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Replica A7V in Panzermuseum Munster, Germany.
|Place of origin||German Empire|
|In service||21 March 1918 – 16 October 1918|
|Used by||German Empire|
|Wars||World War I|
|Weight||33 t (32 long tons; 36 short tons) battle weight|
|Length||7.34 m (24 ft 1 in)|
|Width||3.1 m (10 ft 2 in)|
|Height||3.3 m (10 ft 10 in)|
|Armor||Hull – Front: 30 mm (1.2 in), rear & sides: 15 mm (0.59 in), top:6 mm (0.24 in)
Command copula – Front: 20 mm (0.79 in), rear & sides: 15 mm (0.59 in), top 5 mm (0.20 in)
|57 mm gun
(initially with 180 rounds; later 300)
|6 × 7.9 mm machine guns
|Engine||2 × Daimler-Benz 4-cylinder
200 hp (149 kW) total
|Transmission||Adler gearboxes and differentials|
|Suspension||Holt track, vertical springs|
|30–80 km (19–50 mi)|
|Speed||15 kilometres per hour (9.3 mph) on roads
4 mph cross-country
- 1 History
- 2 Design
- 3 Armament
- 4 Propulsion
- 5 Combat history
- 6 After the war
- 7 A7V chassis listing
- 8 Variant
- 9 Surviving example
- 10 Replicas
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
HistoryFollowing the appearance of the first British tanks on the Western Front, 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, a reserve captain and engineer. It was to have a mass of around 30 tons, be capable of crossing ditches up to 1.5 metres wide, have armament including cannon at the 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, copied from examples loaned by the Austrian Army. After initial plans were shared with the Army in December 1916, the design was extended to be a universal chassis that could be used as a base for both a tank and unarmoured Überlandwagen ("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 armour. 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 Sturmpanzerwagen, (roughly "armoured assault 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 (11 ft). The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides, 30 mm at the front and 10 mm for the roof; however, the steel was not hardened armour plate, which reduced its effectiveness. It was thick enough to stop machine-gun and rifle fire, but not larger calibre rounds. 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 seventeen soldiers and one officer: commander (officer, typically a lieutenant), driver, mechanic, mechanic/signaller, twelve infantrymen (six machine gunners, six loaders), and two artillerymen (main gunner and loader).
AmmunitionBetween 40 and 60 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 stowed for combat.
The "female" variant had two more machine guns in place of the main gun. It is believed that only chassis number 501 saw combat as a female before being converted to accommodate the 5.7 cm gun.
PropulsionPower came from two centrally mounted Daimler 4-cylinder petrol engines delivering 75 kW (101 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. The 24 wheel suspension was individually sprung—an advantage over the unsprung British tanks.
Compared to that of other World War I tanks, the road speed was quite high, but the A7V had very poor off-road capability and a high centre of gravity, which made it prone to getting stuck or overturning on steep slopes. The large overhang at the front and the low ground clearance meant that trenches or very muddy areas were impassable. The driver's view of the terrain directly in front of the tank was obscured by the vehicle's hull, which meant that there was a blind spot of about 10 metres. However, on open terrain, the A7V could be used to some success, and offered more firepower than the armoured cars that were available. The power-to-weight ratio was 5.1 kW/ton(6.8 hp/ton), trench crossing: 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in), ground clearance: 190 to 400 mm (7.5 to 15.7 in).
St. Quentin CanalThe A7V was first used in combat on 21 March 1918. Five tanks of Abteilung I 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; the remaining pair helped stop a minor British breakthrough in the area, but otherwise saw little combat that day.
Main article: Second Battle of Villers-BretonneuxThe first tank against tank combat in history took place on 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 guns) near Villers-Bretonneux. 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, 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 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. 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.
Three detachments (Abteilungen) of five tanks each were at Villers-Bretonneux at the head of the four German divisions committed over a 4-mile front. One tank refused to start, but the fourteen that saw action achieved some success, and the British recorded that their lines were broken by the tanks. Two A7Vs toppled over into holes, and some encountered engine or armament troubles.
After a counterattack, three fell into Allied hands. One was unusable and scrapped, one was used later for shell testing by the French, and the third was eventually recovered by Australian and British troops.
Other actionsIn May, A7Vs used in an attack on the French near Soissons, during the Third Battle of the Aisne were unable to cross a wide trench known as the "Dardanelles".
On 15 July, at Reims (during the Second Battle of the Marne), the Germans put eight A7Vs and twenty captured Mk IVs against the French lines. Although 10 of the Mk IVs were lost in this action, no A7Vs were lost.
The final use in World War I of A7Vs was in a small but successful action on 11 October 1918, near Iwuy.
AssessmentThe 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 120-ton K-Wagen, and the light LK I or LK II).
The extremely limited production of twenty made a very minor 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 numerous tank of World War I, and the British over 2,500 of their heavy Mark I to V* tanks.
After the war
Some sources say that several A7Vs were handed over by France to Polish forces and used during the Russo-Polish war of 1920. However, the fate of each A7V that saw service in WWI is known, and there is no known official record or photographic evidence of A7Vs in Polish service.
The design of the A7V is featured on the tank badge of 1921, awarded to commemorate service in the German Panzer forces of 1918.