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    Romfell Armoured Car

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    I didn´t realize until today how rare these photos are.   They are part of Croatian soldiers album who fought on eastern front. I think vehicle wasn´t part of their regiment and they  only took photos "Zur erinnerung am Romfell". I´ll definitely put more effort in researching his career.  Here are the photos and some information from the internet: 


    Romfell Armoured Car
    Author: P Kempf. Edited by: P Radley


    World War One was a period of modernization and experimentation, not least in the field of Armoured Fighting Vehicles. This was especially true of armoured cars, which of course were a technically much simpler vehicle than tracked tanks, to build and to tinker with. Many designs were tested and tried, some original, some real duds, others stop-gaps or obvious improvisations, intended to quickly fill the need for armoured support. Many were little more than one-offs, built by small firms looking for a contract or just experience, and (although sometimes both technically advanced and tactically viable) leaving, sadly, little trace. One of these armoured rarities of the Great War is the Austro-Hungarian Romfell Armoured Car.


    Before the war, the Austro-Hungarian Army had actually been offered several armoured fighting vehicle designs. First the Daimler armoured car, built in 1905, and tested by them, but rejected. (One of the reasons for its rejection was a failed demonstration, ending in scandal because the vehicle scared off the horses of several of the high potentates attending the demonstration, and making the old emperor Franz Joseph himself very indignant, stating emphatically to his entourage that this thing was henceforth "not to be used for military purposes".) Another rejected design was the so called Burstyn Tank, designed by K.u.K. Genie-Oberleutenant Gunther Burstyn. It was a remarkably modern design, with trench-crossing capability and a revolving turret. A working prototype was never built, but this design was also rejected by the Austro-Hungarian Army, who refused any funding, meaning that it was never developed further. (What efforts that went into armoured vehicles were instead invested into Armoured Trains, a decision not impossible to understand, as it was a concept that had already been tested technically, and that also made tactical sense, considering the wide fronts that the Austro-Hungarian Army was facing.)

    These decisions proved themselves sadly wrong pretty much as soon as the war started. The Austro-Hungarian Army's main opponent, Russia, was most willing to develop and use armoured cars. And soon the Austro-Hungarian Army would also face the Italians, whose Army also used armoured cars. As a consequence, in 1915 two Austro-Hungarian armoured car designs saw the light of day. The first was the relatively un-sophisticated Junovicz, which was essentially a standard automobile chassis given a slab-sided, box-like armoured body, sporting five crew members and two Schwarzlose M07/12 HMG's. The second was the sleek and sophisticated-looking Romfell.


    The persons behind the Romfell were two low-ranking Army officers, a Hauptmann and Engineer Romanic and a Oberleutenant Fellner - their names of course combined in the name of the vehicle. They too used an already existing commercial vehicle chassis as the base. As to what chassis was used, there are conflicting accounts. The now deceased Peter Jung, who has done almost all the research that there is on the Romfell, actually left two different versions behind. The first was that the first Romfell was built using a Mercedes Motorcar (Personenkraftwagen), with the registration "A VI 865", and having a 95hp motor with chain-transmission, . The second that the chassis used was a M09 Samson Seilwindenwagen with a 4-cylinder 75hp motor. The first alternative looks the most likely, technically speaking. That very first Romfell was built during the summer of 1915 in Budapest, and should actually be viewed as a Hungarian initiative. The actual building was done in, and by, the Army's Automobil Ersatzdepot in Budapest, also using resources of private firms when necessary. The vehicle was finished in the final weeks of August 1915.


    It was a remarkably modern and even elegant design, with curved sides. It sported a low turret with all-round traverse, four-wheel drive and solid rubber tyres. The armament was one Schwarzlose M07/12 HMG, with an ammo supply of 3000 rounds. The Schwarzlose was primarily intended for land targets, but could be elevated very freely as well, giving the vehicle some Anti-Aircraft capability. The range of the Romfell was between 100 and 150km. The max speed 26km/h. Another modern feature was that it had a wireless, in form of a morse telegraph from the firm of Siemens & Halske. The armour was 6mm thick, and the overall weight of the Romfell was around 3 tons. It was 5.67m long, 2.48m high and 1.8m wide.

    Only one was built in 1915. Of the first Romfell's operational history almost nothing is known, except that it could have been used in both the Balkans and in Russia. The only certain sighting of the first Romfell is on the Italian front in 1918, where it was a part of K.u.K. Panzerautozug No.1, a unit that consisted of this one Romfell, two Junovicz, one ex-Italian Lanzia IZ and one ex-Russian first-series Austin. The unit was based in the vicinity of Udine, in the mid-sections of the Italian Front.


    Another Romfell was built in late 1917, or perhaps 1918. It obviously used another chassis: according to Jung, a M09 Goliath with a 6-cylinder 90hp motor. Again according to Jung, one or even both were rebuilt using captured 2-ton Fiat chassis - it is possible that these Fiat chassis were the basis for even more Romfells that could have been under construction when the war ended. Anyway, these rebuilds suggest a probable problem with the Romfell: that it was a bit too heavy, making it either a bit too slow, or reducing its use beyond good roads. (Notice that there is some confusion as to the actual performance of the first vehicle. One source states that the first Romfell weighed no less than 7 tons, which of course is too heavy for such a vehicle.)








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    10 hours ago, wraith42 said:

    Very nice and rare photos indeed. I have seen the first on in a printed book, maybe a copied photo shared between the officers. The second one is unknown to me. As far as I know the armored car unit (Romfell with captured italian and russian cars) was directly under the command of the 7th army.

    According to a well researched hungarian book, there were only one Romfell. When the first chassis was unusable the superstructure was transported to an other chassis.

    I don´t know really. Maybe it really is copied photo.  It can be clearly seen that both photos were taken on same occasion.  Maybe first one was shared more than second one.  I will try to determine soldiers career path because I have personal information.
    He was well known pastry chef in his town.  Unfortunately, album is in really bad shape and most photos don´´t have any info written.  Maybe something is written on their backsides. but they are glued heavily and it is difficult to read it without damaging them. I´ll try definitely.

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