Of all the endeavours of the Russian Empire, few can match the history of the 'Black Elephant' in their folly or queerness.
Her history began in those difficult days that were the late 1870's. With the Great Game in full swing, the Bear looked in all directions for something to overcome the Lion's advantageous position. More-so than any other departure, they turned to recent advances in the science of warfare in an effort to level the playing field.
In complete secrecy, dozens of projects were commenced, of which only a handful come to fruition. Among these was the 'Black Elephant'; a self-propelled gun carriage.
Powered by a compact double-expansion engine and running a pair of 'endless tracks' she was able to travel at up to five miles-per-hour without assistance, and without need for a railway or even a paved road.
Her armament consisted of a 6” breech-loading naval rifle with enough shells and charges stowed aboard for it to be fired a dozen times. This was housed within an ironclad shell of a thickness quite able to protect the crew from all manners of musketry, as well as the fragments of explosive shells.
Furthermore, for protection against roving cavalry and sappers the machine was armed with a Gorlov machine-gun, housed within a rotating turret of the kind seen on a warship.
By design, the 'Black Elephant' was a machine that represented the very state-of-the-art of warlike science in its time. A prototype was construed and underwent extensive clandestine trials in the autumn of 1879. And by the end of these the machine had left a greatly positive impression, winning a her designers a contract for the construction of fourteen additional armoured gun carriages, for a total of fifteen machines.
Despite substantial delays, construction was completed by early 1882. Twelve of the machines were deployed in defence of major cities and military installations in Russia's western provinces; but a far more devious plan was hatched for final three.
Continue to Part 2... (Coming Soon)
The Lead Tally - 2014
Acquired: +55 Painted: +23 Total: -32