Light Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV)
The short-lived Morris-Martel approach was a different take on the interwar period tankette design concept - it failed.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The "tankette" was a light tank concept that emerged during the inter-war period following World War 1 (1914-1918) and preceding World War 2 (1939-1945). The concept involved a small, lightly-armored-and-armed vehicle operated by a minimal crew (usually two) and capable of traversing cross-country and harassing enemy forces while supporting advancing allied infantry. In the end, the concept proved itself a flawed one on the modern battlefield and was eventually overtaken by dedicated light tank systems which offered better performance, crew protection and firepower than their smaller predecessors.
This did not stop tankettes from gaining a foothold in some of the major armies of the period - Britain, Italy, the Soviet Union and Poland all fielded some form of tankette with many being of the original (or based on) the Carden Loyd Tankette design of 1927. While land forces like that of Britain and Italy used tankettes as supplemental units to its larger, more powerful tank types, more modest, budget-conscious armies were forced to field tankettes as primary front-line solutions (as was the case with the Polish Army).
Beyond the Carden Loyd offering was the Morris-Martel Tankette which became a further evolution of original designs presented by British Army Lieutenant-General Sir Giffard Le Quesne Martel (1889-1958). Design work began in 1925 and involved a rather peculiar drive arrangement in which the forward end of the vehicle relied on a tank-like track-and-wheel system supporting the main mass of the vehicle. At the rear was a steerable, twin-wheeled appendage - a throwback quality to the original lozenge-shaped tanks of World War 1. Over center was the crew compartment marked by a slab-sided armored box offering only minimal protection against battlefield dangers. A typical operating crew numbered up to two personnel (one- and two-man variants were considered) and armament was a 3-pounder (47mm) gun as primary and up to 4 x 0.303" Vickers machine guns as secondary. Drive power was from a single Morris Motor engine of 16 horsepower and the hull sat atop a leaf spring suspension system. Maximum road speeds could reach 30 miles per hour. Armor protection reached 7.6mm in thickness.
Manufacture of the design fell to Morris Motors and the vehicle eventually carried the Martel name as well (hence "Morris-Martel"). At least eight examples were built and these served as prototypes to a possible serial production form. The vehicles were tested in 1927 at Salisbury Plain against the Carden Loyd Tankette but failed to impress British authorities - who favored the competition.
As such, the Morris-Martel project was ended in 1928 but not before gaining some attention in the press. Beyond that, it accomplished very little for itself but nonetheless helped to influence future tankette creations still to come. By the time of World War 2, the light tank concept officially overtook the tankette concept and medium and heavy tanks followed before the "Main Battle Tank" (MBT) out shown them all during the immediate post-war period.