Creative New Zealand Tanks of World War II
June 17, 2013 5:27 PM   Subscribe

The most well known of New Zealand's World War II home-built tanks was the Bob Semple tank, designed by New Zealand Minister of Works Bob Semple. There was only one made, but it served its purpose of "showing the people that something was being done to meet the enemy. It rumbled around, took part in parades, and inspired confidence." One problem: the tank, built on a Caterpiller tractor and armored with corrugated steel, would momentarily pause while changing gears, unless it was already headed down hill. During parades and public shows, its driver was instructed to change gear as little as possible, to prevent people from thinking their tank was stalling. The other New Zealand-built tank was the Schofield tank, built on the chassis of a Chevrolet heavy-duty truck, with the ability to drive quickly on wheels, then operate on treads, the transition only taking 7 to 10 minutes. Two prototypes were made, but neither the Bob Semple nor the Schofield tank were mass produced, as New Zealand started receiving tanks from abroad by 1943.
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There was naturally a clamour for a native Kiwi tank, after rumours had got around that these vehicles could defeat even defences made from number eight wire.
posted by pompomtom at 5:42 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Godzone don't need no steekeeng tanks when they can afford to keep a terrifying machine like this* in the national museum.

* An armoured 1974 Holden station wagon.
posted by Herodios at 6:01 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you'd like to hear some cheeky Kiwis talking about their early efforts of gearing up for the war, check out the second link in the post. It points to a 24 minute episode of The Years Back documentary series from 1973. I rather liked the fellow who talked about the silly war games, in which he died, so instead of waiting around for the scenario to play out in full, he walked off the field to the local cemetery (because he was dead, ya see), then home.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:02 PM on June 17, 2013

T-34 is LOLing at you.
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to Wikipedia, the armor was 12.7 mm. That won't stop anything except line of sight.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:27 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I had to choose between facing the Nipponese invaders of my home with just a 8 friends and 6 Bren guns, or to face the invaders of my home with 8 friends and 6 Bren guns in a metal deathcage, I'm not sure which way I would go.
posted by Megafly at 6:40 PM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

From the wikipedia links:

In the end, due to their impracticality, the tanks (Bob Semple) were rejected for use by the New Zealand Army, dismantled, and restored to their previous state as tractors.


The (Schofield) tank was stored for a while and scrapped post war.

Couldn't they have saved them for, you know, museums? Even if they were rejected for use, they are still examples of history.

I know, I know, people needed the tractors, and the Schofield tank was used for scrap metal which was in short supply, but how many things does the world have to lose because of short term thinking?! And don't even get me started on all the TV shows that were lost over the years because the videotape was so expensive that people recorded over it so they could reuse it.

Also, thanks for posting this, filthy light thief. This is the first I've ever heard about these tanks.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:07 PM on June 17, 2013

I have a 1:100 scale Bob Semple tank which I scratch-built for Flames Of War. I've never used it in a game, except as an objective marker - 'capture the secret weapon!'
posted by Soulfather at 7:40 PM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Bob Semple tank is quite possibly the stupidest tank I've ever seen. I mean, some of the late war German tanks are stupid conceptually but they at least look nasty. This thing looks like it's made of corrugated aluminum siding.
posted by Justinian at 7:43 PM on June 17, 2013

I wouldn't really call it a tank, really. Really, what that is, is a military themed parade float with tractor tracks.
posted by Artw at 8:13 PM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Justinian, that's corrugated steel, thankyouverymuch.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:59 PM on June 17, 2013

Am I the only one who realized that the Schofield tank really looks like the tumbler from Batman?

Really, imagine if the treads we're pulled off. Instant tumbler.
posted by emptythought at 10:02 PM on June 17, 2013

A vehicle coming to a dead stop when changing gears doesn't make sense to me. It seems like you would be limited to the lowest gear. Can someone with mechanical knowledge explain it?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:48 AM on June 18, 2013

Presumably the motor is strong enough to pull it from standstill in the higher gears, affording a higher top speed, but not much power. For serious pulling you would engage a lower gear and then drive off.
posted by Harald74 at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2013

Which might make sense in, say, an agricultural vehicle.
posted by Artw at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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