Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Last World War I Panzer

Mephisto, Then and Now

The British Army was the first to use tanks, deploying them at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The Allied forces used tanks in even larger numbers in 1917. The potential of this new weapon was realized perhaps too late by the German Army. In late 1917 the Germans produced 20 A7V Sturmpanzerwagens, which were deployed in combat the following year. Crewed with 18 men, the cumbersome war machines clambered into action in April 1918. The German tanks were engaged in actions at such places as Villers-Bretonneux, a small French village that was recaptured by Australian soldiers at the cost of 1,200 lives. The A7Vs were involved in the first tank-versus-tank action. 

The A7V Sturmpanzerwagen known as Mephisto (shown above) was immobilized in an area close to Villers-Bretonneux called Monument Wood. In July 1918 a detachment of soldiers from the 26th Battalion, mainly comprised of Queenslanders, helped recover the abandoned tank and drag it back to the Allied lines. It was sent to Australia as a war trophy, arriving at Norman Wharf in June 1919, where it was towed by two Brisbane City Council steamrollers to the Queensland Museum, then located in Fortitude Valley. It remained at the Queensland Museum for 70 years. After a 2-year loan spell at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Mephisto is at present in the process of being returned to Brisbane.*  Mephisto remains the sole surviving A7V tank in the world.

Sources: Queensland Museum and Reader Charles Bogart

* Clarification added 2 December 2017


  1. I have to say it. That's one *big* tank.

  2. The French tank museum at Saumur has one of the largest tank collections in the world. I believe that they have one of the A7Vs.
    Tom Morgan

    1. Mephisto is the only existing A7V left. The other 21 are long gone. Bovington has a reproduction one that works. The Pender museum in Germany has a reproduction that is static. If there is one in France it would have to be a reproduction. However, there are rumors that one might be buried in a river bed in Poland (I think it's Poland).

  3. Mephisto is currently on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

    1. Thanks Gareth. I added a clarification to the article.

  4. The last A7V action took place in Iwuy (France-near Cambrai)the 11 october 1918. This action is described in the book of Lieutenant Volckeim Die deutschen kampfwagen im weltkriege – (Major Ernst Volckeim)Ernst Siegfried Mittler & Sohn (1937). 5 tanks were involved : 525 (Siegried-Leut Wagner), 540 -(Heiland Vizefeldwebel Lommen, 541 (Leutnant Schück), 560 (Alter Fritz - Leutnant Volckeim), Wotan (Leutnant Goldman).The counter attack they launched caused 700 casualities. We will commemorate the centenary battle of Iwuy in the village of Iwuy 13 october 2018.