In March 1917, the German military tested the tank / heavy armored car Marienwagen I mit Panzeraufbau, built on the basis of the original off-road chassis. This car showed itself extremely poorly, as a result of which it was abandoned. The only prototype was later dismantled. Nevertheless, Daimler decided to continue the development of the existing chassis of an unusual design, which later led to the emergence of a multi-purpose vehicle and armored car under the general name Marienwagen II. It is curious that one of the results of these projects was the appearance of the first German half-track armored vehicle.
The main problem of the "tank" of the first model was the insufficiently powerful engine, due to which the maximum speed did not exceed several kilometers per hour. In addition, certain problems were identified associated with the not very successful chassis design. Thus, by developing the existing design by one method or another, it was possible to obtain acceptable results. First of all, it was possible to create a universal chassis suitable for use for transport purposes, and later the development of the next version of an armored combat vehicle was not ruled out.
Experienced four-track chassis Marienwagen II, which showed the need for a transition to a different architecture. Photo Strangernn.livejournal.com
Already in 1917, the Daimler-Marienfelde company, which developed the base chassis and an armored car based on it, created an updated version of the existing multi-purpose tracked vehicle. The previous model at one time received the name Marienwagen I - after the name of the manufacturer, located in the Berlin district of Marienfelde. The new project was named using the same logic - Marienwagen II.
The basic version of the four-track chassis was distinguished by an interesting simplified chassis design. All the main elements of the tracked propeller were fixed on a single frame, which, in turn, was installed on elastic suspension elements. As part of the Marienwagen II project, it was decided to remake the existing structure using new ideas and taking into account the accumulated experience. At the same time, opportunities were found to do without major alterations of the front bogies.
The multipurpose chassis has retained the overall architecture. A long metal frame was used, on the front of which the engine and gearbox were located. Directly behind them were the controls. The remaining area of the frame was given for the installation of the cargo area, body, etc. Undercarriage elements were attached to the frame from below. The frame, power plant and other devices with the minimum necessary changes were borrowed from the production truck Daimler-Marienfelde ALZ 13. The chassis was created from scratch, although using already known ideas.
Truck on the basis of a half-track chassis. Photo Aviarmor.net
The front pair of tracks of the Marienwagen II machine received reinforced longitudinal beams, which had fastenings for five unsprung small-diameter road wheels and two pairs of larger wheels. Two such devices were connected by a transverse beam, which had fastenings for installation on leaf springs. A metal track was used with large track links equipped with grousers. To control the machine along the course, the front bogie with two tracks received a means of turning around a vertical axis.
The rear bogie was built from the ground up. Now it was proposed to use eight small road wheels interlocked by two longitudinal beams. Each beam had a pair of springs. In the front part of the caterpillar, the steering wheels were placed, in the rear, the driving wheels. The fixed elements of the rear tracks were rigidly connected to the frame and, unlike the previous machine, could not move with the track. The rear bogie track was similar to that used on the front bogie, but it was wider and proportionally enlarged.
It is known that already in 1917, Daimler-Marienfelde rebuilt one of the production trucks into a prototype tracked chassis. Tests showed that the applied design improvements gave some results, but led to new problems. First of all, the mechanism for turning the front bogie did not justify itself. The desire to simplify the design and provide acceptable handling soon led to the abandonment of the front tracks.
The only self-propelled artillery unit based on the Marienwagen II. Photo Aviarmor.net
Now, instead of them, it was planned to use a pair of wheels with leaf spring suspension and a traditional control mechanism. All-metal spoked wheels were used. In connection with the military purpose of the vehicle and its intended use off-road, it was proposed to abandon rubber tires. To increase the cross-country ability of the wheels, rims of increased width were obtained.
This version of the multipurpose chassis showed itself well during tests and was recommended for mass production. In the fall of 1917, the development company received an order for the production of 170 Marienwagen II half-track vehicles in a transport configuration. The army wanted to get equipment with a closed cockpit and side body. This made it possible to transport people and goods, as well as tow artillery pieces. Soon there were proposals for the use of transport vehicles as the basis for special-purpose vehicles.
During the construction of the truck, the existing chassis was supplemented with several simple units. So, the engine was covered with a light metal hood of a complex shape, typical for cars of that time. Behind the hood was a closed cabin, taken from one of the production trucks. It had a box shape and was assembled on the basis of a frame. There was a large windshield, side glazing was absent. The cargo area was used to install a side body assembled from planks. To facilitate loading, the sides were mounted on hinges and could be folded back.
Armored car Marienwagen II. Photo Wikimedia Commons
The self-propelled artillery mount was almost the first modification of the half-track truck. It was proposed to mount a pedestal mount for the gun directly in the standard side body. It is known about the existence of at least one such SPG with a 55-mm rifled cannon. A similar self-propelled gun was built and tested in 1918. However, the fighting soon ceased, and therefore mass production was not started. Soon the only self-propelled artillery gun was dismantled as unnecessary.
The 1917 contract stipulated the production and delivery of 170 half-tracked vehicles, but Daimler-Marienfelde was unable to fulfill this order. Until the end of the war, only 44 chassis in truck configuration were built and handed over to the customer. Further execution of the order was canceled due to the end of hostilities and a sharp cut in funding for the army.
A new modification of the Marienwagen II car appeared in connection with the well-known events of the autumn of 1918. To suppress the riots during the November Revolution, the police needed armored vehicles, but the available fleet of equipment was insufficient to solve all the available tasks. In this regard, the police were forced to start building new special vehicles based on any available chassis. Among other vehicles to be converted into armored cars, there were a number of half-track trucks previously built for the army.
An armored car on the streets of Berlin, presumably 1919. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Quite quickly, the forces of one of the enterprises developed a modernization project, which implied the assembly of a new armored hull with weapons suitable for installation on an existing chassis. In the shortest possible time, according to such a project, one of the existing chassis was rebuilt, after which the police received a new armored combat vehicle. According to reports, such an improvised factory-made armored car did not receive its own name and was designated as Marienwagen II.
For obvious reasons, the armored hull of the new police car was distinguished by its simplicity of design and shape. It was proposed to assemble it from rolled armor plates with a thickness of 5 and 7 mm. Thicker parts were used for the forehead, sides and stern. The roof and bottom, in turn, were less thick and less durable. A frame was fixed directly on the chassis, on which armor plates were installed using rivets. The project provided for the use of protection for all the main units of the machine, including the rear bogies of the chassis.
The new body of the Marienwagen II armored car consisted of two main parts. The front armored engine cover was distinguished by a smaller size. It used vertical frontal and side plates. A large window with a grill protecting the radiator was provided in the frontal part. In the sides there were louvers for the removal of hot air. From above, the engine was covered with a cover, which consisted of a horizontal central and inclined side elements.
Armored vehicles during the revolutionary events of 1918-19. On the left in the background is the Marienwagen II. Photo Foto-history.livejournal.com
The inhabited compartment of the hull was made in the form of a separate large unit. Its front part had an inclined frontal sheet with inspection hatches, as well as diverging sideways. The main plates of the sides were located vertically and parallel to the axis of the machine. In this case, the sides of the hull formed large fenders. Towards the stern, the hull narrowed again and ended with a vertical armor plate. An interesting feature of the hull was the variable height. Its central part was higher fore and aft, which is why a curved roof was used.
The roof was equipped with a shoulder strap for the installation of a simple cylindrical tower. The latter was equipped with means for attaching weapons, simple viewing and sighting devices, as well as an upper hatch.
The rather complex tracked mover received its own protection. The suspension of the rear bogies was covered with large oval side screens. Their upper edge was at the level of the upper branch of the caterpillar, while the lower one remained at some distance from the ground and did not cover part of the road wheels.
Serial half-track trucks. Photo Landships.activeboard.com
In accordance with existing restrictions, the new armored car could only carry machine-gun armament. An MG 08 machine gun (according to other sources, a Schwarzlose machine gun) with a caliber of 7, 92 mm was placed in the embrasure of the turret. The design of the tower made it possible to fire in any direction with different elevation angles. By installing the tower in the center of the curved roof, it was possible to minimize dead zones and ensure the highest possible fire efficiency.
The own crew of the new armored car consisted of three people. The driver and commander were located in front of the crew compartment. There was a shooter's workplace under the tower. One had to get into the car using two doors. One of them was in the front of the left side, the second was in the stern leaf. To monitor the road, the front crew seats had a pair of inspection hatches that could be closed in a combat situation. In addition, there were several viewing slots and embrasures along the perimeter of the hull.
A characteristic feature of the Marienwagen II armored car was the large volume of the habitable compartment, which made it possible to use it as an armored personnel carrier. In this case, the armored car could carry not only the crew, but also several police officers with weapons or special equipment. The landing of such an assault force was carried out through the aft door.
Marienwagen II in the Latvian army. The vehicle functions as an artillery tractor. Photo Landships.activeboard.com
The total length of the resulting armored car reached 6, 5-7 m, width - no more than 2, 5 m, height - about 2, 5-2, 7 m. The combat weight was at the level of 7-8 tons, which translated the armored car into the heavy category. According to some reports, such a mass did not lead to a fatal reduction in power density, as was the case with an armored car on the Marienwagen I chassis. It should be noted that the drop in mobility associated with the use of a large and heavy armored hull could not seriously worsen the practical characteristics of the armored car. … The fact is that it was supposed to be used in urban conditions, and not on rough terrain. As a consequence, the requirements for mobility were less stringent.
According to some sources, the German police in 1918-19 ordered at least a dozen Marienwagen II armored cars, which should have been built by altering the existing chassis. At least part of this order was successfully completed before the early twenties. At the same time, there is reliable information about only one armored car, while information about others is fragmentary.
The first of the ordered armored cars of a new type was handed over to the police by January 1919. Soon, this machine took part in the suppression of the Spartacist Uprising. The armored car Marienwagen II and its crew made a certain contribution to the overall success of the police, but the riots did not stop there. Probably, the half-track armored car, along with other vehicles of its class, later repeatedly participated in new police operations. Political instability in Germany persisted until the fall of 1919, and therefore the police regularly received the opportunity to bring their armored vehicles to the streets.
Latvian tractors at the exercises. Photo Landships.activeboard.com
There is information according to which, at the end of 1919, Germany began to sell existing armored cars. So, three half-track Marienwagen IIs were transferred to Latvia. According to some reports, by this time the Latvian army in one way or another had already managed to get several artillery tractors of the basic version. All these machines were operated for their intended purpose. Known photographs of "Latvian" vehicles of the Marienwagen II family, dated to the twenties. It is reported about the preservation of these machines in the army until the thirties.
From the information given by some sources, it follows that the transfer of three armored vehicles to Latvia was an alternative to disposal, to which the remaining equipment of the same type was sent. At the same time, only armored vehicles based on a half-track chassis could go for disassembly. Transport vehicles of a similar design could well remain in operation until the resource was depleted.
The projects of the Marienwagen II multipurpose chassis and equipment based on it had a very interesting history. The basic vehicle was created as an improved version of an already existing piece of equipment, but, apparently, already at this stage, given the existing negative experience, its developers decided to make only a vehicle, but not a combat vehicle. Subsequently, the truck / tractor went into series and got into the troops, and also got the opportunity to become a carrier of an artillery gun. Even later, the half-track chassis became the basis for an armored car of the original design.
Due to the small number of Marienwagen II transport vehicles and armored cars based on them, they did not leave a noticeable mark in history. Nevertheless, they turned out to be significant developments that significantly influenced the further development of combat and auxiliary equipment. Later in Germany, many samples of half-tracked vehicles of one purpose or another were created. Thus, the development of the Daimler-Marienfelde company became the progenitor of a whole family of German cars.