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Remembered Today:

Use of tanks and armoured cars?


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Can any one help with an explination regarding the differing roles of Tanks and Armoured Cars.

I am aware that the larger MKVI was for main assualt and 'trench busting', and that the Armoured car would be used in a screening or recce role but am alittle confused as to the real use of the Wippet tank as its seems to be too slow for recce and not heavyly armoured or armed enough for main assualt.

What was the conception purpose for the Wippet and did it have a different role in the end to that first envisaged?

Any help appreciated.


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I think it was realised that armoured cars of the day were in most cases literally

"armoured cars". They had no cross country capability to speak of and were

more or less road bound. The recce roll that they performed in WW2 on a purpose

built chasis had not really been conceived in WW1. Therefore the Whippet was

developed as a ligther and more mobile tank and intended to be used in the

enemy's rear once the heavier MkIV and MKV's of 1918 had broken through the

enemy's front line trenches. I've read accounts of Whippets and cavalry operating

together during the last 100 days, with what success I don't know. Obviously

the horse could outpace the Whippet but had not protection against bullets and


The concept of heavy and light tanks continued through the 20's, 30's, and

early 40's until the idea of a universal tank came to fruition. The heavy or

Infantry tanks such as the Vickers and later the Matilda were purely designed to

support infantry and until the Matilda II was adopted they were only armed with a

Vickers MG (mobile pillbox). The cruisers tanks were the gun tanks and designed

to advance at speed, and engage the enemy armour, guns, etc.


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According to Edmonds the ability of Whippets and Cavalry to co-operate was very limited. In Volume 4 of Military Operations, France and Belgium, 1918 in the section on the battle of Amiens he comments that cavalry could move faster across country than the Whippets but could not move at all when they came under fire. The result was an unintentional series of 'leapfrogs', which were exacerbated by a failure to train together before the battle.

By the later battles very few tanks of any type were available at all and he speaks of numbers up to ten or so being deployed. I also seem to remember reading that the Whippet had to carry additional fuel in 'tins' and that when these were punctured the results could be exciting to say the least .

The cavalry seemed to alternate between being mounted infantry and 'charges' against woods, a little like Don Quixote perhaps that is a little unfair since some moves sem to have been quite useful

Somewhere in I think Hindleby,M., and Shoshem, R.(?) The German A7V Tank, Foulis, 1990 it was said that the Whippet was the only British tank the Germans thought worth copying, although they used a considerable number of captured machines of the heavier variety. It could also have been in Fletcher but my memory is going.


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Just building on what Greg said, I seem to recall a picture of a Whippet with additional fuel tanks strapped to the top of the body. I would think this very precarious if ever they came under sudden and unexpected fire!!

Also whilst my overall knowledge of tanks is very limited, I understand in the 20's it was the Germans that developed the tank (or motorised tractor to get around the Versailles restrictions), and by the 30's it was also the Russians. Little wonder then that Germany had a superior tank force in the late 30's and that the Russians developed the T34, arguably the best light-medium tank of WW2.

I would be interested to hear what the British, French and Americans were doing about tank development in the 20's/30's if any one can help me out (sorry Arm - not trying to take over at all).

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American tank production during the period between the wars was non-existent.

a few light and medium tanks were developed during the 30's. The most

famous being the Christie tank and its revolutionary suspension which the

Russians later copied on their T34 and subsequent tanks. Americans did not

adopt the tank nor they did not adopt Christie suspension until later during WW2.

Their policy was light and medium tanks that were eventually developed into the

well known light M3/M5 Honey/Stuart and Medium M3 Lee/Grant and of course the

M4 Sherman (all these tanks were used by the British during WW2)

French tank development during the 30's produced the heavy Char B, the medium

Somua S35 and the Light Renault for reconnaissance. The latter being an

improved version of their Renault tank WW1 vintage.

As I said previously the British opted for the Infantry tank and the Cruiser gun

tanks as well as light tanks for Reconnaissance work. Germany was the

country that really revolutionised tank tactics that are still employed today.

The key being the inclusion of mechanized infantry as part of the Panzer Division

and integral anti-tank gun units. In 1940 German tanks were not really that much

better than the British or French, it was the way they were used. And by the

Western Desert campaign it was the German anti-tank guns that inflicted much

of the damage to British tank units, not the German panzers.

The above is a very brief summary


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I understand in the 20's it was the Germans that developed the tank (or motorised tractor to get around the Versailles restrictions

Sigs, the Germans were actually using cars with 'dummy' bodies, that looked like a tank, to practice manouvers - and get around the Versailles treaty.

Without realising it, the British automotive industry sold the Germans what they needed. I wrote an article about it in Classic and Sportscar magazine some 10 years ago.

Bacially, the humble 1920s and 1930s Austin Seven was offered as a rolling chassis to anyone who wanted to build their own body (coachbuilt). One of the first customers of this was a German motorcycle manufacturer who had won a contract to build 'dummy' tanks for the Germany army.

So Austin Seven chassis were adapted to carry the two sides of the tank, which could be fitted in seconds (the sides had tubes welded to them, which slotted into holes on the chassis). A thin wooden turret then slotted on top. It was, in effect, a flat-pack tank.

The vehicle was light enough to be carried - physically, by four men at each corner - out of a ditch, pothole, or muddy field.

Of course, Lord Austin (his son, Lt Vernon Austin was killed by a sniper in WW1) had no idea what was going on. But even if he had found out, the contract was signed.

The German motorcycle manufacturer made a lot of money by producing the Tanklette; enough for it to make conventional domestic bodies for the Austin chassis, and for it to become one of the largest car manufacturers in the world.

The name of the company?? Bayern Moteren Wagon - better known as BMW.

The American government was so impressed with this lightweight Austin chassis that it asked the American distributor (a company called Bantam) to make a small vehicle capable of travelling off road. Bantam won the competition, but the contract was given to Ford and Willys, because Bantam were considered too small to make such a large contract.

The Bantam design was better known by another name..... JEEP.

So the little vintage Austin Seven has a lot to answer for, don't you think??

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TE lawrence referred to armoured cars in the desert as fighting de luxe.


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Geoff and RT ... many thanks - helps with my grasp of the subject. I have an old Beetle and this guy once gave me a brief history of the the German car industry of the 20's and 30's - very interesting, although I cant remember much of what he said now but most of it sounded very incestuous as these small manufactururers pooled there resources to form partnerships.

RT - I recently found yr plaque thread. Incredibly interesting. I am about 2/3 of the way through it - had to print it off. I will never look at a Death Penny again of rekindling some of the politics surrounding their introduction (he says looking directly at a Death Penny on his desk).

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