May 17, 1917 - German Tank Trials in Mainz
Pictured - Panzeralarm!
As the Battle of Arras finally ended, the Germans began testing tanks at a design field in Mainz. The initial German reaction to enemy British tanks - and now the French had deployed them as well, during the Nivelle Offensive - had been shock, even sometimes terror. But the armored behemoths had hardly altered the course of the war. Most times they broke down, and the Germans found that artillery and even very heavy rifles could puncture their armor.
The German army never gave up its conservative focus on infantry, at least until the next war. Nevertheless, the Entente had a weapon that Germany needed too. At the Mainz trials, a study section of the German transport department, 7 Abteilung 7 Verkehrswesen, displayed their unimaginatively named A7V tank.
Designed by Joseph Vollmer, the A7V was built on top of an Austrian Holt tractor chassis, carrying 30 tons of 30mm armor, machine guns, and a rapid fire artillery piece at the front. The trial tank was unarmored but carried bags of sand to compensate. The beast chugged along at 12 km per hour, overcrowded with a 17-man crew, mechanics, drivers, and gunner, who hung about the compartmentalized interior, sucking in noxious fumes from the engine right at the center.
The German army ordered 100 into production, but only 20 ended up being built before the war ended. They served adequately during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918, but ended up more as a propaganda piece than a common part of military equipment.