With the appearance of British tanks on the western front, Germany began a project that would lead to the A7V, Germany’s fist tank. Although the British tanks debuted poorly the psychological effects were considerable on the German forces who encountered them. The Supreme Army Command (Oberste Heeresleitung) confronted with this development successfully lobbied the War Department to create a German tank (Higgins 15). The War Deparment on November 13 1916 would contract the Verkehrstechnischen Prüfungskommission (Traffic Technical Examination Commission or VPK) to develop a 33 ton vehicle (Higgins 16). The VPK would in term delegate this to the Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7. Abteilung, Verkehrswesen (“General War Department, 7th Branch, Transportation”); reserve Captain and engineer Joseph Vollmer was tasked with the creation of Germany’s first tank. The term A7V comes from the name of the group that fielded the vehicle; Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, 7. Abteilung, Verkehrswesen. In German the vehicle was referred to as Sturmpanzerwagen or Assualt Armoured Vehicle (“A7V”). The Infantry Department (A2) of the War Ministry gave the following specifications for the tank design; it was to have a front and rear mounted quick-firing cannon, six machine guns, and an ability to carry a small assault infantry contingent . The initial requirements also called for 30mm of armour all around (Higgins 16).
The chassis used for the A7V would also be used for a transport vehicle, the Uberlandwagen. Although 20 A7Vs would be made, roughly 56 Uberlandwagens would be made (Kempf). A so called “female” variant of the A7V existed; it simply had it’s main gun replaced with two machine guns. Further experimentation was done using the Uberlandwagen and Krupp-converted K-Flak guns to create an Anti-Aircraft platform; one using 2x German 77 mm Sockelflak and two with captured Russian Sockelflak 02s. Some of these experimental vehicles would see service as lightly armoured vehicles such as “Heidi”; an AFV used post-war for internal security purposes (Higgins 21). A design labled A7V-U was worked on; with the goal of the vehicle having the all-terrain qualities of the British counterparts (“A7V”).
The first production model A7V was produced in October 1917 and assigned to Assault Tank Units 1 and 2, founded prior on September 20th 1917; each unit having five officers and 109 NCOs and soldiers.
The A7V had a crew of 18: a commander, driver, mechanic, mechanic/signaler, twelve infantrymen (six machine gunners, six loaders), and two artillerymen (main gunner and loader).The A7V was 7.34 meters (24.1 ft) long, 3 meters (9.8 ft) wide, with a height was 3.3 meters (11 ft). The tank had 20 mm of steel plate at the sides, 30 mm at the front and 10 mm for the roof. The A7V did not use hardened steel as other tanks of the period did so its armour was not as effective when larger calibers were used. The A7V was powered by two 100HP engines. The main armament was a 5.7cm Cockerill-Nordenfelt (Higgins 15 – 21) cannon mounting in the front; with six 7.92 mm MG08 machine guns as secondary armaments (“A7V”). The main cannon included some captured stock*.
The A7V could carry up to 10 cases of ammunition 250 rounds each for the machine guns; and the vehicle was designed to carry 180 rounds for its main gun however in practice this was often double that number (Higgins 20).
The A7V would see action on several instances with limited success during the First World War. The A7V would see combat in actions near the St. Quentin Canal, the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, the Third Battle of the Aisne, and the Second Battle of the Marne.
*One source cites the main cannon as being a Maxim-Nordenfelt (“A7V”); with the cannons used including captured stock this both Maxim-Nordenfelt and Cockerill-Nordenfelt cannons may have been used, however these terms may in fact be interchangeable references to the same manufacturer (it is not clear from the available materials).
1. “A7V.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 7 May 2013. Web. 18 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A7V>.
2. Higgins, David R. Mark IV Vs A7V Villers-Bretonneux 1918. Osprey Publishing Ltd., 15 – 21. eBook.
3. Kempf, Peter. “A7V Überlandwagen.” Landships II. N.p.. Web. 19 May 2013. <http://www.landships.info/landships/softskin_articles/A7V_Uberlandwagen.html>.