Leopard roll over.
   (Ver 1)


From a former Aussie Leopard crewman comes this story.



You might find this interesting.

When I first joined the army in 1988 we were still training for the cold war. All our training was based around large advancing forces. Most of our field exercises lasted up to 8 weeks at a time. The unit put a lot of emphasis on movement at night. This in it's self is no great problem you may think but during this time any night vision equipment we had were of the first generation and didn't work at all if there was no ambient light eg: moon or starlight. There was no thermal equipment at all well not in my unit and you most definitly could not use your headlights (not very tactical).

On this particular exercise the OC of B Squadron wanted his squadron to make a move at night. The night in question was in the middle of winter, raining and freezing cold. To make matters worse he wanted us to be closed down and in full NBC suits including mask. This made matters extremely dangerous but if it could happen in war we had to train for it.

So my troop moves off and before we get 2km we loose sight of each other and being unable to use the radio (radio silence) we forged on alone and hoped that the others would make it. I was driving at the time and I could see nothing out my mask let alone out my episcopes (viewing blocks). I was technically driving blind.

Somehow my commander the troop Sergeant who had years of experience guided me to a creek that had to be crossed. As we approached the creek all of a sudden I could see a red light being shone towards us. As we got closer we could see that it was a ground guide. Guiding us to what we didn't know and we couldn't open our hatches to find out as the OC in his wisdom had the forthought to place stickers on the hatches to catch out any cheaters.

As this person guided us closer to the creek we could finally see what he wanted us to do! They had lauched the bridgelayer so we now had to cross this creek over the bridge. The guide manourvered us to the start of the bridge. I put the tank in low gear and edged forward. I couldn't see the bridge but as we moved onto the bridge I could feel that it was sloping over to the right. This really worried me, the tracks were wet, the bridge (made of aluminium) was wet and covered in mud and the bridge was slippery at the best of times (but that's another story). Because the bridge was sloping to the right as I expected we started to slide off to the right. Now my commander told me to stop which I attempted to do but the tank still kept sliding.

I need to describe the bridge a little at this stage. On the inner sides of the bridge there was a raised lip about 10cm high which was used to stop small wheeled veh to cross without falling off the bridge.

Well this little lip tried in vain to stop 42 tonnes of tank from falling off the bridge but to no avail.

By the time I had put the tank in reverse and tried to reverse off I could feel the tank sliding off the side. The commander told me to reverse fast in no uncertain terms. I put my foot down but 830 bellowing horse power couldn't stop what was about to happen. The tank all of a sudden was lying on it's side in the creek about 3 metres below the bridge which had about 2 feet of water in it with the top of the tank facing the flow of the creek. Because the tank was acting like a dam the water started to build up against the top. The water raised to the height of the engine air intake and entered the engine via the air filters.

The engine being a diesel doesn't like water and as the water entered the cylinders and water being uncompressable and me having my foot still firmly planted on the accelerator caused the pistons to blow the crankshafts through the engine housing on 6 of the 10 cylinders. This caused a large bang and the engine stopped dead and all would have seemed quite on the outside but inside the tank all \ hell had broken loose.

I may have forgot to mention at the time we were carrying about 20 rounds of 105mm and 1000rounds of 7.62mm. When we went over the edge the 13 105's which were stowed in the rack on the loaders side ended up all over the inside of the turret and the bin holding the 1000rounds of 7.62mm came off it's mounting and spilled it's contents all through the turret as well.

The commander tried to open his hatch but when he started to open it water poured in so he closed it. The loader then opened his hatch and as it was on the left side of the turret no water was coming in. This was good for the turret crew as they could now get out but not so good for me. Now because the turret was at the 12 o'clock position I had no way of getting out through the turret as the turret needs to be at least at 11o'clock position for the driver to escape out through the turret.

With the tank on it's side there was no way that the turret hydraulics could move the turret or by using the manual hand traverse. The only saving grace was that the smart german manufacturer of the Leopard had put an escape hatch in the floor of the drivers compartment. Now to release this hatch requires you to be very agile to twist around in your seat and access the hatch. Quite easy if your 4 feet nothing but a bit harder when your 6 feet tall and wearing a full NBC suit and in a tank on it's side but it's quite amazing what you can do when the adrenalin is running.

I got the hatch released and as the hatch was on the lee side of the tank away from the creek flow the water was only half way up the hatch. It was about this time that the tank decided that it had had enough of being on it's side and rolled over onto it's roof at the same time I was halfway out the hatch. When the tank finally stopped moving I finished getting out of the hatch and stood on the bottom of the tank which was now facing the rain. Luckily we all got out unscathed but that can't be said for the tank which after being recovered from the creek was taken away and wasn't seen for about 3 months. I guess that's what happens when water meets electronics.

I don't think I ever crossed a bridge again at night while closed down and I was a lot more edgy when crossing at all after it.



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