The Bob Semple Tractor Tank

During World War II New Zealand was on the far edge of the British Empire, and a low priority to the British.  As a result few arms were sent to defend the islands.  However the people of New Zealand felt very threatened by the possibility of a Japanese invasion.  With little armaments and no support from Britain, some in New Zealand felt that they needed to take the matter of national defense into their own hands.

 At the beginning of World War II, New Zealand’s Minister of Works Bob Semple commissioned a project to manufacture a tank for New Zealand’s defense forces.  There was one problem, New Zealand had little heavy industry and no indigenous arms production.  As a result the new “Bob Semple Tank” was produced from unorthodox materials like something from an episode of “The A-Team”.

The core of the “Bob Semple” tank was the Caterpillar D8 tractor, a common vehicle among New Zealand’s farmers.  To create the tank a simple superstructure was fabricated and mounted over the tractor.  Armor consisted of 8 to 13mm corrugated iron. Armaments consisted of six Bren Light Machine guns; one on a turret, one on the left and right sides, one at the rear, and two at the front.  Put together with ingenuity and improvisation, the Bob Semple tank was hastily constructed by hand in small workshops using no formal plans or blueprints.  The tank was designed to be operated with a crew of eight.

A number of fully functioning Bob Semple tanks were constructed, however most production was geared in manufacturing the hulls alone.  The idea was to disperse the hulls all over New Zealand.  If the Japanese did invade, the locals could mount the hulls onto their local farm tractors within two hours, creating a working tank on demand.  

Unfortunately the Bob Semple tank was nothing more than a rolling piece of junk.  Poorly designed using substandard materials, the tank was very slow, under-armored, and featured several flaws.  The tank had to come to a complete stop in order to shift gears.  Vibrations from the tank made shooting from it difficult and inaccurate.  Finally due to the shape and design of the tank, one of the forward gunners had to lie prone on a mattress over the engine in order to fire his machine gun.

The New Zealand Army rejected the Bob Semple tank for military use.  Most were converted back into farm tractors, with the tanks hulls being used for scrap metal.


Maya ball court, Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Major building construction seems to have occurred in Coba during the middle and late Classic period (500-900).

The Native American ball game was played with a rubber ball on a masonry court, and was widely known in Central America and Mesoamerica. Its range extended over an area of 2,500,000 square kilometers, from the U.S. Southwest into the Amazon region of South America. It was played for at least 2,000 years prior to European contact.

The object of the game, as indicated by archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence, was to score a goal by propelling the ball into the ground of the opposing team’s end of the court, or through a ring or other marker along the side of the court. As in modern soccer, players could not use their hands to propel the ball, and the game in play may have resembled soccer, with considerable action. 

[…] Scholars have frequently associated the game with human blood sacrifice. Much of our understanding of the myth and significance of the ball game comes from the account of the Third Creation in the Maya epic, the Popul Vuh, wherein both generations of Hero Twins, avatars of the Sun and Venus, are sacrificed by decapitation and then reborn. Numerous portrayals of the game show decapitation of a ballplayer, the same image emphasized in the Popul Vuh.

[…] Although the game had important ideological overtones, it was also no doubt a widespread form of more casual recreation, and the outcome of a game was the focus of considerable gambling action, with bets of all sizes and bettors of all social classes. 

-Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia (2001).

Photos courtesy & taken by Dennis Jarvis.


I’ve just finished the Elizabeth Lev biography of Caterina Sforza (which is a great read if you ever want to learn about a kick-ass Renaissance woman) and someone had told me that Caterina was an ancestor to Elizabeth II. Well, being the weird stubborn person that I am, I had to look up and see if that was right. It wasn’t. But I did figure out her family tree and found that her lineage could be traced directly to Princess Diana through an illegitimate son of Charles II. Yup.

Here’s a list, for whatever other crazy people might be interested:

Caterina Sforza (Early 1463-May 28, 1509)

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (April 5, 1498 –November 30 1526)

Cosimo I de’ Medici (June 12, 1519 – April 21, 1574)

Francesco I de’ Medici (March 25, 1541 – October 17, 1587)

Marie de’ Medici (April 26, 1575, July 3, 1642)

Henrietta Maria of France (November 25, 1609 – September 10, 1669)

Charles II of England (May 29, 1630 – February 6, 1685

Charles Lennox, First Duke of Richmond (July 29, 1672 – May 17, 1723)

Charles Lennox, Second Duke of Richmond (May 18, 1701 – August 8, 1750)

Lord George Lennox (November 29, 1737 – March 25, 1805)

Charles Lennox, Fourth Duke of Richmond (December 8, 1764 – August 28, 1819)

Charles Gordon-Lennox, Fifth Duke of Richmond (August 2, 1791 – October 21, 1860)

Lady Cecilia Catherine Gordon-Lennox (April 13, 1838 – October 5, 1910)

Lady Rosalind Bingham (February 1869 – January 18, 1958)

Lady Cynthia Hamilton (August 16, 1897 – December 4, 1972)

John Spencer, Eighth Earl of Spencer (January 24, 1924 – March 29, 1992)

Diana, Princess of Wales (July 1, 1961 – August 31, 1997)

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (June 21, 1982 – )

Prince George of Cambridge (July 22, 2013 – )

Prince August Wilhelm Heinrich Günther Viktor of Prussia (29 Jan 1887 Potsdam - 25 Mar 1949 Stuttgart, Germany) 

Prince August Wilhelm was a son of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiserin Augusta Victoria of Germany. 

On October 22nd, 1908, he married Princess Alexandra Viktoria Auguste Leopoldine Charlotte Amalie Wilhelmine of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (21 Apr 1887 Grunholz - 15 Apr 1957 Lyon, France). They would divorce in March 1820, and the Prince got custody of their only son. 

Alexandra and August Wilhelm’s child: 

  • Prince Alexander Ferdinand Albrecht Achilles Wilhelm Joseph Viktor Karl Feodor of Prussia (26 Dec 1912-12 Jun 1985 Wiesbaden, Germany) who married on December 19th, 1938, Armgard Weygand (22 Aug 1912-) and had Stephan Alexander Dieter Friedrich Prince von Preussen (30 Sep 1939 Dresden - 12 Feb 1993), who has been married twice: firstly, to Hannelore-Maria Kerscher (26 Oct 1952 Passau, Germany-) and secondly, Heide Schmidt (6 Feb 1939 Frankfurt am Main-) and had one daughter with her, Stephanie Viktoria Luise Irmgard Gertrud Princess von Preussen (21 Sep 1966 Neckarau, Germany-).

Prince August Wilhelm became seriously ill and passed away on March 25th, 1949 at 62 years old. His ex-wife remarried, and she passed away on April 15th, 1957 at age 69 in France.