MEPHISTO: THE CENTENARY OF A DARING First World War MISSION BY QUEENSLAND SOLDIERS TO CAPTURE THE ULTIMATE BATTLEFIELD PRIZE

17 July 2018

The story of the German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank captured and recovered by Australian troops during the defence of Villers-Bretonneux in the First World War and displayed at the Queensland Museum since 1919, has captured the imaginations of military historians, war buffs and ordinary Queenslanders for a century.

Now the last surviving tank of its kind and a significant artefact, Mephisto has been immortalised in a major book published by Queensland Museum documenting new information about the tank’s capture and recovery, dispelling some myths and revealing details previously unknown, including the confirmed identities of the troops involved in the historic mission.

Co-authored by Greg Czechura and Jeff Hopkins-Weise, Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance launching on 20 July 2018, is a handsomely illustrated reference book that looks at the development of tanks against the backdrop of the First World War and gives voice to the Australians who fought on the Western Front in France and Flanders.

“Mephisto is an incredible and valuable part of the Queensland Museum collection and holds a special place in Queenslander’s hearts. Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance is a fitting tribute to this iconic tank, telling its story and what it represents to the people of Queensland,” Queensland Museum Acting CEO Dr Jim Thompson said.

New large images of Mephisto, a comprehensive list of many early tank designs from 1900-1918 and photographs of many of the 13 men who made up the 26th Battalion recovery party are some of the features of this detailed history.

“Mephisto was seen as a unique symbol of service and sacrifice specific to 26th Battalion veterans and their families. No other AIF (Australian Imperial Force) unit ever captured one. It came to serve a similar role for other First World War veterans and families,” author Greg Czechura explains.

“It stood outside Queensland Museum in Fortitude Valley for 60 years and morphed into a Queensland Museum icon as a result. Back then, people could also touch and even climb on it – this left powerful and lasting memories as well as a sense of ownership among the veteran community and wider public.”

Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance provides a detailed account of the tank’s capture near Monument Wood, after it had lay abandoned in No Man’s Land for three months following its immobilisation on 24 April 1918.

Soldiers from the Queensland-raised 26th Battalion, part of the Australian 7th Brigade, played a major part in helping push the Allied front line past the point where Mephisto lay, leading to its carefully planned capture on the night of 22/23 July 1918.

For author Greg Czechura, the recovery itself conducted under incredibly difficult conditions is a favourite Mephisto story, topped only by “seeing a 1960s letter from a British expert on First World War tanks, when he discovered that a lone A7V actually survived the war and post-war period.

The other 19 were destroyed or scrapped! I also like the fact the Australians only captured one A7V but kept it – while the New Zealanders captured two but didn’t keep either of them.”
Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance provides detailed analysis of the tactics of trench warfare, and weapon and armoured vehicle development, narrowing in to a focus on the evolution of tank design from 1903 to the all-terrain ‘landships’ developed through the First World War in France, Great Britain, Russia, USA, Germany and Italy.

The use of tanks in some of the most famous battles of The Western Front―Flers-Courcelette, Bullecourt, Cambrai, the Michael Offensive near St Quentin, The Battles of Villers-Bretonneux, The Battle of Amiens―is covered, the book building to a crescendo with the most detailed examination of every facet of the German A7V tanks.

Peppered throughout the 11 chapters are quotes from those at The Front. Also covered in detail are the high-level advocacy of the Queensland Governor, Queensland Premier and Commander of the 26th for the tank’s dispatch to Queensland and a look at the archaeology of Mephisto, including bullet damage that is now identified as being inflicted by an Allied soldier releasing a round from a trench as the tank crossed overhead.

Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance will be launched on 20 July to coincide with the Centenary of the tank’s capture. Mephisto will be unveiled again as a centrepiece of the Queensland Museum’s new Anzac legacy gallery opening in November 2018.

In addition to 250 limited edition boxed and signed books, hard cover and soft copy versions of Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance will be available at Queensland Museum Network bookstores, online and through book retailers.

The Anzac legacy gallery is a joint initiative between the Queensland Government, Anzac Centenary Public Fund and the Queensland Museum.

BOOK DETAILS:

Full Title of the Book: Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance
On sale date: 20 July 2018
Where people can buy the book: Queensland Museum shop, online and good bookstores. Available for pre-purchase from Saturday, 30 June on the QM website shop www.shop.qm.qld.gov.au


MEDIA:

media@qm.qld.gov.au
Christine Robertson, Senior Media Officer, 0417 741 710 or Kylie Hay, Senior Media Officer, 0435 565 852

Mephisto Fast Facts:

• Mephisto is one of the best known objects in the Queensland State collection and has been the subject of significant research and conservation work.
• Mephisto is the only surviving (from 20 built) First World War German A7V “Sturmpanzerwagen” tank left in the world.
• The tank was commandeered by the 26th Battalion (made up mostly of Queenslanders) near Villers-Bretonneux in France in 1918.
• Mephisto arrived at Brisbane’s Norman Wharf in June 1919 and has been on display for almost 99 years.
• Its first location was outside the Old Museum in Bowen Hills in 1919, then in 1986 was relocated to Queensland Museum’s current site in South Brisbane. Following the 2011 floods, it was restored and moved to The Workshops Rail Museum at Ipswich. In 2016, Mephisto left Queensland for the first time and underwent additional restoration work and was on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra until being returned to The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich in June 2017.
• The new Anzac legacy gallery will allow visitors to follow Mephisto’s history based on war records, photographs, documents and the tank itself; explore the technology of the tank through 3D imagery and modelling; and reflect on people’s personal memories of Mephisto.
• The Anzac legacy gallery will open in November 2018 and will encourage Queenslanders to learn more about our military history, particularly Queensland’s role in the First World War, and pay tribute to the Queenslanders who played a role in defending our nation.


MEPHISTO SPECIFICATIONS:

• Weight: 33.4 tonnes (73,700 lbs)
• Length: 8 metres (26 ft 3in)
• Width: 3.2m (10ft 5in)
• Height: 3.3m (10ft 10in)
• Range: 40km (25 miles)
• Speed: 16 km/h (10mph) – with ‘tail wind’
• Armour: 10-30mm
• Crew: 18