The Schofield Tank was a rare indigenous New Zealand combat tank developed during World War 2 (1939-1945) during a time when a Japanese invasion of both Australia and New Zealand were very real possibilities. Sensing that equipment from its allies, namely Britain, would not become available to these Pacific players, various local projects were undertaken to help shore up defenses. The Schofield Tank became the result of one of these New Zealand initiatives though it was destined to never see fighting nor enter operational service.
Design of the Schofield Tank was from the mind of E.J. Schofield who worked for General Motors in Wellington. He drew up the rather simple light-class vehicle in 1940 and presented it to New Zealand authorities as a possible solution to the ongoing armored vehicle requirement. A commercial Chevrolet truck chassis was used as the basis for the framework and various other external elements were added to this to create an all-new fighting platform - for instance the suspension system was made up of the Horstmann suspension used in the existing British Universal Carrier (BREN Gun Carrier) light tracked vehicle. While containing this track-and-wheel arrangement, the Schofield Tank was also designed to run on traditional rubber-tired truck-type road wheels.
Internally, there would be a crew of three (driver and two machine gunners) protected by up to 10mm of armor plating (provided by the local railway industry). Combat weight registered 5,300 kilograms and dimensions included a length of 4 meters, a width of 2.6 meters and a height of 2 meters. Power was served from the original Chevrolet truck engine - a gas-fueled 6-cylinder unit outputting nearly 30 horsepower. Performance from this unit allowed the vehicle to achieve a road speed of up to 43 kmh, when running on its tracks, with an operational range out to 560 kilometers. When relying on its roadwheels (controlled by the crew from within the hull), road speeds jumped to 72 kmh.
Armament originally centered on an all-machine gun collection of which two of the crew would be dedicated gunners in the mix. The driver and one gunner were seated in the front-hull with the remaining crewman at the rear (in a small turret). After trials, this approach was dropped and another revised scheme took its place showcasing a more conventional tank arrangement complete with enclosed, traversing turret.
Primary armament thus became the British Ordnance QF 2-pounder anti-tank gun and this was paired with a British 7.92mm BESA machine gun in a coaxial mounting. Both weapons were installed in the turret which was seated atop the hull roof to give complete 360-degree traversal. Onboard ammunition supplies included 52 x 2-pdr projectiles along with 3,150 x 7.92mm cartridges.
Despite its progress, the Schofield Tank was no longer in need by 1942 for combat vehicles were arriving in useful numbers from Allied sources (including America). As such, just one example of the Schofield was completed and this was eventually sent to Britain for further testing sometime in 1943. The tank's story ends here for no viable further development of the Schofield was had and the sole prototype was scrapped in the immediate post-war period.
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