Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Alpha Seven Victor


This monster, pictured to the left, represents Germany's sole success in fielding a tank in the First World War. The one illustrated is a captured example which accounts for the French appearance of some as well as the plaid pants (!!) on the dapper gent seen left of center.
It was certainly a good-sized unit. Not as tall as pictured as that one is mounted on a flatcar, but it was impressive nonetheless. The following from Wikipedia:

The A7V was over seven metres long and three metres wide. The height varied up to three metres.

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).

The A7V was armed with six 7.9 mm MG08/15 machine guns and a 5.7 cm gun mounted at the front. The 'female' 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 501 saw combat as a female.

The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides and 30 mm at the front; however the steel was not hardened armor plate, 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 armor of other tanks of the period, which used hardened steel.



This 33 ton, hulk contrasted markedly with that of its nearest competitor of the day, the svelte, 28 ton British Mark IV which had a crew of eight, less than half that of the A7V. A captured example pictured next.
The sad reality is that, in spite of Germany's preminence in virtually any area of the engineering field, of the 120 or so tanks that Deutschland brought to the party, only 20 were A7V's. The rest were captured British or French tanks. With the A7V's, the success was somewhat less that should have been expected, especially given its greater size and mind-boggling firepower. However, it's very size was a hindrance. It was prone to get stuck given its low ground clearance (a situation known as "ditching" where the tracks dig furrows deep enough that the belly of the tank carries all the weight and the tracks spin ineffectually). The Brits tried to counter this tendency with add-ons such as the "shoes" visible on the tracks of the captured example. Another was the "unditching beam" (missing above but essentially a large - 8"X10"ish timber, long enough to span both tracks and carried perpendicular to the route of travel) which could be chained to the tracks to be dragged under to (hopefully) allow the delicate little thing to pull herself out. Of course, this would only work on the Brit type tanks where the tracks went all the way 'round.

The A7V was powered by twin Daimler, 4-cylinder engines, running through two transmissions, each engine delivering 100 hp. Insanely underpowered by modern standards, her performance was well within expectations. Like the Brit and French heavy tanks, she clipped along at a heady 5 to 6mph.

The Brits were also plagued with mechanical problem in their tanks but, given the far greater number available, as well as better trench-crossing capability, they actually experienced significant success.















So, the big girl was a flop. Only one of the twenty remains, Mephisto, which can be seen at Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia.
Sad indeed. Well, to close, more pics of the house-sized monster during her brief, and ineffective, prime.

Same tank, ya think?
































Finally, a reward for those of you who've stuck it out: The Wikipedia entry for what Germany was planning next (120 tons!). However, cooler heads prevailed. Something about people eating bread made from turnips and sawdust and a war they seemed to losing anyway.
Anyway, here it is, the "K-Wagen".

2 comments:

Kevin said...

Great entry, and it follows the title of this fine blog with an absolute closeness.

Tam said...

How have I missed blogrolling you?

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