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Austrian Tanks of World War 1

The assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo was the event that ignited World War 1. The war did not go well for the Austrians. By the end of the war, the old Austro Hungarian Empire was no more, having been dismembered and broken up into its component nations.

It is a interesting to speculate whether the outcome might have been different if a prototype armored car had not scared the horses of the dignitaries assembled to watch a demononstration of an armored vehicle in 1905. The Emperor is said to have been so disgusted by the disturbance among his mounted officers that he decreed that the Austrian Army would not use armoured vehicles.

In 1911 the Austro Hungarian army had a second chance to develop a tank corp when it was approached by an inventor named Gunther Adolf Burstyn, who proposed a tank built on the chassis of a farm tractor. Bustyn called this vehicle Motorgeschütz (literally motor-gun) but history has generally referred to it as the Bustyn tank.

Bustyn Tank
Austrian Bustyn Tank From World War 1 (Mock Up - None Were Actually Built)

The Bustyn tank anticipated the successful British tank designs by several years. It had thick armor, a turret mounted gun, and made use of caterpillar treads which gave it excellent cross country maneuverability. It also featured two ingenious rails that would have allowed it to bridge trenches and anti tank ditches. Unfortunately the Austrian government refused to fund the project, though it indicated that it might consider it if Bustyn was able to produce the design himself. Lacking funds, the inventor's project never got off the ground. Instead the Austrians invested heavily in the construction of armored trains, which proved to be a technological dead end because they were naturally restricted to existing rail lines and were also vulnerable to having their tracks destroyed.

Eventually the Austrians did deploy some armored cars, the most notable being the Romfell, which featured an unusually sleek design almost like a sports car. During the war, the Austrians deployed a few armored cars in Russia and the Balkans. They also had a small armored force in northern Italy made up of a hodge podge of captured Italian armored cars as well as well a a couple of Romfells and other homegrown armored cars built on top of truck chassis. This armored force saw very little combat and was mainly kept in reserve near the flat land outside of the Italian city of Udine.

See Also: German Tanks of World War 1 | British Tanks | French Tanks |Italian Tanks | Russian Tanks