Afv Interiors - m13-40.pdf

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Italian Medium Tank M13/40, Part 1
Picture 1:
This is the first page of a two part series that will
explore in depth the interior of the Italian WWII
Medium Tank, M13/40. The ten images presented
here are large and will take some time to load.
Information on WWII Italian tank interiors is very
rare and the pictures included here are in large
format in order to provide you with the best
possible study material for interior detail.
The Italian Carro Armato M13/40 was the logical
continuation of an earlier tank design, the M11/39,
which was first manufactured in Italy in 1936. The
M11/39 had a 37mm main gun placed at the right
side of the front hull and twin Breda machine guns
were mounted up in a fully rotating turret. The
primary improvements of the M13/40 over the
earlier tank were directed toward making the
vehicle a more efficient tank killer by reversing the
location of the guns and increasing the vehicle's
power with a larger engine. The main weapon, now
a 47mm gun, was placed up in the turret and the
machine guns (except for a coaxial MG) were positioned down in the hull front.
The resulting vehicle was an improvement over the M11/39, but it still lacked decent armor protection for the crew and
was considerably under-powered compared to other medium tanks. These deficiencies were not as apparent during the
early battles in Egypt's Western Desert, but they would severely limit the tank's usefulness as the fighting continued.
Gradual improvements to the vehicle were made and the new production batches were sent to the front. In September
of '41 an order arrived that announced the improved M13/40 vehicles would officially be called Carro Armato M14/41
from that point on, the primary difference being the improved engine and filtering system with differences in cooling
vents in the back deck, etc. Contrary to most German contemporary writings, Italian tank crews were brave and hard
fighting men who were lacking in quality equipment and effective leadership. And, in spite of their poor level of
training, many were fierce opponents and fought hard with whatever they could lay their hands on.
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Picture 2:
This is a drawing I cleaned which was originally made by the British War Office in 1940 after examining M13/40
tanks captured in the first actions in North Africa. You can clearly see the 47mm gun and coaxial machine gun in the
turret mantlet, as well as the twin 8mm machine guns in the right side of the bow. The first prototype with this new
arrangement was tested in early 1940 and mass production began that same year at Fiat. The driver sat to the left in the
bow of the tank, and the hull machine gunner sat to his right. Up in the turret were two additional crew- the loader at
the left of the guns and the commander/gunner on the right. Early M13/40 tanks were not radio equipped because the
Italian Army, like many others of that time, were content to use flags for their communications between vehicles.
The SPA diesel engine is mounted in the rear, replaced late in the manufacturing run by a more powerful motor. The
driver controls the vehicle with traditional steering tillers to apply the brakes as well as a gear shift lever at his right,
and accelerator and clutch pedals at his feet. The drive train consisted of a SPA TM40 water-cooled V-8 diesel
producing 125hp at 1800rpm, through a dual-range 4-speed transmission, to epicyclic clutch brake steering gear and
final drives. The turret could be rotated both manually and via a hydraulic motor, but elevation was by a manual hand
wheel only. Italian methods for naming tanks at this time placed the vehicle's weight (in tons) first, and the year of its
introduction second. Thus, the M13/40 was roughly 13 tons and was introduced in 1940. Carro Armato refers to
medium tanks, Carro Veloce to light tank and Carro Comando is a command tank.
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Picture 3:
Another British Army sketch that I altered illustrates the layout from the lateral view. The transmission gearbox is
located between the two forward crewmen and contains shift handles at the top for gear shifting and at the right side for
the reduction gear lever (low and hi speeds for off and on-road travel). Power is transferred from the rear engine to the
front gearbox/epicyclic gears via the drive shaft that passes through the fighting compartment from back to front. At
the point where the drive shaft joins the transmission housing there is a power take-off for the hydraulic pump, which
pressurizes the turret traverse motor. It is illustrated here by the small round circles on the drive shaft, just aft of the
transmission. Hydraulic pressure hoses lead from the pump up into a control handle within easy reach of the
commander, the support seen here rising in the center of the fighting compartment. More hydraulic hoses then continue
to the right side of the hull (directly under the turret ring) and connect to the hydraulic motor, which rotates the turret
via its own gearing. The engine, cooling fans and radiator occupy most of the rear of the AFV, with the radiators at the
very back and fuel tanks to either side.
This drawing is actually of a late M13/40 or, more likely, a M14/41, the primary difference being a slightly larger
engine with improved air cleaners. The four new cleaner boxes are now mounted on top of the engine cylinder block,
in place of the two larger can type cleaners inside the fighting compartment on the back wall, either side of the drive
shaft. Other than the engine change, the interior of the two vehicles was almost identical. Up in the turret is the 47mm
gun, with the coaxial 8mm on its left and a large telescopic gun sight dominating the right. The gunner and loader
could also view the battlefield by using two 1x fully rotating periscopes mounted in the roof of the turret on either side
of the gun.
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Picture 4:
This is another drawing in the same series of M14/41 sketches as the previous ones, this picture again cleaned up a bit
for better clarity. The driver's and hull machine gunner's seat bottoms are ghosted by dotted lines in their positions at
the bow. The large, boxy transmission is mounted between them and its central gear shift lever can be seen as well as
the hydraulic pump at the gearbox/drive shaft connections. The epicyclic clutch and brake housings take most of the
room forward of the transmission, and the driver's steering levers can be seen rising from either side of his seat
location. Again, notice the four rectangular air cleaner boxes on top of the engine, identifying this sketch as the later
improved M13/40 or M14/41.
Unfortunately for the Italians, the M series tanks had a history of poor reliability, and the M13/40 was the major cause
for that reputation. The main problem was sand grit passing through the early inefficient can filters into the engine.
When the sluggish M13/40 was provided with a more powerful engine to become the M14/41, new filters were
installed and the four small and efficient filters now on top of the engine marginally improved air filtration. Although
not drawn here, the commander/gunner's hydraulic turret traverse control support would be located just to the right of
the propeller shaft, in the center of the fighting compartment. That allowed him to reach the power traverse control
with his left hand and still elevate the gun with his right.
Picture 5:
A great deal of Italian equipment
was captured by the British in their
counter attack in late 1940 and
even more with the battles in early
1941. Many of the Italian AFVs
were put back in service by the
British and used against their
original owners. This photo crop
was made from a picture that was
originally taken by a photographer
for the BMI photo service (F.
Hurley?), but is now in the archives
of the South African Defense Force
(SADF). The line-up of captured
vehicles was made shortly after
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February of '41 near Beda Fomm,
Libya. Other photos in the same
series can be found in the Imperial
War Museum and the Photo
Archives of Australia. Most of
these vehicles, or perhaps all, are
officially M13/40 tanks, and of
particular interest is the opened
engine compartment of the second tank. It shows the original engine and air filter arrangement with no sign of the
smaller boxy filters on top of the manifolds.
Also of interest is the location of the commander's and loader's protective periscopes on all the tanks. The commander/
gunner's (right side periscope) are located very far back on the turret roof, almost at the rear of the turret. Notice also
that the roof hatch is the twin door type and are not padded on the inside surfaces. The left half of the over-head hatch
has a small sliding plate over an opening used as a signal port (flags or flair gun). The hull side door of the first vehicle
is open and some of the inside door detail is visible (these tanks had hull doors on the left side only). It is latched from
the inside by a simple lever/key mechanism and a small hex key access hole on the outside armor allowed it to be
locked from outside. A round pistol port is also located on this door and on the vehicle's right hull side- we will see
these in closer detail later. The Germans were not impressed by the Italian M series vehicles, calling them "Rollende
Saerge", or rolling coffins, due to the lack of armor and the poor quality of the bolted plates. In their defense, the
Italians for many years had specialized in smaller tankette designs, which were better suited to the mountainous terrain
of Northern Italy where the army had assumed their battles would be fought. The flat, hot, sandy desert that greeted the
Italian tankers in North Africa was not the terrain their tanks were designed to operate on.
Picture 6:
We will start our tour of
the interior hull at the
driver's position at the left
bow. His large black
instrument panel sits up on
the sponson to his left,
with a wooden rack for
machine gun ammo
magazines just to its left in
the picture. Forward of the
instrument panel (on the
front armor plate) is a long
black control handle for
the driver's forward visor,
which is complete with a
very small vision slit
protected by a removable
bulletproof glass block
(that might be a Carro
Veloce L.3 seen through
the open visor). Most later
M13/40 tanks also
contained an over-head periscope for the driver, which hung from the hull roof in front of him to provide better and
safer viewing when the tank was closed down. If the periscope is provided in this vehicle it is not seen in this
Notice the steering levers (with their locking palm controls) on either side of the driver's seat position (the seats are
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