Stridsvagn L-120

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Landsverk L-120
Landsverk L-120.jpg
Type Light tank
Place of origin Sweden
Service history
In service 1937–1940
Used by Sweden (testing purposes)
Norway
Production history
Manufacturer AB Landsverk
Produced 1936–1938
Number built 1 tank + 1 or 2 tank chassis
Specifications
Weight 4 - 4.5 tons
Length 4.05 m (13 ft 3 in)
Width 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Height 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Crew 2 (Commander/gunner and driver)

Armour Steel armour (Sweden)
Iron plating (Norway)
Main
armament
Norway: 7.92 mm Colt M/29 heavy machine gun
Transmission 4-speed Volvo gear box
Speed 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph)
Steering
system
Levers (Sweden)
Steering wheel (Norway)

Stridsvagn L-120 (English: Battletank L[andsverk]-120) was a light tank designed in Sweden. One tank and one tank chassis was ordered for tests by the Swedish Army in 1936, and one chassis was ordered by the Norwegian Army the same year. The chassis sold to Norway became Norway's first ever tank, after an improvised turret and makeshift armour had been added.

Swedish service[edit]

In October 1936 the Swedish Army placed an order with the armoured fighting vehicle manufacturer AB Landsverk in the Scanian city of Landskrona for one L-120 tank and one L-120 tank chassis for testing purposes. In April the following year an order for a tank turret followed.[1] The tank chassis was delivered to the Swedish Army in May 1937, and the tank in July–August the same year. In July 1937, just some two months after it was delivered, the tank chassis was bought back by AB Landsverk in connection with a large order for Stridsvagn L-60 light tanks being made by the Swedish government from AB Landsverk. The repurchased tank chassis was then probably used to fulfil an order from Norway.[1]

"Rikstanken"[edit]

"Rikstanken" taking part in military winter exercises.

Concurrently with the Swedish order Landsverk also received an order from Norway for a tank chassis, with delivery set at March 1937. The cost of the purchase was SEK 30,000, around the equivalent of US$3,000. After delivery delays the tank chassis was handed over to Norway.[1] The chassis was equipped after arrival with an improvised turret and ordinary iron plates for armour and was armed with a Colt M/29 heavy machine gun, making it Norway's first ever tank.[1][2][3] The tank was quickly dubbed "Rikstanken" (English: The National Tank) by the Norwegians.[1] Other nicknames were "Kongstanken" (English: The Royal Tank) and "Norgestanken" (English: The Norway Tank).[2][3] The name "Norgestanken" was a humorous invention,[2] playing on the fact that the word tanken in Norwegian means both "the tank" and "the thought", making it a pun. The noun "Norgestanken" (English: the Norway thought) was an old nationalistic term for the idea of an independent Norway.[4] Kongstanken, as in "the royal thought", signifies a grand and bold thought or an idealistic idea.[5]

"The field exercise at Jæren in 1938 was a horror of primitive matériel. There was next to nothing of signals, communications and sapper matériel, nor were there any motorized units, except the only terror of the exercise, the old tank that shook, functioned and failed, all on its own discretion... A depressing lack of matériel compared to a wonderful human material. "

—Eyewitness Rob. Jo. (Robert Johnsen) from Stavanger.[6]

The purchase of the tank by the Norwegian government happened on the background of the increased tension in Europe preceding the Second World War. The threatening situation convinced the Norwegian government to budget NOK 20,000 for the purchase of a tank for the Norwegian Army. As the shipping costs of the complete tank would be too expensive, only the chassis was imported. As adding the original steel armour would cost another NOK 50,000, iron plates were used instead.[2] In addition, the steering levers were replaced with a steering wheel. The engine of the tank proved unreliable and at best gave a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour (16 mph).[2] The brakes were also found to be too weak, with the tank once ending up crashed against a tree during an field exercise in Trøndelag.[7]

Together with an experimental platoon of locally manufactured armoured cars Rikstanken formed the Norwegian cavalry's armoured force. Rikstanken and the three armoured cars took part in all the Norwegian Army's exercises in 1938 and 1939. The armoured vehicles moved around to the different dragoon regiments in Norwegian Army.[1][7]

In a 1939 lecture at the Oslo Militære Samfund, Colonel Christopher Fougner pointed out that the single tank in the Norwegian armoury was completely insufficient to train the country's soldiers in anti-armour warfare. Colonel Fougner warned that if more tanks and armoured vehicles were not expressly acquired, then the first tank most Norwegian soldiers would see would belong to an attacking enemy army.[8]

On 9 April 1940, when the Germans invaded Norway, the tank and the three armoured cars were stored in the depot of Dragoon Regiment 1 at Gardermoen.[9] When Dragoon Regiment 1 finished its mobilization at 0300hrs on 10 April and moved out to oppose the invading German forces they left both the tank and the armoured cars behind.[10] The tank and the armoured cars were captured by the advancing Germans and disappeared from records,[1] after having been a popular object for souvenir photos for German troops at Gardermoen in May 1940.[11]

References and notes[edit]

References
  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Stridsvagn L-120". Landskrona Museum (in Swedish). Landskrona Municipality Culture Department. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Jensen 1995: 509
  3. ^ a b Dag Sundkvist; Daniella Carlsson and Thorleif Olsson (13 February 2003). "Norway". Tanks! Armoured warfare prior to 1946. Florida State University. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "1890-1905: I selvstendighetens navn". Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (in Norwegian). 5 May 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "kongstanke". ordnett.no (in Norwegian). Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Kristiansen 2008: 271 Norwegian: Feltmanøveren på Jæren i 1938 var den rene forferdelse av primitivt materiel. Signal-, sambands- og sappørmateriell var det lite og ingenting av, heller ikke motoriserte avdelinger, bortsett fra manøverens eneste skrekk, den gamle tank som ristet, gikk og stod, alt etter som den fant det for godt... En forstemmende matrialmangel i forhold til til et herlig menneskematriell.
  7. ^ a b Jensen 1995: 510
  8. ^ Wig 1977: 147
  9. ^ Jensen 1995: 512
  10. ^ Jensen 1995: 527
  11. ^ Mølmen 1998: 19

Bibliography[edit]