From this Summer, the Australian War Memorial (AWM) has on display two new rare  light tanks or tankettes of the Imperial Japanese Army and of the Italian Royal Army. The first of them is a Italian tankette, type Carro Veloce L.3/33, that was captured in North Africa between 1940 and 1941 by British and Commonwealth troops, where it would have been used for reconnaissance work and towing cargo. After its capture, the Carro Veloce was taken to England where it was examined before being sent to Canada in 1959. The second of them is a Japanese light tank or tankette, type 95 Ha-go, that was captured in 1942, when Japanese Army used them against Australian forces at Milne Bay in the Territory of Papua. The fighting at Milne Bay lasted just over a week and proved to be a victory for the Allies. At the end of the conflict, the tanks were abandoned and Australian troops were able to seize them; according ABC News reports.


The type 95 Ha-go, so-called "tankette", is one of two identical Japanese infantry weapons, each of which carried a crew of four and weighed more than seven tonnes. According to World War II historian at the AWM Dr Karl James, "the tankettes were made to be used on uneven terrain"; "they were designed to fight in Japan or China where the conditions were poor and the roads were mountainous"; and "they contained inbuilt guns and provided a lot of mobile fire support". "The tanks were a formidable force against Australian soldiers"; and "in the conditions of Papua, in the mud and in the rain, when you have this behemoth come out of the dark and light up your position and engage you with guns and machine gun rounds ... it was a terrifying time," he said. "From a military intelligence point of view, taking the tankette was really important"; and "by capturing an example of Japanese technology, the Australians were able to figure out what type of weapons would penetrate the armour," he said.  

The Carro Veloce L.3/33 was developed in 1933, the Italian army used the tankette during campaigns in Ethiopia, Spain, North and East Africa, Albania and Greece prior to and during the early parts of World War II. The two-man tankette features a Fiat four-cylinder, 2.7-litre petrol engine and weighs about three tonnes, with it's small size leaving it well suited to reconnaissance work. According to Senior curator at the AWM Shane Casey "about 2,000 of the machines were made, although artefacts from the Italian campaign were scarce in the memorial's collection"; and "we don't have terribly much from the Italian Army even though the Australian Army fought against them quite heavily in the African campaigns". "It's very, very low, about 4.5 feet high"; and "according to the British when they did their investigation of it during the war it gave a very rough ride," He said. "The driver would sit on the right hand side and the gunner on the left"; and "it was mounted with two machine guns," he said.


Elise Fantin and Ruby Cornish -

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