The Martel one-man tank

As the UK’s next generation of military tanks (pictured above) hits the headlines, this story from the archives considers a less salubrious take on the tracked military vehicle. Built for the War Office by Morris Commercial Cars of Birmingham and driven by a standard Morris engine, the Martel one-man tank was, wrote The Engineer, designed to be useful beyond the field of combat. ’[The tank] is built of ordinary car components with the object of creating a demand for it – minus its military equipment – as an agricultural tractor and so facilitating and cheapening its military production.’

The article continued: ’The chassis is standardised and onto it any type of body may be bolted. For military use either a one-man or a two-man armoured body may be fitted, or alternatively it may be equipped with a car body for reconnaissance work or with a fitting for an anti-aircraft gun.’

The article goes on to describe the vehicle’s operation, stating: ’The chassis is carried on two endless tracks, each surrounding two main wheels. Behind, it is supported on two disc wheels provided for steering purposes and to prevent the vehicle from toppling backwards when going up a steep incline.

’The tracks are made of rubber,’ continued the report. ’It is claimed they can withstand a rain of machine-gun bullets without their utility being impaired, for if they are pierced the holes close up immediately after the bullet has passed through them.’

The article finishes by describing a fairly rudimentary driver-protection system: ’The armoured body carries a turret, above the upper edge of which the driver’s head normally projects. When under fire, the driver, by a touch on a lever, causes his seat to drop 6in. In this position he secures vision through a horizontal slit in the turret at the level of his eyes. A vertical slit in the front plate of the turret provides an opening for a light machine gun.’