The TOG 2 - Behind the Memes - Tank Historia

The TOG 2 – Behind the Memes

The TOG 2 is an enormous and hilariously strange 1940s machine that has become a modern day meme. The vehicle was designed by the British to pre-emptively address concerns that WWII would slow down into trench warfare.

Mocked for its boat-like proportions, this lumbering beast was a relic from the First World War, although it first drove just a year before the Tiger.

Its name – an abbreviation of “The Old Gang” – perfectly represents the design philosophies behind this vehicle. Still, it is a fascinating piece of engineering that carried a surprisingly capable gun and imposing armor for its day.

” . . the TOG tanks were built for a war that would never happen, or rather for a war that had happened over twenty years before.”

David Fletcher


The Old Gang

In the years following WWI many feared that any large future wars would quickly bog down into trench warfare just as WWI did.

By mid 1939 WWII was looming, so Britain set up the Special Vehicle Development Committee. This group was tasked with creating tanks that were specialised in trench warfare conditions.

The Special Vehicle Development Committee assembled members that were experts in this field – many of them had actually helped design and manufacture the very first tanks more than two decades earlier.

The committee was led by Sir Albert Stern, who was once part of the WWI-era Landships Committee.

As it brought back the original tank builders, the committee was nicknamed “The Old Gang”.

Its abbreviation of “TOG” was where the TOG tanks got their name.

A Mark V heavy tank.
The TOG tanks borrowed many features from WWI era tanks.

A number of prominent names were on the committee, including Harry Ricardo – a pioneer of the internal combustion engine – and Walter Gordon Wilson – a man who made important contributions to the designs of gearboxes.

Also in the committee was Sir William Tritton, the Managing Director of the William Foster & Co of Lincoln. This company built the first WWI tanks and received the contract for the group’s experimental vehicles.

They settled on a vision for a large heavy tank capable of crossing waterlogged land heavily disturbed by shells and trenches. In addition, the vehicle had to be able to withstand hits from 47 mm anti-tank guns and field guns up to 105 mm in caliber.

In addition, the tank was to carry a howitzer in the front of the hull and 2-pounder guns in side sponsons – although it was later decided that it would only carry machine guns in the sponsons.


The TOG 1 attempted to satisfy these requirements in late 1939. This tank was essentially a modernised WWI design, with a long, thin, rhomboid shaped hull, side sponsons and tracks running above the hull.

The tank had no suspension and a 75 mm gun from the French Char B1 in the front of the hull.

The TOG 1 prototype was never fitted with its side sponsons, but it did receive a Matilda II turret.

TOG 1 with a Matilda II turret.

The vehicle was powered by a diesel-electric drive in the form of a V12 diesel engine connected to two generators. These generators sent power to track motors. This system was overworked by the 90 ton tank and suffered repeated failures. It was replaced by a hydraulic drive, a conversion that wasn’t completed until 1943.

Soon into the TOG 1’s development it was realised that the track did not need to run around the entire length of the hull, so a new vehicle was ordered.

TOG 2 – The meme, the myth, the legend.

The TOG 2 was ordered on May 6, 1940. This vehicle was similar to the TOG 1 in many ways; being designed with side sponsons and even using a similar diesel-electric drive. Interestingly, there isn’t any reports of issues with this system in the TOG 2.

The biggest difference between the two vehicles was with the track layout. The TOG 2’s tracks dropped down on their return run, passing underneath the side-sponson openings.

Its electric drive system was powered by a Paxman-Ricardo TP V12 diesel engine. This 59 litre engine was an early war design that ran on diesel instead of petrol, as aircraft were given priority for high performance petrol engines.

The openings on the TOG 2’s sides are where the sponsons would have been located. These would allow the crew to fire into trenches as the tank passed overhead. Image by Nilfanion CC BY-SA 4.0

This engine was based on the Paxman VRB. The VRB’s crankcase and cylinder block was cast as one complex piece.

As it was meant to be produced in large numbers by all kinds of workshops, Paxman designed the TP in three simple sections – the crankcase, cylinder block and cylinder heads – so it could easily be manufactured by even the smallest of facilities.

What TP meant is not known, but some suggest its stands for “Three Pieces”, or perhaps “Tank Propellant”. Nevertheless, the engine produced around 600 hp and and around 3,500 were built, most of which were used in marine applications.

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In the TOG 2 the diesel-electric system was able to get the tank up to a not-so-fast speed of 8.5 mph in tests. Steering was achieved by a steering wheel linked to a potentiometer that increased or decreased the voltage supplied to each track’s motor.

To cross trenches the TOG 2 had to be extremely long; 10.13 m (33 ft 3 in) to be exact (almost 3 meters longer than a Tiger II).

The inside of the TOG.
The roomy interior of the TOG 2. Image taken in The Tank Museum by Jonathan Cardy CC BY-SA 3.0.

Its massive size gave it a hugely roomy interior, so large that David Fletcher claims you could hold a dance within its fighting compartment.

The TOG 2 was first driven in march 1941.

The prototype was modified with torsion bar suspension and a new turret that supposedly contains a 17-pounder gun. This turret was similar to the one that would be used on the Cruiser Mk VIII. After these changes, the tank was designated the TOG 2*.

Armor protection was surprisingly good, especially for a tank of this size. It had 50 mm on rear, 76 mm on the hull sides and 114 mm on the turret front. This is actually thicker than the frontal armor of the Tiger I and for early war standards, it would have been a tough nut to crack.

TOG May have the Wrong Gun

In virtually every single source (including the ones used for this article), TOG is stated to be fitted with a 17 pdr gun. Today this is a well established fact, as simple as the Tiger having an 88 mm gun.

However it has recently come to light that the gun fitted into the TOG might not actually be a 17 pdr. Visitors to The Tank Museum have checked the diameter of the barrel with a tape measure (not the most scientific method, we admit), and, from these measurements, it appears that TOG’s gun is actually a 94 mm.

Now, we have been unable to verify this ourselves, and this number has not been officially accepted, however if true it changes what we thought we knew about the TOG.

This is something we were suspicious of ourselves, as having seen the TOG in person many times, it was rather obvious that its gun was cosmetically different than the conventional 17 pdr we know. Its barrel is much thicker, and the muzzle brake is different.

Once again, we are unable to confirm whether the gun is indeed a 94 mm, but if more information comes to light, or it is proven to be true, we will update this article.


The TOG 2 underwent further trials in 1943, and actually passed them with flying colors. However by this point it was obvious that the war the TOG tanks had been designed for was never going to happen. Germany had opened the war with high speed tank maneuverers and this trend only continued, with tanks like the T-34, Sherman and Panther all exhibiting a clear emphasis on mobility.

New tactics, combined with improved technologies and accurate airpower meant WWI conditions were no longer a possibility. The TOG 2 and its terrible top speed was simply useless on WWII battlefields.

Even though the War Office showed little interest in either of the TOG designs, work continued on them until 1944.

The TOG 2 at The Tank Museum.
The Old Gang may have failed to produce a great tank, but they inadvertently brought joy to people all around the world. Image taken in The Tank Museum by Andrew Skudder CC BY-SA 2.0.

To put this into perspective, The Old Gang were still working on WWI-era tanks at the same time the Me 262 jet fighter entered service.

Although the tank is regarded as a complete failure, it actually succeeded in many aspects and for the most part achieved the nearly impossible requirements set out at the start of the war. To tick the required boxes, the tank had to be long and large.

The TOG 1 was sent to Chobham once tests were finished, but it is unknown what happened to it after this.

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Thankfully the TOG 2 was saved, enabling the internet to enjoy it in all its overweight and oversized glory. Today it resides at The Tank Museum, Bovington, where it is the heaviest tank in the museum.