The Landship Project - From Road Train to Battle Tank.

The Landship Project - From Road Train to Battle Tank.

Great Britain

The Fowler B.5 Armoured Road Locomotive

It should surprise nobody that a steam traction engine (steam tractor) was the basis for the first motorized armored vehicle used in combat. In the 1870s many of the world's armies experimented with steam tractors, using them to pull trains of supply wagons. The British were among the largest builders and users of steam traction engines and when the Boer War broke out in 1899, both the British and the Boers immediately began using available steam tractors. These steam tractors were used to haul road trains of supply wagons to places not served by railroads. Boer troops began attacking them and the British had to divert troops to defend them. In 1899, in cooperation with the British Army, the steam traction engine builder John Fowler and Company of Leeds, England, designed and built a special armored steam traction engine road train for use in South Africa. It was pulled by a 20 HP steam tractor fitted with an armored shell to protect its crew and working parts and weighed some 15 tons. The steam tractor incorporated sprung wheels so it could run as fast as 10 miles per hour on an improved level road and about half that on a level unimproved road or across level fields. Its operation was limited by the need to supply it with boiler water and coal fuel and it had no rough-country, off-road capability.

Fowler Road Train (Engine)

The Fowler armored road trains shipped to South Africa had three armored and sprung wagons used to carry either troops, cargo or even artillery up to light six-inch field howitzer. The armor proved resistant to fire from the Boer's Mauser rifles, and shrapnel balls and fragments from artillery projectiles. This Fowler armored road train was successful enough that two more had been built by the time the Boer War ended in 1903 but there was no report of any similar equipment having been used outside South Africa, and their ultimate disposition is unknown. The Fowler armored steam traction engine appears to have been the first self-propelled armored road vehicle ever deployed and used in combat. Its service in the Boer War is well documented, although it was never spectacular. Military authorities of the time were very interested in it and the fact that hostiles were very reluctant to attack it when it carried a contingent of riflemen.

Fowler Road Train

A total of four Fowler B-5s was armoured - Nos. 8894, 8895, 8898 and 8899. The first two armoured road trains were sent to Bloemfontein on arrival, where the armour was removed from both engines and trucks and used to make armoured railway trains. Towards the end of 1901 the General Officer commanding the Kimberley District asked for further trucks to be fitted with armour so that the troops needed for road-convoy escort duties could be reduced, and the War Office was requested to supply two armoured trucks. Remembering that the first two sent had been stripped of their armour to make armoured railway trains, it is not surprising that the War Office did not meet this request.

The gun-carrying truck, mentioned above, inspired Lt.-Col von Layriz, a prominent German military writer, to suggest that quick firing guns should be mounted on the wagons to act as a sort of mobile fort to protect bridges and other important points against flying columns of Boers. This idea was not adopted, but if it had it is interesting to speculate that it would have anticipated by many years some of the elements of the tank.

So, I speculated that the original design would be extended to provide room in the cab for a gun position, to engage and destroy fortifications and strong points, fuel and crew. The main armament would be supplied by weapons in use at the time – possibly 2x Vickers-Maxim .303 MG, or a QF 1-pdr (37mm) auto-cannon or even a QF 3-pdr (47mm) gun. The MG’s would have 90 degrees of arc and the field artillery would have almost 180 degrees of arc and about 5 degrees of deflection. All of this would make for rather cramped quarters in the fighting compartment but would be considered workable and acceptable for the time. To provide a better cross country capability caterpillar tracks, in use in farming and in the military since the 1850’s, could be added to the rear wheels to make the vehicle a type of early half-track. The finished product could be used to carry a howitzer team, mortar team or troops within range of enemy positions using the towed armoured car and still attain 5-10 mph depending on terrain. These vehicles would probably remained under the control of the Royal Artillery, which would make up a bit for the Army getting control of Machine Guns.

My rendition of Fowler Landship Mk I

The Steam Tank (Tracked)

The Steam Tank (Tracked) was an early U.S. tank design of 1918 imitating the design of the British Mark IV tank but powered by steam. Many early fighting vehicles projects had employed steam power because petrol engines were not yet powerful enough. The type was designed by an officer from the U.S. Army's Corps Of Engineers. The project was started by General John A. Johnson with the help of the Endicott and Johnson Shoe Company and financed by the Boston bankers Phelan and Ratchesky (it cost $60,000). Expertise was called in from Stanley Motor Carriage Company in Watertown, Massachusetts, that produced steam cars. The engines and boilers of two Unit Railway Cars were built in. Two 2-cylinder steam engines with a combined power of 500 hp (370 kW) were to provide power, each engine driving one track to give a maximum speed of 4 mph (6 km/h) used kerosene for fuel. The transmission allowed two speeds forward and two in reverse.

Steam Tank

The main armament (in this case a flame thrower) was located in the front cabin and there were four 0.30 inch machine guns; two in a sponson at each side. Our version would probably mount a QF 6-pdr (57mm) gun. The length of the vehicle was 34 feet 9 inches, the width 12 feet 6 inches and the height 10 feet 4.5 inches. The tracks were 24 inches wide. Each track frame carried mud clearing spikes, sometimes mistaken for battering rams. The tank had a weight of about fifty short tons (1800kg). There was to have been a crew of eight, on the assumption there were a commander, a driver, a gunner, a mechanic and four machine gunners. The design combined serious cooling problems with a dangerous vulnerability due to its two steam boilers and large fuel reservoirs needed to heat the two main engines. Eventually ICE’s would have become powerful enough to move these giants and the classic WWI tank would have been the result – although somewhat earlier than 1916. It is very likely that David Roberts, the engineer and managing director of Hornsby & Sons, would have been the builder of the early models with Tritton, Wilson and an Australian engineer named DeMole making their contributions when World War One begins.

Heavy Tank Mk I(S)

Medium Tank

Medium Mk A* - In 1918, Major Philip Johnson, the unofficial head of Central Tank Corps Workshops in France, fitted this the Medium Mk A with sprung track rollers, Wilson's epicyclical transmission from the Mark V and a 360 hp V12 Rolls-Royce Eagle aero-engine, providing a top speed of about 30 mph (48 km/h). This project made Johnson the best qualified man to develop the later fast Medium Mark D, which looks like a reversed Medium A. In my version, developed in 1916, the fixed superstructure of the Mk A was replaced with a turret mounting a 40mm auto-cannon forward and and an MG fitted at the rear. Of course, the Rolls-Royce Eagle of the time would be between 225 and 250 hp. The use of the Rolls-Royce Eagle was experimental and was unproven under combat conditions so I will choose to use the proven 150hp Ricardo engine of the Mk V instead.

Medium Tank Mk A and my rendition of the Light Mk A*

Medium Mk B* - A British version of the Motorgeschutz concept (see below) would probably have resembled the Medium B (male) of late WWI vintage to some degree. The Medium B, designed by Lieutenant Walter G. Wilson, missed WW1 proper but did see action in Russia. The design by Wilson had a similar but smaller tracked rhomboid chassis of the Mk I and a fixed turret like the Mk A. A novel feature was the separate compartment in the back, housing the 100 hp (75 kW) engine (a four-cylinder shortened Ricardo design) and behind it the epicyclic transmission. Two fuel tanks at the back held 85 imperial gallons (386 L) of petrol. Other innovations were the ability to lay a smoke screen and the use of sloped armour in the front of the hull. Armament consisted of five machine guns in the superstructure and two in the side doors, which looked a bit like miniature sponsons. All production Medium Bs were machine gun armed but there was a design for a Male version mounting a 2 pdr (40mm) auto-cannon or a long 6 pdr (57mm) Hotchkiss gun in a fixed superstructure. It has been reported that one Medium B male was actually built but no photos are known to exist. The Medium B Male would probably have made an effective tank killer but in 1919 there were no potential enemies of Britain with an effective tank force. It was probably killed itself by a cost conscious Whitehall warrior.

Medium Mk-B (Male) and Medium Mk C .

If Major Johnson gave the Mk B and its subsequent replacement, the Mk C, the same treatment as he did the Mk A then they too would have been fitted with sprung track rollers, the 150hp Ricardo engine and Wilson's epicyclical transmission from the Mark V. The big difference would have been the use of a top mounted turret rather than a fixed superstructure for the main gun with the driver positioned forward and below. This could have been easily fitted with either a 57mm/L23 or /L40 gun and 2 ball-mounted co-axial MGs. An additional MG could be mounted at the rear of the turret The Mk B would retain the 2x MG’s mounted in the door sponsors and also make use of the 57mm and rear mounted MG in its turret.

My rendition of the Medium Mk B* and Medium Mk C* .

Heavy Tank Mk VI

In December 1916 the Tank Supply Committee (the institute planning and controlling British tank production) ordered the design of two new tank types, one of which should abandon the old hull of the Heavy Tank Mk I entirely, reflecting only some general principles of the older tank. Therefore, the Mark VI design had a completely different hull, much higher with rounded tracks on front, and no sponsons; the side doors replacing them having machine gun positions. The main armament was a single 57 mm gun low in the front of the hull with the driver sitting in a square superstructure much further back, the corners of which each had a machine gun. We know from a surviving text that the hull was to be compartimentalised with a separate engine room on one side containing the drive gears of both tracks with the drive shaft for the track of the opposite side crossing the hull. Wider tracks (75 cm) were to be used.

When in September 1917 US headquarters in France decided to create a separate American Tank Corps with 25 battalions among which five Heavy Tank Battalions, Major James A. Drain ordered 600 of the most advanced British tank, being at the time the Mark VI. However this endangered the plans of Albert Gerald Stern, then coordinating allied tank production, to produce a common Anglo-American tank, the Mark VIII. In December 1917 he ordered a halt to the project and not even a prototype was built.

In our altered timeline, the Mk VI still would not be built but development would continue to produce the Mk VI*. The driver would adopt the gun position and the gun, a 13-pdr, would be mounted in a turret above in keeping with modern (1917) designs. The door mounted MG's would be retained and the hull would be similar to the Mk VIII and its derivative, the Mk IX carrier.

My rendition of a Mk VI* Crusader

Gun Carrier

The Heavy Gun Carrier Mark I was the first piece of self-propelled artillery ever to be produced in Britian and was based on the chassis of the Heavy Tank Mk I. During the battle of the River Aisne, direct fire support was provided against the ridgeline held by the Germans by Heavy Mk I Male tanks, which had trouble getting sufficient elevation for their guns. To solve this problem Major Gregg, an engineer working for the main tank producing company Metropolitan, Carriage, Wagon and Finance, proposed to build special mechanised artillery, using parts of the Mark I. The production of a prototype was approved on 5 Oct 1914 and an order of fifty vehicles was given to Kitson & Co. in Leeds with deliveries to the army starting in June 1915 and ending in July. The vehicle bore little resemblance to the Mark I. The tracks weren't tall but low, almost flat. At the back a rectangular superstructure covered the Daimler 105 hp engine together with the transmission of the Mark I, the latter now in a reversed position. The front was an open area with either a 5-inch field gun or a 6-inch howitzer between armoured cabs for the driver on the left and the brakesman on the right. As only the howitzer could be fired from the vehicle and comunications between the driver and gearsmen (in the rear section) was near impossible the two vehicles completed were in the end used only as supply and recovery tanks.

The Heavy Gun Carrier Mark II was an improved type, carrying only the 6-in howitzer at the back and housing the entire crew up front. This did insure that heavy artillery could follow the advancing troops in the event of a breakthrough but it did not fully address the problem of providing direct, supporting artillery fire for the infantry during an attack. From late 1914, when the Western Front settled into trench warfare, the 3-in (76.2mm) QF 13-pdr was found to be too light to be truly effective against prepared defensive positions and, as a result, was increasingly supplanted by the 18-pounder. Following the example of the HGC Mk-II, these redundant guns were mounted in the modified superstructure of the Medium Mk B producing the Medium Gun Carrier. In July 1917 two Heavy Gun Carrier Companies and a Medium Gun Carrier Company were formed of 24 vehicles each as part of the 1st Mechanized Artillery Regt. Though it had been planned to continue converting surplus Heavy and Medium tank chassis' into gun carriers for tank-artillery, production was curtailed when priority was given to the production of the new Heavy Mk VIII, Carrier Mk IV and Medium C in 1916.

My rendition of the HGC Mk II and MGC .


Imperial Russia

The Vezdekhod

Most of the detail in the history of the Vezdekhod can be found in Leonid Fedoseyev's book "Tanks of the First World War". Actually the Vezdekhod did not go further than a pre-production model, and the reason for this was the simply the problems in the design. In August, 1914 23-year old aircraft inventor Alexander Porokhovshchikov offered to build a cross-country vehicle. Drawings and the estimate were ready 9th January 1915 and on 13th January, Ok was given for construction. The supervision of the project was done by the military engineer Polkovnik (Colonel) Poklevskij-Kozello. The welded skeleton of the Vezdekhod ran on a single wide caterpillar made from rubberized fabric stretched on four drums. Three ring flutes on the drums prevented the shifting of the caterpillar. Two small wheels were placed on the sides of the caterpillar and controlled by means of a steering wheel. The machine had streamlined surfaces with a big air inlet in front. The carburated engine (capacity 10 h.p.) through the gear-box rotated a back drum that pressed the caterpillar track from above. Specific pressure upon a ground should be no more than 0,05 kg /sq.m. One of the ideas of the innovator, was that on a firm ground the machine should move on the back drum and wheels. On a soft ground the machine would lay down on the caterpillar. The wheels should operate as a rudder on a ship or a plane.

Construction of the machine began in February, 1915. The first tests on hard road was done in the 18th of May. Tests proceeded up until the end of the year. In cross-country trials the vehicle did not shown those properties that the inventor had promised. It quite simply was not possible to steer by the machine using the wheels. The project was thus rejected. With further development of the basic design, I think the Russians might have had something equal to the later French FT-17 simply by splitting the single track and moving each half outboard. This would have solved the steering problem at least. It was a two man vehicle (driver and gunner) that could reportedly reach speeds of from 16.5 mph to 26.5 mph and climb a 40 degree slope. It would have been armed with the M1910 MG, a copy of the original 'Maxim' gun produced under licence in Tsarist Russia, or the larger format 37mm autocannon based on it. Use of armoured cars, halftracks and these tanks would have given the Russians a very mobile mechanized force.

My rendition of the Vezdekhod MkII

As the war progresses and the value of armour as a force multiplier begins to be recognized by all sides, the next step would be to improve the original concept, particularly as tanks begin fighting other tanks. Historically, the 57mm Sokol, the Russian version of the 57mm Nordenfeld gun, was used in German tanks and would undoubtedly end up as the primary weapon mounted in the Burstyn tank. To use this gun in the Vezdekhod would require the chassis to be lengthened, to accommodate ammunition and an additional crewman, and the turret to be enlarged to accommodate the gun.

My rendition of the Vezdekhod MkIII

A development of this vehicle would be the Shturmovaya Vezdekhod, mounting the the Russian M1902 76.2mm light field gun in a fixed superstructure. The vehicle would be lengthened and the turret widened to provide room for the loader and ammunition storage and firing slots would be placed around the gun compartment for point defence. The vehicle would serve the same purpose as the WWII era StuG or SU-76 and, like these, the entire vehilce would have to be turned to aim the gun.

My rendition of the Shturmovaya Vezdekhod

The guns were similar to the French 75 and were the mainstay of Russian Empire field artillery. It incorporated many new features for that time - such as recoil devices, traverse and elevation tracking mechanisms, precision sight for direct and indirect firing, manual interrupted screw breech and single-piece ammunition loading. The gun had fragmentation, shrapnel and canister ammunition. More specialized types of projectiles included smoke, incendiary and chemical ones. In some episodes of the 1917 revolution the gun saw its first anti-tank usage. White Guard and intervening forces of Entente Cordiale used small number of tanks, primarily French Renault FT-17s and British Mk Vs and Whippets. The M1902 gun with its high muzzle velocity was an effective weapon against such targets with only anti-bullet armour protection. In the 1920 Polish-Soviet War M1902 guns were again used against Polish FT-17s.

In France, studies on the production of a new light tank were started in May 1915 by Louis Renault that would eventually culminate in the FT-17. During the prototype and pre-production stage, the basic design was tested using the track system of the Russian V-II – a modified Kegresse track. These were found to be unsuitable to conditions on the Western Front and were passed on to Russia in early 1917. New 45 hp motors were installed and a further 15 build by Krasny-Sormovo works before Russia was knocked out of the war.

My rendition of the Vezdekhod KS-1



Like Russia, France came late to the table regarding armoured vehicle research. In France, there were multiple and conflicting lines of development which were badly integrated, which slowed development and resulted in three major and quite disparate production types. There was also the added problem that the majority of French industrial capability was now in German hands. Strong Army support for tanks would be a constant during development but Army enthusiasm and haste would also have its immediate drawbacks. As a result of the involvement of inexperienced army officers ordered to devise a new tank based on the larger 75 hp Holt chassis in a very short period of time, the first French tanks were poorly designed. Though industrial rivalry and politics would also play a detrimental role, industrial initiative led to swift advances. Schneider, a major arms producer, took the lead in January 1915 but initially the development process was slow until in July they received political, even presidential, support. A parallel development not ordered by the Army but approved by government through industrial lobby was built in St Chamoud. Both of these efforts produced large and mechanically unreliable "box tanks", with a single crowded space combining the role of engine room, fighting compartment, ammunition stock and driver's cabin. It would be the car industry, already used to vehicle mass production and having much more experience in vehicle layout that would, in 1916, design the first practical light tanks, a class largely neglected by the British. Renault's excellent small tank design the FT-17 (which won out over a Peugeot model), incorporated a proper climbing face for the tracks and was the first tank to incorporate a top-mounted turret with a full rotation. In fact the FT was in many respects the first truly 'modern' tank having a layout that has been followed by almost all designs ever since: driver at the front; main armament in a fully rotating turret on top; engine at the rear.

In our changed timeline, development would have begun about a year earlier with colonel Jean-Baptiste Eugène Estienne presenting to the High Command his plan to form an armoured force, equipped with tracked vehicles, on 12 December 1914. Therefore the Schneider and St Chamoud tanks would be deployed for the first time in the spring of 1916 and the Renault would be developed and accepted a full two years earlier to arrive in service that summer.

Char Schneider CA (Char d'Assaut)

For Col Estienne the Schneider CA embodied vague concepts about AFVs already growing in his mind and with his support a production order of 400 was made by French High Command on 25 February 1916.

To the modern eye, the tank is hardly recognizable as such. It has no turret, and its not very prominent main armament, a 75 mm Blockhaus Schneider petard mortar, was placed in a sponson in the right front corner. Two 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns, projected from the flanks in ballmounts. The overhang of the frontal part of the chassis, which had been designed to crush down barbed wire, was more inclined to cause the tank to ditch itself readily. Poor ventilation and vision arrangements made it difficult to use and the fighting compartment was extremely cramped. Furthermore, the inadequate armour and internal petrol tanks made it extremely dangerous to crew members.

Twenty units with Schneider tanks were formed, named Artillerie Spéciale 1-20, under the overall command of the now Brigadier Estienne. Their first use during the infamous Nivelle Offensive was a complete disaster as many of the roughly 130 tanks were cut to pieces by German artillery. The French Army decided to abandon this tank and ordered the British Mark V instead. Seventy-seven of the British tanks were delivered to the French before the Armistice.

In this altered timeline, these tanks would suffer much the same outcome because, as tanks, they were poorly designed. However, this would have been part of the learning experience for France and it would be as an Armoured Carrier that the S-17 CA would be best known. Surviving S-16’s would be upgraded to the new standard and these vehicles would be used to transport Genie d’Assaut and Infantrie d’Assaut units to the German lines. The engineer vehicles would retain the 75mm/L13 and the infantry vehicles would be fitted with a ball mounted MG in its place. Both vehicles would carry a crew of two and a ten man section with equipment.

My rendition of the Char Schneider CA
Notice that the vehicle is using the longer Holt tractor chassis.

Char St. Chamond BS (Batterie de Support)

Schneider's main competitor, the arms manufacturer "Forges et Acieries de la Marine et Homecourt a Saint Chamond", was given a second order for 400 Schneider tanks. However Brillié refused to share his patented invention for free and Saint Chamond refused to pay. Though they had intended to build the same tank as Schneider, the St Chamond now became quite distinct from it with a longer track and 75mm gun.

One of Saint Chamond's technical directors was colonel Émile Rimailho, an artillery officer and co-designer of the Mle 1897 75 mm gun and designer of the 75mm Canon a Tir Rapide (CTR) Saint Chamond. Rimailho induced the Ministry of War to change the specification of their order so that the new St Chamond tank would be able to mount his gun, even though the army had never asked for such a capacity. To achieve this, a longer hull than on the Schneider tank was needed. Later, during 1917, the standard 75 mm Mle 1897 field gun eventually replaced the Rimailho designed gun.

As a result of Rimailho's manipulations, the new tank had become a rather cumbersome vehicle. It had no turret, instead a large overhanging front compartment housed the long 75 mm gun, protruding from the nose. Due to the short tracks and large body, the vehicle had much trouble crossing obstacles. This led to such negative reactions by the first crews to be trained that special mention was made of it to the General Headquarters. Surprisingly, in action towards the end of the war the tank was more useful, as in a more mobile situation it was quite effective at destroying German gun emplacements. Twelve units in total were formed with the St Chamond: Artillerie Speciale No's 31-42.

In our timeline, colonel Estienne was actually consulted while the vehicle was in development. Appreciating the power of the 75mm gun but only too aware of the design’s shortcomings as a Char d'Assaut, the vehicle became a part of the French Army’s mechanized close support artillery. The vehicles crew would also be reduced to 5, consisting of a driver, commander, gunner, loader and a mechanic/radio operator.

Image Image
Two renditions of the Char St. Chamond BS
Notice that the vehicle is somewhat shorter and that the gun is mounted higher with the firing slot extended into the roof to allow for a 45-degree elevation.

Char Renault CM (Char de Manoeuvre)

Studies on the production of a new light tank were started in May 1916 by the famous car producer Louis Renault, with one of his most talented designers, Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier, the actual creator of the modern concept. The FT 17 was the first tank with an armament in a fully rotating turret, and its configuration with the turret on top, engine in the back and the driver in front was a revolutionary innovation at the time. Though the project was far more advanced than the two first French tanks about to enter production, the heavier Schneider and St. Chamond, Renault had at first great trouble getting it accepted. However, with the undiminishing support of Brigadier General Estienne and the successive French C-in-C's who saw light tanks as a more feasible and realistic option, the prototype was slowly brought to perfection during the first half of 1917. It was cheap and well-suited for mass production and was widely used by the French and the US in the latter stages of World War I.

The tanks had at first a round cast turret with a 7.92 mm Hotchkiss machine gun; later either an octagonal turret or an even later rounded turret of bent steel plate that could carry a 37 mm/L20 SA18 gun. In this altered timeline, the tanks come into production a little quicker and are available in 1916 and so are named the R-16CM. There are no real changes to the 1916 or 1917 version but in 1918 the tank gets an upgrade of engine and armour so that it can continue to serve beside the newer tanks listed below. This is not a stretch as, historically, this was done later by the Italians, Russians, Poles, Japanese and even the French.

Renault CM

Char Schneider CC (Char d'Combat)

Although the CA2 project was able to correct may of the faults in France's first armoured vehicle, Schneider & Co was determined to provide a viable tank to the French Army. The CA3 project was again undertaken by its chief designer, Eugène Brillié, who researched existing British, Russian and even captured German tanks in an effort to 'get it right'. He worked closely with BGen Estienne, who provided communication with Renault and his team, and other officers in the Artillerie Speciale to fine tune development of the new tank.

For ease of production and, incidentally, maintenance it was decided to use the chassis and much of the superstructure of the S-17CA. The engine and drive train were moved to the rear and the driver repositioned to provide a lower profile and larger forward fighting compartment. A 47 mm L/27.6 gun was mounted in a turret, being developed by Renault for the Char 2A, which was fitted on top. However, ACE did not consider the 47mm to be adequate and production tanks were fitted with the British 57mm/L23 instead. The crew now consisted of a driver, commander/gunner, loader and mechanic/radio operator.

My rendition of the Char Schneider CC

Char FCM CB (Char de Bataille)

In the summer of 1916 General Mouret, the subsecretary of artillery, granted FCM (Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee), a shipyard in the south of France near Toulon, the contract for the development of a heavy tank. Mouret's order is puzzling as the French Army had no stated requirement for a heavy tank and there was no official policy to procure one, so the decision seems to have been purely taken on his personal authority. When the British deployed tanks for the first time in the form of the Mark I, a veritable tank euphoria followed. The French people and politicians now became curious as to the state of their own national tank projects. Mouret quickly investigated the progress made at FCM and was shocked to find there was none. On 30 September 1916 he personally took control of the project begged Louis Renault to assist FCM in the development of some suitable heavy vehicle. Renault consulted his own team and discovered that his main designer Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier had by his own initiative finished a feasibility study for a heavy tank. At this point, interservice rivalry and politics intervened to slow and ultimately redirect the project, culminating in the superheavy Char 2C. Joffre, who is neutral to the conflict, remains C-in-C of the French forces until Jan 1918 and, as the war develops in this timeline, the “A” version is completed and fielded in 1918. Instead of the huge monster that was the Char 2C the delivered tank has more in common with the British Heavy Mk-VI* (see above). The crew of the Char FCM-18 would also be reduced to 6, consisting of a driver, commander, gunner, loader and a mechanic and radio operator who doubled as machine gunners.

My rendition of the Char FCM CB


Italy and USA

Prior to and during World War One, tank development was practically non-existent in Italy and the USA. The mountainous conditions of the Italian Front precluded the use of motor vehicles for the most part and isolationist America just wasn't thinking in that direction. In fact, if nothing else, the Mexican Punitive Expediton showed just how outdated the equipment and tactics of the US Army were.

In 1915, Captain Luigi Cassali designed a tank-like vehicle for the Italian Army. The prototype, built by Pavesi Co, had two turrets mounting MG's but, after unsuccessful trials on the Italian Front, the project was abandoned. As noted above, the Italian Army fought in terrain totally unsuitable for any armoured operations. The appearance of Allied tanks on the battlefields of France in 1916 caused Italy to take a renewed interest in tracked armoured vehicles and a Schneider CA and several FT-17's were obtained for trials conducted by the Sezione Speciale Carri Armati (Special Tank Section), which was formed in Verona on 1 Sep 1918. The Italians would have 20 Schneider's and 100 Renault's assigned to this first Italian armoured unit, renamed the 1st Batteria Autonoma Carri d'Assalto (1st Independent Tank Battery) after the war.

My rendition of the Fiat 1000. I am assuming that the Fiat 1000 was simply a Fiat armoured car body on a modified Holt 75 tractor which was used by the Italian Regio Esercito to tow ordinance during WWI. I am basing this guess, and it is only a guess, on the description of the Fiat 1000 and the fact that it was build by Pavesi, a Fiat subsidiary. It would also be the simplest and fastest way to produce something to show the General Staff.

The first operational Italian tank, the Fiat 2000, was arguably the finest heavy tank built in WW1. It was conceived by Fiat as a private venture in October 1916 and the first prototype was ready in June 1917. The layout of the FIAT 2000 differed to the other tanks then in use with the engine placed below and separated from the crew compartment. As the Italians were fighting in mountainous terrain any tank design would have required a low center of gravity, hence the positioning of the mechanicals. The armour was of clean design, being made of riveted steel plates, and the tracks were low and longer than the hull. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the tank's weaponry was the two-man turret; apart from the Renault FT-17, this was the first tank to have a rotating turret mounted above the hull. Armament consisted of a turret mounted 65mm/L17 howitzer and nine machineguns. Fiat donated 2 tanks to Italian Army in February 1918, though it never saw combat. Total production until the end of 1919 encompassed 6 vehicles. In this altered history the Fiat 2000 would still have had its inspiration from the Schneider CA, which the Italians would rightly reject, but would instead begin the same process that the French would go through to produce the Schneider CC. For that reason the Italians would end up with a low, modern design with a five man crew - Gunner/commander, loader, driver, mechanic/machine gunner, signaller/machine gunner - rather than the 40 tonne monstrosity history remembers. Though larger and heavier than the Schneider CC, the more powerful engine would have produced a top speed comparable to it.

My rendition of the Fiat 2000 mle 17

The Fiat 3000, whose design was based on that of the French Renault FT 17, was the first tank to be produced in series in Italy. It was to be the standard tank of the emerging Italian armored units in World War 1. Although 1400 units were ordered, with deliveries to begin in May 1919, the end of the war caused the original order to be cancelled and only 100 were delivered. With the war over, the first Fiat 3000s didn't enter service until 1921 at which time it was revealed that the armament, consisting of two 6.5 mm machine guns, was inadequate. The up-gunned version of the 3000, armed with a 37/40 gun and an improved engine and suspension, was tested in 1929 and was officially adopted in 1930. The only change here would be that, with less time wasted between the failed Fiat 1000 and further research and design based on the R-16CM, the Fiat 3000 would have appeared in 1918 and the improved version in 1921.


In the USA there were some attempts by private industry to develop an American tank, notably by Holt Tractor Co and C. L. Best Company and, later, by Pioneer Tractor and Studebaker. Only in September 1917 did US headquarters in France decide to create a separate American Tank Corps with 25 battalions among which five were to be Heavy Tank Battalions. The I4 powered Studebaker design had been considered for purchase by the British prior to the end of the war and they might have been chosen to produce the US version of the British Mk VI, had the US Tank Corps order of 600 tanks gone through. The US and Britain decided instead to concentrate on the Mk VIII International, 100 of which were build in the USA by Rock Island Arsenal. There are not many alternate decisions that could be made here, as the US would have ended up using the Renault FT-17, the Mk-VIII and the Mk-IX carrier derived from it. The only real change would be a continuation of the order for 600 of the Mk-VI, which would have resulted in the US using the Mk-VI* as well.

The prototype of the first real tank to be constructed in the USA, The Holt Gas-Electric Tank, was finished early in 1918. Like the French St Chamond, it had a petro-electric drive train powered by a 90 hp, 4-cylinder engine and a 75 mm gun in the nose. It also had a sponson with a removable 0.30-inch machine gun at each side and a ball-mounted 0.30-inch machine gun in the front. Only one was built as tests showed its climbing performance was unsatisfactory and the type proved to be much heavier than originally envisaged. This was really a heavier and slower version of the St Chamond, so why just not use the StC-17BS or British MGC mounting the French 75mm. As the heavier French 155 C mle 1917 Schneider could be mounted on the British HGC (the US preferred using French guns) the only niche for the Holt M1918 would be as a role similar to the WWII M7 mounting the 105 mle 1913 Schneider.

My rendition of the Holt Gun Carrier M1918

Another effort, the Ford 3-Ton M1918, was one of the first light tank designs by the U.S. Designed in mid-1918, the initial production run of the 3-ton was of fifteen vehicles, one of which was sent to France for testing. Designed without a turret the interior was cramped and uncomfortable but the exterior design owed much to the French FT-17. Though the vehicle received good ratings during trials and was relatively quick for the time, the U.S tank corps felt it did not meet their requirements and continued using the Six Ton Tank Model 1917 exclusively, 950 of which were supplied to the American’s 20 Light Tank Battalions. Further development and a contract for 15,000 tanks were ended by the Armistice in November 1918. The Ford Motor Company was to have mass-produced this tank at a rate of 100 per day. There were ambitious plans to use the vehicle as a machine gun carrier, a cargo carrier and a tractor in the same way as the later Cardon-Lloyd tanklette. It was also the basis for the US Ford built, three-man Light Tank Mk-I powered by a Hudson I6 60hp engine.


Although American chassis like the White were used as the basis of armoured cars in several countries, particularly Britain, France and Russia, few American armoured cars saw combat during the First World War. Nevertheless, several companies produced commercial designs, including Mack (International). In 1915 they produced three armoured cars on the 2-ton AB chassis in conjunction with White and Locomobile (Riker). The armour was sloped inwards, which complicated construction but improved protection. The open-topped vehicles, which each weighted 4 tons, were built in sections and could be converted into armoured trucks by removing the bodies. The White-Mack AC was armed with two Colt MG's, mounted on stands and covered by shields and all the cars had loopholes for rifles. The specially hardened steel fort the body was supplied by the Carnegie Steel Corp and held in place by over 600 bolts. The three original cars were donated to the NYNG for training and were used to patrol the Mexican boarder in 1916. Mack claimed to be 'ready to build duplicates on short notice' but, in 1917, the Allied Commission advised against wheeled armoured car construction and so White and Mack converted their design to use the Kegresse track system that was being used in Russia on the Austin-Kegresse. Designed as armoured cargo and troop carriers to be used near the front lines, these White-Mack Armoured Half-tracks were built on the 3.5-ton AC chassis powered by a 45hp I4 engine and 3-speed transmission, producing a top speed of 26-65 km/h. When the October Revolution halted exports to Russia of the Austin armoured car, they modified a number of White-Mack armoured half-tracks by adding an armoured roof and an Austin turret armed with twin Vickers .303 MG. In France, Peugeot began a similar program using a turreted 37mm SA-18/L21 Cannon. These were known as the White-Austin and White-Peugeot respectively. Taking a lesson from their more experienced allies, the AEF likewise modified 150 of their half-track carriers with a turreted 37mm/L19 semi-auto cannon and co-axial LMG.

The Mack Armoured Car (1915) and my rendition of the White-Mack Armoured Half-Track (1917)

Italy’s only interest in Armoured Half-tracks was as a prime mover of their 149mm artillery, offering armoured protection to its four-member gun crew and ammunition. The Italians used the simple expedient of fitting the body and drive-train of their IZ armoured car to the caterpillar tracks of the Holt 5-ton tractor, which were also used by the artillery. The standard Lanzia engine and transmission was retained and ran through a hi/low reduction gear to the Holt caterpillar final drive, providing 19 km/h in low gear to pull heavy loads and 24 km/h in high gear for speed. When Italian 2nd Corp, serving in France, saw the White-Peugeot AH it’s commander, General Alberico Albricce di Gallarate, immediately requested an additional allotment of Lanzia halftracks with armoured car crews be assigned to 2nd Corp and be modified with Peugeot turrets. This was agreed to, in no small part due to the influence of General Foch who was only too happy to have more armour available, and the modifications were completed by July 1918.

My rendition of the Lanzia Armoured Half-Track (1917)

*Note: km/h cross country - km/h on road.

Austria and Germany


An Austrian army officer, k.u.k Genie-Oberleutenant Günther Burstyn inspired by the sight of the American Holt agricultural tractor with crawler tracks, designed a small tracked vehicle, which he called a Motorgeschütz (motor-gun), built it in model form, and sent this and the design to the Austrian War Office in October 1911. Had it been built the vehicle would have been 3.5m long, 1.9m wide and 1.9m high. Propelled by a 60hp truck engine, road speed would have been about 28 km/h and a cross-country speed of 8 km/h. The four subsidiary wheels, two at each end on arms, could be lowered as required, the rear pair being driven as an aid to traction and the front pair, which could be pivoted, being intended for steering. It was supposed to have an armament of a small calibre fast fire gun (30-40mm calibre). Its tactical use would be close support of Infantry Attacks, for suppression of enemy MG's, and also frontal attacks against enemy artillery positions. The Austro-Hungarian War Office returned the designs to Burstyn saying they might be interested if a commercial firm could build it: Burstyn was denied a patent and had no industrial contacts, so he allowed the idea to drop and it never progressed beyond paper. If the Austrian’s and, through them, the Germans had adopted the design they might have had at least one armoured cavalry unit each by 1914.

An artists impression of the 1911 Motorgeschutz. Note that the gun is pointed to the rear as the drivers compartment is on the other side of the turret.

Unfortunately, not many of these vehicles could be built by Austria so their use of armour would be very limited. Of all the great powers, Austria was probably the least industrialized after Russia and, historically, Germany was forced to supplement the supply of Austria for just about everything including locomotives to transport their armies to the front and keep them supplied. Germany was starved of critical resources and had to prioritize their production for necessary war materials that were always in short supply, so producing tanks (which for Germany would not be useful until 1918) would be taking away from other more important projects. The only major change to be made in this vehicle, hopefully prior to entering service, would be to lower the driver’s position and raise the turret to allow the weapon to traverse a full 360 degrees and fire forward. The second version of this vehicle would receive additional armour, the engine of the LK III and a 57mm gun to reflect the realities of combat at that time. The crew layout would also be reversed in keeping with development of the LK III. Surviving examples of the now obsolete Motorgeschutz will, by 1918, have its main gun replaced with the Germany 77mm to be employed as a close support artillery platform.

My rendition of the Kampfpanser I and II. I portrayed these as a development of the Motorgeschutz.

Sturmpanzerwagen A7V

Germany’s first effort produced the A7V, which was as slow as other tanks of the day, but had very poor off-road capability and was prone to getting stuck. The large overhang at the front and low ground clearance meant trenches or very muddy areas were impassable. This was worsened by the fact that the driver could not see the terrain directly in front of the tank, due to a blind spot of about 10 metres. However, on open terrain it could be used to some success, reaching speeds of 15km/h on road, and offered more firepower than the armoured cars that were available. Due to the steel shortages and overall low priority of the project, only 20 out of 100 ordered (in December of 1917) and a further 30 unarmoured carriers were produced. Quickly realizing the sever limitations of the A7V, the Germans moved to produce a relative copy of the British Heavy Tank Mk IV designated the A7V/U, which was at least a step in the right direction. 20 were ordered in September of 1918, but only single prototype was produced.

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Profile views of the A7V/U1 and A7V/U2.

My changes to the A7V are similar to those done on the Schneider and St Chamond. Shorten the nose so it doesn’t dig in, flatten the back and provide two doors for troops to exit, cut the number of MG’s to one front and one on either side, cut the top structure and move the driver and commander to the front on either side of the forward MG sponson replacing the 57mm gun. This will decrease weight and bulk and provide more room for troops in back. The A7V/U is good as is armed with 77mm guns but I would also bring in the A7V/U2, a virtual copy of the Mk V*, with smaller sponsons mounting 57mm guns and another machine gun mounted in a top/rear cupola.

Profile, front and rear views of my version of the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V.

Towards the end of the First World War it was clear that the A7V was a failure, being too slow and clumsy in action and slow to build. Therefore it was decided that a lighter tank was required, which could spearhead assaults and which could be mass-produced. The Sturmpanzerwagen Oberschlesien ("Oberschlesien Assault Tank") was a radical design for a fast-moving, lightly-armoured assault tank. The tank featured such advanced features as a main cannon mounted on top of the tank in a central revolving turret, separate fighting and engine compartments, a rear-mounted engine and a low track run which was placed under the tank and only wrapped around half of it. In the middle of 1918 construction of a design by Captain Müller was assigned to the Oberschlesien Eisenwerk, which had partially completed two prototypes by October. The design sacrificed armour for the sake of speed and only required a 195 hp engine for the 19-ton body, giving it a projected ground speed of 19 km/h.

A profile view and my rendition of the Sturmpanzer Oberschlesien (StuPz OS).

Leichte Kampfwagen

Influenced by captured British Mark A Whippet Medium Tank, Joseph Vollmer designed the Leichte Kampfwagen based on Daimler car chassis and using the existing axles for sprocket and idler wheels. Its design followed typical automobile layout with the engine at the front and driving compartment in the rear and was the first German tank to be mounted with the turret (rear mounted) armed with 7.92mm Maxim 08/15 machine gun. Only prototypes were produced in mid 1918, while 800 were ordered. LK.II was a further development and had the same layout as LK.I. Instead of a rear-mounted turret, it was mounted with a superstructure (barbette) armed with 37mm Krupp or Russian 57mm Sokol gun. Version armed with one or two 7.92mm Maxim 08/15 machine guns mounted in a rear-mounted turret was also planned but it remained as a project. Only two prototypes were produced in June of 1918 and were followed by order for 580 tanks, which was never completed. After the war, the Swedish government purchased 10 tanks in secrecy as the Stridsvagn m/21, which was an improved version of LK.II prototype armed with a single 6.5mm machine gun. In 1929, the m/21 were rebuilt creating Strv m/21-29 variant armed with 37mm gun or two machine guns. Later on, the Germans bought a main share of the Landsverk Company and set up Joseph Vollmer as the main designer and in 1931 he produced Strv m/31 (L-10), which was the first tank produced in Sweden.

Profile views of the LK-I and LK-II.

LK.III was to be an improved and redesigned version of LK.II tank with front mounted turret and rear mounted engine. It was to be no longer based on Daimler car chassis but on specially designed components. The main armament was to be either Russian 57mm Sokol gun or 20mm Becker Flieger Kanone. 1000 were ordered but not even the prototype was completed before November of 1918.

My rendition of the LK-III.

The Daimler Sturmwagen and Krupp Kraftprotze were light infantry tanks armed with a single machine gun designed to be operated by a crew of two and featured protection shield for the following infantry. Prototypes were not completed before wars end. These could be considered ‘tanklettes’ similar to the Ford 3-ton.


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