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Carden-Loyd Tankette (Series) Tankette (1927)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/1/2014

The smallish Carden-Loyd Tankette proved a success on the foreign market and inspired several other key tank designs throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

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By looks alone, it becomes easy to dismiss the Carden-Loyd Tankette series as nothing more than an expensive (albeit dangerous) child's toy but the "little tankette that could" went on to revolutionize mechanized warfare throughout the 1930s and 1940s and proved a success on the foreign market, eventually spawning a generation of similar systems worldwide. Her design became the foundation for a new breed of tracked vehicles throughout Europe and Asia. Interested nations licensed produced or outright copied the original British design and most often times improved it for the better - either by speed or functionality. Others simply ordered the tankette from her British originators with their own set of national specifications in place. The tankette was pressed into service by her hapless operators in an offensive role against the might of the German Army in the early stages World War 2. However, it was only the British Army that truly utilized the light mobile system to her advantages in these early years. The tankette also served as the springboard to the excellent multi-role British "Universal Carrier", the Soviet T27 light tank, the German Panzer I light tank, the Polish TK light tanks and the Italian CV series (among others). In short, there were few mechanized designs in the 1930s and 1940s that were left untouched by the arrival of the Carden-Loyd Tankette.

Beginnings

There were some in the military ranks (particularly in France) that subscribed to the idea of an offensive method of waging war in which the light tank could be used in an effective offensive skirmish-minded role. Such a force would move both armor and men across the battlefield at speed and ultimately overwhelm enemy positions in the process. World War 1 brought about the use of armor in a variety of light- and medium-class roles but there were some that saw a future where medium- and heavy-class tanks would become the norm. When the war ended, others still pursued the idea of light tanks as effective battlefield solutions. The "tankette" was seen as a potentially effective and mobile machine gun carrier and reconnaissance vehicle. In practice, the type would be further evolved into a myriad of other forms including that of mortar or field gun tow vehicle and even a self-projecting smoke system. One such person to focus his attention on the tankette became British Major Gifford LeQuesne Martel.

Major Martel

Martel set to work from his own garage to produce a capable one-man "tankette". From his vision (and using his own finances), he constructed a working prototype. The pilot vehicle was completed in 1925 and combined a variety of existing components into one compact system. The engine was of a Maxwell-brand and the tracks were delivered by the Roadless Traction Company. The axle originated from a Ford truck. The main structure was comprised of wood and featured slab-sides completing a most utilitarian appearance. Martel then took his creation in front of the War Office and tried to sell the British Army on the idea of his light tank system. The War Office took note and teamed with Morris Commercial Motors to produce four such pilot vehicles (under the "Morris-Martel" name) for further evaluation. The first was made ready in 1926. The following year, a further eight vehicles were ordered with the intent of fielding a new trial group of light reconnaissance machines for the British Army. The order officially came to naught when it was discovered that a single crewmember could not effectively wield the steering controls and operate armament all by himself.

Morris-Martel

Martel then teamed up with Morris to develop a slightly improved form of the one-man tankette - resulting in a two-man design. Though the vehicle's appearance had not changed for the better, she now followed a more "crew-friendly" approach and attempted to fit whatever ergonomic measures could be found. The tracked system was dominated by the drive sprocket and idler straddling a pair of small road wheels. There was a further (larger) road wheel mounted to the rear via an extension of the main hull. The crew sat within an open-topped, high-profile superstructure. The vehicle was powered by a Morris engine of 16 horsepower and weighed in at 2.75 tons. Armament was a single light machine gun and performance equaled 10 miles per hour off road and 15 miles per hour on road. Despite the improvements, the second Morris-Martel design still lacked definitive qualities to consider her a viable solution but progress was made nonetheless.

Crossley-Martel

Crossley and Martel teamed up to produce yet another tankette design once again revolving around the concept of a one-man system. This particular approach saw rubber tracks fitted as well as a Crossley engine of 14 horsepower. Again, a single light machine gun figured prominently as armament and top speed was 18.6 miles per hour from the 1.8 ton design. The design appeared in 1927 and attempted to fit more ideas into the original Morris-Martel attempt. The Crossley-Martel approach maintained some of the appearance of the Morris-Martel design before it.

Enter Carden-Loyd, Ltd

Carden-Loyd Tractors, Ltd, a firm headed by self-educated engineer Sir John Valentine Carden, became another firm to jump on the tankette bandwagon and took the base idea several steps further. The original Carden-Loyd one-man model was produced at Kensington in 1925 and a single pilot example was ordered by the War Office for evaluation.

The Mark I

The Carden-Loyd Mark I one-man tankette then followed and attempted to increase the original's speed and overall track life. She was fitted with a Ford Model T engine of 14 horsepower and weighed in at 1.6 tons, allowing for speeds of up to 15- to 31-miles per hour depending on whether a tracked or wheeled base was utilized (respectively). Fourteen steel road wheels dominated the track sides. The Carden-Loyd Mark II one-man tankette was essentially of the same mold as the Mark I but a new track suspension system was trialed. Four rubberized bogies replaced the original's fourteen steel wheels. The Carden-Loyd Tankette Mk III was another Mark I off-shoot fielding a new track suspension layout. By this time, however, the idea of a one-man tankette was beginning to wane and the prospect of a two-man system took center stage.


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Specifications for the
Carden-Loyd Tankette (Series)
Tankette


Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Carden-Loyd Tractors Ltd - UK
Initial Year of Service: 1927
Production: 450


Focus Model: Carden-Loyd Tankette Mark IV
Crew: 2


Overall Length: 8.07 ft (2.46 m)
Width: 5.74 ft (1.75 m)
Height: 4.00 ft (1.22 m)
Weight: 1.7 US Short Tons (1,525 kg; 3,362 lb)


Powerplant: 1 x Ford Model T 4-cylinder gasoline engine developing 40bhp at 2,500rpm.


Maximum Speed: 25 mph (40.2 km/h)
Maximum Range: 89 miles (144 km)


NBC Protection: None
Nightvision: None


Armament:
OPTIONAL:
1 x 7.7mm Vickers machine gun OR 1 x 12.7mm Vickers heavy machine gun.
1 x Stokes Mortar
1 x 37mm anti-tank gun
1 x 20mm Oerlikon cannon


Ammunition:
Dependend upon operator and chosen armament.


Variants:
Carden-Loyd One-Man Tankette - Original One-Man Pilot Vehicle; single test vehicle ordered.


Mark I - One-Man Tankette; improved speed and track life; fitted with 1 x Ford Model T engine of 14 horsepower; 1 x light machine gun.

Mark II - One-Man Tankette; new track suspension layout; four rubber tires.

Mark III - One-Man Tankette; new track suspension layout.

Carden-Loyd Two-Man Tankette - Two-Man Tankette Design.

Mark VI - Definitive British Carden-Loyd Two-Man Tankette variant; suspension modified (later) to include 5 return rollers to each track side; 1 x .50 caliber Vickers machine gun.

Mark VIa

Mark VIb - Improved Mark VI

Mark V - Two-Man Tankette; tricycle wheel and track device.

Tancik vz. 33 - Czech Designation for license production and improved version of the Mark VI.

K-25 - Soviet designation; base model leading up to the development and production of 3,228 improved and larger T-27 tankettes.

T15 - Belgiam Machine Gun Carrier Conversions.

T-13 - Belgian Tank Destroyer Conversions.

Renault UE - French design based on the Mark VI.


Operators:
Bolivia; Canada; Chile; Czechoslovakia; Greece; Finland; France; India; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Siam; Soviet Union; Taiwan; Thailand; United Kingdom