In 1937 the prototype of the Carro Armato M 11/39 tank was built, with the suspension system of the L3 tankette but with six road wheels on each side. In layout this was similar to the American M3 Lee tank, but with a 37-mm (rather than 75-mm/2.95-in) gun in the right sponson, driver on the left, and in the centre of the hull a one-man turret armed with twin 8-mm (0.315-in) machine-guns. Further development resulted in a model with eight road wheels and this basic chassis was used for all subsequent Italian medium tanks. Only 100 M l l/39s were built as it was considered that the design was already obsolete, and in 1940 70 of these were sent to North Africa where many were captured or destroyed during the first battles with the British army.
Further development resulted in the M 13/40 which had a similar chassis but a redesigned hull of riveted construction varying in thickness from 6 mm (0.24 in) to 42 mm (1.65 in). The driver was seated at the front of the hull on the left with the machine-gunner to his right; the latter operated the twin Modello 38 8-mm (0.315-in) machine-guns as well as the radios. The two-man turret was in the centre of the hull, with the commander/gunner on the right and the loader on the left, and with a two-piece hatch cover in the turret roof. Main armament comprised a 47mm 32-calibre gun with an elevation of + 20° and a depression of -10°; turret traverse was 360°. A Modello 38 8-mm (0.315-in) machine-gun was mounted co-axial with the main armament and a similar weapon was mounted on the turret roof for anti-aircraft defence. Totals of 104 rounds of 47-mm and 3,048 rounds of 8-mm (0.315-in) ammunition were carried, The engine was at the rear of the hull, its power being transmitted to the gearbox at the front of the hull via a propeller shaft. Suspension on each side consisted of four doublewheel articulated bogies mounted on two assemblies each carried on semielliptic leaf springs, with the idler at the rear; there were three track-return rollers.
The M 13/40 was built by AnsaldoFossati at the rate of about 60 to 70 vehicles per month, a total of 779 being produced. The tank was widely used in North Africa by the Italian army but was cramped, proved to be very unreliable in service and was prone to catching fire when hit by anti-tank projectiles.
Many vehicles were captured by the British army after being abandoned by their crews and subsequently issued to the British 6th Royal Tnk Regiment (RTR) and the Australian 6th Cavalry Regiment early in 1941 when tanks were in a very short supply on the Allied side, The Australian regiment had three squadrons of captured vehicles which they called Dingo, Rabbit, and Wombat. So that they were not engaged by Allied units, white kangaroos were painted on the sides, glacis and turret rear.
The Semovente Comando M 40 command vehicle was basically the M 13/40 tank with its turret removed and fitted with additional communications equipment for use in the command role. Further development of the M 13/40 resulted in the M 14/41 and M 15/42, for which there is a separate entry.
Specification Carro Armato M 13/40 Crew: 4 Weight: 14000 kg (30,865 lb) Dimensions: length 4.92 m ( 16 ft 2 in); width 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in); height 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) Performance: one SPA TM40 eight cylinder diesel engine developing 125hp(93kW) Performance: maximum road speed 32 km/h (20 mph); maximum range 200 km (125 miles); fording 1.0 m (3 ft 3 in); gradient 70 per cent; vertical obstacle 0.8 m (2 ft 8 in); trench 2. l m (6 ft 11 in)