Rudolf Gundlach (1894–1957) was a Polish engineer, inventor and tank designer. He headed the design division of the Armored Weapons Development Office (Biuro Badań Technicznych Broni Pancernych). He held the military rank of major in the Corps of Engineers of the Polish Army.
Gundlach Rotary Periscope
He is famous for his invention of the Gundlach Rotary Periscope (Polish: Peryskop obrotowy Gundlacha), patented in 1936, which made possible 360° vision. The periscope enabled an observer (e.g., the tank commander) to look forward (upper panel of the picture) or backward (lower panel) without moving his seat. Since it greatly increased the comfort of observer and widened the field of view, the new periscope design was used in virtually every tank built after 1940.
It was first implemented in TKS and 7TP Polish tanks. As a part of Polish-British pre-war military cooperation, the patent was sold to Vickers-Armstrong for one Polish Zloty / 1 PLN /. It was produced as Vickers Tank Periscope MK.IV (pictured), and built into all British tanks (such as Crusader, Churchill, Valentine, Cromwell). After the fall of Poland, Germany, USSR and Romania captured equipment, allowing them to copy the invention. In the USSR, the Gundlach periscope was known as MK-4 and implemented in all tanks (including the T-34 and T-70). All Axis tanks and APC (including tanks of Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland and Japan) were equipped or retro-fitted with this periscope until 1941. The technology was later transferred to the USA and implemented as the M6 periscope in all US tanks (M3/M5 Stuart, M4 Sherman and others). After the Second World War the technology was adopted thorough the whole world.
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After the fall of Poland in 1939, Gundlach was one of hundreds of thousand Polish soldiers, technicians, scientists and engineers who escaped to France via Romania. In France he worked in the Bureau of War Industry (Biuro Wojennego Przemysłu przy Ministerstwie Przemysłu), and in the Ministry of Industry of the Polish Government in Exile. After the fall of France, health problems prevented him from evacuating to Great Britain and he stayed in Vichy France for the remainder of the war.
After the Second World War and a long court battle, in 1947 he received a large payment for his periscope patent from some of its producers. It allowed him to buy a farm near Paris, which he used as his home until his death.
Even today, original Gundlach periscopes are used in some tanks and APCs.
- Grzegorz Łukomski and Rafał E. Stolarski, Nie tylko Enigma... Mjr Rudolf Gundlach (1892-1957) i jego wynalazek (Not Only Enigma... Major Rudolf Gundlach (1892-1957) and His Invention), Warsaw-London, 1999.