Friday, 16 March 2018

Military History Photo Friday: The L3/35 Tankette

I was digging through some old photos the other day and came across this one of yours truly at a military museum in Rome. I'm standing beside an Italian L3/35 tankette. Tankettes were a popular idea for some nations in the Interwar period. As the name implies, they were miniature tanks, smaller and faster than the behemoths of the First World War.

The L3/35 was first mass produced in 1936 and measured 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.3 m (10.4 × 4.59 × 4.27 ft). It had a top speed of 42 km/h (26 mph), weighed 3.2 tons, and had a crew of two--a driver and gunner. Armament was a pair of machine guns. At its thickest, the armor was only 12 mm (.47 inches).
The tankette served in the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and large numbers of them were sent to help the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Their thin armor made them vulnerable, and having the guns fixed to the front meant the tankette had to be turned to bring the weapons to bear. Abyssinian warriors would rush up behind the tank and stuck their swords into the tracks, which was often enough to disable them! In the Spanish Civil War they had to face tanks sent to the Republican army by the Soviet Union like the BT-5 and T-26. These were real tanks with cannons and turrets and everything. You can guess how well the little Italian models fared.

By World War Two, the L3/35 was obsolete, but that didn't stop the Italians from fielding large numbers of them in North Africa. The British made short work of them. It's amazing any survived to end up in this museum!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I certainly wouldn't want to be in one. Not very safe. Like driving a Smart car on a freeway of truckers.

Jack said...

I am just fascinated by tankettes. The idea - to have a "swarm" of small, mobile machine-gun platforms scooting about as scouting and infantry support vehicles was admirable at the time, but sadly, quickly eclipsed as even the lightest tanks - like the Panzer II, or the British cruisers - could defeat them, never mind the light AT pieces like the 2-pounder or 37mm AT guns that were developed at the same time.

Still, they are pretty adorable.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.