100 Years Ago: British Tank “Fray Bentos”

Mark-IV-female_Ypres_1917_1007-A6-CopyIn August 22 of 1917, the British Mark IV tank named “Fray Bentos” experienced the longest tank action of the war, being caught in battle for 60 hours.  Commanded by Donald Richardson, a wholesale grocer who named the tank after a brand of canned meat, this tank became trapped near enemy lines during the Third Battle of Ypres.  Despite almost all the crew being wounded, they were able to fight off repeated attacks by German forces.  Eventually, with the crew out of water, they decided to risk an escape, running back to British lines.  Remarkably, during the entire period of the action, only one crew member was killed.  The crew of the Fray Bentos would be awarded for their bravery, becoming the most highly decorated tank crew of the war.

Of course, there is much more to this story.  Fortunately, several articles have appeared recently marking the centenary of this tank and her brave crew.  Click on the links below to find out more of this story.

The Tank Museum – Tank 100 – Trapped: The Story of Fray Bentos

The Telegraph – The Siege of Fray Bentos: the World War One tank heroes who survived 72 hours trapped in No Man’s Land

Daily Echo – The incredible story of tank ‘Fray Bentos’ is being told at the Tank Museum

Tank Chats #42 Elefant

Tank Museum curator David Willey does a nice job describing the history of the German Elefant tank destroyer.

Video: The M2A2 Mae West, circa 1936

The 102d Public Affairs Detachment has released a video about the M2A2 light tank on display at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum.  The video features Staff Sgt. Mike Needham explaining the significance of this vehicle as the first American designed tank to be accepted and put into production by the US Army.  We would add one point of clarification.  The Mark VIII Liberty tank was partially designed by the US and 100 were assembled at Rock Island Arsenal.  However, the hull components were manufactured in the UK and then shipped to the US.  The M2A2 represents the first tank solely designed and built in the US and adopted into service.

World War I: Archaeological dig at the Somme turns up ‘missing’ British tank that fled due to ‘cowardice’

The Daily Telegraph has posted a new article about an archaeological dig that has turned up a WWI era British tank.

Article excerpt:

8046a3e42ee4a541e24901049c0de9ffThe first major archaeological dig in 100 years at the site of one of Australia’s biggest military defeats has turned up a “missing” British tank that Aussies long thought had fled the Bullecourt battleground due to cowardice.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) backed team of British and Australian archaeologists and volunteers have just unearthed tank armour plates with original racing green paint work, bits of track, its six pounder shells and other metal objects belonging to “Tank 796”.

The French Government had issued an extraordinary permit for the first dig of an Anzac battlefield in the Somme since the end of the Great War, to solve the mystery of the fate of a dozen British tanks that were deployed to Bullecourt to support the 1917 assault of the German line by the Australian 4thDivision but “disappeared” leading to the slaughter of 10,000 Diggers.

Read the full article here.

Video: Military Museum under Construction

This video showed up last month on Youtube showing a small boy running around a military museum under construction.  According to the description, the boy is the son of the museum architect.  Little other information is given in the video description, although it would appear that this facility will house quite a few tanks and armored vehicles.  The location of this museum is not provided.  Obviously, it’s somewhere in the Middle East (perhaps Egypt?)  If anyone knows the answer, please say so in the comments.  Also, beware the bad pop-music soundtrack to the video.

Video: Chi-Ri & Chi-To Tanks Scrapped at Aberdeen

This rather intriguing video showed up on Youtube yesterday and appears to answer the question of what ever happened to the Japanese Type 5 Chi-Ri Heavy tank prototype. Sources generally state that the vehicle was either scrapped at Aberdeen Proving Grounds or lost at sea during shipment. If this video is what it says, we may have proof that it did indeed make it to Aberdeen where it was scrapped. The video is said to be from October 4, 1952 and shows a number of vehicles, including several Japanese tanks. Both a Type 4 Chi-To and the Type 5 Chi-Ri are visible. That these vehicles were scrapped rather than preserved is a rather depressing thought.

 
Here is a screen capture of the Chi-Ri.

Chi Ri aberdeen

Translated Articles from TankArchives.blogspot.com

It’s time to pay a visit to the Tank Archives blog to see what Russian language articles they have translated to English.  Highlights from the July assortment of articles includes several pieces chronicling the history of the German Panzer I and II as well as a couple Lend Lease tanks in Soviet service, and the German Maus super-heavy tank .  Article previews are posted below, click on the headline to see the full piece.

 

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. c-C: At the Spearhead of Blitzkrieg

pz2c03-2aa3bf82e096bf3403161d68a424f44dThe story of the PzII tank was an unusual one. In many ways, it owes its “accidental” existence to the attempts of mounting a 20 mm autocannon in the Kleintraktor (future PzI). Due to issues with production of the Z.W. tank (future PzIII), the PzII was the most numerous front line tank for the first two years of WWII. Germany’s most common tank was not even originally included in the armament plans.

 

Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.a through b: An Unplanned Tank

pz2a02-5c621ff79743816897f5878092e69bd8The light PzII tank played an important role in the structure of the German tank forces. Despite the opinion born of German generals’ memoirs, this was not a training tank. On the contrary: at the time of its inception, the PzII was one of the best light tanks in the world. It appeared almost by accident, but occupied a significant part of the Wehrmacht’s order of battle. The PzII remained in production for five years, with some small breaks. What is the history of the PzII, and what did its first versions look like?

 

M4A2(76)W: Emcha With a Long Hand

m4a276wussr03-e0d722afb74a5c89558b4ff816075a25The Americans considered improving the firepower of the Medium Tank M4 back in September of 1941. A year later, experiments with installing the 76 mm T1 gun into the stock turret commenced. Even though the gun fit, the military was unsatisfied with this rearmament. A decision was made to equip the M4 with the turret from the Medium Tank T23, which did not enter production. This was not hard, since the turret ring diameter was the same.

 

M24 Chaffee: Test Drive at the End of Lend Lease

m24ltussr01-1c9c98f143e28014b8bf6aa5e1abb71aStarting in the second half of 1943, the approach to sending British and American Lend Lease armoured vehicles to the USSR changed. Instead of immediate large scale shipments, the Western Allies sent a few samples of new vehicles. If the tank or SPG was satisfactory for the Soviet side, full scale shipments followed.  The first vehicle to arrive on this trial basis was the Light Tank M5A1. By that point, production of light tanks in the USSR was wrapping up, so the American novelty never made it into service.

 

SG-122: Assault Gun on a Foreign Chassis

sg122s07-9342fa6c05a58948d71e4ecaffd60830Work on SPGs, especially heavy ones, stopped in the USSR after the start of the Great Patriotic War. This was largely caused by the fact that the factories were busy with other orders. In addition, many factories were evacuated eastward. Only light SPGs were put into production at the start of the war, and these were largely improvised.  Meanwhile, due to the number of factories that switched from making artillery tractors to tanks, the artillery branch was forced to revisit SPGs towards the end of 1941.

 

Superheavy Trophy

mausussr02-8a5b6ff864d9a3928af986f06ec44264The German superheavy Maus tank left a mark in the history of tank building. This was the heaviest tank in the world, developed as an assault tank, practically invincible to enemy fire. In many ways, its fate was the same as the fate of another giant, the French FCM 2C, which holds the title of the world’s largest tank to this day. Like the French heavyweight, the German tank never saw combat. In both cases, the tanks were blown up by their own crews. Another similarity was that the tanks became the subject of a careful study.

 

Small, But Fierce

panzerjager1s02-5c106248489f7004540de199447f4dbcOne of the distinguishing characteristics of German tank building in WWII was an aim to use up obsolete vehicles, including those which used to be the backbone of the German tank force. If a German tank became obsolete, that didn’t mean that it would be scrapped. Some tanks were sent to training units, other were modernized. Obsolete tanks, especially light ones, were often converted to SPGs or engineering vehicles. This was the fate that awaited the PzI, Germany’s first mass produced tank, which was already obsolete at the start of WWII.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. F: Pocket Tiger

pz1f02-c6c820213c566fb51f61bb5918d7bb47Coming up with tank ratings is a hobby of many tank experts, as well as people who consider themselves as such. As a rule, the creators try to determine the best tank. While some kind of systematic approach was developed over the years, picking out the worst tanks is usually more complicated. Often, creators of lists of the worst tanks make their choices according to no set system and end up naming a number of tanks that didn’t earn such a shameful label.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. C: Kniepkamp’s Latecomer

pz1cs05-2fddacc4461e71c02ae7fac489888663Putting the PzI Ausf. B into production was the correct decision, albeit a late one. The problem wasn’t only that the concept of a light tank with machineguns for armament was obsolete. The 6th Department of the Armament Directorate was disappointed in the chassis developed by Krupp’s engineers overall. Even though the power to weight ratio of the PzI grew from 11.1 to 17.2 hp/ton after modernization, there was no drastic improvement in mobility. 40 kph is not what was expected with such a boost.

 

Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. B: All Grown Up

pzkpfw1b05-3df99b437de7812a0798c2d5ae5e7034The creation of the PzI light tank did not come easily for German tank building. The tank was redesigned several times while still in the development stage, starting out as a 3 ton tank with a 20 mm autocannon, and ending up as a 5 ton tank, where nothing larger than a pair of MG-13 machineguns could fit into the turret. Even though the PzI entered production and became a mass produced tank, easily numbering over 1000 units, the German tank forces were not completely satisfied with its characteristics even before production began. Modernization was only a matter of time. What results did it bring?