time making it an ideal weapon to select.

Fiat 2000 No.2 seen in May 1930 with 8 men believed to be the crew. Source: unknown

Fiat 2000 No.2, date unknown with 7 men and an officer in front suggesting again a crew of 8. The person at the back appears to be unconnected. Photo: La Stampa


Rendition of the Fiat 2000 no.1 with no armament by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker

What if rendition of the Fiat 2000 no.1 with armament installed by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker

Rendition of the Fiat 2000 no.2 by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet
Fiat 2000 no.2 model by Giganaut

Death of the Project

The number of Fiat 2000’s has been subject to conjecture for nearly a century. Some sources state that as many as 6 vehicles were ordered and the first edition of ‘Der Taschenbuch der Panzer’ by Heigl states that as many as 10 were either intended to be made or in some state of production. An examination of the production records, however, shows that only two 65mm guns and twenty machine-guns were ordered for the project which suggests that only two vehicles were ever planned. Either way, it was the adoption by Italy of the French Renault tank which killed the Fiat 2000. Just the 2 examples of the Fiat 2000 had been finished before production of them was officially discontinued on 4th November 1918. Any remaining parts which may have been around or for a future production were scrapped at this time.
Fiat did not need to make more of them anyway. The Renault FT contract had gone to Fiat who went on to manufacture them under the name ‘Fiat 3000’. Fiat had managed to produce a rival to the design which they won the contract for, so effectively had managed to guarantee that they would get to build the tanks for the Italian Army.


Interior layout showing crew positions and mechanicals. Source: Pignato

Military Service and Combat

Despite the project falling through, the Fiat 2000 still entered service. Prototype No.2 was sent to the front lines in 1918, presumably for trials in the sort of terrain so common in the western front, but it is not known to have seen combat. In service, it was known as the Fiat 2000 M.1917 (model of 1917) but the ‘M.17’ part seems to have been retrospectively applied after modernization of one of the vehicles was done in 1934).


Fiat 2000 No.2 putting on a show for the crowd in Rome, April 1919. The unusual vehicle in the foreground is an experimental conversion of a Renault FT/Fiat 3000 with a howitzer on top. Source: unknown
Despite having appeared too late to see combat in WW1, Italy had colonial possessions to take care of. The modern-day nation of Libya had been taken by Italy after the Italo-Turkish war of 1911 and post-war there were a series of Arab revolts against Italian colonial rule. At least one (some sources claim both) of the Fiat 2000 tanks was dispatched to Libya to bolster forces there as part of No.1 Batteria Autonoma Carri D’Assalto in the early 1920’s.

 Fort Tiburtino, 1927. The size of the Fiat 2000 (No.2) is apparent here as she is alongside a Schneider CA-1, a Renault FT and on the far left the Fiat 3000. Source: AUSSME
The only known account of their combat use comes from ‘Le Forze Armate’ stating both vehicles were dispatched as part of an armored force to reconquer Giarabub, a strategic oasis about 240 km (150 miles) south of the Port of Bardia. One vehicle is alleged to have broken down at Porto Bardia and the other some distance from the action leaving the actual battle to be carried out with only Fiat 3000’s and a variety of armored cars and trucks. Other sources disagree stating only one of the tanks ever went to Libya. Col. Pederzini states that one of the Fiat 2000′s was dismantled in Benghazi prior to 1935 for unstated reasons but if it is true then probably due to a lack of spare parts. Whether they saw any action elsewhere in Libya is not known at this time but the late Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi put them on his stamps in action. As of an Army inventory conducted in 1925/6, only a single Fiat 2000 was shown so certainly by this date one vehicle had been decommissioned or scrapped. The last known photograph of No.1 is dated March 1924. As the only vehicle appearing in photographs after 1925/6 is the No.2 vehicle it seems that No.1 was scrapped. Photographic evidence can definitively show vehicle No.2 was in Italy afterwards though lending credibility to the theory that both tanks were sent.



Fiat 2000 on active service in Libya. Note: Only vehicle No.2 can be definitively identified here. At the parade in Tripoli, the Fiat 2000 is pictured outside the Governor’s residence. The use of the large Fiat logos makes it clear that the deployment to the colony had a commercial element to it and may even have been paid for by the Fiat company itself. Source: earlyaviators.net and internet


Somewhat fanciful depictions of the Fiat 2000 (note that two are shown in one of the stamps) in action at the battle of Bir Tagreft 1928 and El-Tangi 1913 respectively. For obvious reasons, the 1913 date is clearly wrong for anything involving the Fiat 2000. Only vehicle No.2 is shown. Source: Private collection and internet

A final modification – 1934

At least one of the Fiat 2000’s was used post -Libyan rebellion for various propaganda purposes, especially after the fascist government of Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922. The vehicle was used for training purposes too and reappeared in 1934 as the ‘M.34’ version (see earlier). This version retained the dome turret, the 65mm howitzer, and at least 4 machine-guns but the front had been modified. Instead of mounting two machine-guns in the front corners, it now mounted two 37mm L.40 anti-tank guns instead. From the identification features, it seems that this is also No.2.

Fiat 2000 (No.2) M.34 (the ‘soldiers’ standing on the vehicle are children and the angle gives a misleading image of how large the tank is. Source: Luce

The Vanishing

By the start of WW2, the last remaining Fiat 2000 completely disappears, sadly probably just scrapped and salvaged for the war effort. At 40-tonnes, it was the heaviest tank produced in Italy for nearly 40 years. La Stampa reports that it was last known to be in a foundry at the end of World War II although its last public sighting appears to have been in about 1939. The first vehicle probably never came back from the campaign in Libya if indeed it even went. No photographic evidence has been located confirmed that vehicle (No.1) went to Libya, or even of the vehicle at all after 1918/1919.
The Fiat 2000 was undoubtedly large but was probably the most powerful tank built in WW1. No trace of either the Fiat 2000’s remains today outside of the original wooden construction model, blueprints, and photographs. Italy’s first indigenous completed tank was one of its largest and suffered from bad timing. Too late to make any difference in the war for which she was built, unable to make a difference in the colonial wars, and then too outdated to be of any use for WW2. The Fiat 2000 remains one of the most distinctive tanks ever built, a unique design and one which showed the independent design skills of Italy in tank design and manufacturing.

A New Tank?

In 2017, the original 1:5 scale Quarello model was purchased by an Italian organization called Spa Militaire, at auction with a plan to manufacture a full-scale reproduction for an estimated cost of 700,000 euros. The intention of the project is to reproduce an important piece of Italian military and industrial history. Eventually, it is planned to commercialize the vehicle for rentals, films, and exhibitions help finance the restoration and rebuilding of other old Italian tanks. Tanks Encyclopedia has been working with this group to share information and resources to assist them and if readers wish to help they can email the group inbox at Fiat2000@assocarri.it.

Fiat 2000 specifications

Dimensions 7.4m x 3.1m x 3.8m
Total weight, battle ready 40,000kg
Crew 8 to 10
Propulsion Fiat A-12 6 cylinder 250hp petrol engine
Suspension Sprung bogies
Speed (road)  7.5km/h
Range  75km
Armament 1 x 65mm mountain howitzer and up to 8 6.5mm Fiat machine-guns (M.1917), 1 x 65mm mountain howitzer, 2 x 37mm anti-tank guns and 4 machine-guns (M.1924)
Armor 10-20mm
Total production 2 in 1917-1918
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Fighting Tanks Since 1916, Col. Robert Icks
Le Forze Armate, 1935 – Colonel Pederzini, Italian Tanks 1917-1945 by Dr.Emiliano Ciaralli,
Der Taschenbuch der Panzer, Fritz Heigl
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Australia/Bengazi/Benghazi-12.html Chapter 12 – The Capture of Giarabub
Earlyaviators.net
Vonmorenburg.com
Il Giorniale D’Italia, 8th October 2017 https://www.ilgiornaleditalia.org/news/cultura/891639/Carri-armati–che-passione.html#.Wd4UWD8yN9I.facebook
La Stampa, 12th of September 2017 https://www.lastampa.it/2017/09/12/societa/ricostruire-ex-novo-il-fiat-perduto-evjiVCLfdz3MkfQXYqKvxI/pagina.html

Video

Video of Fiat 2000 Prototype during trials https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675026087_Italian-forces_Alps_Italian-infantry-walks_soldiers-pull-artillery 02:32 – 02:46
IWM Video footage of the Fiat 2000
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022926?bt=europeanaapi 14:36 –

Where to donate to the Project.

Categories
WW1 Italian Armor

FIAT-Terni Tripoli

ww1 italy Italy (1918)
Armored car – 14 built

Development

The FIAT-Terni “Tripoli”, also known as armored car Terni, “FIAT” or “FIAT Tripoli Libya”, was an armored car used in colonial areas controlled by the Royal Army during the interwar period. It was born at the Terni steelworks of OTO (Livorno) in 1918. This was an early constituent of the future OTO-Melara consortium.
However, the northern Italian front was not favorable for armored cars. At the end of the conflict, the general staff emitted specifications for an armored car intended for use in the colonies. These were put into service at the end of the war and stayed so until early 1942.

Design

The FIAT-Terni Tripoli was more than twice lighter than the Lancia IZ, as well as faster and more agile. It was based on the Fiat 15b Military, a two-axle rear-wheel drive chassis with a wheelbase of 3.07 meters (9 ft 12 in), 1.4 meters (4 ft 7 in) wide. The wheels were steel discs, with a single front axle and a rear twin axle (2×4 configuration).
The engine was the Fiat 53A, 4,398 cc petrol, which developed 36 hp at 1,600 r/min. The armored body was made of cold steel plates 6 mm (0.24 in) thick, forming a combination of two cylinders, one housing the engine at the front and a vertical one, containing the main driving and fighting compartment, and a rear flattened storage tail with a fixed spare wheel.
The main compartment was provided with two side doors, while the front driver and co-driver received their own sight slits with armored flaps. A crew of four men were housed in the cramped space of the turret and drive compartment, without separation. The engine radiator grille was protected by armored shutters.
The large, two-man fully revolving turret received a single Fiat-Revelli Mod. 1914 6.5 × 52 mm (0.25 in) machine gun. The production turret roof was flat, but the prototype had sloped sides and mudguards on the rear wheels.

The FIAT-Terni Tripoli in action

A first batch of 12 armored cars was sent to Libya, for the Royal Corps of Colonial Troops in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, and were engaged in the reconquest. The Tripoli served in mixed units with Lancia IZs and FIAT lorries armed with guns, part of the armored squadrons of the III and IV Battalion “Cacciatores de Africa” (African hunters).
After the pacification, the FIAT-Terni stayed in service, taking up colonial police tasks and patrols against possible insurgency. By the mid-thirties, better, more modern vehicles succeeded this model, which joined the reserve.
However, with the outbreak of World War II, the colonial forces of the Royal Army were found short of motorized vehicles. Thus, the 6 to 8 surviving Tripoli vehicles were stripped of their chassis, and the bodies were mounted on more modern Fiat SPA-38R truck chassis. The turrets were open-topped and Breda-Safat 12.7 mm (0.5 in) heavy machine guns, removed from obsolete aircraft, were installed.
These vehicles were assigned to the special Armored Brigade “Babini” in the anti-aircraft role, but all were lost in the initial months of the campaign in North Africa.

Links & resources

The Tripoli on Wikipedia (Italian)

FIAT Terni Tripoli specifications

Dimensions 4.54 x 1.70 x 1.80 m (14ft7in x 5ft7in x5ft11in)
Total weight, battle ready 1.4 tons (3086 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, co-driver/commander, gunner,loader)
Propulsion FIAT 53A 4-cyl. petrol engine, 4.3 l, 36 bhp at 1600 rpm
Speed 65 km/h (39 mph)
Operational range 300 km (186 mi)
Armament FIAT-Revelli 8 mm (0.31 in) machine-gun
Armor Max. 6 mm (0.2 in)
Total production 14 in 1918

colonial pmolice Libya 1920s
Tripoli in Libya, 1920s.
Fiat Terni Tripoli
Modified Tripoli of the armored squadron “Babini” in 1941.

Gallery

Tripoli in Colonial service, Libya, 1920s
Fiat-Terni prototype - credits www.landships2
modified Fiat-Terni of the Babini Sqn in 1941
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

Categories
WW1 Italian Armor

Lancia Ansaldo IZ/IZM

ww1 Italy Italy (1916)
Armored car – 120 built total

Past Italian armored cars

The Lancia Anslado was the last, most famous and most numerous Italian armored car of the Great War. However, long before that, like many countries, Italy experimented with a series of makeshift armored cars which were rushed into service and deployed on bordering roads near to the Alps.
Notable models were the Bianchi (1914) and later the Autocarro SPA-9000C da 102/35, the first Italian SPG and eventually specialized AA vehicle. But there is little information about these models. Italian car companies contributed to some designs, but none was as successful as the Lancia IZ and by 1916, they were the most modern and well-armed in service on the Allied side.

The Lancia IZ

Development started following an army specification for a modern, heavily armed vehicle, in 1915. By mid-1916 Lancia had chosen its well-proven truck chassis which was already in army service. Lancia built an armored superstructure with a roomy turret on top of the rear compartment.
This model was characterized by a second machine gun turret on top of the first, giving the vehicle an overall height of 2.80 m (9.18 ft) (2.4 m/7.87 ft with the single turret). The main turret housed two Breda 8 mm (0.31 in) machine guns, giving the IZ formidable firepower for the time. Ten of these were manufactured and pressed into service at the fall of 1916, and early war experience led to the addition of two cutting rails to deal with barb wire.

The Lancia IZM

The success of this first model quickly led the army to order 110 more, produced by Lancia and Ansaldo. Because of stability concerns and other internal problems, the extra top turret was eliminated.
The IZM (for “modificato”) was revealed in mid-1917. Apart from their appearance, the two models were quite similar, with the IZM relocating the spare tires to the sides (instead of the rear) and minor modifications in the cooling vents and the engine hood armor, simplified visions slits and bumpers, and an updated Lancia chassis. The IZM rear fighting compartment was equipped with an extra port for a third machine-gun, and a rack for a liaison bicycle.

The IZ/IZM in action

Word War One

The mountainous terrain of the frontline with the Austro-Hungarian forces was not suited for Regio Esercito’s armored cars, however, they patrolled the north-eastern frontier, the Paive river sector and the Alpine foothills.
Their role was to guard against Austrian incursions, playing an important part in the rearguard action covering the retreating Italian forces at Caporetto in 1917. Users include American troops, who trained on these machines and the German and Austrian forces which captured some after Caporetto.

Interwar

During the late twenties and thirties, most IZMs were sent to the Italian colonies in Erythrea (East Africa) and Libya. Some took part in the Ethiopian campaign (1935) as advanced reconnaissance units, and a small detachment of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie Italia fought in Spain in 1936-38, supporting the Nationalists.
They were hopelessly outdated and easy prey for the Russian BA-3/6, equipped with a formidable tank turret. Some were also sold to the Albanian Kingdom, constituting the only armored force available in the region.

World War Two

Despite being obsolete, these machines were still in service in Lybia and other East African colonies when the war broke out. Most fought in Eastern Africa where they met vintage British and Australian armored car models, but were lost in the process. Some were deployed with Italian troops in police and anti-partisan operations in the Balkans, primarily in Yugoslavia. By November 1943, those which survived were captured and pressed into German service. Some were sent to the Hungarians.
Most were destroyed or captured in 1944 during the Yugoslavian uprising and Allied conquest of Italy. One IZM has survived and is on display at the Museo storico della Motorizzazione Militare in the Cecchignola Province of Rome.

Links about the Lancia IZ

The Lancia IZ on Wikipedia

Lancia-Ansaldo IZM specifications

Dimensions 5.4 x 1.85 x 2.4 m (17ft8in x 6ft05in x 7ft10in)
Total weight, battle ready 3.8 tons (8377 lbs)
Crew 6 (Driver, co-driver commander, 2 gunners, mechanic)
Propulsion Lancia V6 petrol, 35/40 bhp at 3000 rpm
Speed 60 km/h (37.3 mph)
Operational Range 300 km (186 mi)
Armament 2-3 Breda 8 mm (0.31 in) machine-guns
Armor Max. 8 mm (0.31 in)
Total production 110 IZM in 1918

Lancia IZ 1918
The original Lancia-Ansaldo IZ (only ten produced) was equipped with a second turret on top of the main one, raising the height of the whole vehicle to 2.8 m (9 ft 3 in). Due to the narrowness of the vehicle and stability issues, this was dropped for the next IZM model. Nevertheless, when introduced in 1916, this was the most modern and heavily armed armored car possessed by any army.
IZM equipped with special tires, during the war of Abyssinia.
IZM equipped with special tires, during the war of Abyssinia. This one is the tenth from the second squadron. The white rectangles painted on the turret were part of a tactical symbol to distinguish individual vehicles inside a platoon. It was later simplified with integrated colors.
Lancia Ansaldo IZM in colonial duty livery, Libya, 1938.
Lancia Ansaldo IZM in colonial duty livery, Libya, 1938.
IZM in Aegean, 1941
IZM attached to the XXXXIX Tank Battalion serving in the Aegean Islands during WWII. This one was captured by the Germans in November 1943. It seems that some IZM were also built for Austria during the interwar years. They included modified bumpers, extra storage boxes and were equipped with a twin Schwartzlöse machine-guns.

Lancia 1Z freshly built at the factory.

German Lancia 1ZM Panzerspähwagen, PK 501 used by the Wehrmacht operating in Italy after the capitulation of november 1943 (Bundesarchiv).

IZM exposed at the Museo storico della motorizzazione militare di Roma-Cecchignola
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs