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Post Info TOPIC: A Bit More on the Land Cruiser/Alligator


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A Bit More on the Land Cruiser/Alligator

Came across a bit more about this:


From Motor Boating magazine, July 1912:

"Norman Leeds, treasurer and general manager of the Automatic Machine Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is making an extended trip through Europe in the interests of Automatic marine engines. Mr. Leeds will visit the company's agencies in France, Spain, and Norway."

And from Robert Icks:

"Norman Leeds of the Automatic Machine Company of Hartford, Connecticut built two mock-up hulls on the chassis of the firm’s commercial ‘Alligator’ vehicle, calling them the ‘Automatic Land Cruiser I. and II."

If that's correct, then the drawings aren't just artist's impressions but of something that actually existed. I haven't found any more about the Alligator.


"Sometimes things that are not true are included in Wikipedia. While at first glance that may appear like a very great problem for Wikipedia, in reality is it not. In fact, it's a good thing." - Wikipedia.


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And there's more. This is rather illuminating.

From the Harrisburg Telegraph, Tues, Nov 7, 1916. Seemingly reprinted from something called "The Iron Age." The "etchings" and other illustrations aren't reproduced.

Automatic Land Cruiser Was Developed by American Purely in an Effort to Sell Engines.

An idea of the immense size, interior arrangement and ornament of the new British tanks may be gleaned from the above etching.  They are 23 feet long, carry at least seven machine guns, and have created fearful havoc among the Germans. "It is now generally admitted that the armored tractor which met with such wonderful success in the great battles on the Somme front is originally an American inventoion. It is true, as David Lloyd George says, that the machines were built by the munitions department and that Colonel Winston Spencer Churchill urged their adoption at an early stage of the war, but the idea came from the United States. Designs of the death-dealing machines were submitted to the war office more than a year ago, but Great Britain declined to finance their manufacture unless the tractors were made in England. This was finally agreed to. The man who brought the designs (to) Great Britain declines to permit the use of his name, declaring that for business reasons he does not desire to dim the glory of those credited with their introduction. He says he has designs for a tractor which probably will be even more effective."

To understand how America furnished the inspiration for the building of these effective offensive weapons for the modern trench warfare it is necessary to go back to the early summer of 1915 to the offices of the Automatic Machine Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. This company has for years supplied many of the heavy duty gasoline engines used in the large tractors built in this country and was familiar with the conditions under which tractors were working in the Oregon forests, the Louisiana lowlands, and the streets of our large cities. Norman Leeds, treasurer of the company, realizing that the trench fighting of the present day had made a practical deadlock of offensive and defensive, conceived the idea that an armored tractor of the "alligator" type would make it possible to cross trenches, enfilading them, and that with sufficient power neither wire entanglements nor shell-pitted ground nor ruined walls nor any of the debris of the battlefield would offer any serious obstacle to this leviathan armadillo.

Tractors of the alligator type, 24 feet between driving wheel centers, were already in use in Oregon. With the huge power and stability of these machines, it would be easily possible to cover them with armor to withstand the fire of 3-inch guns, and a comparatively small crew would be as effective as many hundreds of unprotected men. Mr. Leeds proposed that at least a thousand such machines should be built for use in a mass formation. The front line "cruisers" would be used to conquer the territory over which they traveled; the rear, meantime, would be producing a curtain of fire beyond them to protect the front line while engaged in their work of reducing the fortified lines of the enemy. It was but the work of a few days to make a preliminary sketch of the "automatic land cruiser", as he called the creation which appeared in considerable detail upon his drafting board. July 9, 1915. At this point Mr. Leeds called in Alec McNab of the McNab Company, Bridgeport, manufacturer of marine appliances and an inventor of note, much of whose work has been connected with various phases of warfare. Mr. McNab is a retired engineer-commander of the Royal Navy and at once became greatly interested in the development of the project. After a few days of joint effort, the revised sketch here shown was produced on July 14, 1915. It is this last plan which was submitted to the British War Office. From this point let us carry along the story in the terse language of Mr. McNab, who, in a signed statement, gives these facts:

"I sailed from New York on the steamer St. Paul on July 17, 1915, arriving at Liverpool on July 25. On Tuesday, July 27, 1915, I went to the War Office and saw Colonel Holden, Chief of the Army Service Corps, in which I went thoroughly into the matter and explained the apparatus to him. He, however, told me that this was not pertaining to his department. On Sunday, August 5, 1915, I left for Paris, arriving there same evening. On August 17, I formally presented the blueprints of the caterpillar tractor to the officers at the French War Office. Much more interest was shown than had been accorded through Colonel Holden at the British War Office. On Friday, August 20, I left Paris for London. However, previously I cabled Mr. Leeds of the Automatic Machine Company, stating hat if he cared to cable over necessary expenses, I had every reason to believe that a good order would be forthcoming through the French War Office for automatic engines to be installed on these tractors. On Monday, August 23, I saw General E.W. Moir, comptroller of munitions inventions at Whitehall, London, informing him that I had left a blueprint of the caterpillar tractor with full particulars with Colonel Holden of the A.S.C. British War Office, prior to my departure for Paris. General Moir was so interested by my verbal explanation that he immediately sent me to Colonel Holden with a letter stating that he was to obtain these blueprints at once. On returning these blueprints, as per General Moir's instructions, and on thoroughly going over the matter with him, he stated that I should hear further regarding developments in the course of a few days.

On Wednesday, August 25, I received a letter from the Amored Car Division at Pall Mall, asking me to attend a meeting of officers who were gong to confer in regard to the caterpillar tractor. I attended this meeting as requested, which extended for several hours, and was advised that the matter would be taken up further with me in "due course." At that time I also advised them that, should I not be in the country, to communicate with Norman Leeds at the Automatic Machine Company, Bridgeport, Conn. Nothing further was done; therefore this report is at an end. However, I am firmly of the opinion that the recent advance on the Somme has been entirely due to this very caterpillar tractor.

On my second return to Paris, on Tuesday January 11th, 1916, I was fortunate to meet my personal friend, Monsieur Corcas, secretary to M. Albert Thomas, Minister of War. Mr. Corcas was very much perturbed that I should have left Paris in August of last year very suddenly, as it seems that the Minister of War and other high officials were so very interested in the caterpillar tractor as submitted that they desired a further conference with me, but were unable to accomplish this, owing to my departure."

In the sketch as carried over the seas by Mr. McNab, Mr. Leeds had no thought of presenting a finished product. The question of proper armament and its disposition was one to be settled by men expert in modern ordnance, not by an American engine builder. What the American wanted was to sell engines, and at one time in the negotiations, according to Mr. McNab's statement, and more particularly found in correspondence and cablegrams which are in the file containing the full record of the negotiations, the prospects for an engine contract were bright. The land cruiser as submitted to the War Office was sketched in about the smallest dimensions which would be effective; there were no mechanical obstacles to be overcome in the building of much larger machines. The length overall is 23 feet  6 inches; the width, 10 feet; the height 11 feet. The distance between centers of drive wheels is 16 feet. The alligator type of drive was selected in place of the more common caterpillar type because of the greater bearing surface which would enable it  to cross trenches of about 8 feet in width and would give it more stability and tractive surface on badly broken ground and because it would have no exposed front wheels to become caught or shot away. The weights are equalized throughout the apparatus as far as possible. The engine is placed a little aft of the center to compensate for the front or fighting end with its heavier weight of armament and ammunition. Time will tell how much has been borrowed from these sketches in the building of the "tanks," as Tommy Atkins terms them.

That's it.




"Sometimes things that are not true are included in Wikipedia. While at first glance that may appear like a very great problem for Wikipedia, in reality is it not. In fact, it's a good thing." - Wikipedia.

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