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TANKSgiving – Tanks and Armored Cars 1919-1939

Another gallery from a visit to Bovington  ~

Avery Abernethy, 20 November 2017

The tanks used in World War 1 were monstrous beasts that stood well over the ground. Most carried machine guns or at best very light cannons. After 1918 the industrial powers realized that anti-tank guns (and even anti-tank rifles) could easily knock out a WW1 era tank because of its thin armor, weak engine, slow speed and very high gun profile.

Much of the interwar period saw the development of Armored Cars and light tanks. Armored cars were much faster than the WW1 era tanks (especially on roads) and carried either similar or heavier guns than WW1 tanks. Thus the armored cars were faster, lower to the ground, less expensive to build, easier to maintain, and had more firepower than a WW1 tank.

Many armored cars were developed immediately after World War 1 through the early 1930s. As they developed, they became lower to the ground.

The development split into three directions.

In one direction the gun was removed and it became a scout car.  An example is the Dingo Mark 3.

Direction 2 had high ground clearance wheeled vehicles with light cannon with the Daimler Mark 1 providing an example.

 

Direction 3 became Armored Personnel Carriers to move mechanized infantry with machine gun support such as the German SdKfz 251.

 

Much of the armor which saw battle in the Italian/Ethiopia campaign of 1935-1936; the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 1939, the Blitz of Poland in 1939 and the battles in France in 1940 were developed in the 1920s and placed in the field in the 1930s. Some of the tracked designs were later converted to other uses, especially the Panzer 2 and the Panzer 3.

 

An example of an armored vehicle which worked well against a foe with no AT guns or opposing armor is the Italian Flame-Thrower tank.

 

The British lost virtually all of the armor deployed to France and France had no armor after losing in 1940. Any British Armor that reached either Greece or Norway was also largely lost to the Germans. Thus a lot of the early allied armored cars and lighter tanks were taken off the board early in the war.

The pictures of the Armored Cars and early WW2 tanks came from the British Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset during my visit in 2013. Sadly, I did not clearly record the names of the armored cars as well as I did the tanks.

 

The Peerless Armored Car was developed in 1919 by the UK.

 

I have pictures of a series of other armored cars.

 

The Morris Reconnaissance Vehicle which saw action in France in 1940 already incorporated a lower profile and initial attempts to use sloped armor.

 

The Russian T-26 was first delivered in the 1930s and had a weaker design than contemporary French, German, Italian or British Tanks.

 

The Japanese had relatively weak tank development probably due to their weaker automotive industry and industrial base. Although their tanks could do well in China and other areas with few anti-tank guns or opposing armor, by the time the US Army and Marines were striking back, their armor was obsolete. The Japanese 95 Ha-Go tank has a relatively weak gun and a very high ground profile.

 

Although French combined arms doctrine was miserable and they lacked adequate fighter support to prevent destruction by German tactical bombers, the French tanks themselves were excellent for the time. I have photos of the French Char B1, Char S35 Somua, and the Renault FT-17.

 

Italian armor development was quite good through the mid-1930s but stalled afterwards. In addition to the flamethrower pictured earlier, I have a picture of an Italian 14-41.

 

The single strangest armored vehicle was the Thorneycroft Bison. This was essentially a heavy truck with a concrete box on top. After the Brits lost almost all of their armor with the Fall of France, “Bisons” were hurriedly constructed to provide some armor for the UK homeland.

 

Fortunately, the Brits were able to build new armor relatively rapidly.

Other tanks…

For all of the tread-heads, please forgive whatever inaccuracies have crept in due to my ignorance and enjoy the lovely pictures from the UK Tank Museum. Since our editor has forgotten more about armor than I’ve ever known, hopefully he can weed out my mistakes in editing.

 

Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University who has been fortunate to visit multiple Tank museums including the UK’s excellent museum in Bovington.


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