Mephisto (tank)

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The A7V tank Mephisto at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia

Mephisto is the name of a German A7V tank captured by Australian troops during World War I. One of only 20 built, it is the last surviving example of the first German military tank and is displayed at the Queensland Museum in Australia.[1]

Mephisto, chassis serial number 506, is not in running order.

Unlike modern tanks, the A7V has no turret. Instead, it has a cupola for the commander and driver, and its main gun, a 57mm Maxim-Nordenfelt, is carried in a mounting in the front, allowing limited traverse. Six Maxim 08 machine guns are carried in mountings, two on each side and two to the rear.

The name "Mephisto" is painted on the end facing of the box-shaped tank, as almost all German tanks in WW1 were given individual names. The tank was lost at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918. The battle for the area saw the Australian, British and German forces in a fluid situation, moving around the tank which had been disabled after falling into a ditch and still had dead crew inside.[citation needed]

The 26th Battalion of the 7th Brigade, mostly from Queensland,[2] hatched a plan to capture it so it could not be used by the Germans. In July 1918 after launching an artillery barrage, the Infantry moved forward and dragged it back to their lines; the Germans were still in sight of the tank and firing at them. They had to don gas masks after poison gas was deployed.

The Mephisto being dragged into the Queensland Museum by two steamrollers in 1919

The tank was then graffitied by Australian troops, with a painting of the AIF rising sun emblem. Machinations began to take the tank back to Australia, but the British wanted to keep it for the Imperial War Museum. It was quickly put on a ship destined for Sydney with the Australian infantry that captured it. The ship was supposed to deliver it to Sydney, with plans for it to go to the war memorial in Canberra's display, but it was diverted to Brisbane and unloaded there. Two steam traction engines moved it from the ship to the museum, dragging it on its tracks.

The Queensland Museum, where it was housed, changed location a number of times, and the tank at one point was housed outside, where it was exposed to the elements, and parts were removed from it by the public.[3] After many years it was eventually moved inside the museum and put behind glass in a temperature controlled environment, protecting it from the public.

Following the 2011 Brisbane Floods, Mephisto was removed from the Queensland Museum to an undisclosed location for restoration work. It was claimed that the vehicle would be returned to the museum during 2012.[4] However, in March 2013 it was revealed that the vehicle was temporarily housed at the Workshops Rail Museum at North Ipswich where it was placed on temporary display.[5] It will return to the Queensland Museum in 2015.[6]

A replica A7V modelled substantially upon Mephisto was built in Germany in 1988. See main A7V article.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mephisto" at the Queensland Museum
  2. ^ Morgan, Joseph (2014). "Voices from Gallipoli and the Western Front: The Forgotten 26th". Sabretache (Garran, Australian Capital Territory: Military Historical Society of Australia) LV (1 (March)): pp. 17–27. ISSN 0048-8933. 
  3. ^ Connolly, Steve "The great tank Robbery" p. 7, November 2004, The Sunday Mail.
  4. ^ Kris Crane (20 January 2012). "Queensland Museum celebrates 150th birthday with a monster bash". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane). Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "German WWI tank in Ipswich for forensic analysis" by Kiri Ten Dolle, The Queensland Times, 16 March 2013
  6. ^ "Mephisto coming home to Brisbane". Brisbane Times. 13 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 27°28′22.77″S 153°01′04.45″E / 27.4729917°S 153.0179028°E / -27.4729917; 153.0179028