At the end of the 1920s, the Dutch military slowly began to realise the importance of armored vehicles and their off-road capabilities. A tactic was developed that lighter armed armored cars should be used together with infantry to give close support, but the Royal Army (Koninklijke Landmacht) didn’t take any big steps in acquiring new vehicles. Meanwhile, the K.N.I.L. (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army) was slightly less conservative in buying new vehicles. In August 1933, the Dock and shipyard company Wilton-Fijenoord Limited, based in Schiedam, signed a contract with the Ministry of Colonies (Ministerie van Koloniën) to deliver three armored cars to the K.N.I.L.. These cars were designed upon a Krupp chassis. Plans were made to deliver three more cars a year later. On 26th April 1934, the first example was shipped to the Dutch Indies by the steamship Kota Tjandi.
The car was armed with three machine guns, probably the Lewis M.20 6.5 mm, of which two were mounted in the hull and one in a fully rotating turret. This turret could be turned by pedaling so the gunner could use both hands to handle the gun. Additionally, an anti-aircraft machine gun could be mounted on top of the turret. The machine guns in the hull had a traverse angle of 25 degrees to each side. The crew consisted of at least three people, two drivers/gunners, and one commander/gunner. If needed, the crew could be scaled up to five people, so the two hull-mounted guns could be manned by other men. As a novel feature, the exterior of the car could be electrified so enemies or rioters could not make contact with the car. A small hatch was installed in the bottom plate, through which lachrymatory gas grenades could be thrown.
The armor was resistant to 7.9 mm S.M.K. (Stahlmantelkern) bullets from 30 meters distance. The designers tried to avoid vertical placed armor plates and the use of high-quality steel led to a good trade-off between weight and protection. The total weight of the car was around 4.5 tons. Horizontal armor plates were also avoided to reduce the chance that thrown grenades could land and stay on top of the car. The crew could enter through three hatches and the drivers had closeable openings to see, but when they were closed, the drivers could see through small slits, covered by bulletproof glass. The commander also had a periscope to have a view of the complete surroundings.
The engine was a Krupp four-cylinder, air-cooled engine producing 60hp (44.7 kW) at 2500 rpm. The engine was horizontally opposed and equipped with special cooling rings along which air was blown by a compressor which could blow around 1000 liters of air per second. The fuel tank had a capacity of 60 liters so the car could drive a distance between 250 and 300 km.
Power was transmitted by a single disc clutch and an Aphon gear change with four forward gears and one reverse gear. The car was equipped with an extra gear change for better off-road capabilities. As a base, the Krupp L2H43 chassis was chosen. It had three axes and six-wheel-drive and had theoretically good off-road capabilities. Maximum speed was around 70 km/h (43.5 mph) on road and around 30 km/h (18.6 mph) off-road.
The car had one driver in the front and another in the back. The smallest turning circle was 4.4 meters. The four back wheels were equipped with hydraulic brakes. Both on the front and the back, spotlights were installed, which could be folded into the superstructure. Eight lamps were installed on the inside. The tires were made of solid rubber and bulletproof. In the two boxes above the back wheels on both sides of the car, tracks were stored, which could be applied on the two back wheels, resulting in better off-road performance, and essentially making it a half-track.
On 16th August 1933, the Ministry of Colonies signed a contract with Wilton-Fijenoord for the production of three armored cars. Wilton-Fijenoord would not develop the vehicle on their own as the design was made by the German firm Krupp from Essen. Unfortunately, the exact circumstances around this cooperation are not yet fully known. Two months after signing, on 18th November, three Krupp chassis, type L2H43, arrived at Wilton-Fijenoord in Schiedam. Production commenced and the first vehicle, without armament, was ready in April 1934 to be tested in the Dutch provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant. On 12th April 1934, the vehicle appeared in the city of Roosendaal, near the train station, where the crew and a military detachment, including two KNIL Captains, waited for several instructors from Krupp who would arrive in Roosendaal.
No major problems occured and the vehicle passed the trials successfully. Therefore, the first vehicle was prepared for shipment and left the Netherlands on 26th April aboard the Kota Tjandi. It arrived in the Dutch East Indies near the end of May, in the port of Tanjung Priok. It was carefully crated, so it could be transported by train to Bandung without too much attention, but the crate turned out to be too big to fit on the railway. It was therefore decided to move the vehicle by road, although it is a unclear wether it was towed or moved on its own power. A second vehicle arrived in the Indies on 21st June.
The vehicles were trialed by a special commission, consisting of; Lieutenant-Colonel of the Engineers H.A.E. Vennik; Head Engineer of the State Railway Ir. F.Q. Den Hollander; Mechanic Engineer of the Air Department D.S. Gaastra; and Lieutenant of the Engineers with the car company E. van Ijseldijk. They came to their final conclusion in October 1934 that an armored car in itself would prove to be very useful, but there were some major technical difficulties with the Wilton-Fijenoord armored car: The engine could not use common gasoline, only special airplane gasoline could be used. This was far from desired as it would not only be more expensive, but lso cause all kinds of logistical troubles. This specific flaw was already discovered at the very beginning of the trials so while a solution was sought, the delivery of the third armored car was postponed and eventually cancelled as a solution was not found. Fortunately for the KNIL, they had stipulated in the contract that if the vehicles did not perform as they should, they could be returned to Wilton-Fijenoord and replaced by improved vehicles.
However, this fuel problem was not the only reason why the KNIL did not accept the vehicles. During one of the many test drives, a spring broke between the chassis and the wheels which was considered as a structural weakness and not an isolated accident. They describe this to the fact that the vehicle was built on a truck chassis and that the proportions between engine power, dimensions, and weight were overlooked during the design stage. The vehicle was initially thought to be smaller, the weight was meant to be less, but the engine was the same, which meant a loss in power to weight ratio and an overloaded chassis and that showed itself in acceleration and climbing capabilities. That the vehicle did not perform as it did during the first tests back in the Netherlands were due to the different terrain, climate, and gasoline.
The fact that the vehicles did not perform well was a major setback for the KNIL. Earlier budget cuts were partially justified by the premise that armored cars were to be bought. The planned acquisition of three more cars in 1935 and potentially more in 1936 could not be continued. After the failed tests, the idea was coined that it maybe would be a good idea to start looking over the borders, consider solutions made by other countries, like the two-man tanks operated by Japan or even the British Vickers Amphibian tanks. These light tanks would even be cheaper than the Wilton Armored car which had a price of 25.500 guilders. Krupp started work on a replacement vehicle around 1935, namely the Gepanzerte Radfahrzeug, based on the improved L2H143 chassis, however, the vehicle was never bought by the KNIL and it remained a prototype.
Although the first adventure with armored vehicles turned into a failure, it did not stop the KNIL from trying to get new armored vehicles as the concept of armored vehicles was well-received. In 1935, with the gained experience, vehicles from several European manufactures were considered. This led to the order placed at Alvis-Straussler for twelve AC3D armored cars Around August 1936.
Better Luck Abroad
In February 1935, Wilton-Feijenoord found a potential buyer and desired the two vehicles to be returned as soon as possible. The first car left on 20th February with the ship Johan van Oldenbarneveldt. The other left on 2nd March with the Poeloeh roebiah. They were indeed sold to Brazil, together with a few Ford/Wilton-Fijenoord APCs. In Brazil, they were assigned to the Special Police Force of São Paulo. The three machine guns were removed and replaced by a device which shot lachrymatory gas or apparently flames. They received a grey color.
The third vehicle, with registration number H66436, was kept in the factory in running order. On the 20th and 21st March 1936, the ‘Amsterdamse Vrijwillige Burgerwacht’ (Voluntary Civil Guard of Amsterdam) organized an exercise and Wilton-Fijenoord decided to take part. With only two crewmembers, the car was not fully manned and when the car started its exercise, it was immediately stormed by civilians. This had to do with the ‘Jordaan riots’ of 1934 when also armored cars were used. Luckily for the crew, they could electrify the vehicle after which the civilians immediately backed off. When it drove back to Rotterdam after the successful exercise it was stormed again, so the car had to defend itself again. Back in Rotterdam, they had a collision with a civilian motor car, causing more commotion.
Although the Royal Army already showed interest in 1934, the decision was made not to buy it. Four years later though on 1st June 1938, it was sold to the Army as part of a tax deal, and assigned to the ‘Korps Rijdende Artillerie’ (‘Corps Mobile Artillery) but was unarmed. Negotiations with the company DAF about arming the vehicle stalled and the vehicle was not used in combat during the German attack in May 1940. It was captured by the German troops and assigned to the Ordnungspolizei. The Germans used it eventually in the defense of the Reichs Chancellery internal patio during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, where it got destroyed by Soviet forces.
Because the chassis was a design of the German Krupp company, they heavily got involved in the design process and after the Wilton-Fijenoord armored car was rejected by the KNIL, Krupp started to build an armored car on their own, called Gepanzerte Radfahrzeug as a replacement. Only one prototype of this vehicle was built and was eventually never sent to the Dutch Indies. Despite the rejection by the KNIL, all three armored cars saw remarkable service, both in Berlin and in Brazil.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||5.065 m x 2.2 m x 2.3 m ( 16.6 x x 7.2 x 9.8 ft)|
|Total weight||4500 kg / 9920.8 lbs|
|Crew||3 – 5|
|Propulsion||Krupp 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, air-cooled engine with 60 hp (44.7 kW) at 2500 rpm|
|Top speed||70 km/h (43.5 mph) road / 30 km/h (18.6 mph) off-road|
|Operational range||250 km / 155.3 mi|
|Armament||3x 7.92 mm machine guns|
|Armor||3-10 mm (0.11-0.39 in)|
Dr. C.M. Schulten & J. Theil, Nederlandse pantservoertuigen.
Magazine ‘Het Motorverkeer’, June 13 1934
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Onze pantserauto’s Hun bruikbaarheid.”. “Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië”. Batavia, 13-07-1934, p. 1. Delpher.
“Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië”, 18-10-1934.
“Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië”, 13-07-1934
“De Pantser-Auto’s van het Leger.”. “Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië”. Batavia, 05-01-1935. Delpher.
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Die gepanzerte Radfahzeuge des deutschen Heeres 1905-1945, Walter J. Spielberger, Hilary L.Doyle, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, 2002, p.121.