WORLD WAR TWO. ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES & SELF-PROPELLED ARTILLERY
This was followed by the Marmon-Herrington Mk II, which had a longer, stronger wheelbase, a lengthened bonnet and four-wheel drive. Early vehicles had riveted hulls, but later models were all-welded. They saw service initially against the Italians in Last Africa. The War Office then requested South Africa to provide them for British units in the Western Desert, where they saw service from 1941 up to the end of the Tunisian campaign. Normal armament of the Mk II was a Boys anti-tank rifle and a Bren gun in the turret, plus two AA machine guns (one Bren and one Vickers).
A Marmon-Herrington Mk III armoured car, in Indian service. Built from mid-1941, the round turret of the Mk II has been replaced by the octagonal- shaped type. (TM)
A reconnaissance company of the West African Frontier Force, photographed near Accra, Gold Coast in 1943, lining up with their Marmon-Herringtons. Those in front are MK IIIs, with octagonal turrets. (TM)
Marmon-Herrington Mk IV armoured car fitted the British 2 pounder QFSA gun and a co-ax .30in Browning in the turret. (TM)
Although it was a very reliable vehicle it was under-gunned, so service units in the desert carried out a number of 'unofficial modifications', in order to mount a variety of captured enemy or 'acquired' Allied weapons which had a better anti tank capability. This was done by removing the turret and relying on gun shields for protection, giving the added advantages of a lower silhouette and faster speed, hut making the vehicle more vulnerable from the air.
Various enemy weapons were fitted, the most common being the Italian 20mm and 47mm Breda and the German 37mm and 28/20mm which had a tapered bore (like the Littlejohn adaptor). The French 25mm was also used. In addition, there were a number of other adaptations including an artillery OP (no turret), an ambulance (unarmed), a command car (no turret, hull raised to accommodate extra radios), fitters vehicle, RAF contact car (AA Lewis gun in a turret, bracing masts fore and aft to support radio antennae).
As the demand for armoured cars increased, the Mk II was replaced by the Mk III (in 1941) on the production lines, which had several improvements as a result of combat experience. It used a shorter wheelbase (8ft 9ins) and weighed 5.25 tons. Basic armament (Boys and Bren) was still the same in the octagonal turret, although similar weaponry was often fitted as for the Mk II, including the British 2 pounder and the 20mm Oerlikon. Later vehicles had only a single rear door, no radiator grilles or headlight covers. There was also a Mk IIIA, which had the turret removed and twin .303in Vickers AA fitted on a ring mount which was protected by a steel skirt. Another version fitted just one AA MG either a Vickers or a .50in MG.
In 1943, the Marmon-Herrington Mk IV entered service. This was a completely re-designed armoured car, using Ford and Marmon-Herrington components on a 4×4 chassis. The suspension, engine and transmission were bolted direct onto the armoured hull. The 85hp Ford V8 petrol engine was located at the rear. Some vehicles were fitted with runflat tyres. The Mk IV was 15ft long, hft wide and 7ft high and had a top speed of 50mph and a range of 200miles. Its main armament was the British 2 pounder QFSA gun, mounted in a two-man turret, later models had a co-ax .30in Browning. In addition there were .303in or .50in Vickers MG for AA or later, .30in or .50in Brownings. Due to production delays the Mk IV did not appear until March 1943. The Mk IVF (sometimes called the Mk IV*) was very similar but had the rear-mounted engine facing forward, with the gearbox and radiator mounted at the rear. It was only issued to South African units. There was also a Mk IVF which used a CMP Ford F60L chassis. A total of over 2.000 Mk IVs were built.
A Mk V version appears not to have been produced, whilst the Marmon-Herrington Mk VI, was yet another new design. It was an eight-wheeled armoured car which resembled the German 8 rad, with tour axles grouped in two conventional bogie pairs with semi-elliptic springs mounted on trunnions. Steering was by the front and rear axles only and power was supplied by two Ford Mercury engines, mounted side by-side with their clutches and gearboxes in the rear of the vehicle. Angled armour plates (10-30mm thick) gave good protection, whilst in the open topped turret there was either a 2 pounder or 6 pounder gun, plus a co-axial .30in Browning MG. Widely-spaced twin .30in Brownings also provided AA protection The three-man turret had a rotating platform and electric powered traverse, but there were no observation ports for either the commander or loader. The driver had two periscopes to use when driving closed down.
It was followed by a Marmon-Herrington Mk VII, which was similar to the Mk IIIA, whilst a Mk VIII was also considered. However, as the North African campaign had ended before the Mk VI, VII or VIII entered service and as it was rightly decided that the Italian battlefield did not suit armoured cars, none of these models were put into production.
In total the South Africans built 5,746 Marmon-Herringtons, 1,180 of which were supplied to British and Indian armoured car regiments The remainder being delivered to the Union Defence Forces and used operationally in East Africa and the Middle East. The prowess of the tough lighting men from South Africa, is ably demonstrated by the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment, which served in North Africa with 7th Armoured Division. For example, they had been the first armoured cars to force a German tank - a new PzKpfw III, mounting a 7,5cm gun, - to surrender. Not bad tor a Marmon-Herrington, armed only with a Boys anti-tank rifle and two machine guns!
This Marmon-Herrington has had the complete turret removed and an Italian 20mm Breda cannon fitted. It is being used as AA defence for the beseiged town of Tobruk, Libva. (TM)
The development of German armoured cars had continued on a small scale since the First World War as they were the only armoured vehicles allowed to Germany under the terms imposed by the Western Allies.
Once the Panzerwaffe had been created in 1935, armoured cars began to be produced in quantity. Cheaper and easier to produce than tanks and with the vital task of leading the Blitzkrieg, discovering the locations of the main enemy positions then bypassing them, the armoured cars of the Aufklarungs Abteilung (reconnaissance battalion) proved their worth in both Poland and France. This was reinforced by their continued success in the Western Desert and led directly to a revival of interest in armoured cars, especially large heavy types, in Britain. German armoured cars were of two main types: the light four-wheeled, 3 to 4 ton leichter Panzerspähwagen, with a crew of two or three, an open-topped turret mounting just a machine gun or at best a 20mm cannon; and the six or eight wheeled, heavy 6 to 8ton schwerer Panzerspähwagen, with a crew of four, some with a fully enclosed turret mounting different weapons from a 20mm cannon to a 7,5cm gun.
The first of the new reconnaissance vehicles (leichter Panzerspähwagen) built for the burgeoning Wehrmacht was a small, 2.1 ton 4×2 scout car, built by Daimler Benz using chassis supplied by Adlerwerke of Frankfurt, known as the Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Adler Kfz 13. The two-man vehicle was armed with a single 7.92mm MG 13 on a pedestal mount complete with a small gunshield. It was in effect the standard small passenger car with some 8mm armour plate added and had a top speed of 44mph and a range of 187 miles. A total of 150 were built between 1932 and 1934 and saw active service in both Poland and France, but were withdrawn from service in 1941. The support vehicle for the Kfz 13 was the Kfz 14 Funkkraftwagen (radio car) which was exactly the same, except that it was fitted with a frame aerial and long range radio, replacing the machine gun. It had a crew of three and about forty were built. Dimensions of both were: 14ft long, 5ft 8½ins wide and 4ft 10ins high.
First of the leichter Panzerspähwagen SdKfz 221, 222 and 223 was the SdKfz 221, (SdKfz Sonderkraftfahrzeug, special purpose vehicle) designed in 1934 and issued to the scout squadrons of reconnaisance units of both Panzer and motorised infantry divisions the following year. This 4 ton, two-man scout car was the first of a highly successful series which continued to be used throughout the war. Between 1935 and 1940 a total of 340 were built. Armed with a single 7,92mm MG 34 (which became the standard Panzer machine gun in place of the MG 13), it had a top speed of 56mph and a range of 200 miles. Dimensions of the Horch engined car were: 16ft long, 6ft 6ins wide and 5ft 8ins high.
When it first came into service the scout car had to be supported by a heavier armoured car to give covering fire, however from 1942 it was tit- ted with a larger weapon, this model being renamed as the Sdkfz 221 mit 2.8cm. It mounted a 2.8cm sPzB41 which had a tapered 'squeeze' bore barrel (2.8cm at the breech to 2cm at the muzzle to increase muzzle velocity - 1.430 metres per second (nips) as opposed to 1,050mps tor a straight 2cm gun). The MG 34 had to be removed to mount the larger weapon. Armour was up to 8mm thick.
The SdKfz 222 three-man leichter Panzerspähwagen entered service in 1936 with just under 1,000 being built between 1936 and 1943. Weighing 4.8tons, it was armed with a 2cm KwK 30 or 38 L/55 gun and an MG 34 mounted co-axially. It had a larger turret than the 221 but was still 16ft long and 6ft 6ins wide, but now 6ft 8ins high. Early models were fitted with an anti-grenade mesh screen which split down the middle and could be folded outwards. Later models were fitted with a heavier gun mount which enabled the 2cm and MG 34 guns to be elevated almost vertically for AA protection. It served throughout the war on all fronts. Later models had thicker armour - up to 30mm on the nose and 10mm on the turret, instead of 8mm as standard.
The kleiner Panzerfunkwagen SdKfz 223 (Fu) was the radio car version (Funkkraftwagen) which mounted a large frame aerial around the hull and was fitted with long-range radio. The car weighed 4.4 tons, had a three-man crew, a top speed of 50mph and a range of 200 miles. It was the same length and width as the others in the series, but only 5ft 10ins high (not including aerial). The nine-sided turret-mounted a single MG 34. The 223 remained in service throughout the war. providing the long-range communications necessary for reconnaisance units to transmit vitally important battle information.
Entering service in 1940, the kleiner Panzerfunkwagen SdKfz 260 & 261 were both small radio cars developed from the four-wheeled scout car series and designed for use by headquarters units to communicate with command formations. The SdKfz 260 had a medium range radio and a rod aerial, whilst the SdKfz 261 had a longer range radio set requiring a frame aerial (this was later replaced by a rod type). The 260 weighed 3.82 tons and the 261 was just slightly heavier at 3.86 tons. Both normally had a crew of four (driver, commander and two radio operators) and because of the extra radio equipment did not have room for any armament except for the crew's issued weapons, Dimensions were: 16ft 1ins long, 6ft 7ins wide and 5ft 11ins high.
American soldiers of 78th US Infantry Division pass two knocked-out Jagdpanzer 38 (t) Hetzer, whilst advancing through Kesternich, Germany, 31 January 1945. (TM)
The SdKfz 231 schwerer Panzerspähwagen 6 rad. This is an early prototype model, produced in 1932. The 231 was used on active service in Poland and France. (TM)
The Maschinengewehr kraftwagen Adler Kfz 13 was the first of the new type of small reconnaissance vehicles, built by Adlerwerke in 1932 for the rapidly expanding German Army. (TM)
Daimler Benz had produced a cross-country lorry chassis designed for military use in 1928, which formed the basis of their schwerer Panzerspähwagen G3 of 1928. It had a faceted hull, weighed around 5 tons and was armed with a single machine gun. It was followed by the G3P which had better engine access (from a door in the side of the hull) and it was the direct ancestor to the six-wheeled version of the schwerer 1933, the first of this type of heavy armoured car was used in action at the start of the war in Poland and later in France. In fact it had first been issued prewar, so was deployed in the annexation of both Austria and Czechoslovakia. The SdKfz 231 four-man, 5.5-ton car was armed with a 2cm KwK 30 cannon, plus a co-axially mounted MG 13. It had a top speed of 44mph and a range of 156 miles. Armour thickness was 8mm and dimensions were: length 18ft 8½ins, 6ft 2½ins wide and 7ft 6ins high. It was powered by a six-cylinder 60hp Daimler Benz petrol engine.
Two views of the SdKfz 222 leichter Panzerspähwagen. Without the anti-grenade cover fitted, the main armament 2cm KWK 30 or 38 L/550 which was mounted along with a co-ax MG34, is seen clearly. (RJ Fleming)
SdKfz 139, Panzerjaeger 38(t) für 7.72cm PaK36(r), Marder III (Marten), mounted a Russian 7.62cm gun on an obsolete Czechoslovak tank chassis. (RJ Fleming)
SdKfz 138/1 15cm schweres Infanteriegeschütz 33 (Sf) auf PzKpfw 38(t), Grille (Cricket). Some ninety of these heavy SP infantry guns were produced in 1943. (RJ Fleming)
SdKfz 166 Sturmpanzer IV, Brummbär (Grizzly Bear). Nearly 300 of these infantry assault guns were produced and all mounted a 15cm StuH43 L/12 on a standard PzKpfw IV chassis. (RJ Fleming)
SdKfz 131, 7.5cm PaK40/2 auf Fahrgestell PzKpfw II (Sf), Marder II was a useful SP antitank gun, which used the obsolete PzKpfw II chassis. Most were built from new, although seventy-five were converted from gun tanks. (RJ Fleming)
Only three prototypes were ever built of the 10.5cm le FH18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger GW IVb, also known as Heuschrecke 10 (Grasshopper), an SP light field howitzer, the turret of which could be removed and placed on the ground. (RJ Fleming)
Mounting a lethal 8.8cm PaK43/1 (L/71) anti-tank gun on the same chassis as the Hummel, the Nashom/Hornisse (Rhino/Hornet) first saw active service in Russia from 1943. It was later used in both Italy and Northeast Europe. (RJ Fleming)
Jagdpanther SdKfz 173, was undoubtedly one of the best tank destroyers of World War Two. Just over 390 were produced between January 1944 and the end of the war. (RJ Fleming)
SdKfz 184, Sturmgeschütz mit 8.8cm LaK43/2 was also known as Ferdinand (after Dr Porsche) or Elefant (Elephant). The ninety produced were built on the Tiger (P) chassis. (RJ Fleming)
Just eighteen of these massive 38cm RW61 auf Sturmörser Tiger were converted from Tiger I in 1944. Its mortar fired rocket-assisted ammunition. (RJ Fleming)
Heaviest AFV to see action in World War Two was the Jagdtiger SkKfz 186, only seventy-seven of which were built. It was almost invulnerable to enemy fire due to armour up to 250mm thick. The author saw one which had wiped out almost an entire regiment of Shermans in the Ardennes. (RJ Fleming)