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How successful was the German A7V?


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Not so bad compared to the France assault guns which had poor cross country mobility. Not so good as MkIV or V, which had smaller crews, more guns in a male, and better cross country mobility.

 

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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Any machine that takes 18 men to do the job of a tank with 8 with half the main gun firepower, is probably not the right tank. But they didnt even use it right. Im told that the machine guns were armed by the infantry, the main gun was manned by the artillery, the thing was driven by engineers, with not exeptional integration between any of them.

It wasnt a tank, it was a barracks on tracks.

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And yet, the first tank-on-tank battle ended in a draw.

The A7V's main deficit was that there were too few of them, too late.

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Well, not really a draw, the Germans withdrew, seem to have lost more tanks, and the British reclaimed Villers Bretoneaux.

 https://owlcation.com/humanities/WWI-First-Tank-Versus-Tank-Battle#:~:text=The French employed tanks for the first time,so long for such an event to happen%3A

I cant warm to them I'm afraid. Like the French first tanks, they missed the point of a landship, cross country mobility. Unlike the French they had no excuse, because they had an example to work from in the MkI, MkII and mkIV.

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2 hours ago, Ssnake said:

And yet, the first tank-on-tank battle ended in a draw.

The A7V's main deficit was that there were too few of them, too late.

 

The idea of the armored landship had been around for decades before WWI.  It is surprising that an industrialized - and increasingly desperate- nation like Germany saw such little value in those things as a tool to break the trench stalemate.

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6 hours ago, Mikel2 said:

 

The idea of the armored landship had been around for decades before WWI.  It is surprising that an industrialized - and increasingly desperate- nation like Germany saw such little value in those things as a tool to break the trench stalemate.

Not that industrialized, and low on material resources which was worse. There are reports that German soldiers falling on the British rear areas in the 1918 offensive were absolutely horrified at all the new equipment and supplies they found there. So they decided to get drunk on the supplies.

Basically its the same story as WW2, outproduced by our being able to outsource to the new world.

 

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12 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Well, not really a draw, the Germans withdrew, seem to have lost more tanks, and the British reclaimed Villers Bretoneaux.

One A7V ("Nixe", hull number 561) was destroyed, but also three Whippets were destroyed by A7V "Siegfried" (hull number 525).

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Did they recover the other A7V? The implication from the above was that it too was abandoned.

I think its really stretching to include the Whippets that couldnt fight back. You had a MkIV destroy or drive off 3 A7V's and help recover a town. I struggle to see that as a draw.

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The A7V "Elfriede" (hull number 542) was abandoned after toppling over at a crater's edge. It was not damaged in combat and not a combat loss. Nixe was blown up by German engineers to prevent the British from capturing it.

From what I've read, three A7V's (Nixe, Schnuck with hull number 504 and Siegfried) fought against three Mark IV tanks (one male, two female) and seven Whippets in the first tank battle - though not all tanks were paritcipating in the battle at the same time and at the same place. No idea about the fourth German tank mentioned in David Hunt's article on Owlcation.com.

 

At first Nixe was caught out of position and unexpectedly faced the three Mark IV tanks. Lt. Mitchell of the British Army opened fire first while his counterpart - the German Lt. Biltz - was reluctant to engage the British tanks. Mitchell's Mark IV fired two shots, before Biltz approved firing at the British tanks. The female Mark IVs were damaged and retreated, just like Mitchell's tank (where one of the crew members was heavily wounded). However Mitchell's tank managed to score three hits in a row on Nixe, causing Biltz to order the evacuation of Nixe. The whole crew was alive at that point, but five of them were mowed down by the British machine guns. Biltz survived and became an later became professor for anorganic chemistry in Hannover.

Schnuck and Siegfried approached Mitchell's tank some time later, but retreated back to the German lines when the Mark IV male opened fire again. The initial German offense however was a success and the village was captured by the Germans.

 

During the later British counter attack, an engagement between SIegfried and seven Whippet tanks took place; Siegfried remained in running condition, but three Whippets were destroyed. A 1919 article claims that the British losses were the result of artillery strikes, but more recent sources (with access to the German side) attribute Siegfried with these kills.

3 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

I think its really stretching to include the Whippets that couldnt fight back. You had a MkIV destroy or drive off 3 A7V's and help recover a town. I struggle to see that as a draw.

Why not? These tanks weren't invulnerable even to machine gun fire. Furthermore it happens often that more powerful tanks are sufficiently armored to withstand weapons from lighter ones. Should the tank kills achieved by Soviet KV-1s against PzKpfW III tanks in 1941 not count? Should the tank kills by American M1A1 and British Challenger 1s against Iraqi T-55 in Operation Desert Storm not count?

At first one A7V tank (Nixe) managed to drive two Mark IVs off and disable another (while also being evacuated). Only later the already disabled Mark IV from Mitchell "managed to drive two A7Vs off" (or rather the A7Vs did not engage the tank, as they already had secured their goal).

 

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2 hours ago, methos said:

The A7V "Elfriede" (hull number 542) was abandoned after toppling over at a crater's edge. It was not damaged in combat and not a combat loss. Nixe was blown up by German engineers to prevent the British from capturing it.

From what I've read, three A7V's (Nixe, Schnuck with hull number 504 and Siegfried) fought against three Mark IV tanks (one male, two female) and seven Whippets in the first tank battle - though not all tanks were paritcipating in the battle at the same time and at the same place. No idea about the fourth German tank mentioned in David Hunt's article on Owlcation.com.

 

At first Nixe was caught out of position and unexpectedly faced the three Mark IV tanks. Lt. Mitchell of the British Army opened fire first while his counterpart - the German Lt. Biltz - was reluctant to engage the British tanks. Mitchell's Mark IV fired two shots, before Biltz approved firing at the British tanks. The female Mark IVs were damaged and retreated, just like Mitchell's tank (where one of the crew members was heavily wounded). However Mitchell's tank managed to score three hits in a row on Nixe, causing Biltz to order the evacuation of Nixe. The whole crew was alive at that point, but five of them were mowed down by the British machine guns. Biltz survived and became an later became professor for anorganic chemistry in Hannover.

Schnuck and Siegfried approached Mitchell's tank some time later, but retreated back to the German lines when the Mark IV male opened fire again. The initial German offense however was a success and the village was captured by the Germans.

 

During the later British counter attack, an engagement between SIegfried and seven Whippet tanks took place; Siegfried remained in running condition, but three Whippets were destroyed. A 1919 article claims that the British losses were the result of artillery strikes, but more recent sources (with access to the German side) attribute Siegfried with these kills.

Why not? These tanks weren't invulnerable even to machine gun fire. Furthermore it happens often that more powerful tanks are sufficiently armored to withstand weapons from lighter ones. Should the tank kills achieved by Soviet KV-1s against PzKpfW III tanks in 1941 not count? Should the tank kills by American M1A1 and British Challenger 1s against Iraqi T-55 in Operation Desert Storm not count?

At first one A7V tank (Nixe) managed to drive two Mark IVs off and disable another (while also being evacuated). Only later the already disabled Mark IV from Mitchell "managed to drive two A7Vs off" (or rather the A7Vs did not engage the tank, as they already had secured their goal).

 

Though that IS the usual narrative around here....

Well to my mind the one that toppled in the crater still counts, because that illustrates the problem with the A7V in a nutshell. It was top heavy, and had poor cross country mobility. If the MKIV had done so instead, there is no doubt it would be counted as a response to the German actions.

I do think this is strange reasoning. Before Mitchell arrived, the Germans were advancing. After the engagement the Germans were retreating. I could make the same argument the British won Villers Bocage because they withdrew in good order and immobilized Wittmans Tiger, but I wouldnt, because it's not what the events in the ground reflected.

 

 

 

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Considering the numerical situation, the 3 German tanks did reasonably well.

And in the end there are not many tanks to compare it to.

Best was probably the Renault FT, then MKI-IV, the German design does come in ahead of the heavy French designs though. 

Edited by seahawk
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I'm not knocking German tank crews, considering most of their kit was captured, they have my respect for what they usually did with it. But when one British gun tank causes 3 German gun tanks to withdraw or abandon their vehicle, clearly something was badly wrong. 

The Renault was a light tank. A very remarkable design, but it had none of the trench crossing ability, or ability to carry fascines of the rhomboids.The ammunition capacity in a romboid would have been greater, important when it's remembered how difficult resupply was.

I don't know enough of the French heavies to comment, other than they worked a lot better when they got out the trenches. The 75mm I daresay was effective enough.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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But the FT could be made in large numbers and had a better situational awareness than the other tanks. The Schneider CA1 and the Saint-Charmond lacked even  more when it came to mobility on the WWI battlefield than the FT.

 

Imho the FT-17 was the best, followed by the MK I-IV family and the Whippet. The German A7V was closer to the CA1 and SC. 

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This is anecdotal only but I had a good conversation with some of the researchers at Saumur several years back who had been going through the few remaining after action reports of the St. Chamond and Schneider and they expressed surprise that they were more positive than expected.  The St Chamond had a reputation of a very weak suspension but the actual reports didn't mention it very often and when they did they tended to blame the driver for being careless.  The most criticism is when they dropped down a slope and bottomed out.  However they were generally positive and had a lot of criticism of the British tanks (may have been slightly biased a tiny bit but still).

I'm not aware of a lot of after action on the A7V and when I was pestering the Muenster people they weren't aware of much.  At Saumur they thought the A7V was hot garbage and barely able to maneuver on any type of broken ground.  They kind of liked the mobility to aim the A7V's cannon though.  

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3 minutes ago, nitflegal said:

This is anecdotal only but I had a good conversation with some of the researchers at Saumur several years back who had been going through the few remaining after action reports of the St. Chamond and Schneider and they expressed surprise that they were more positive than expected.  The St Chamond had a reputation of a very weak suspension but the actual reports didn't mention it very often and when they did they tended to blame the driver for being careless.  The most criticism is when they dropped down a slope and bottomed out.  However they were generally positive and had a lot of criticism of the British tanks (may have been slightly biased a tiny bit but still).

I'm not aware of a lot of after action on the A7V and when I was pestering the Muenster people they weren't aware of much.  At Saumur they thought the A7V was hot garbage and barely able to maneuver on any type of broken ground.  They kind of liked the mobility to aim the A7V's cannon though.  

I just realized, I had a whole day at Saumur with their museum head and others and I spent it on measuring around the ARL44 for two hours and talking about WW1 French tanks.  I'm really weird. . .

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1 hour ago, seahawk said:

But the FT could be made in large numbers and had a better situational awareness than the other tanks. The Schneider CA1 and the Saint-Charmond lacked even  more when it came to mobility on the WWI battlefield than the FT.

 

Imho the FT-17 was the best, followed by the MK I-IV family and the Whippet. The German A7V was closer to the CA1 and SC. 

Oh they could knock out FTs a dime a dozen, but considering we built something like 2000 MkIV and V's, against 3000 FTs, the mass production argument isn't that clear. It might be interesting to compare monthly production figures.

Better situational awareness? I'm not so sure. Yes, the Ft gave the commander his own turret and cupola, but the IV had a hatch the commander could look out of, and dozens of pistol loops.Yes, you had 360 degree lay in a Renault, but the commander had to load and command the driver at the same time. In a rhomboid the commander was free to command, albeit probably with a harness. The FT heralded the future, no doubt about it, and the Vickers medium borrowed heavily from it. But it was so small and the crew so small, I'm not entirely convinced it operated as well as it now looks.

A much better bet than a Whippet probably, certainly cheaper.

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1 hour ago, nitflegal said:

This is anecdotal only but I had a good conversation with some of the researchers at Saumur several years back who had been going through the few remaining after action reports of the St. Chamond and Schneider and they expressed surprise that they were more positive than expected.  The St Chamond had a reputation of a very weak suspension but the actual reports didn't mention it very often and when they did they tended to blame the driver for being careless.  The most criticism is when they dropped down a slope and bottomed out.  However they were generally positive and had a lot of criticism of the British tanks (may have been slightly biased a tiny bit but still).

I'm not aware of a lot of after action on the A7V and when I was pestering the Muenster people they weren't aware of much.  At Saumur they thought the A7V was hot garbage and barely able to maneuver on any type of broken ground.  They kind of liked the mobility to aim the A7V's cannon though.  

Was this before or after Brexit? :D

If anyone got any good books to recommend on French Ww1 armour? I'm happy to be convinced the st Chamond was better than its reputation, or I guess they wouldn't have kept building them.

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2 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

I'm not knocking German tank crews, considering most of their kit was captured, they have my respect for what they usually did with it. But when one British gun tank causes 3 German gun tanks to withdraw or abandon their vehicle, clearly something was badly wrong. 

This is based on Lt. Mitchell's narrative. The Germans did not "withdraw" from any place they wanted, they drove back to their lines instead of staying in no man's land with no possible gain. Don't forget that Mitchell wanted to withdraw as well, his tank only was disabled and stuck in no man's land until the British counter-offensive started.

Also completely eliminating the other nine British tanks out of the equation is questionable. The female Mark IVs retreated after being hit by Nixe. If Lt. Biltz had decided to engage only Mitchell's male tank before attacking the others, then there might have been three damaged/disabled/destroyed Mark IVs and no disabled A7V.

 

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3 minutes ago, methos said:

This is based on Lt. Mitchell's narrative. The Germans did not "withdraw" from any place they wanted, they drove back to their lines instead of staying in no man's land with no possible gain. Don't forget that Mitchell wanted to withdraw as well, his tank only was disabled and stuck in no man's land until the British counter-offensive started.

Also completely eliminating the other nine British tanks out of the equation is questionable. The female Mark IVs retreated after being hit by Nixe. If Lt. Biltz had decided to engage only Mitchell's male tank before attacking the others, then there might have been three damaged/disabled/destroyed Mark IVs and no disabled A7V.

 

That is assuming he saw him, and could bring the main armament to bear.I'm willing to bet, based on field of fire, it was far easier for Mitchell to bring a gun to bear, than it was the one single gun in the A7V. I'm also willing to bet he found it far easier to coordinate 8 than Blitz did 18.

 

 

 

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Refernces are hard to come by.  There is an Osprey book from Zaloga that focuses pretty heavily on the FT-17 and general descriptions of actions but has little meat to it, IMHO.  AJ Press has a pretty good book that gets into more detail and there is an Эксмо book that is very well illustrated but I have no idea about the content.   

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1 hour ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Was this before or after Brexit? :D

If anyone got any good books to recommend on French Ww1 armour? I'm happy to be convinced the st Chamond was better than its reputation, or I guess they wouldn't have kept building them.

I would recommend Tim Gale: "The French Armys Tank Force and Armoured Warfare in the Great War", Ashgate Publishing 2013. 

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