Vilkata wrote: Basically, Burstyn said he wanted his vehicle to be able to do "This, this, and this!", and that it should look like "This!", and that was it. Lancelot DeMole, in comparison, actually worked out how his vehicle could be built and how it could be steered, in addition to the general shape and dimensions of it.
You've hit the nail on the head there. In my opinion, Burstyn's design is overrated, and was not the missed opportunity wonder weapon some would have us believe. Don't get me wrong - I do not deny his brilliance and ingenuity in coming up with such an innovative concept. I do not deny that the design could have formed the basis for far more effective later vehicles, had it been built and tested. It might have had an influence out of all proportion to its intrinsic effectiveness and thus been hugely important. However, judging the design purely on its own merits, for that is all we can do, I do not believe it would have been terribly successful without modification.
The main reason, I believe, that it is so highly regarded is because, apart from the strange arms and date of design, it looks like a tank should look - that is, it has low slung tracks, a suspension, and a rotating turret with gun. By contrast, the British tanks are always regarded as curiosities, dead-ends because they don't look like a tank should look (and let's not forget that Little Willie was designed with a turret, which was deleted for reasons of stability). But the British tanks were designed that way, as we all know, for the conditions of the Western Front. All-around tracks to cope with wide trenches, shell craters and obstacles. Those high profile tracks, in turn, dictated the side sponsons, to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. Fitting a turret to them would have been folly.
Burstyn's tank is too small to cope with trenches. It's less than half the length of the British tanks. And as for those arms... Very ingenious, in an over-complicated inventor's way, but totally impracticable. A nasty slip to the side and one or more would probably twist off. Barbed wire would get tangled in them. If any were powered, how would the transmission to the rear wheels cope if the arms bent? No, far too complex and vulnerable.
Mind you, take the arms off and you would probably actually have quite a decent light tank, after the fashion of the Renault FT-17. If it could have been mass-produced like the FT-17 then I'd be more impressed.
Then there's the question of the tracks. One of the main factors behind the success of the British tanks was that Trittion and Wilson designed a very simple, durable, effective track. That factor cannot be over-emphasised. It doesn't matter how great your tank design is, if the tracks keep falling off or breaking then the whole thing is useless, and there's no indication that Burstyn resolved that.
Now, people will probably say, 'Ah, but, he never got any support. Who knows how it might have been developed had it been built?' I accept that, but it wasn't built, and it wasn't developed - we can only assess it on its own terms. As it is, it's one of those brilliantly prescient concepts, but as a working design it leaves much to be desired.
Ah, I stand corrected! I didn't realise that the arms-with-wheels were separate from another, unspecified, set of powered roadwheels! However, that just amplifies my point - talk about over-complicating something! As you say, gimmicky (but original, and ahead of his time - great ideas man, Burstyn - even if he anticipated things that were later tried and rejected anyway!).
The more I ponder it, the more I feel that he should have concentrated on developing good tracks, ditched the arms, and produced an advanced light tank, a la Renault FT-17, which it had the potential to be.
I think you're spot on re the tracks. (BTW congrats on the Elephant article). Its worth pointing out that deMole not only came up with a practical solution (as one might expect from a mining engineer) but one that actually anticipated post WW1 developments (in the form of steering by bowing the tracks) and 'proved' the concept by building a working model.
Burstyn's concept rather reminds me of a particular 1930's camera (designed by a Brit, made in Switzerland) that tried to incorporate everything in as small a body as possible (interchageable lenses, exposure meter, range finder, multiple film size options, filters etc etc). The result was a very advanced camera that almost nobody bought because it was so complex (by the time all the right combinations had been chosen and set the subject had either moved to another continent or died of old age) and spent much of its time in the repair shop because something had gone clonk or needed adjusting again. (Its a collectors item today but not to use). Burstyn seems to have thought of everything except practicality. I suspect that if built his tank would have failed the test imposed by a certain REME birgadier I once worked with "is it soldier proof?" Ie can it be used by harrassed soldiers in the field, under the rush of combat conditions without them breaking it or setting something wrong?
Vilkata wrote: It is a testament to the British WWI tanks, that seldom do you hear of them shedding tracks under non-combat situations. Even in combat the only time you see them without tracks is if they've been blown off.
Centurion wrote: Unfortunately
Oops...! Well, there's always one! On the whole, however, the British tracks tended not to come off (exceptions granted! ), owing to the way the track links had flanges which engaged with rails on the inside faces of the track frames (which precluded a sprung suspension). Anyway, that's another story...
You've both made very good points about De Mole's design - I especially like the story about the camera, Centurion (BTW, glad you liked the FE article)! Your point about De Mole's engineering background is especially germane, I feel. He certainly seems to have appreciated the need to make his design 'soldier-proof'; it's not over-complicated.
I don't know the exact details of the construction of De Mole's tracks, but to judge from the model, they were pretty substantial and look pretty robust. If you look at the photos of the model Centurion posted, you'll see that the links are very thick, and all the road wheels and upper wheels have wide flanges which cover the links, serving to stop them sliding off.
The more I ponder it, of all the pre-war 'proto-tank' designs and schemes (and, in fact, of all the designs pre-Tritton/Wilson), De Mole's was the most practicable. Okay, so he made no indication as to armament or engine. But, the machine was to have been large - longer than a Mark VIII - so fitting guns would have been no problem. In many ways it was superior to the tanks that were built, something appreciated, IIRC, by the Commission on Awards in 1919/20. It was crtainly superior to Macfie's design, rather making a mockery of Macfie's strenuous efforts to portray himself as the thwarted inventor of the tank...
Vilkata wrote: Anyone ever come across a correct full translation of Burstyns patents or anything of the sort? ---Vil.
'Mr Mr Diplock,' he said; 'and he called them Pedrails. . . . Fancy meeting them here!'"From HG Wells The land Ironclads...see link below for model and storyhttp://www.currell.net/models/ironclad.htmhttp://www.zeitcom.com/majgen/60w-1_landironclads.htmlCheers
The more you know, the more you know you don't know... until eventually you discover you know so little about what you'd like too know, that you know practically nothing at all