The Second World War period
With the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in World War II, the quixotic Geoffrey Pyke considered the problem of transporting soldiers rapidly over snow. He proposed the development of a screw-propelled vehicle based on the Armstead snow motor. Pyke envisaged that the vehicles would be used by a small force of highly mobile soldiers. The damage and casualties that a small force could inflict might be slight, but they would oblige the enemy to keep many men stationed in Norway in order to guard against every possible point of attack. Pyke’s ideas were initially rejected, but in October 1941, Louis Mountbatten became Chief of Combined Operations and Pyke’s ideas received a more sympathetic hearing. Mountbatten became convinced that Pyke’s plan was worthwhile and adopted it. The scheme became Project Plough and many high-level conferences were dedicated to it.
The problem of developing a suitable vehicle was passed to the Americans, and Pyke went to the USA to oversee the development. However, Pyke, who could be very inflexible, fell out with various individuals on the project and the Americans moved on to design a more conventional tracked vehicle, the M29 Weasel.
In 1944, Johannes Raedel, a soldier of the German Army and veteran of the Eastern Front invented his schraubenantrieb schneemaschine (screw-propelled snow machine). Raedel had seen the problems of operating tracked vehicles in the deep snows of Russia where a tank would dig out the snow under the tracks leaving the tank stuck on the snow compressed under the hull.
According to Siegfried Raedel, son of Johannes:
“ The vehicle idea evolved while looking at a meat mincer, also employing a screw type of compression. He convinced the OKH in Berlin to allow him to make a prototype of his concept machine. At that time, Austria was annexed to Germany already and he was dispatched to the Austrian Alpine Vehicle Test Center at St. Johann in Tyrol.
Using whatever materials were available, he built a working prototype during the period of 10 February 1944 to 28 April 1944. It was tested extensively. It was very slow, but it could pull one ton. It also possessed good climbing capabilities. It would penetrate about 30cm into the snow, but no more. Raedel’s machine never went into production.