Wikijunior:World War II/Secret Tanks and Armoured Vehicles
In this chapter you'll read about the secret tanks and other armoured vehicles that were invented by the Allies and Axis during World War II.
Maus was a German tank. It was the heaviest tank to be built in World War II, although it was never used in combat. It's name must have been a joke because it means "Mouse" in German, but it was much heavier than another tank called "Elephant"! It weighed about 180 tons, that's about the weight of 12 double-decker buses. The turret alone weighed 55 tons - as much as a King Tiger tank!
At its thickest it had 10 inch armour plate and carried two guns. The larger gun, a 128 mm (5 inch) cannon was the same size as the gun carried on warships like destroyers. The Germans had trouble finding an engine strong enough to move such a heavy tank. In the end they used the engine from an airplane. Also, because the tank was so heavy, it wouldn't have been able to use most bridges without breaking them. So, it had a snorkel that allowed it to drive underwater!
In the end the problems in making Maus work couldn't be solved before the war ended, and only two were built. They were never used in battle.
"Canal Defence Light"
The Canal Defence Light was a British secret weapon. It was a search light with a special shutter built on a tank instead of the normal turret. In use, the shutter moved really quickly, making the light flash. The idea was that the enemy couldn't tell how far away the light was and when trying to look at it they would become quite a dizzy person from the flashing. If two lights were used they created a pitch black gap between them that the enemy couldn't see into, not because they were blind, but because of the flashing lights on either side.
The British didn't use the Canal Defence Light because they didn't want to reveal its secret before they needed to. In the end it was used to protect the Ludendorff Bridge when it was captured by the US Army. The bridge was very important as it crossed the Rhine, a huge river that protects Germany from attack, and allowed the allies to advance into Germany. The Canal Defence Lights stopped a group of German frogmen who were trying to sabotage the bridge, so it proved its worth.
The Germans planned, but never built, two enormous tanks. One would have weighed 1,000 tons and the other 1,500 tons! That's more than 20 times heavier than the largest tank ever built! They were known as the Landkreuzer P 1000 and P 1500 (Landkreuzer means Land Cruiser).
The smaller tank was being designed to carry a similar turret to the ones used on German Navy cruisers, fitted with two 280 mm (11 inch) guns.
The larger tank was being designed to carry special 80 cm guns that were used for smashing up the heaviest fortifications. The guns themselves weighed 1,350 tons and could fire a shell weighing 7 tons (the weight of a bus) over 23 miles. The guns were built, but instead of a tank they were mounted on a railway carriage instead.
The P 1500 would have had 250 mm (10 inch) frontal armour and would have used either two or four submarine engines. As well as the giant gun 80 cm gun, it was to have two 15 cm guns as well.
Neither tank was built and the projects were cancelled before the end of the war.