A7V - Sturmpanzerwagen - WWI german tank - case report

Kameradensoldaten!!
      In commemoration of the Centenary of the first tank x tank engagement, let's talk about one of the protagonists of this historic event: the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen. WWI German tank.

A7V Sturmpanzerwagen "WOTAN" (563)
History:
      The big A7V was a tank introduced by Germany in 1918, during World War I. One hundred chassis were ordered in early 1917, 10 to be finished as fighting vehicles with armored bodies, and the remainder as the Überlandwagen cargo carriers.
A7V Überlandwagen cargo carrier
    The number to be armored was later increased to 20. They were used in action from March to October 1918, and were the only tanks produced by Germany in World War I to be used in combat.

A7Vs SCHNUCK and HAGEN during the German
offensive in Artois and Picardy, May 1918.
 A7V development:
     Following the appearance of the first British tanks on the Western Front, in September 1916, the German War Ministry formed a committee, under the auspices of its Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, Abteilung 7 Verkehrswesen ("General War Department, Section 7, Transportation"), to investigate tank development. The project to design and build the first German tank was placed under the direction of Joseph Vollmer, one of Germany's foremost automobile designers.
Joseph Vollmer - Feb. 13, 1871 - Oct. 9, 1955
     It was to weigh around 30 tons, be capable of crossing ditches up to 1.5 metres wide, have armament including cannon at the front and rear as well as several machine-guns, and reach a top speed of at least 12 km/h. The running gear was based on the Holt tractor, copied from examples loaned by the Austrian Army.
Holt 120 tractor - 1914
      After initial plans were shared with the army in December 1916, the design was extended to be a universal chassis that could be used as a base for both a tank and unarmored Überlandwagen ("over-land vehicle") cargo carriers.
Überlandwagen cargo tractors

A7V- Flakpanzer (2x76,2mm captured russian guns)
Überlandwagen cargo tractors modified as AA-SPG
      The first prototype was completed by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft at Berlin-Marienfelde and tested on 30 April 1917. A wooden mockup of a final version was completed in May 1917 and demonstrated in Mainz with 10 tons of ballast to simulate the weight of the armor.
A7V Prototype with casamate in wood construction
      During final design, the rear-facing cannon was removed and the number of machine-guns was increased to six. The first pre-production A7V was produced in September 1917, followed by the first production model in October 1917.
 Tank A7V 501 (future GRETCHEN) in trials at Daimler Works. In this period, the
armament consisted of four MG-08 and two flamethrowers.
Notice the absence of exhaust hole and tube - November, 1917.
      The tanks were given to Assault Tank Units 1 and 2, founded on 20 September 1917, each with five officers and 109 non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and soldiers.

Designation
     The tank's designation A7V was derived from that of its parent organization: Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, Abteilung 7 -Verkehrswesen (General War Department, Division 7 - Transportation). In German, the tank was called Sturmpanzerwagen, (roughly "armored assault vehicle").

Design:
       The A7V was 7.34 metres long, 3 metres wide, and the maximum height was 3.3 metres. The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides, 30 mm at the front and 15 mm for the roof; however, the steel was not hardened armour plate, which reduced its effectiveness. It was thick enough to stop machine-gun and rifle fire, but not larger calibre rounds.
      The crew officially consisted of at least 17 soldiers and one officer: commander (officer, typically a lieutenant), driver, mechanic, mechanic/signaller, 12 infantrymen (six machine gunners, six loaders), and two artillerymen (main gunner and loader). A7Vs often went into action with as many as 25 men on board.

A7V  SIEGFRIED (525) after Villers-Brettoneux battle, Summer 1918.
As the interior of the tank was extremely noisy and hot, the
crew ride outside the vehicle whenever possible...
A7V  "BULLE" (543), later renamed "PRINZ ADALBERT" and  "ADALBERT".
The name "BULLE" was short-lived, but it dates this picture to circa April 1918. See below.
A7V ADALBERT (543) - former "BULLE" in transit, by railcar.
Armament:
      The A7V was armed with six 7.92 mm MG08 machine guns and a 5.7 cm Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon mounted at the front.
Maschinengewehr 08 7,92mm

5.7cm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun from A7V "SCHNUCK"
at the Imperial War Museum, Manchester, UK
      Some of these cannons were of British manufacture and had been captured in Belgium early in the war; others were captured in Russia in 1918 and appear to have included some Russian-made copies.

     Some A7Vs were originally built with two forward-facing machine guns instead of a 57 mm gun. Most were converted to carry a 57 mm before entering service. The A7V (501) GRETCHEN, took part in the action at St. Quentin as "Female", before her 57 mm was fitted.
A7Vs Baden I (505), Cyklop (507) and Gretchen (501) still configured as "Female"
with their crews. Harbonnieres- France - August 1918
   See the movie below and notice that GRETCHEN is presented in his "Female" configuration, armed only with machine guns and  SIEGFRIED, armed with 57mm cannon. Also notice the speed of heavy tanks: until they are agile for their size ...

A7V GRETCHEN (501) after being reassembled in the "Male" configuration, with the 57mm gun.
Sachy training ground near Sedan, France - October, 1918
Ammo:
      Between 40 and 60 cartridge belts, each of 250 rounds (a total of 10,000 to 15,000 rounds), were carried; as well as 180 shells for the main gun, split 90:54:36 between canister, antitank, and explosive. These were the official figures - up to 300 rounds for the main gun were stowed for combat.
A7V HERKULES (562) ditched in rough terrain...
Engine and transmission:
      Power came from two centrally mounted Daimler 4-cylinder petrol engines delivering 75 kW (101 hp) each; the A7V carried 500 litres of fuel. The top speed was about 15 km/h on roads and 5 Km/h across country. The 24 wheel suspension was individually sprung - an advantage over the unsprung British tanks.
Workshop of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in Berlin-Marienfelde.
In the foreground is the main part of a A7V with transmission,
two centrally mounted Daimler 4-cylinder petrol engines and fuel tanks.
      Compared to that of other World War I tanks, the A7V's road speed was quite high, but the vehicle had very poor off-road capability and a high centre of gravity, which made it prone to getting stuck or overturning on steep slopes.
A7V ELFRIEDE (542) overturned at Villers-Bretonneux on April 24th, 1918.
Captured by the French it was displayed at Place de la Concorde in Paris in late 1918
      The large overhang at the front and the low ground clearance meant that trenches or very muddy areas were impassable.
An A7V stuck in a trench or shell hole being dug out by crew in 1918
     The driver's view of the terrain directly in front of the tank was obscured by the vehicle's hull, which meant that there was a blind spot of about 10 metres. However, on open terrain, the A7V could be used to some success, and offered more firepower than the armoured cars that were available.
A7V in rough terrain. Notice the poor front visibility
for the driver
A7Vs FAUST (503) and PRINZ OSKAR (564) side by side

A7V BADEN I (505) with his crew, rest in a barn...

...and A7V BADEN I (505) in the fields.
    The power-to-weight ratio was 5.1 kW/ton(6.8 hp/ton), trench crossing: 2.1 m, ground clearance: 190 to 400 mm.
A7V chassis
Number
Tank name(s)
Details
501
Gretchen
Armed only with machine guns until fitted with a 57 mm cannon in late 1918. Abandoned at Sainte-Cécile (Belgium), believed scrapped in situ by Allies, 1919.
502
 ???
Became a Geländewagen (Cross-country vehicle), and was not fitted with armour.
503
FaustKronprinz Wilhelm,
WilhelmHeiland
Possibly named König Wilhelm
at one point
Scrapped by Germans in October 1918.
504
Schnuck
Damaged by friendly fire at Fremicourt, 31 August 1918. Abandoned by crew, and captured by New Zealand Division 3 days later.
Displayed in London on Horse Guards Parade
1918/19. Given to the Imperial War Museum in 1919, but disposed of in 1922 with only the main gun kept.
505
Baden IPrinz August WilhelmAugust Wilhelm
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919
506
Damaged and abandoned at Villers-Bretonneux, 24 April 1918; recovered by Australian and British troops in July; Taken via London to Brisbane, Australia, 1919.
507
CyklopPrinz Eitel FriedrichEitel FriedrichImperator
Briefly in hands of Freikorps at Lankwitz after Armistice. Scrapped in 1919.
525
Siegfried
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
526
Alter Fritz
Scrapped by Germans, 1 June 1918.
527
Lotti
Struck by artillery at Fort de la Pompelle, Reims, and abandoned by crew, on 1 June 1918.
528
Hagen
Ditched and abandoned by crew at Fremicourt, 31 August 1918; captured by New Zealand troops and displayed on Horse Guards Parade; scrapped in 1919.
529
Nixe II
Disabled by French artillery at Reims, 31 May 1918; recovered by French and handed to US Army. Displayed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds Museum, USA; scrapped in 1942.
540
???
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
541
???
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
542
Elfriede
Overturned and was abandoned at Villers-Bretonneux, 24 April 1918; Recovered from no man's land by British tanks 15 May, and handed over to French forces. Photographed at Saleux 26 May 1918. Displayed at Place de la Concorde in Paris in late 1918.
543
BullePrinz AdalbertAdalbert.
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
560
???
Lost at Iwuy, 11 October 1918.
561
Nixe
Disabled, destroyed on battlefield by Germans, 24 April 1918.
562
Herkules
Scrapped by Germans, after 31 August 1918.
563
Wotan
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919; a replica A7V was built in the late 1980s, based largely on Mephisto but named "Wotan". It is now in the Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany.
564
Prinz OskarOskar
Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

Combat records:

St. Quentin Canal
      The A7V was first used in combat on 21 March 1918. Five tanks of Abteilung I under the command of Hauptmann Greiff were deployed north of the St. Quentin Canal. Three of the A7Vs suffered mechanical failures before they entered combat; the remaining pair helped stop a minor British breakthrough in the area, but otherwise saw little combat that day.
A7V roaring their engines...
Villers-Bretonneux: The first tank x tank engagement in History.
      The first tank against tank combat in history took place on 24 April 1918 when three A7Vs: MEPHISTO (506), ELFRIDE (542) and NIXE (561) taking part in an attack with infantry and incidentally met three Mark IVs (two female machine gun-armed tanks and one male with two 6-pounder guns) near Villers-Bretonneux.
A7V in Roye, West front - 21 March 1918
British tanks Mk.IV 'Female' (left) and 'Male' (right)
     During the battle, tanks on both sides were damaged. According to the lead tank commander, Second Lieutenant Frank Mitchell, the Mk IV Female fell back after being damaged by armour-piercing bullets. They were unable to damage the A7Vs with their own machine guns. Mitchell then attacked the lead German tank, commanded by Second Lieutenant Wilhelm Biltz, with the 6-pounders of his own tank and knocked it out. He hit it three times, and killed five of the crew when they bailed out. He then went on to rout some infantry with case shot. The two remaining A7Vs in turn withdrew. As Mitchell's tank withdrew from action, seven Whippet tanks also engaged the infantry.
Whippet tank in open field...

Whippet White 9 - CAESAR II with Kojak and Rover, the dog.
Panzerserra's model kit
      Four of these were knocked out in the battle, and it is unclear if any of them engaged the retreating German tanks. Mitchell's tank lost a track towards the end of the battle from a mortar shell and was abandoned. The damaged A7V limped back to the German lines, but eventually broke down.


      Three detachments (Abteilungen) of five tanks each were at Villers-Bretonneux at the head of the four German divisions committed over a 4-mile front. One tank refused to start, but the 14 that saw action achieved some success, and the British recorded that their lines were broken by the tanks.
      However, a counter attack re-established the Allied line, by which time three A7Vs were out of action in No Man's Land or behind German lines. The A7V NIXE was badly damaged, and a German team destroyed it with explosive charges during the night of the 24th.
The remains of A7V NIXE (506) after being destroyed by own crew
      The other two tanks fell victim to holes in the ground, highlighting just how poor the A7V was on rough ground. One was A7V (542) ELFRIDE which fell on its side in a sandpit, to be recovered by British tanks and French infantry in May (3 weeks later), in  No Man's Land,  by French and Marocco troops and British tanks, and handed over to the French for examination. 


A7V ELFRIEDE (542) overturned in the battlefield.
A7V ELFRIEDE (542) after being captured by French and Moroccan troops, covered with inscriptions

A7V ELFRIEDE (542) after being untapped, ready to be sent for examination ...
      And A7V ELFRIEDE (542) in evaluation in France: See below..


     The other tank, A7V MEPHISTO (506) lay stuck in a crater behind German lines for almost three months. After the area was taken by Australian troops, in July, the commander of the 26th Battalion, Lt. Col. James Alexander Robinson, was determined to recover MEPHISTO for a trophy. A salvage plan was formulated and the help of the 1st Gun Carrier Company was enlisted, reconnaissance being undertaken with them on both 19 and 21 July. On the night of 23/24 July, under the cover of British artillery fire and low-flying aircraft, about a dozen men of the 26th Battalion along with two gun carrier tanks and their crews moved to MEPHISTO. The recovery was both assisted and complicated by the Germans themselves who subject the area to a heavy barrage with gas shells. Though this provided more cover, it also hampered the work and likely caused everyone involved to be evacuated as gas casualties soon after. A steel cable was then attached and MEPHISTO was dragged out of the hole and into the cover of Bois l’Abbe behind Villers-Bretonneux.
 A7V MEPHISTO (506) tank captured by the 26th Australian Battalion, at Monument Wood,
near Villers-Bretonneux, in France, on July 14th, 1918
      Soon afterwards MEPHISTO was moved to the headquarters of the 5th Brigade, Tank Corps, on the outskirts of the village of Vaux-en-Amienois, a short distance north of Amiens. This place was also a training ground where the infantry and the Tank Corps worked hard to develop the cooperative techniques that would be used to great success from August until the armistice in November. When men were not training some inevitably explored their surroundings. MEPHISTO was found next to a wood and became the object of curiosity and scrutiny. Many soldiers wrote their name on their hull.
   Originally, the tank 506 was painted with the figure of Mephistopheles, the red, smiling Faustian demon, on the upper front left armour plate. Cheekily tucked under the demon’s arm was a rhomboid-shaped British tank. The original skull-and-crossbones was overpainted with a single cross pattée, or German cross. This same black and white cross was repeated prominently on both sides of the tank, giving it unique identity within the small tank unit. It was named MEPHISTO, in honour of its fiery decoration.
The original art of Red Devil in the A7V 506 MEPHISTO
    While awaiting shipment to Australia, the tank received two special decorative paintings on its sides: The image of the British Lion with its paw on an A7V in his left side is a direct counter to MEPHISTO's original emblem of Mephistopheles carrying off a British tank.
The left side of A7V MEPHISTO shows the British Lion with its paw on an A7V
The British Lion. Notice the A7V under the right paw...
      The right side of A7V MEPHISTO’s hull had the units responsible for his salvage from the battlefield. Yet more names and art work are added to this side, including the colour patch of the 26th Battalion and an AIF 'Rising Sun' badge, as well as warnings such as ‘keep outside’.
The right side of A7V MEPHISTO shows the artwork and names...
      From Vaux-en-Amiénois, MEPHISTO was shipped by rail to the Tank Corps Gunnery School at Merlimont and then shipped from Dunkirk to London. Proposals for it to be displayed as a war trophy in Australia were raised, and on 2 April 1919 it was loaded on the SS Armagh at Tilbury. The ship was to deliver it to Sydney, with plans for it to go to the war memorial in Canberra's display, but it was diverted to Brisbane, arriving on 6 June 1919 at the Norman Wharf. 

MEPHISTO being unloaded from the S.S. "Armagh" at the Norman Wharf,
a week after its arrival in Brisbane on 2 June 1919.
      On 22 August 1919 two steamrollers from the Brisbane Municipal Council pulled MEPHISTO (travelling on its own caterpillar treads) from the wharf to the Queensland Museum (then at the Old Museum building in Bowen Hills), a journey of less than 2 miles taking 11 hours. The tank remained on display outside the old museum building for more than 60 years where it was a familiar icon.
      In 1986, MEPHISTO was relocated to the South Bank campus of the Queensland Museum. It resided in a purpose built climate controlled space in the Dinosaur Garden until the floods of 2011.
      Since then MEPHISTO has made the journey north of Brisbane to a facility where it underwent conservation and in early 2013 was moved once again to The Workshops Rail Museum.
     From July 2015 to June 2017, MEPHISTO was on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
      MEPHISTO will move to its permanent home in the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum South Bank and be on display when it opens in late 2018.

Other actions:
      In May, A7Vs were used with limited success in an attack on the French near Soissons, during the Third Battle of the Aisne.
     On 15 July, at Reims (during the Second Battle of the Marne), the Germans put eight A7Vs and 20 captured Mk IVs against the French lines. 
A7V LOTTI (527) Struck by artillery at Fort de la Pompelle, Reims
and abandoned by crew, on 1 June 1918.
      The final use in World War I of A7Vs was in a small but successful action on 11 October 1918, near Iwuy.

Conclusions:
      The A7V was not considered a success, and other designs were planned by Germany. However the end of the war meant none of the other tanks in development, or planned ones, would be finished (such as the Oberschlesien and the 120-ton K-Wagen).
      The extremely limited production of 20 made a very minor contribution, and most of the tanks (about 50 in total) that were fielded in action by Germany in World War I were captured British Mark IV tanks (Beutepanzer). In contrast, the French had produced over 3,600 of their light Renault FT-17, the most numerous tank of World War I, and the British over 2,500 of their heavy Mark I to V* tanks.
Two Ft 17's with Girod turrets: One with MG Hotchkiss and another with 37mm gun
British Mark I Male tank -Somme, 25 September 1916.
After WWI:
      Two vehicles closely resembling the A7V, one of which was named "HEDI" (chassis 524), were among several used by Kokampf, a Freikorps tank unit, to quell civil unrest in Berlin in 1919. They were constructed using the chassis from Überlandwagen and armed with four MG08/15 machine guns. It is not known whether the vehicles were armour-plated.
Überlandwagen HEDI - Berlin, 1919.
      There is a popular myth that several A7Vs were handed over by France to Polish forces and used during the Polish–Soviet War. However, the idea is dismissed by reliable sources, since the fate of each A7V unit that saw service in WWI is known and there is no known official record or photographic evidence of A7Vs in Polish service.

      The design of the A7V is featured on the tank badge of 1921 (Kampfwagen-Erinnerungsabzeichen), awarded to commemorate service in the German Panzer forces of 1918.
Kampfwagen-Erinnerungsabzeichen

Variants  of A7V - Sturmpanzerwagen:
  • A7V/U - Tracks ran on the outside of the hull and sponsons, similar to the British Mark IV. 
  • ÜberlandwagenGeländewagen - tractor / cargo carrier
  • A7V Flakpanzer - Überlandwagen with two 76,2mm captured russian guns, in an AA mouts.
      - The A7V/U (Umlaufende Ketten = "tracks running all the way round") was an attempt to reproduce the all-terrain capability of the British tanks. The A7V/U was still based on the Holt chassis but had a rhomboidal hull and all-round tracks. The cab was similar to, but bigger than, that on the A7V and was mounted on top of the forward part of the hull. Two 57 mm guns were carried in sponsons similar to the British type.
 
A7V/U Umlaufende Ketten Prototype
      The prototype was built in June 1918; trials showed that it was nose-heavy and had a high centre of gravity, and the 40-ton weight caused manoeuvrability problems. On the assumption that the problems could be rectified, 20 were ordered in September 1918, the same month work on the design was halted
      Drawings for two improved designs were prepared, but the war ended before any were produced. Thirty chassis were assigned for completion as Überlandwagen supply carriers, but not all were completed before the end of the war.


     - The Überlandwagen - Geländewagen was a tractor version of the A7V chassis, without armour plates. In this variant, a canopy was provided over the central control position and wood dropsides and ends were fitted fore and aft of the engine compartment. In some vehicles rails were added to support a tarpaulin cover over the load spaces. The vehicle had a top speed of 13 km/h and was crewed by a driver and one assistant. The seats in the control position swivelled and the controls were duplicated for driving in either direction without the need for turning. Tow hooks were fitted at both ends of the chassis.
A pair of Geländewagen in service with AKK(R) in training exercises.
The vertical swastika in white octagon was the AKK(R) 111 tactical symbol,
with no relation to the future Nazi regime.
      The Geländewagen was issued to AKK(R) 111 in late 1917-1918 but the vehicles were not heavily used because of their defects and the limited fuel supplies available in 1918.


      - A7V Flakpanzer - Three A7V chassis were assigned to a project to develop an A7V-Flakpanzer for mobile antiaircraft defense. This resembled the Geländwagen but had two M1902/30 captured russian 76.2mm antiaircraft guns on pedestal mounts on either side of the engine platform. They were modified with a new trunnion and elevation devices to enable high-elevation. This allowed the guns to be fired at enemy aircraft in effective way.
7V Flakpanzer
      Although photographs of these exist, little detail has survived about them. The A7V Flakpanzer was the first anti-aircraft vehicle registered in the history.

Lone surviving:
      The only surviving A7V is MEPHISTO, which was abandoned by its crew during the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. It was recovered three months later by Australian and British troops, and taken to Australia in 1919 as a trophy. The vehicle stood outside the old Queensland Museum in Bowen Hills under an open-sided shelter for many years until being moved into the new Queensland Museum on Southbank in 1986. It was damaged by floodwater in 2011, and taken for restoration to the Workshops Rail Museum, North Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, until placed on display at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, in July 2015, where it is expected to remain until 2017 before returning to Brisbane.
A7V MEPHISTO at the Australian War Memorial in January 2016.
      The 57mm gun from A7V SCHNUCK (504) is on display at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. This gun was removed from A7V, which had been captured at Bapaume on 30 August 1918.
5.7cm Maxim-Nordenfelt gun from A7V "SCHNUCK"
at the Imperial War Museum, Manchester, UK
before the restoration
Replicas:
- Bovington: A running A7V replica was built in 2009 by Bob Grundy of British Military Vehicles, Wigan, UK, a company that specialises in the restoration of old military vehicles. The vehicle is constructed of plywood and angle iron, using the engine, transmission and tracks from two Fordson County Crawlers – tracked agricultural vehicles – and is painted to represent the A7V SCHNUCK (504).
       It was purchased by The Tank Museum, Bovington, in November 2012. It is on display inside the Museum, and takes part in outdoor displays alongside the Museum's replica British Mark IV that was constructed for the film War Horse.

- Panzermuseum Munster: A static replica is in the Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster. It is named WOTAN, but is largely based on the surviving example, MEPHISTO.
A7V WOTAN (Replica) at Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany
Specs:
A7V Sturmpanzerwagen
TypeTank
Place of origin                                                 German Empire
Service history
In service21 March  – 16 October 1918
Used byGerman Empire
WarsWorld War I
German Revolution
Production history
DesignerJoseph Vollmer
Designed1916
No. built20
Specifications
Weight33 t battle weight
Length7.34 m 
Width3.1 m 
Height3.3 m 
CrewA minimum of 18

ArmorHull – Front: 30mm , rear: 15mm sides: 20mm, top:15 mm
Command cupola – Front: 30 mm, rear 15mm,  sides: 20mm, top 15 mm
Main
armament
57 mm gun (initially with 180 rounds; later 300)
Secondary
armament
6 × 7.9 mm machine guns
36,000 rounds
Engine2 × Daimler-Benz 4-cylinder
200 hp (149 kW) total
Power/weight6.5 hp/tonne
TransmissionAdler gearboxes and differentials
SuspensionHolt track, vertical springs
Operational
range
30–80 km (500 l)
Speed15 Km/h on roads
5 Km/h off-road.

The kit:
      Time to bring to light my old Sturmanpanzerwagen A7V from Tauro Models (#101), from 1980. Man... 38 years of plastic... I'm predicting a lots of pain ahead !!!

"Jurassic"  Sturmanpanzerwagen A7V from Tauro Models (#101)

Stay close, my friends!!