Armored car – approx. 35 built
The Belgian Army – Pioneering the use of armored cars
By 1912, the Belgian Army was already pioneering small patrol units of regular road cars equipped with machine guns. The well-developed road network and flat terrain of Belgium was conducive to the use of armored cars. In August 1914 two car chassis were handed over to Lt. Charles Henkart to be armored and then returned to the Belgian Army.
The most well known of these vehicles was the Minerva, built at Antwerp. The sturdy and powerful Minerva 16CV chassis was shipped “naked” (without bodywork) to Cockerill works in Hoboken. There it was equipped with 4 mm (0.16 in) thick armor plates.
Design of the Minerva
To cope with the extra weight, double wheels were added to the rear axle. For better rigidity the doors were eliminated; the crew had to climb into the vehicle from the top. The single open-top superstructure (also called a “bathtub”) housed the driver, commander, gunner and gun servant (although the crew could be up to six men if sharpshooters were onboard).
The superstructure was flat at the front and rounded at the back. The ring mount for the machine gun was placed at the rear and allowed it to traverse fully. The machine gun, a standard air-cooled 8 mm Hotchkiss Model 1909, was protected by a gun shield. The engine, as well as the radiator were protected by armored hatches.
Evolution and wartime action
Around thirty car were converted into Minervas in 1914 before the factory was captured during the German advance. By 1916 the design was completely revised. The open-top was fully enclosed, the machine gun now relocated aft under an armored cupola, and two side doors added. At least one was equipped with a 37 mm (1.46 in) Puteaux cannon, however it is not known how many examples of this version were made.
They were used in small three-cars platoons by the motorized cavalry units, chiefly for reconnaissance, fire support for infantry, and long missions behind the German lines.
It seems their off-road capabilities were rather limited. The Germans captured and modified four 1914 model Minervas. These were used during the invasion of Romania, and at least one was used in Berlin during the 1919 Spartacist Uprising. Other Minervas were transferred to the Russians and fought briefly in 1917. The robustness of the Minerva armored car allowed some of them to remain in service with Gendarmerie units as late as 1935!
Minerva armored car specifications
|Dimensions||4.90 x 1.75 x 2.3 m (16’1” x 5’9” x 7’6”)|
|Total weight, battle ready||4 tons|
|Crew||3 to 6|
|Propulsion||Minerva gasoline, 4-cylinder, 8 liter, 40 hp at 2500 rpm|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph)|
|Range||150 km (93 mi)|
|Armament||1x 8mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss Model 1909 machine gun|
|Armor||4 mm (0.16 in) Maximum|