The German WWI LK II light tank
The German Army developed the LK II light tanks near the end of WW1 in order to enable their forces to take advantage of any breakthrough in the Allied line of trenches. They were called Leichte Kampfwagen LK II and had a top speed which was double that of the German Sturmpanzervagen A7V heavy tank or the British Mark V tanks. Unfortunately for the Germans, the war ended before the LK IIs could be used in action. Under the terms of the peace treaty, they had to get rid of them.
In 1918, the Swedish Military attaché in Berlin was shown a British Mark IV heavy tank knocked out by the Germans. He submitted a report which helped start the search for suitable tanks to equip the Swedish Army. The big British tanks were not suitable for the Swedish terrain. Inquiries were made to see if they could purchase the British Whippet Mark A calvary tank but the per tank cost was too high, so an alternative was sought.
German LK I light tank prototype from 1918 armed with a 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine gun. Maximum road speed 11 mph (18 km/h).
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The German cavalry tank LK I, devised in mid-1918 by Joseph Vollmer, was based on a Daimler car chassis and never left the prototype stage. The engine was mounted at the front of the tank with the driving and fighting compartment constructed behind it. It was followed by a more powerful LK II. Initially, the Leichte Kampfwagen LK II was going to be armed with a 57 mm (2.24 in) cannon in the 360° turret and a 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine gun in the hull. The gun was tested in the turret on 29th August 1918, but it was found to be too powerful and deemed unfit for installation in a light tank. It had a strong destructive effect on the LK II tank’s riveted armored chassis. For this reason, the 57 mm (2.24 in) cannon was rejected and replaced with a smaller 37 mm (1.46 in) Krupp gun. (The Swedish tanks did not have a hull-mounted machine gun. Their m/21 only had a 6.5 mm/0.25 in machine gun in the turret.)
The suspension consisted of multiple small un-sprung roadwheels and the whole running gear was protected by armored skirts, with integrated mud chutes. Like the original, the armor thickness ranged from 4 mm to 14 mm (0.16-0.55 in), but assembly was by riveting.
Although two prototypes were finished in June 1918 and a series of 580 was ordered, the war ended before any became operational. Only 10 were built by the end of the war. Later, by virtue of the Versailles treaty, Germany was forbidden from developing tanks in any form.
Swedish Strv m/21 tank No.10 crossing a bridge whilst on exercise.
The first Swedish tank m/21
Sweden purchased their first tanks from Germany in 1921. They were ten LK II light tanks for the cost of 200,000 Swedish Kronor. Under the articles of the Versailles Peace Treaty Germany was forbidden from owning any tanks. In the autumn of 1921, they were shipped to Sweden in secrecy, described as agricultural tractor parts and sheet metal boiler plates.
The tanks were re-assembled at the Naval shipyards in Stockholm. A royal letter dated in August 1922 records the granting of funding for the establishment of the Svea Livgarde (Swedish Life Guards) Panzervagnarna armored vehicle unit in Stockholm.
The interior of a Swedish m/21 tank
At first, the newly arrived LK II German tanks were given the name Pansarvagn försöksmodell/1922. It was then changed to Swedish Army designation fm/22. The letter ‘f’ signified that the vehicle was under test and the number 22 represented the year of the tests 1922. This was later changed to Stridsvagn m/21 (Strv m/21). The letter ‘m’ indicated that the vehicle was now operational and the number 21, 1921 the year it was reconstructed in Sweden.
In August 1922, the Swedish armored unit of the Lifeguards started military trials with their new tanks. They even had the use of one French Renault FT tank, but it was in such a bad condition that it was eventually used as an artillery target. The Strv m/21 tanks were at first painted army gray on the inside and out.
Camouflage paint schemes were added later. White wash was painted over the main body during the snowy conditions of winter. The engine was started using a hand crank but if near the enemy the engine could be started from within the safety of the armored fighting compartment.
Stridsvagn m/21 on exercises in Sweden
When the tanks were first reassembled in 1922, they were placed in storage after a few basic mechanical tests. It was not until August 1923 that they saw their first major test under battlefield conditions. Five Strv m/21 tanks were transported across country to Skåne, where they took part in a large military exercise in support of an infantry attack. They performed well.
The m/21 tanks were regularly used in military exercises between 1923 and 1927. Through constant use, some of the tanks suffered mechanical breakdowns. The big problem for the Swedish Army was that there were no German factories producing spare parts. This was illegal under the peace treaty. The Swedish Army mechanics started to strip parts from five of the tanks so that they could have five tanks available for action.
This situation continued until 1927, when a company was eventually found that could produce the necessary spare parts. Part of the solution was to change the engine and transmission fitted in the tank from a German one to a Swedish engine.
Swedish Stridsvagen m/21 tank painted in winter camouflage livery
The Stridsvagn m/21-29 upgrade
Five of the ten tanks received an upgrade. They easiest way to identify a m/21 from a m/21-29 is to look at the front of the tank. The new m/21-29 was fitted with headlights in the front of the tank, which had armor plates covers that could be swung into place.
To ease maintenance problems, they were equipped with a new Swedish Scannia-Vabis 1544 85 hp engine, a new exhaust system and gearbox. It now weighed 9.7 tons and had a maximum road speed of 18 km/h (2 km faster than the original m/21). It was originally armed with a 6.5 mm (0.25 in) machine gun. This was replaced with a 37 mm (1.46 in) Škoda infantry gun L/27.
Its armor piercing AP shells weighed 0.825 kg, had a muzzle velocity of 460 m/s and could penetrate 22 mm (0.87 in) of vertical armor at 500 m (550 yd). The high explosive HE shells weighed 0.825 kg. The position of the exhaust was moved to the side of the left door and there was now an electrical starter button for the engine inside the tank.
These five vehicles were designated m/21-29. They were not all upgraded at the same time. Two were completed in 1930 and the other three received their upgrade between 1931 and 1934.
There are three of these upgraded vehicles remaining. One was shipped to the German Tank Museum in Munster in 1938 and is still on public display. The Arsenalen Tank Museum in Sweden owns two Strv m/21-29 tanks and is in the process of restoring them to a working condition. They also have an original Strv m/21.
The Strv m/21 and Strv m/21-29 were withdrawn from the Swedish Army service in 1938, when they were replaced by the Czech CKD AH-IV tankette which was given the name Swedish Strv m/37.
You can identify a upgraded Swedish m/21-29 tank from the original m/21 by the addition of covered headlights.
Strv m/21 specifications
|Dimensions (L-w-h)||5.70 x 2.05 x 2.52 m (19 ft x 6.7 ft x 8.3 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||9.7 short tons (19,400 lbs)|
|Crew||2 (commander/gunner, driver)|
|Propulsion||Daimler-Benz 1910 in-line 4-cylinder gasoline, 55 hp|
|m/21 Top speed||16 km/h (10 mph)|
|m/21-29 Top speed||18 km/h (11 mph)|
|m/21 Armament||Ksp m/14 6.5 mm (0.26 in) light machine-gun|
|m/21-29 Armament||37 mm (1.46 in) Škoda Infantry gun L/27|
|Armor||From 4 to 14 mm (0.16-0.55 in)|
Swedish Army Stridsvagn m/21 light tank
Swedish Army Stridsvagn m/21-29 light tank armed with a 6.5 mm (0.25 in) machine gun.
The Stridsvagn m/21-29 in the 1930s, armed with a 37 mm (1.46 in) L/27 Škoda infantry gun
Stridsvagen m/21 tank No.10 of the Svea Livgarde (Swedish Life Guards) Panzervagnarna armoured vehicle unit.
Rear view of the crew hatch on the Stridsvagn m/21 whilst on exercise in Sweden.
Early photograph of a Swedish Stridsvagen m/21 tank painted grey. It was No.9. Notice the original exhaust pipe position.
Notice the repositioned exhaust silencer on this upgraded m/21-29 Swedish light tank.
The only 1918 original Swedish m/21 LKII tank can be found at the Arsenalen Tank Museum near Stockholm, Sweden.
Side view of a preserved Swedish m/21-29 tank at the Arsenalen Tank Museum near Stockholm, Sweden.
Swedish Army 1918 German built LK II light tank Stridsvagn m/21-29 at the Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster, Germany.
Video of the Stridsvagn m/21-29
What happened to the Swedish Tanks?
It is known where all the LKII tanks sent to Sweden went, except for one. The information has been found in the War Archive documents by members of the Swedish Armour Historical Association.
Four tanks have been saved, five were used as targets on different ranges during the early 1940’s and totally destroyed. One tank is supposed to have been send to Germany in 1938, but there is no evidence that it actually went there, so we cannot tell for sure it actually happened, but it probably did.
Out of the remaining four tanks three are at the Swedish Tank Museum. One is complete with original Benz engine and on display, another is restored to a running condition with a Scania engine, and there is a third empty hull waiting to be put together again. The fourth is the LKII tank on display in the German Tank Museum in Munster. It was sent there in 1993 as a gift/loan/swap.
The story of the empty hull awaiting restoration is was that the tank was pulled out on to the sea ice during the winter 1940 and used as target. Then it was left to sink when the ice melted. But when we found pictures some years ago it is clear that the tank was standing on the shore not on the ice. In 2003 we went out there to try to find the location, and by pure luck we found the remains just under the surface.
But without proper equipment we had to invent a way to pull the remains out of the water. It looks like that the upper structure has been cut off and parts of the under carriage just left there. We do not know when this was done. The divers found a lot of ammunition on the seabed, but not much of the tank. Visibility was approximately 3 inches and the seabed is very steep, from the shore down to more than 20 meters.
The costal range was used by the local Tank Regiment during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. When the guns became bigger, ricochets found its way over the island and landed on the next island which was not too popular among the people living there so they had to stop using the range.
Director of the Arsenalen Swedish Tank Museum