First Panzers 1917-1918



German tank development can be traced back to 1911, when Austrian Oberleutenant Gunther Burstynproposed a design for "motor vehicle gun" ("Motorgeschutz") with a turret. He patented his design in 1912 in Germanybut it never progressed beyond paper. In 1916, development of tracked armored vehicles started again withMarienwagen I and II (also known as Bremer-Wagen), followed by Duer-Wagen and in 1917, Treffas-Wagen.

Bursztyn Tank
Bursztyn Tank

A7V Sturmpanzerwagen

As a response to first British tanks used in combat in September of 1916, A7V – Allegmeine-Kriegs-Department 7, Abteilung Verkehrswesen (General War Department 7, Traffic Section) was formed.  It was responsible for the design and development of an armored tracked vehicle and in January of 1917, Reserve Captain and Engineer Joseph Vollmer (1871-1955) present the design.  It was called A7V (short for Allegmeine-Kriegs-Department 7, Abteilung Verkehrswesen), but was also called  Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen – armored assault vehicle.  On November 13th of 1916, the German Imperial Army decided to build tanks and overall project was under the direction of Joseph Vollmer. New tank was to be a universal platform to be used as a base for both a tank and cargo carrier.  It was based on American Holt caterpillar tractor of which parts were obtained from Austria, where it was produced under licence.  American Holt caterpillar tractor also served as a base for both British and French tank development.   Vehicle was powered by two centrally mounted 100hp Daimler 4 cylinder engines with commander’s cupola / compartment above them. First prototype was completed by Daimler-Benz and tested in April of 1917. The wooden mock-up of a final version was ready in May of 1917. First pre-production A7V was produced in September of 1917, followed by production model in October of 1917. All tanks received nicknames (e.g. Mephisto, Wotan, Isolde etc.) and were grouped in 1st, 2nd and 3rd Abteilung.  It had its tank vs. tank debut against British tanks on March 21st of 1918 at St. Quentin and on April 21st at Villers-Bretonneux / Cachy. Only 20 out of 100 ordered (in December of 1917) were produced due to the steel shortages and overall low priority of the project. A7V was unstable and had a very poor trench-crossing performance due to its track design and minimal ground clearance.  Two production types existed, early type with hull sides made of number of pieces (with large number of rivets) and late type with one piece hull sides.  There were other numerous differences between individual tanks since all parts were handmade and made to fit given tank.  In addition, its poor quality armor plates offered little protection for 18 men (in some cases 22 men) crew composed of artillerymen, infantrymen and mechanics.  The main armament consisted of 57mm (captured Russian Sokol or Belgian Maxim Nordenfeld) gun and six heavy machine guns. Additional weapons were carried by the crew of whom some fought alongside the tank during combat.  Along with A7V tanks, 30 to 75 unarmored cargo carriers – Uberlandwagen / Gelandewagen were produced. Some cargo carriers were fitted with trench/ditch digging machines.  Three (?) cargo carriers were completed as A7V-Flakpanzers – anti-aircraft vehicles armed with two captured Russian 7.62mm Model 1902 guns.  Following the WWI, few (5?) tanks were received as reparations from Germany by Poland and pressed into limited service from 1919 to 1922, during the Polish-Soviet War, but there is no evidence that Poland really received any A7V tanks.  Today, original A7V Mephisto captured by Australian troops in 1918, can be seen in the museum in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia.  Full scale replica build modelled after the original Mephisto can be seen at Panzermuseum at Munster, Germany.

A7V/U Sturmpanzerwagen


A7V/U – Allegmeine-Kriegs-Department 7, Abteilung Verkehrswesen (General War Department 7, Traffic Section) / Umlaufende Ketten – (all-round tracks). Its design was by Vollmer based on original A7V, but featured sponsons and all-round tracks (features copied from British tanks to improve the cross country capability). Armament consisted of two Belgian Maxim Nordenfeld 57mm or Russian 57mm Sokol or German 77mm guns mounted in side sponsons along with four to six 7.92mm Maxim 08/15 machine guns.  Its suspension was based on Holt tractor (just as A7V) and was 8.5m long.  Maximum speed was 12.5km/h and it was powered by two Daimler engines (just as A7V) producing 210hp. Armor protection ranged from 20mm to 30mm and entire tank weighted 39.6 tons. A7V/U was operated by the crew of 7 men. It resembled British Mark IV (Hermaphrodite) tank, but was larger. 20 were ordered in September of 1918, but only single prototype was produced by Daimler-Benz and then scrapped as it proved to be a failure.

A7V/U2 Sturmpanzerwagen / A7V/U3 Sturmpanzerwagen

A7V/U2 was to be a version with smaller sponsons and machine gun mounted in a cupola, while A7V/U3 was to be armed only with machine guns. Both never entered production and remained as projects.

K-Wagen / Kolossal-Wagen / Grosskampfwagen Super Heavy Breakthrough Tank


K-Wagen was designed by Joseph Vollmer and Captain Wegner (Weger?) and ordered into production in December of 1917.  First tanks were to enter service in 1919. It was designed so that it could be broken into four parts for rail transport. K-Wagen had a boxy hull mounted with sponsons. Armor protection ranged from 10 to 30mm and entire tank weighted 148-150 tons. The vehicle was to be 12.7m long, 3.0m wide (6.0m wide sponsons) and 3.0m high. It featured roller-type tracks and was powered by two Daimler-Benz 6 cylinder aerial engines (each producing 650hp) with electric-magnetic clutch transmission. Maximum speed was 7.5km/h.  K-Wagen’s armament consisted of four 77mm guns (two mounted in each sponson) with 800 rounds of ammunition and seven 7.92mm Maxim 08/15 machine guns with 21000 rounds of ammunition.  Modified U-Boot communications and control equipment was to be used. It was to be operated by the crew of 22 men.  Production was delayed, because of the material shortages and only two were under construction in November of 1918 at Riebe-Kugellager factory at Berlin, but were not completed. Both were eventually scrapped by the Allied Control Commission.

LK.I (Leichte Kampfwagen) Light (Cavalry) Tank

LK.I was designed by Joseph Vollmer and influenced by captured British Mark A Whippet Medium Tank. It was based on Daimler car chassis, using the existing axles for sprocket and idler wheels.  It’s design followed typical automobile layout with the engine at the front and driving compartment in the rear. It was the first German tank to be mounted with the turret (rear mounted) armed with 7.92mm Maxim 08/15 machine gun. Armor protection was 8 to 14mm and entire tank weighted 6.89 tons. It was 5.08m long, 1.95m wide and 2.52m high. LK.I was powered by single Daimler-Benz Otto Model 1910 4-cylinder 50-60hp gasoline engine with operational range of 70km and maximum speed of 14km/h. It carried 140l of gasoline and was operated by 3 men crew. Only (2?) prototypes were produced in mid 1918, while 800 were ordered.


LK.II (Leichte Kampfwagen) Light (Cavalry) Tank


Swedish m/21 in Axvall Armour Museum, Sweden.
Photo provided by Peter Travis.

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. Armor protection was 8 to 14mm and its weight increased to 8.75 tons. It was also powered by single Daimler-Benz Otto Model 1910 4-cylinder 55-60hp gasoline engine was operated by 3 men crew. Maximum speed was 14 to 18km/h with range of 65-70km.It was 5.06 meters long, 1.95 meters wide and 2.52 meters high. 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, German company had parts hidden from the Allied Control Commission for LK.II tanks. The Swedish government purchased 10 tanks in secrecy for 100000 (or 200000) Swedish Kronas and shipped the parts as boiler plates and agricultural equipment.  The tanks were then assembled in Sweden as Stridsvagn m/21, which was an improved version of LK.II prototype. Strv m/21 was armed with a single 6.5mm machine guns. In 1929, m/21 were rebuild creating Strv m/21-29 variant. This variant was armed with 37mm gun or two machine guns and was powered by Scania-Vabis engine. One of Strv m/21-29 was driven by Heinz Guderian during his visit to Sweden in 1929. Strv m/21-21 remained in service until 1938 and today single example can be seen at Panzermuseum at Munster, Germany.  Later on, the Germans bought a main share of the Landsverk Company and set up Joseph Vollmer as the main designer and in 1931, produced Strv m/31 (L-10), which was the first tank produced in Sweden.

LK.III (Leichte Kampfwagen) Light (Cavalry) Tank
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.

Kraftprotze – Krupp (Infantry) Light Tank / Tankette
Designed by Krupp, this light infantry tank was to be operated by the crew of two and featured protection shield for the following infantry. It was to be armed with a single machine gun. Prototype was not completed.

Sturmpanzerwagen Oberschlesien Heavy Breakthrough / Assault Tank
Designed by Oberschlesien Eisenwerk (Oberschlesien-Eisen-Industrie at Gleiwitz / Gliwice), it featured central turret armed with 37mm or 57mm gun and two small turrets, each armed with a machine gun. The tank was planned to weight some 19000kg. It was powered by 195hp engine and could travel at maximum speed of 19km/h. Maximum armor protection was to be 14mm. It was to be operated by the crew of 5 men.  Two prototypes were ordered but were only partially completed when the war ended, while plans existed for an improved Oberschlesien II tank.

Daimler Sturmwagen
Designed by Daimler, it was similar to Krupp’s Light Tank, but did not even reach the prototype stage.It was also to be armed with a single machine gun.

Captured British Mark V Male
Captured British Mark V Male

Beutepanzerwagen IV / V – Captured British Mark IV / V

Most of "German" tanks in service during 1917-18 period were some 100 British tanks captured at Cambrai and other locations.  They were repaired, overhauled at Charleroi (by Bavarian Army Motor Vehicle Park 20)  and rearmed with Russian 57mm Sokol / Belgian 57mm Maxim Nordenfeld guns in place of British 6pdr guns (Male tanks) and 7.92mm Maxim 08 machine guns (Female tanks). Spare parts were obtained from battle damaged tanks unfit for repair.  Captured tanks were grouped in four captured tank companies – Sturmpanzerwagenabteilungen (Beute).

Beutepanzerwagen Mark A – Captured British Mark A Whippet
Captured examples of British Mark A Whippets equipped entire German captured tank company – Sturmpanzerwagenabteilung (Beute) in 1917-18 period.

Captured French Tanks
Some French tanks (including Renault FT-17 light tanks) were captured during the German offensive in November of 1918. Captured tanks were grouped in four captured tank companies – Sturmpanzerwagenabteilungen (Beute).


Model: A7V A7V/U
Weight: 32510kg 39600kg
Crew: 18 men 7 men
Engine: 2 x Daimler 165204 / 4-cylinder / 100hp 2 x Daimler 165204 / 4-cylinder / 100hp
Speed: Road: 9-15km/h
Cross-Country: 4-8km/h
Road: 12.5km/h
Cross-Country: –km/h
Range: Road: 60-80km
Cross-Country: 30-35km
Road: –km
Cross-Country: 30km
Fuel Capacity: 2 x 250l 2 x 250l
Lenght: 7.35-8.00m 8.38-8.50m
Width: 3.10-3.20m 4.69m
Height: 3.40-3.50m 3.14m
Armament: Belgian 57mm Maxim Nordenfeld & 6 x 7.92mm Maxim 08/15
Russian 57mm L/26 Sokol & 6 x 7.92mm Maxim 08/15
Belgian 57mm Maxim Nordenfeld & 6 x 7.92mm Maxim 08/15
Russian 57mm L/26 Sokol & 6 x 7.92mm Maxim 08/15
German 77mm & 6 x 7.92mm Maxim 08/15
Ammo: 57mm – 500 rounds
7.92mm – 36000 rounds
57mm/77mm – rounds
7.92mm – rounds
Armor: Front: 30mm
Side: 20mm
Top: 15mm
Other: 20mm
Front: 30mm
Side: 20mm
Other: 20mm

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