The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand withdrew from a number of defense alliances during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years the government has sought to address longstanding native Maori grievances. - US CIA World Factbook

Semple---The Bob Semple---Bob Semple
The Bob Semple

God bless the men in this machine! In 1940 war hysteria gripped New Zealand and an effort was made to produce a home grown tank. It was decided to armor an International Harvester* farm tractor to make use of equipment on hand. The result was an amazing "tank" called a "Bob Semple" after a politician in New Zealand. Bob was a popular, colorful, Labor politician (just like an American Democrat - only worse). Backing this wonderful idea (probably because Bob was) were the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence (who was Bob). Bob must have been impressed by the U.S. Disston "Tractor Tank" and the idea that a tank would actually be named after himself! Bob probably had visions of Semples storming the beaches and taking Berlin or Tokyo! Rube Goldberg himself could not have designed it better. Apart from being just plain ugly to the bone, the front gunner actually had to lay on a mattress on top of the engine in order to fire his weapon! The Semple had a searing top speed of 24 km/h but had to slow down or even stop in order to shift gears. The "tank" was highly unstable in movement and top heavy. The Public Works Department tried to give this "white elephant" to the army and even offered to convert their entire fleet of 81 into Semples (at a cost of only 4200 pounds sterling apiece)! The army took them, tested them, and even paraded them around the country in an effort to whip up morale. After the laughter subsided, and in an rare display of military intelligence, the army returned them (I am sure that they only needed to have knocked on Afganistan's door to find a buyer as Disston did). Only 4 units** were built before public ridicule stopped the production. The Bob Semple was armed with 4 machine guns, it was 12 feet tall had had a crew of 8 men. 8 men? I can understand 5, but 8? 5 were probably soldiers, 1 was a shop steward, another fended off the birds trying to roost, and the last took out the trash once a day and waved to the people. There is a rumor that after the war Bob took a job with Ford and helped to design the Edsel and fuel tanks for the Pinto. He later went to Yugoslavia and influenced the design of the "Yugo" but this is not confirmed. The reported weight was from 20 to 25 tons. The extreme swing in reported weight may have been design differences between all 4 units** produced or incomplete historical data. The production of this tank was not New Zealand's "finest hour".

*Janes reports that the type of tractor was an International Harvester. The book "Pictorial History Of Tanks Of The World 1915-45 by Peter Chamberlain & Chris Ellis state that the tractor was an International Harvester. Another source, "New Zealand Yesterdays" by Hamish Keith, printed in 1984 by Readers Digest Australia reports that a Caterpiller brand Cat DH-8 was used.

** Janes reports that 4 units were produced. Another source, "New Zealand Yesterdays" by Hamish Keith, printed in 1984 by Readers Digest Australia report 3.


New Zealand built local pattern carrier was based on the British Bren Gun carrier. The (later model) LPC No.2 was based on the Australian Local pattern carrier No.2 which had 3 inch wide wheels instead of the 21/2 inch wheels on the British made vehicles.

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The New Zealand pattern wheeled carrier was built on a quad chassis from Canada with plans of the (British) India pattern wheeled carrier Mk II.

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The American Staghound

A variation included a close support version which had a 3" gun in the turret.

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The Matilda Mark II (Various Types)
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The Valentine Marks 1 & 3

Some were converted to a close support version which had a 3 inch gun in the turret. All had diesel engines and sights for direct fire control. All were fitted with infantry telephone box on rear. Around 250 Valentines were delivered to NZ troops.

1943 - A M3A1 of the 3rd Auckland East Coast Mounted Rifles undergoing maintenance.---January 1943 - Departure parade in Wanganui by Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles.---NZ Stuart 1, 1943.
The American M3 Stuart, Stuart 1

In 1942-43 the New Zealand Army was supplied with 292 "Stuart" tanks. They were a hybrid, with a M3A1 turret but a M3 hull, and with the M22 37mm gun mount fitted to the M3 (the M3A1 had the M23 mount). They came with four Browning machine guns but 5 mountings, so the co-drivers sponson mount was dispensed with.

It was suggested that the "Stuart Hybrid" as it was known was either from an order to Russian requirements without gyro-stabilizers or from a production overrun of M3 hulls. Earlier hybrids had riveted hulls; later ones had semi-welded hulls.

The first 24 arrived in June 1942 - without handbooks, spares, radios and some controls. They had been ordered by the British Tank Purchasing Commission in Washington, and in July the British War Office advised that they were "unfit for combat" because of omission of turret components! There were worldwide complaints, and details of modifications done in the Middle East and Australia plus a list of modifications from America were eventually obtained. Britain supplied some kits of "modifications for M3 Tanks" in November, but suggested local provision of the missing parts. As 48 Stuarts were required for the 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific theatre, local manufacture and fitting of the missing parts had already started. But the Division got Valentines instead.

Jeffrey Ploughman in his definitive book "Armored Fighting Vehicles of New Zealand 1939-59" (1985) says that nothing could be found from local archives or U.S. sources about why New Zealand got 292 defective tanks or when the defects were found. Fortunately, they were not used in combat! New Zealand also got 89 of the M3A1 and 42 of the M3A1 scout cars in 1942-43.

Found to be too light for combat use, they were used as recce tanks without a turret. A total of 3 were converted to this configuration. Other configurations were an Armored Personnel Carrier (13 converted), a Armored Recovery Vehicle (nicknamed Rossie) (1 converted), and a 17 pounder gun tractor (? converted).

M4 Sherman - the NZ crew of this Sherman assists some NZ infantry with their German POW's.
The American M4 Sherman

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Schofield---schofield_1.jpg (62459 bytes)---Schofield
The Schofield

Named after it's designer, E.J.Schofield of General Motors Wellington. In 1940 New Zealand was in much the same situation as Australia in that they were unlikely to get any armored vehicles from the U.K.and so had to look to themselves. The only true New Zealand tank to reach prototype stage, and was based on the chassis of the GM 6 cwt truck, and suspension units from a Universal Carrier. Armor plate for the hull and turret was produced New Zealand Railways at Hull Valley Works. The turret was open topped and mounted a 2 pdr gun and co-axial Besa MG. The truck wheels shares common stub axles with the drive sprockets and idlers , and the change from wheels to tracks was affected by pivoted arms operated from the hull rear. When operating on wheels the track had minimum ground clearance and were kept clear of the ground with chains. The Schofield tank was completed in August 1940 , but production was never started. Then in mid 1943 the tank was shipped to Britain for evaluation tests, and remained in Britain until after the war were it was last seen , the exact circumstances of it's fate is unknown but was probably scrapped soon after the war.

Crew 3
Weight 11,680 lbs
Length 13' 1"
Width 8' 6.5"
Height 6' 7.5"
Engine 6cyl GMC 29.5hp
Performance 25.7mph (tracks) 45.6mph (wheels)
Armor 6-10mm
Armament 2 pounder

People who helped make this section possible

Steve Guy
Author Of
Thunder and Steel

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Katya Kuersteiner
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Last Update: Thursday, February 13, 2003