Memorial farewells Mephisto

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Visitors to the Australian War Memorial only have until the end of May to see Mephisto, the last remaining First World War German A7V tank, before it returns to Queensland.

Displayed in Anzac Hall since July 2015, this is the first time the rare tank has been seen outside Brisbane since it was transported from Europe after the end of the First World War. It will be removed from display and returned to Queensland in the first week of June.

Only 20 German A7V Sturmpanzerwagens, which was crewed with 18 to 26 men on board, were ever built for use in war. Panzerkampfwagen 506, Mephisto, is the only surviving unit anywhere in the world.

Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, said the massive war machine has been a popular exhibit and would be missed.

“We have been honoured to display Mephisto within the Memorial’s galleries to mark the Centenary of the First World War,” Dr Nelson said.

Mephisto was part of the initial German tank detachment which participated in the first German tank attack at St Quentin in France on 21 March 1918. Its second, and final, battle was at Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918 in which opposing tanks fought head to head for the first time in what was a watershed moment in the evolution of tank warfare.

“It is one of the many remarkable objects seized by Australians on the battlefields of the First World War. During the battle at Villers-Bretonneux, Mephisto was disabled and abandoned on the field before being salvaged as a war trophy by the 26th Battalion, AIF in a daring night time operation,” Dr Nelson added. 

“The grit and determination of the Australian troops to recover Mephisto so that all Australians might have the chance to understand what they were fighting against that day, is extraordinary.”

Queensland Museum CEO and Director, Professor Suzanne Miller said for nearly a century, Mephisto has been one of the best known objects in the Queensland State Collection and is now the only surviving German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank in the world.

“Mephisto is one of Queensland Museum’s most significant war artefacts and we are pleased that we have had an opportunity to share one of our state’s best known stories with a national audience while it has been on display at the Australian War Memorial,” Professor Miller said.

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