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Something new on the Western Front !

Automitrailleuse Minerva

In 1914, upon the German invasion of Belgium, only a few armoured cars were available to face the attack; very soon, however, these vehicles proved their capacities in many fields : from scouting to actual combat against the German cavalry.
The Belgians were the first to organize armoured car units. For this purpose Minerva car chassis were assembled with iron plates taken from naval boilers; in spite of this rudimentary approach excellent results achieved by the automitrailleuses suggested French and British allies to implement armoured car squadrons to support infantry action.
In addition to the Minervas, the Belgians assigned Sava armoured cars to their scouting units in replacement of cavalry squadrons.

Sava 1914 Model

French cavalry units were supplied with several Minerva, Peugeot, and Renault armoured cars armed with either machine guns or with 37 mm guns.

Peugeot armoured car

Renault armoured car

In the meantime, in the United Kingdom, a unit of R.N.A.S. (Royal Naval Air Service) was assigned to the Dunkirk front to carry out surveillance functions and airplane crew rescue. This unit's automotive equipment included two cars (one Mercedes and one Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost) armed with a machine gun protected by metal plates taken from naval idle boilers, as already made for the Minerva.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

The outstanding results achieved urged the British Admiralty to extend similar modifications to all the other R.N.A.S. vehicles (cars and trucks) and to devise a plan for creating the Royal Navy Armoured Cars Division formed by 15 AC squadrons.
Admiralty intentions were to adopt only the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost model but, due to the insufficient number of RR chassis available for transformation, it was necessary to place orders to other car factories : Talbot, Lanchester, Wolseley, etc..
This led to develop a standard model denominated Admiralty Pattern Armoured Car

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost




When the western front, in the early months of 1916, was bogged down in a trench war, armoured cars were progressively replaced by a "new weapon": the TANK, actually regarded, vis a vis the terrain constraints, as a better infantry support than ACs, faster but less effective on soft and muddy soil.
British armoured cars of the dismantled R.N.A.S. were then transferred elsewhere. On the Russian front where, in addition to the already mentioned Silver Shadows, saw action the slow Peerless and the Austin, both armed with two machine guns in a double traverse turret.

Peerless armoured car

Austin Mod.1918

In the Middle East and Egypt the British tested the Sizaire Berwick armoured car, with its airplane propeller (from which its nickname of "Wind Wagon"), and the heavy US Seabrook truck, armed with a 360 degree traverse gun.

Sizaire Berwick armoured car

Seabrook armoured truck

Finally, the Italians were active either in developing armoured vehicles. About 120 Autoblindo Lancia I.Z. armoured cars as well as several Ansaldo "autocannoni" ("self-propelled guns") saw action, with satisfactory results, from the Caporetto defeat (1917) to the final Vittorio Veneto victory (November 4, 1918).

autoblindo Lancia I.Z.

autocannone Ansaldo

With the implementation of the armoured cars, tanks, and self-propelled guns, the "trench war" era came to its end. The "moving war" era (about 20 years later the world was going to learn a new word : Blietzkrieg) was forthcoming !

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All the color images (by G.Canestrari) and information have been selected from the "I Corazzati" book by B.Benvenuti, edited by A.Mondadori - 1976). They are property of the authors

Page established on : July 15, 1998
Last update : July 15, 1998

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