The Military History Society of New South Wales Incorporated presents

Sectioning a Leopard Tank

By Paul Handel



Over three decades from 1976 to 2007 the Leopard 1 Tank was the work horse of the Australian Army’s 1st Armoured Regiment.

In 2015 the Australian Army History Unit (AAHU) received support for a project to section or “cut-in-half” a Leopard Tank so that students in armoured vehicle courses could see the interior of a main battle tank.

Using the expertise of the Royal Australian Navy’s Garden Island Dockyard, a sectioned Leopard Tank went on display at the Australian Army Tank Museum, Puckapunyal in September 2018. It is only one of five “cut-in-half” tanks known to be on display around the world.

The lecture will provide an overview of the project, including decisions taken on how and where to cut the tank and all stages of the project will be illustrated with photographs.

Paul Handel, RFD (Major, Retired), the AAHU Project Officer, served in the Army Reserve for 44 years, of which more than half were at the Army Tank Museum, initially as Research Officer and then as Manager.


Biography – Paul Handel


Paul Handel studied mechanical engineering after leaving school and worked for Email at Waterloo and Botany in the 1970s. He then joined a German Heavy Engineering company, Mannesmann Demag, based in North Sydney, in 1980. He was involved with large steelworks and open cut mining projects until 2000, when the company’s operations ceased. In 2004 he joined Demag Cranes and Components as the Production and Logistics Manager for the manufacture of overhead travelling cranes, retiring in 2016. Visits to a number of countries, including Germany, South Korea, China, Czech Republic, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom, for engineering discussions and conferences, enabled him to see manufacturing facilities around the world.

He joined the Citizen Military Forces in 1970, and was commissioned in 1972 into the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). A series of EME postings followed, including five years as the OC of the LAD/TSS of 1/15 Royal NSW Lancers.

Promoted to Major in 1981, he served on HQ 2 Division Plans Team, before being posted as OC 103 Field Workshop. Attendance at the Reserve Command Staff College (Senior Course) in 1987 was followed by a posting to the HQ 2 Division Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

In the middle of 1986, he was appointed as the RAAC Tank Museum’s Honorary Research Officer. At the end of 1989 he was posted as Research Officer Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC) Tank Museum, and in February 1999 was transferred to the Army History Unit, and posted as Museum Manger RAAC Museum, later Australian Army Tank Museum, a position he held until August 2012. The Tank Museum is located at Puckapunyal in Victoria.

During discussions with the Head Australian Army History Unit (AAHU) in September 2015, he was asked to return to Army Reserve service and undertake a project for AAHU involving the sectioning of a Leopard Tank. This project was completed in October 2018, the work being undertaken by Fleet Support Unit (SE) at Garden Island in Sydney. The sectioned tank is now an exhibit at the Tank Museum Puckapunyal.

In 1994 he was appointed the RAAC Historian by the Director, Colonel Peter Monaghan, and on Cambrai Day 1996 received an RAAC Certificate of Recognition, appointing him as an Honorary Blackhat, from the last Director of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, Colonel Gordon Jones, AM. In 2018 he received a Commendation from the Head of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps for his work on the Leopard Tank Sectioning project.

He assisted Janes Defence publications in the 1980s and 1990s with information about current vehicles in Australian Army service. He wrote a number of articles for Janes and for other military magazines. He provided many articles to the website “Anzac Steel”.

He is the author of three books on Australian armoured history – Fifty Years of the RAAC 1948 to 1998; Dust, Sand and Jungle – A History of Australian Armour 1927 to 1948; and The Vital Factor – The History of the 2/6th Australian Armoured Regiment 1941 to 1945. A book on the history of Australian armoured vehicles is in preparation.

Saturday 4 May 2019, 2.00pm – 3.00pm


Goulburn Room, Level 4, City of Sydney RSL, 565 George Street, Sydney

Although entry is free, a gold coin donation is appreciated.


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