Categories
WW2 Dutch Armored Cars

GMC Improvised Armored Cars

The Netherlands (1931-1934)
Armored Car – 3 Built

In the early 1920s, the Netherlands did not feel a need to acquire any armored vehicles. Nevertheless, the army had plans to buy one Renault FT tank and was already operating one armored car, based on an Ehrhardt Kraftwagen-Flugabwehrkanone taken from the Germans in 1918. These vehicles only served the purpose of familiarizing the army with the use of armored vehicles. For the same purpose, an improvised vehicle, made to look like an armored car, was built in 1924 in a local army workshop.

The turreted vehicle during exercises on the Veluwe in 1925. Note how it is covered in a smokescreen. Source: Dutch National Archives.

Construction

The improvised vehicle was constructed by the Regiment Vestingartillerie [Eng: Regiment Fortress Artillery], based in the city of Naarden. A GMC flatbed lorry was taken and a pivot-mounted 37 mm gun was installed in the back. The cabin and gun were enveloped in tin and wood, made to look like armor. The gun stood out above the roof and a wooden dome-shaped turret was placed around it. The spoked wheels were also covered with steel plating.

When the vehicle was put into service, it was quickly found that the added weight was far too much and the lorry could not drive faster than 24 km/h (~15 mph). Due to the use of tin, the vehicle received the nickname Blikken Pantserwagen, (Eng: ‘tin armored car’). In 1927, the vehicle was slightly adjusted and the structure was reinforced to resolve the weight problem, after which it was put into service with the Korps Rijdende Artillerie (Eng: Mobile Artillery Corps, abbr. ‘KRA’).

Somewhere during this time, it was repainted and also received a new registration number, M27012, and tactical number 702. The vehicle was used in exercises, for the first time in 1924 and for the last time in 1931 when the superstructure and gun were dismantled by the KRA. The lorry was then used to transport newly acquired Carden Loyd tankettes.

Picture showing the first vehicle after it got adjusted and was put into service with the KRA. Note the wooden turret and the (either red or blue) cloth strung around the headlights. It indicates to which army it belongs during war games. Source: Dutch National Archives.
On the morning of 31st July 1924, the GMC collided with a tram in the city of Naarden. Luckily no one was hurt and there was not much damage, nevertheless, it took one and a half hour to clean everything up. The armored car was pulled away by a Fordson tractor. Source: Gooi en Vecht Historisch

A Different Design

Five years after this mock-up vehicle was built, the army wanted to acquire real armored cars and 12,000 guilders were made available, worth US$114,120 in 2016 money. Negotiations with multiple foreign manufacturers, including Citroën and Škoda, failed, so First Lieutenant A.L.W. Seyffardt decided to design an armored car himself. After his design, three vehicles were built by the Korps Motordienst [Eng: Motor Service Corps], located in the city of Haarlem. The armor was taken from various gunshields and they were quickly nicknamed Kippenhok, [Eng: ‘Chicken Coop’].

The vehicles were built in 1931. Some features were a sheet iron roof, two oil lamps inside, and front and side armor with vision slits covered by armored glass. Three machine gunports were made, one in each side and one in the front. They could all be covered by an armored plate if necessary. The spoked wheels were covered by steel plates and had solid tires. Each vehicle received a black-green-yellow camouflage scheme.

A GMC Kippenhok during the Jordaan Riots in July 1934. Source: Dutch Military Archives.

The armament consisted of three 6.5 mm Lewis M.20 machine guns. The cars also featured double-steering with a driver in the front and in the back. A carbide searchlight could manually be raised from within the car and provide light when necessary. The front armor plate could be folded down completely, giving both the commander and front driver a vulnerable position but a clear view in return. The crew consisted of seven people, one commander, two drivers, three machine gunners, and one signaller. Despite being built in 1931, the vehicles were still based upon an outdated chassis and, in that sense, already obsolete when they were built. However, they formed the inspiration for the more modern Morris armored cars, of which three were built in 1933.

Two deployed vehicles are visible in this image. The commander and driver positions are clearly visible. Source: Dutch National Archives.
Two vehicles in the Marnixstreet on 6th July 1934. The front vehicle carries the registration G23328, the one in the rear is likely G23316. Source: Gemeentearchief Amsterdam

Jordaan Riots, 1934

After completion, the three vehicles were assigned to the Second Company Police troops stationed in Amsterdam. In early 1932, they were secretly transported to the Oranje Nassau Kazerne in Amsterdam. With these troops, the vehicles would see their only operational use when, in July 1934, riots broke out in the Jordaan city district. Due to the economic crisis started by the Wall Street Crash in 1929, there was a high unemployment rate across the country. Many unemployed people lived in the city of Amsterdam, and when news came that the social benefits would be lowered by ten percent, riots broke out. The police responded by asking the military for help and also tried to deploy its own armored cars.

Image of one armored car during the Jordaan Riots in July 1934, Willemstraat Amsterdam. Source: Dutch National Archives.

However, when the obsolete armored cars were deployed on 6th July, one of the cars suffered an immediate breakdown. The other two could be deployed but it was feared that the front axles would break due to the heavy overload. For this reason, the vehicles were only deployed together. When the newer Morris armored cars arrived, the GMC’s were pulled back from action. They were taken out of service and scrapped the very same year.

Although the riots became known as the ‘Jordaan Riots’, disturbances also took place in other city districts and in other places throughout the country, but these were not as violent. In the Jordaan, streets were broken up and barricaded. The riots were violently suppressed by the police and military. According to the police, five people were killed, while 56 people were heavily wounded, among them eight policemen and one member of the military police.

This photograph was taken from a balcony by Wolf Suschitzky (1912-2016) on the Prinsengracht. The vehicle, G23328, is in battle-mode, meaning all hatches are closed. Source: Gemeentearchief Amsterdam
Source: Gemeentearchief Amsterdam
Source: Gemeentearchief Amsterdam

Conclusion

The GMC mock-up was the first vehicle built in the Netherlands that functioned as a proper training armored vehicle in the country, while the unrelated series of three GMC vehicles were the first armored vehicles to be designed and build in the Netherlands. Although they performed badly, and were outdated the minute they were taken into service, they provided some little use during the 1934 Jordaan Riots but were quickly scrapped after their bad performance hindered their deployment significantly. The design directly influenced a newer model, three of which were built on Morris chassis for the Army.

The turreted mock-up armored car as it would have appeared during exercises between 1924 and 1931. It is important to stress that this vehicle had no armor at all. Illustration by Jaroslaw ‘Jarja’ Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications (1931 Model)

Total weight 3500 kg (7716 lbs)
Crew 7 (commander, 2 drivers, 3 machine gunners, signaller/searchlight operator
Top speed 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
Armament 3x 6.5 mm Lewis M.20 machine guns

Links & Resources

J. Giesbers, A. Giesbers, R. Tas. Holland paraat! Volume 2, Giesbers Media, 2016.
C.M. Schulten, J. Theil. Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.
H.G.J. Kaal. Het hoofd van de stad: Amsterdam en zijn burgemeester tijdens het interbellum, Aksant, 2008.

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