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A7V Tank

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Following the advent of British and French tanks on the battlefields of the First World War, the German High Command decided to form their own armoured force. They rejected a number of impractical designs for armoured vehicles and assigned responsibility for producing a suitable vehicle to a department known as the Allgemeine Kriegsdepartment 7 Abteilung Verkehrswesen (General War Department, 7th Traffic Section). Subsequently the abbreviated name for this department, A7V, became the codename for the tank it produced. The design itself was largely the responsibility of one engineer, Joseph Vollmer.
A prototype of the A7V was demonstrated at Mainz in April 1917, and the type first saw action in March 1918. Twenty tanks were completed by the end of the war along with seventy-five other chassis converted as Uberlandwagen (over land vehicle) armoured supply carriers. The superstructures from two tanks were transferred to other chassis when the original chassis were damaged, and so in effect twenty-two A7Vs existed at different times. Most of these were given names, and examples included “Wotan”, “Elfriede”, “Nixe”, “Nixe II”, “Herkules”, “Hagen” (later “Adalbert”) and “Schnuck”.
The A7V design was fairly primitive, with power being supplied by two Daimler engines mounted back to back at the centre of a rigid girder frame that formed the chassis. Down either side of this chassis ran the tracks and suspension units, the latter being extended versions of those used in the original American Holt system. The Holt agricultural tractor was the inspiration for a number of military tracked vehicles and an example had been acquired by the Germans from Austria in 1916. The tracks used on the A7V were simple steel pressings. The driver’s and commander’s positions were built on top of the engines, and then a large armoured shell was bolted over the whole arrangement. The armour extended out from the ends and the sides, producing a high and unwieldy vehicle with poor obstacle crossing ability. The armament was mounted in the armour sides and consisted of a 57mm cannon and six machine guns. These seven weapons required fourteen crewmen to operate them. Along with the driver, commander, and two mechanics, this resulted in a total crew of eighteen.
By January 1918, the first A7V unit, 1st Abteilung (company), was complete. It first saw action on 21 March near St. Quentin, under the leadership of Hauptmann Greiff. Of its five tanks, one went out of action prematurely, and two followed suit shortly after the attack began. The other two, however, Numbers 501 (named “Gretchen”) and 506 (“Mephisto”) took an effective part in the battle. By the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918 three Abteilungen were available and had some success in action. A7Vs saw further service in June at Fort de la Pompelle and near Noyon. However, they failed disastrously to support a counterattack near Frémincourt in August and had very limited success in a counterattack at St. Estienne on 7 October. Their last battle near Iwuy on 11 October was more auspicious, and they were completely successful in eliminating a British breakthrough. The few tanks remaining at this time were sent back to Erbenheim, near Wiesbaden, and their parent units were quickly disbanded after 11 November.
A number of examples of the A7V were captured during the war and displayed, after examination, as war booty. The majority were eventually cut up for scrap. Similarly, those vehicles that survived the war in German hands were captured by French troops and were scrapped. Only one example of the A7V remains to this day, in Australia. However, a replica A7V was recently completed in Germany. Named after “Wotan”, it is currently on display at the Munster Panzermuseum.

Model Id:10
Manufacture:Daimler-Benz AG, Marienfelde, Berlin, Germany (Sole manufacturer)

1) Queensland Museum, Queensland Cultural Centre, Australia

Number of Photos: 2
Sample Photo from Album Number 1

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Unique ID: 1
Serial Number:
Other Identification:

This A7V, Number 506, was named “Mephisto”. As mentioned above, it took part in the first battle involving A7Vs, on 21 March 1918. Along with Gretchen it went to the Bavarian Army Vehicle Park 20 at Charleroi for overhauling after the battle and remained there until early in April. It then returned to service, but was abandoned during the battle for Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918 - the same battle that saw the first ever tank-versus-tank action. Mephisto became bogged down in a shell hole after receiving a direct hit from artillery fire that killed the driver, and was deliberately blown up the following night by the detonating of an explosive charge in the forward fighting compartment. Three months later the 26th Battalion, Australian Army, had pushed far enough forward to salvage it during the night of 14 July. It was sent first to London and then to Queensland, arriving in Brisbane in 1919 to go on display in the Queensland Museum. It was moved to the Queensland Cultural Centre in 1986.
Mephisto is missing most of its roof and shows signs of being hit several times by artillery fire. It has damage to the gun mantlet and to the vehicle sides, and also has extensive marks from small-arms fire. Mephisto was part of the 3rd Abteilung of the German tank force but unlike other A7Vs it did not carry any Abteilung number on its side, just one Iron Cross marking. “Mephisto” is presumably an abbreviation of Mephistopheles, the devil of the Faust legend; this vehicle carries a marking on the front of a running devil carrying away a British tank. It was sandblasted and repainted in 1972, and restored externally and again repainted for the Australian Bicentennial.