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WW1 German Tank crew & Tactics


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#1 RobL

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:29 PM


Have managed to leave my Osprey German Panzers book about 100 miles away but not sure it would help answer these anyway - a friend is asking about the crew roles for the A7V, and also the standard tactics of German tank crews during WW1 - can anyone help or point me to an online source?


Thanks, Rob


#2 centurion

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:40 PM

http://www.landships...hips/index.html

#3 Tom W.

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:47 PM

I can't give you an online source, but I can tell you what I know.

The standard crew was eighteen, with provision for six extra pioneers and runners. The pioneers dealt with obstacles, and the runners communicated with the four other tanks in the detachment.

There was one commander, one driver, two artillerymen, two mechanics, and twelve machine gunners. Subtract the artillerymen for the single "female" tank.

The tank was considered an infanry gun and mobile machine-gun nest used in support of assaults. The main gun was to take out strong points and the machine guns were to engage infantry. Tank crews were trained to dismount and fight as infantry shock troops. The tanks carried boxes of hand grenades, and the "tank patrol" of accompanying assault troops carried flamethrowers that the tank crews would use to roll up trenches when dismounted. There were two flamethrowers per tank, the model of device similar to the circular Wex M.1917.

Tank crews were trained in shock tactics by Assault Battalion No. 5 (Rohr), so they were considered assault infantrymen who just happened to drive tanks.

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#4 roel22

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 05:16 PM

Never heard of these huge tanks before. You learn something new every day. Did they achieve any results?

Roel

#5 Tom W.

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 08:59 PM

Never heard of these huge tanks before. You learn something new every day. Did they achieve any results?

Roel


Not really. Only twenty were built, and they had only eight inches of ground clearance. Top speed was only about 4 miles per hour cross country. They broke down a lot, and the transmissions had to completely rebuilt after each mission. The interior was full of gun smoke, engine exhaust, and fumes from melting solder, since it could get as hot as 130 degrees F, so the crews were often too sick to fight.

Their most successful operations took place when the dismounted crew served as shock troops. Since each tank could carry up to twenty-four men, that was a good half-platoon of assault troops.

They were useful as the genesis of the German tank-and-infantry tactics used to such devastating effect in World War II. A lot of the people involved in the tank program of World War I--such as Ernst Volckheim--served in the German tank corps in world War II.

German tank tactics of World War I were the beginning of the merging of armor and fast-moving shock troops. That's where the value lies.

#6 Scalyback

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 09:05 PM

Did the Germans use the same tactics as us with captured tanks? I understand the crewing of the A7V was split. Each specialty come from his field, where we tended to create "Tankmen". So how did the Germans fit the crew for our tanks?

#7 Tom W.

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 09:30 PM

Did the Germans use the same tactics as us with captured tanks? I understand the crewing of the A7V was split. Each specialty come from his field, where we tended to create "Tankmen". So how did the Germans fit the crew for our tanks?


When it came to captured tanks, the Germans maintained the same strict separation of duties that they did for the A7V. Main gunners were from the artillery branch and continued to wear their flaming-bomb shoulder straps. Machine gunners were recruited from the Machine Gun Marksman Detachments of the infantry, and drivers and mechanics were recruited from the motor-transport troops. The latter two groups wore the motor-transport shoulder straps once they became tankers, but they were still identified as members of their previous branches.

The only thing that united them all was their training in shock troops. They weren't considered "tank men" the way the British were, but were instead assault troops. The German name for tanks was first "assault armored vehicle" (Sturmpanzerkraftwagen) and then Heavy Fighting Vehicle (Schwere Kampfwagen).

Basically German tankers were shock troops who enclosed their infantry guns and machine guns in a rolling box and had others carry their flamethrowers alongside them.

#8 Charpoi Warrior

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 02:35 PM

Fascinating stuff Tom, thanks.

#9 Scalyback

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 08:20 PM

Very good post Tom. Thank you.

#10 swinehund

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 08:30 PM

As the chap this research has kindly been introduced for by Rob, I would like to thank all of you for your great help, I usually concentrate my research on the German infantry so to learn about its Tank Corps is brilliant. - Peter

#11 Tom W.

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 08:47 PM

Tankers undergoing shock-troop training by Assault Battalion No. 5 (Rohr) in earyl 1918, prior to the March Offensive.

The tall man in the center wears hand-grenade bags, and the man on the far right has a trench knife.

The tank in the background is No. 501, the only "female."

Dismounted German tankers also took out the tank's machine guns and used them when rolling up trnches. I have a photo of a dismounted tanker armed with a Lewis gun that has had the stock removed, most likely to save room in the tank. I have no idea how you would fire such a weapon. Maybe like a submachine gun, from the hip?

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#12 roel22

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 02:23 PM

Thanks for all the extra info, very fascinating!

Roel

#13 Scalyback

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 05:15 PM

With great difficulty I would imagine! Squeeze and spray at a guess.

So the German tactic more armed personnel carrier than main battle tank?

#14 Michael Haselgrove

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 06:32 PM


For those with a particular interest in this subject an excellent book, available from Amazon, with lots of photos, technical data etc. is Sturmpanzer A7V - First of the Panzers by Rainer Strasheim and Max Hundleby. In the same series are two volumes about captured British tanks in German service.

Regards,

Michael H.

#15 Tom W.

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 06:51 PM

So the German tactic more armed personnel carrier than main battle tank?


Pretty much. It was the Crown Prince's idea. He watched the first demonstration of an A7V detachment and recommended to Ludendorff that since there were so many men in a tank, it could double as an armed platform for a shock squad.

In the first combat use of German tanks, at St. Quentin on March 21, 1918, Infantry Regiment No. 128 was held up by several hardened British machine-gun positions. Two German tanks arrived and took out most of the resistence with their main guns and machine guns, and then shock squads armed with hand grenades dismounted, collected flamethrowers from the tank patrol accompanying them, and rolled up the trenches.

#16 Scalyback

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 09:02 PM

More great info Tom. The armour race is facinating.