Lanchester armoured car

The Lanchester armoured car was a British armoured car built on the chassis of the Lanchester “Sporting Forty”, it saw wide service with the Royal Naval Air Service and British Army during the First World War. The Lanchester was the second most numerous World War I armoured car in British service after the Rolls-Royce armoured car.

Lanchester armoured car

Six-wheeled armoured cars were seen as having a better cross-country performance than four-wheelers. In pursuit of quality the War Office ignored offers from various commercial vehicle firms and, since Rolls-Royce was not interested, turned its attention to Lanchester, a famous rival. The Lanchester Company had supplied four-wheeled armoured cars to the Admiralty in 1915 but this six-wheeled chassis was a major departure for them. It was equipped with the standard Lanchester six-cylinder engine and used the War Department patent rear axle system.

Taking advantage of the long chassis, the armoured hull and turret were enormous and contained three machine-guns. Yet the Lanchesters were much too big for reconnaissance duties, being almost impossible to turn around in narrow roads. For this reason a rear steering position was provided and the cars had detachable tracks which fitted over the rear wheels to assist them over rough country. They were also extremely expensive and the War Office was soon looking for something cheaper.

Thirty-nine armoured Lanchesters were built, starting in 1928, and they were issued to the newly mechanised cavalry regiments. They spent most of their time in Britain although in 1935 the 12th Lancers took some cars out to the Saarland and a few were tested in the Middle East. The cars were used for training in the early years of the war and one was converted into a secure VIP transport for use in London. A few were still operating in Malaya in 1941 with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; these ultimately fell into Japanese hands.

This got me thinking about possible uses for the Lanchester armoured car in A Very British Civil War scenarios, but also in an Operation Sealion scenario where German paratroopers attempt to kidnap Winston Churchill who is being moved in a convoy including the Lanchester armoured car which was converted into a secure VIP transport for use in London.

The Flying Scotsman

No, not the train or the steam engine, but the tank…

The Flying Scotsman

Built as a Male Tank, No. 785. Took part in the battle of Arras, April 1917. Various features, in particular the hinged hatch on the cab roof and internal modifications show that this tank subsequently served in the supply role. Returned to the UK after the war. Exhibited as a Gate Guardian at Chertsey for some years. Around this time it was modified to resemble a Mark I, complete with tail wheel assembly and fitted with sample Male and Female sponsons In this guise it subsequently came to the Tank Museum, bearing the name HMLS Dragonfly. With the arrival of the Mark I Hatfield Tank, it reverted to a Mark II and was later renamed Flying Scotsman when the lettering was detected beneath later layers of paint. Strangely there is no trace of the name Flying Scotsman in 6th Battalion records.

Little Willie

Little Willie was a prototype in the development of the British Mark I tank. Constructed in the autumn of 1915 at the behest of the Landship Committee, it was the first completed tank prototype in history.

Little Willie

Little Willie is the oldest surviving individual tank, and is preserved as one of the most famous pieces in the collection of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.

Little Willie

Little Willie

Peerless Armoured Car

A rather dark photograph of mine of the Peerless Armoured Car at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Peerless Armoured Car

During the First World War, sixteen American Peerless trucks were modified by the British to serve as armoured cars. These were relatively primitive designs with open backs, armed with a Pom-pom gun and a machine gun, and were delivered to the British army in 1915.

After the war, a new design was needed to replace armoured cars that had been worn out. As a result, the Peerless Armoured Car design was developed in 1919. It was based on the chassis of the Peerless three ton lorry, with an armoured body built by the Austin Motor Company.

Here is a better lit photograph of the Peerless Armoured Car at Bovington from Wikimedia.

Peerless Armoured Car
Simon Q from United Kingdom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Poor off-road performance hampered the vehicle but it still saw considerable service, notably in Ireland. A few were still in service with the British at the start of the Second World War. Seven were in service with the Irish National Army during the Irish Civil War and used by the Irish Defence Forces up until 1932.

This photo appeared in the Sunday Independent on 13 August 1922, with the caption: “A Dangerous Corner – This photograph was taken in one of the towns captured during the past week by the National Army. It shows an amoured car “manoeuvring for position” at the end of a street facing the post office. Irregulars occupy the further end of the street, and are being quickly dislodged by infantry supported by the armoured car.”

Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922
Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922 – National Library of Ireland on The Commons [No restrictions]
These armoured cars would have been used in the world of A Very British Civil War. They would also make ideal vehicles for the concept of the 1919 British Revolution I talked about in this blog post.

Mark VIII “The International” Tank

This Mark VIII “The International” Tank was on display at Bovington Tank Museum. It is the last remaining survivor of the six Mark VIII tanks which were completed for Britain.

Mark VIII "The International" Tank

When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 the US Army started to look at tanks. They favoured the American Renault as their light tank but used British Mark V and Mark V* tanks for their heavy battalion. However they had their own ideas on tank design and, in co-operation with the British Tank Corps came up with a new heavy tank design for 1919.

The Mark VIII tank also known as the Liberty or The International was an Anglo-American tank design of the First World War intended to overcome the limitations of the earlier British designs and be a collaborative effort to equip France, the UK and the US with a single heavy tank design.

Production at a site in France was expected to take advantage of US industrial capacity to produce the automotive elements, with the UK producing the armoured hulls and armament. The planned production levels would have equipped the Allied armies with a very large tank force that would have broken through the German defensive positions in the planned offensive for 1919. In practice manufacture was slow and only a few vehicles were produced before the end of the war in November 1918.

Many people have thought that the tank used in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade film was a Mark VIII. However that tank was specially created for the film, inspired though somewhat by the Mark VIII.

Tank from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Mechanical effects supervisor George Gibbs said this movie was the most difficult one of his career. He visited a museum to negotiate renting a small French World War I tank, but decided he wanted to make one. The tank was based on the tank Mark VIII, which was thirty-six feet (eleven meters) long, and weighed twenty-five tons. Gibbs built the tank over the framework of a twenty-five ton excavator, and added 6.4 ton tracks, that were driven by two automatic hydraulic pumps, each connected to a Range Rover V8 engine. Gibbs built the tank from steel, rather than aluminum or fiberglass, because it would allow the realistically suspensionless vehicle to endure the rocky surfaces. Unlike its historical counterpart, which had only the two side guns, the tank had a turret gun added as well. It took four months to build, and was transported to Almería on a Short Belfast plane, and then a low loader truck.

I had meant to buy what I thought was a Copplestone Castings’ Mark IX Beast, a similar model of the Indiana Jones tank, but it appeared that it was no longer manufactured or sold by North Star Figures.

So it appeared that it wasn’t even a Copplestones Castings, but was by the Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBSCo).

Sometimes you should buy things when you see them and not wait…

So it was originally designed and manufactured by the Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBSCo) they were small and relatively new. I even remember discussing licensing the models for a commercial version of Tally Ho!

So I did some searching on the Google and found that the tank is available today with the other HLBSCo models from Empress Miniatures.

Mark IX Beast

Mark V** Female Tank

When the Germans realised what a threat tanks could be they made their trenches wider to trap them; one answer to this was to build longer tanks and the Mark V was stretched by six feet to create the Mark V*. As an interim solution this was adequate but a further improved version, the Mark V** was designed for 1919.

This Mark V** Female Tank was on display at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Mark V** Female Tank

With the Armistice in November 1918 production of all new tanks was curtailed and the Mark V** never saw action.

In 1918 the Royal Engineers established a depot at Christchurch, just east of Bournemouth, to experiment with tanks. The result was that, by 1919 this particular tank ‘Ol Faithful’ had been adapted with hydraulic lifting gear so that it could carry and lay a bridge and undertake mine clearing or demolition tasks. Thus it became the first true Engineer tank, a type now common in most armies. This tank was still being used as a ballast weight to test the new Bailey Bridge in 1941.

In a previous blog post I showed a photograph of the Mark V Male at Bovington.

Mark V Tank

The British Mark V tank was an upgraded version of the Mark IV tank. It was first deployed in 1918, used in action during the closing months of World War I, and in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War on the White Russian side, and by the Red Army, after they were captured.

Although similar in appearance to earlier models the Mark V was a much better tank, more powerful and easier to drive. It was equipped with the new Ricardo six-cylinder engine and Wilson’s epicyclic steering system which meant that one man could handle all the controls, compared with four in the Mark IV.

Among the new features was a rear cab for the commander, complete with signalling apparatus and a rear machine-gun position. Our exhibit also carries an unditching beam, which was first introduced in the Mark IV. This would be used if the tank got stuck in mud – chained to the tracks it was drawn under the tank and gave it something solid to grip.

This Mark V Tank was in display at the Tank Museum in Bovington.

Mark V Tank

The Mark V is shown in the Markings of 8th (H) Battalion (No. H41), Tank Corps at the time of the Battle of Amiens (8 August 1918). Commanded by a young officer named Whittenbury this actual tank took part in the battle and its young commander was awarded the Military Cross.

The last confirmed use of the Mk V in battle was by units of the Red Army during the defence of Tallinn against German forces in August 1941

In 1945, Allied troops came across two badly damaged Mk V tanks in Berlin. Photographic evidence indicates that these were survivors of the Russian Civil War and had previously been displayed as a monument in Smolensk, Russia, before being brought to Berlin after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945
Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945

Accounts of their active involvement in the Battle of Berlin have not been verified.

Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945
Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945 

Source for Berlin Photographs.

Mark IV Tank with Fascine

At the Bovington Tank Museum you can get close up and personal with the first tanks that were built and used in combat, such as the Mark IV Tank.

First World War tanks, namely the British Mark IV, started the practice of carrying fascines on the roof, to be deployed to fill trenches that would otherwise be an obstacle to the tank.

Mark IV Tank with Fascine

The Mark IV was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefited from significant developments of the Mark I tank (the intervening designs being small batches used for training). The main improvements were in armour, the re-siting of the fuel tank and ease of transport. A total of 1,220 Mk IV were built: 420 “Males”, 595 “Females” and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies), which made it the most numerous British tank of the war.

The “Male” tanks were armed with three machine guns and two 6-pdrs. Whilst the “Female” tanks had Five .303 Lewis machine guns.

The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the Battle of Messines Ridge. It remained in British service until the end of the war, and a small number served briefly with other combatants afterwards.

I have been working on a metal 15mm Mark IV Tank for use with the Home Guard.

Though I do really like the Flames of War Great War models, which have a lot more detail.

Mark IV Male

I also have a gallery of Mark IV tanks from a wonderful 28mm demonstration game at GamesDay 2007.

Mark IV Tank