Sd Kfz 2/2 Kleines Kettenkraftrad (E1952.37)
The German commitment to military mechanisation is well illustrated in this highly specialised vehicle. It was designed by NSU in 1939 and was intended to operate with paratroops as a light, airportable tractor for supply trailers or small guns. They were first noted by the Allies during the invasion of Crete in1941.
The Kettenkrad is, in fact, a small tracked vehicle with a pilot wheel rather than a motorcycle and it can actually operate without the front wheel. Turning the handlebars activates steering brakes on the tracks. It is also a very sophisticated machine, with roller bearing, rubber padded tracks; expensive to manufacture and difficult to maintain. It is altogether too complicated for military use.
With the demise of airborne operations Kettenkrads were used as communications vehicles, mostly on the Russian front where wheeled vehicles were severely handicapped. The Kettenkrad is powered by an Opel Olympia engine with a three speed and two ratio transmission.
Our exhibit is believed to be the one photographed in Tunisia in front of our Tiger I (E1951.23) at which time the name 'Baby Kate' was painted on the side. At some time, after this vehicle joined the collection, it seems to have been butchered by the removal of some parts, notably the handrails at the rear, but no explanation of this is recorded.
Precise Name: Kleines Kettenkraftrad
Other Name: SdKfz 2/2, HK 101, Versuchs Kfz 620
This fascinating vehicle looks like the offspring of a union between a large motor cycle and a half-track! It is really a small tracked vehicle that has a front pilot wheel; it can operate quite well without the front wheel. It was designed by NSU in 1939 as a lightweight air-portable tractor for use by Germany’s airborne forces, intended to tow supply trailers and small guns. The configuration is unique, quite unlike anything produced by the other combatants in World War II.
The ‘kettenkrad’ was a highly sophisticated design that was in many ways too complex for military use. Powered by a 1.5 litre Opel Olympia petrol engine the tracks were driven through a gearbox with two ranges and three forwards and two reverse gears. It was quite speedy and could reach up to 80kph on roads. Turning the handlebars activates steering brakes on the tracks that steer the vehicle in the same way as a tank. The tracks have rubber pads and roller bearings; they were expensive to manufacture and difficult to maintain under operational conditions. The main wheels are arranged to overlap so as to spread the vehicle’s weight over the tracks, just like the larger German half-tracks. Although this works well they tended to become clogged with mud or ice while repairs to any of the inner wheels required the removal of at least one of the outer wheels.
‘Kettenkrads’ were first used operationally by German paratroops during the invasion of Crete in May 1941. The German airborne forces sustained severe casualties during this operation and were never used again in the airborne role. However they gained a formidable reputation as infantry.
Subsequently ‘kettenkrads’ were widely employed for communications and in many other specialised roles, especially on the Eastern Front where the poor roads and deep mud and snow severely handicapped wheeled vehicles. They were used, for example, as weapons carriers, cable layers, for reconnaissance and as tractors for light guns and trailers. They proved to be so useful that the kleines kettenkradftrad remained in production until 1944.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0