Praying Mantis (E1951.47)
Praying Mantis was designed by Mr E J Tapp of County Commercial Cars and the original patent dates from 1937. Two prototypes were built of which this is the second. The idea was to create a low profile weapon carrier which could take advantage of natural cover but raise itself up, as necessary, to shoot over walls or other obstacles.
Praying Mantis was based upon the engine and tracks of a Universal Carrier but the crew were expected to lie, face down, inside the armoured body which was elevated by hydraulic controls. The vehicle could be driven with the box at any angle although the approved position was with the box raised slightly. The gunner lay to the left of the driver and operated the twin Bren guns in the rotating 'helmet' above his head. This box also contained a small grapnel.
In practice it was extremely difficult to operate. The driving controls were not at all positive and the whole thing bounced so much it could make the crew seasick. The project was abandoned in 1944 and is now regarded as something of a joke. Even so Tapp's idea of a weapon system that could elevate in this way is now commonly employed in guided weapon vehicles.
Maximum elevation 11.5ft (3.48m). Vehicle coul dbe manoeuvred into a concealed position. The control chamber raised and the MGs fired without disclosing its position. Only experimental vehicles were produced.
Precise Name: Praying Mantis
The Praying Mantis was the brainchild of Mr E.J. Tapp who took out a patent in 1937. Mr Tapp’s idea was to create a low profile weapons carrier that could take advantage of hedges and low walls to hide but then raise itself up to shoot over them while remaining concealed.
Two prototypes were built. The first had a one-man crew. This was demonstrated to the War Office shortly after the outbreak of World War II. It was rejected because it was considered that a one man operated vehicle asked too much of its single crewman.
Mr Tapp was then allowed to build a second prototype with a two-man crew. This appeared in 1943 and was based on the engine, suspension and tracks of a Universal Carrier (see E1981.25). The crew of two lay face down inside an armoured body that could be elevated to a maximum height of 11.5 feet by hydraulic controls. The gunner, to the left of the driver, operated twin Bren light machine guns in a swivelling mounting above his head. This mounting also contained a small grapnel. The vehicle could be driven with the movable body at any position between nearly horizontal and nearly vertical. When the armoured body was lowered the vehicle could move around using low bushes and even tall crops for cover. The armoured body could then be raised until it had a clear field of fire without exposing the entire vehicle.
Trials showed that the design was impracticable: the controls were difficult to use and the motion experienced by the crew when the vehicle was moving made them seasick. The project was finally abandoned in 1944. The first prototype was broken up; the second prototype was eventually sent to The Tank Museum.
Despite the failure of Tapp’s original concept the idea of a weapons system that can be raised from behind cover before firing was adopted in a number of post war guided weapons launchers such as the FV1620 Hornet (See E1970.445).
Summary text by Mike Garth