With Germany’s defeat following World War I, Germany faced military constraints pursuant to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from possessing tanks among other military restrictions. With things being monitored, development of Tanks occurred in secret. An example tank was received from the Swedish machinery manufacturer AB Landsverk; called the Gutehoffnungshütte** (“Großtraktor”). AB Landsverk would go on to be the main manufacturer of tanks for Sweden. In 1926 Rheinmetall-Borsig, Daimler-Benz and Krupp were commissioned to develop a 20 ton tank (“Großtraktor”). As the 1920s were coming to an end; Germans were performing experiments in secret in Russia. The Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1922 in secret between Russia and Germany, provided the ability for experimentation near Kazan in Russia. The testing facility near Kazan was called Panzertruppenschule Kama (Armoured Troops School Kama) and was used from 1926 to 1933. The location was a joint testing ground and tank training ground for both the Russians and Germans. The term Kama comes from the two words Kazan and Malbrandt; Kazan being the nearby town and Oberstleutenant Malbrandt being the individual given the task of selecting the location used for testing. The vehicle was dubbed Großtraktor (“Large Tractor”) and was developed at the same time as another vehicle, the Leichttraktor (“Light Tractor”) (“Leichttraktor”). With the Nazi rise to power, the experimentation in Russia was halted and the prototypes brought back to Germany were they initially served a training role. The prototypes were decommissioned in 1937 due to inadequacies evident in their use as training tools; at least one ended up as a memorial to early armored regiments.
The Großtraktor was designed as a heavy breakthrough vehicle. The prototype vehicles had differences; however what follows was true of at least one or more of the models. The main armament was the same short 7.5 cm gun initially used on the Panzer IV; with secondary armaments including multiple machine guns. The approximate weight being 16 ton. The engine was a six-cylinder engine, in the 250-260 hp range. The following may have applied only to the Rheinmetall-Borsig and Krupp designs: a machine gun was placed at the rear of the tank, behind the turret; and the tank commander sat not in the turret, but in the hull to the right of the driver (Zaloga 13-14).
One result of the experimentation in Kazan was that the German Army Motorization Department felt compelled to field two tank types corresponding to the Großtraktor and the Leichttraktor; codenamed BW and ZW. The BW reference being for Battalionführerwagen, or the Battalion commander’s vehicle; which was intended to be a fire support vehicle. The BW was to accompany the ZW, the Zugführerwagen, or Section commander’s vehicle intended to act as the core battle tank (Zaloga 13-14).
The work on the Großtraktor led to the Neubaufahrzeug, a similar design.
*I’m interested to know which work this illustration is from.
**I haven’t seen any photos of this vehicle; if anyone is aware of any please let me know.
1. “Großtraktor.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 Apr 2013. Web. 15 May 2013. <http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Großtraktor>.
2. “Tanks of the treaty of Versailles and the first World War.”World of Tanks Official European Forum. N.p., 13 Dec 2012. Web. 15 May 2013. <http://forum.worldoftanks.eu/index.php?/topic/183100-tanks-of-the-treaty-of-versailles-and-the-first-world-war/>.
3. “Leichttraktor.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 Mar 2013. Web. 16 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leichttraktor>.
4. Zaloga, Steven J. . Panzer IV Vs Char B1 Bis: France 1940. Osprey Publishing, 2011. 13-14. eBook.