The A7V was a tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...
introduced by Germany in 1918, near the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
. One hundred vehicles were ordered during the spring of 1918, but only 21 were delivered. It was nicknamed "The Moving Fortress" by the British because of the shape of the hull. They were used in action from March to October of that year, and were the only tanks produced by Germany in World War I to be used in operations.
HistoryFollowing the appearance of the first British tanks
Mark I tank
The British Mark I was a tracked vehicle developed by the British Army during the First World War and the world's first combat tank. The Mark I entered service in August 1916, and was first used in action on the morning of 15 September 1916 during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, of the Somme...
on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...
, the Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7. Abteilung, Verkehrswesen ("General War Department, 7th Branch, Transportation"), was formed in September 1916.
The project to design and build the first German tank was placed under the direction of Joseph Vollmer
Joseph Vollmer was a German automobile designer and engineer and a pioneering tank designer. As chief designer for the German War Department's motor vehicle section, he designed the World War I German tanks A7V, K-Wagen, LK I and LK II....
, a reserve captain and engineer. It was to mass around 30 tons, be capable of crossing ditches up to 1.5 meters wide, have armaments including cannon at 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, parts for which were obtained from the Austrian arm of the Holt-Caterpillar Company. After initial plans were shared with the Army in December 1917 the design was extended to be a universal chassis which could be used as a base for both a tank and unarmoured Überlandwagen
The Überlandwagen was a tracked supply carrier built on the chassis of the German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank. When the A7V was first designed, the design committee made allowance for the chassis to be fitted with an alternative load carrier body.-Description:The Überlandwagen shared a common...
("Over-land vehicle") cargo carriers.
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 armor. 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. The tanks were given to Assault Tank Units 1 and 2, founded on 20 September 1917, each with five officers and 109 NCOs and soldiers.
NamingThe tank's name was derived from that of its parent organization, Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7. Abteilung, Verkehrswesen. In German the tank was called Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen
A Panzer is a German language word that, when used as a noun, means "tank". When it is used as an adjective, it means either tank or "armoured" .- Etymology :...
(roughly "assault armoured motor vehicle").
DesignThe A7V was 7.34 metres (24.1 ft) long, 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, and the maximum height was 3.3 metres (10.8 ft). The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides and 30 mm at the front; however the steel was not hardened armour plate
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....
, which reduced its effectiveness. It was thick enough to stop machine gun and rifle fire, but not larger calibres. This offered protection comparable to the thinner armour of other tanks of the period, which used hardened steel.
The crew normally consisted of up to sixteen soldiers and two officers: commander, driver, mechanic, mechanic/signaller, twelve infantrymen (six machine gunners, six loaders), and two artillerymen (main gunner and loader).
VariantA7V/U: An exact copy of the Mark IV British Tank. The trials of the A7V/U showed its heavier weight made it vulnerable. Although 20 were ordered, the end of the war stopped production.
A7V Sturmpanzer: Production model had twice the speed of the British tank while on flat ground, but poor cross-country performance. 100 ordered; only 21 were built
ArmamentThe A7V was armed with six 7.92 mm MG08 machine guns
The Maschinengewehr 08, or MG08, was the German Army's standard machine gun in World War I and is an adoption of Hiram S. Maxim's original 1884 Maxim Gun. It was produced in a number of variants during the war. The MG 08 remained in service until the outbreak of World War II due to shortages of...
and a 5.7 cm Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon mounted at the front. This cannon was of British manufacture; Germany captured many from Belgium and Russia. Between forty and sixty cartridge-belts, each of 250 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 actually stowed.
The "Female" tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I, which featured multiple machine guns instead of the heavier armament seen on the much more common "male" tanks. As such, female tanks were normally cast in an anti-infantry role...
" variant had two more machine guns in place of the main gun. It is not entirely clear how many started this way or were converted. Some sources say only chassis number 501 saw combat as a female.
PropulsionPower came from two centrally mounted Daimler
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was a German engine and later automobile manufacturer, in operation from 1890 until 1926. Founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, it was based first in Cannstatt...
4-cylinder petrol engines delivering 100 hp each; the A7V carried 500 litres (110 imp gal) of fuel. The top speed was about 15 kilometres per hour (9.3 mph) on roads and 5 kilometres per hour (3.1 mph) across country.
Compared to other World War I tanks the road speed was quite high, but the tank had very poor off-road capability and was prone to getting stuck. The large overhang at the front and the 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 and offered more firepower than the armoured cars that were available. Power-to-weight ratio was 6.8 hp/ton (5.1 kW/ton), trench crossing: 7 feet (2.1 m), ground clearance: 7.5 to 15.75 in (190.5 to 400.1 mm).
Thirty chassis were assigned for completion as Überlandwagen supply carriers, but not all were completed before the end of the war.
The design of the A7V featured on the tank badge of 1921, awarded to commemorate service in the German Panzer forces of 1918.
The A7V was first used in combat on 21 March 1918. Five tanks 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, but the remaining pair helped stop a minor British breakthrough in the area, but otherwise saw little combat that day.
The first tank against tank combat in history took place on the 24 April 1918 when three A7Vs (including chassis number 561, known as "Nixe") taking part in an attack with infantry incidentally met three Mark IVs (two female machine gun-armed tanks and one male with two 6-pounder gun
6-pounder gun or 6-pdr, usually denotes a gun which fired a projectile of approximately 6 pounds.Guns of this type include:*QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss, a 57 mm naval gun of the 1880s*QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss, a British 57 mm tank gun of 1917...
s) near Villers-Bretonneux
Villers-Bretonneux is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:Villers-Bretonneux is situated some 19 km due east of Amiens, on the D1029 road and the A29 motorway.-History - World War I:...
. During the battle tanks on both sides were damaged. According to the lead tank commander, Second Lieutenant Frank Mitchell, the female Mk IVs 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
Wilhelm Biltz was a German chemist and scientific editor. Wilhelm Biltz was the son of Karl Friedrich Biltz who was a scientist of literature and theatre critic...
, 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 Lieutenant Mitchell's tank withdrew from action, seven Whippet tanks also engaged the infantry. Four of these were knocked out in the battle, and it is unclear if any of them engaged the retreating German tanks. Lieutenant Mitchell's tank lost a track towards the end of the battle from a mortar shell and was abandoned. The damaged A7V was later recovered by German forces.
All 18 available A7Vs had been put into action that day with limited results; two toppled over into holes, some encountered engine or armament troubles. After a counterattack, three ended up in Allied hands. One was unusable and scrapped, one used for shell testing by the French, and the third captured by the Australians.
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
The was a German tank project of the First World War. It was a radical design for a fast-moving, lightly armored assault tank....
The Großkampfwagen or "K-Wagen" was a German super-heavy tank, two prototypes of which were almost completed by the end of World War I.-History:...
, LK I
The Leichter Kampfwagen or "LK I" was a German light tank prototype of the First World War.-History:The LK I was designed by Joseph Vollmer. It was based on a Daimler car chassis, using the existing axles to mount sprocket and idler wheels. Its design followed automobile practice, with a...
or LK II
The Leichter Kampfwagen II or "LK II" was a development of the LK I with the same layout, but incorporating a rotating turret on the rear superstructure armed with a 37mm Krupp or Russian 57mm Sokol gun. Its armor was 8 to 14mm thick, which increased its total weight to 8.75 tons...
). The final use in World War I of A7Vs was in October 1918; a number were scrapped before the war ended in November.
The extremely limited production of twenty made a very limited 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, the most produced tank of World War I, and the British over 2,500 of their heavy Mark I to V* tanks.
After the warTwo lightly armoured vehicles broadly resembling the A7V, one of which was named "Hedi", were used by a Freikorps
Freikorps are German volunteer military or paramilitary units. The term was originally applied to voluntary armies formed in German lands from the middle of the 18th century onwards. Between World War I and World War II the term was also used for the paramilitary organizations that arose during...
tank unit to quell civil unrest in Berlin in 1919, and were constructed after the war, using the chassis from Überlandwagens and armed with four MG08/15 machine guns.
Some sources claim that several A7Vs were captured by (or given to) Polish forces after uprising in Greater Poland. However this information is incorrect, since all of A7Vs were either destroyed or captured during World War I. The possible source of this misunderstanding are armoured draisines captured from Germans and used by insurgents which are very similar to A7Vs (overall hull shape, machine guns on the sides etc., but with turret).
A7V chassis listing
- 501 Gretchen: scrapped by the Allies in 1919 (Female).
- 502: Scrapped by Germans in October 1918.
- 503 Totenkopf: Scrapped by Germans in October 1918.
- 504 Schnuck: lost at Fremicourt 31 August 1918.
- 505 Baden I: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 506 MephistoMephisto (tank)Mephisto is the name of a German tank captured by Australian troops during World War I. One of only 21 built, it is the last surviving example of the first German military tank, the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, and is displayed at the Queensland Museum in Australia.Mephisto, chassis serial number 506,...
: lost at Villers-BretonneuxVillers-BretonneuxVillers-Bretonneux is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:Villers-Bretonneux is situated some 19 km due east of Amiens, on the D1029 road and the A29 motorway.-History - World War I:...
on 24 April 1918, recovered by Australians, now in Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia.
- 507 Cyklop: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 525 Siegfried: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 526: Scrapped by Germans in 1 June 1918.
- 527 Lotti: lost at Pompelle Fort 1 June 1918.
- 528 Hagen: lost at Fremicourt 31 August 1918.
- 529 Nixe 2: lost at Remis 31 May 1918, recovered by Americans and scrapped at Aberdeen Proving Grounds Museum in 1942.
- 540 Heiland: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 541: Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 542 Elfriede: lost at Villers-Bretonneux 24 April 1918
- 543 Hagen, Adalbert, König Wilhelm: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
- 560 Alter Fritz: lost at Iwuy 11 October 1918.
- 561 Nixe: scrapped by Germans 24 April 1918.
- 562 Herkules: scrapped by Germans after 31 August 1918.
- 563 Wotan: scrapped by the Allies in 1919, a replica of Wotan was built in the late 1980s based largely on Mephisto, Wotan is now in the Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany.
- 564: Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.
Survivors and replicasThe captured A7V Mephisto
Mephisto is the name of a German tank captured by Australian troops during World War I. One of only 21 built, it is the last surviving example of the first German military tank, the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, and is displayed at the Queensland Museum in Australia.Mephisto, chassis serial number 506,...
is in the Queensland Museum
The Queensland Museum is the state museum of Queensland. The museum currently operates four separate campuses; at South Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Townsville.The museum is funded by the State Government of Queensland.-History:...
Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has a population of over 2 million, and the South East Queensland urban conurbation, centred around Brisbane, encompasses a population of...
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
. It is the only surviving A7V out of the 21 produced. One cannon from an A7V (possibly 504 Schnuck) is at the Imperial War Museum North
Imperial War Museum North
Imperial War Museum North is a museum in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, England. One of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum, the museum explores the impact of modern conflicts on people and society. It is the first branch of the Imperial War Museum to be...
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...
Two full-size replicas have been constructed. One, Wotan, is in the Deutsches Panzermuseum
The German Tank Museum is an armoured fighting vehicle museum in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp. Its main aim is the documentation of the history of German armoured troops since 1917....
Munster, Lower Saxony
Munster, also called Munster , is a small town in the district of Heidekreis, in Lower Saxony, Germany almost equidistant from Hamburg and Hanover. The town is home to the German Army's largest garrison and is situated between the two training areas of Munster North and Munster South. It is also...
. The second is a running replica built for the British Tank Museum, named Schnuck. It was constructed in the UK of plywood and angle iron using the engine, transmission and tracks from two Fordson
Fordson was a brand name used on a range of mass produced general-purpose tractors manufactured by Henry Ford & Son, Inc, from 1917 until 1920 when it was merged into the Ford Motor Company, which used the name until 1964...
County Crawlers - tracked agricultural vehicles.