A tank is an armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat, with heavy firepower, strong armour, tracks and a powerful engine providing good battlefield maneuverability. The first tanks were designed to overcome the deadlock of trench warfare in the 1910s; they are a mainstay of modern ground forces and a key part of combined arms combat. Mark I tank, was the first tank used in combat in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme (French: Bataille de la Somme; German: Schlacht an der Somme), also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front.
The name “tank” was adopted by the British during the early stages of their development, as a security measure to conceal their purpose. The tank is the 20th century realization of an ancient concept: that of providing troops with mobile protection and firepower. The internal combustion engine, armour plate, and continuous track were key innovations leading to the invention of the modern tank.
Photo: Wikipedia/Leaonardo’s model
Many sources imply that Leonardo da Vinci and H.G. Wells in some way foresaw or “invented” the tank. Leonardo’s late 15th century drawings of what some describe as a “tank” show a man-powered, wheeled vehicle with cannons all around it. However the human crew would not have enough power to move it over larger distance, and usage of animals was problematic in a space so confined. In the 15th century, Jan Žižka built armoured wagons containing cannons and used them effectively in several battles. The continuous “caterpillar” track arose from attempts to improve the mobility of wheeled vehicles by spreading their weight, reducing ground pressure, and increasing their traction. Experiments can be traced back as far as the 17th century, and by the late nineteenth they existed in various recognizable and practical forms in several countries.
Little Willie was a prototype in the development of the British Mark I tank. Constructed in the autumn of 1915 at the behest of the Landship Committee, it was the first completed tank prototype in history. Little Willie is the oldest surviving individual tank, and is preserved as one of the most famous pieces in the collection of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England. Production models of “Male” tanks (armed with naval cannon and machine guns) and “Females” (carrying only machine-guns) would go on to fight in history’s first tank action at the Somme in September 1916.
Photo:Wikipedia/Little Willie Tank
“It is really to Mr Winston Churchill that the credit is due more than to anyone else. He took up with enthusiasm the idea of making them a long time ago, and he met with many difficulties. He converted me, and at the Ministry of Munitions he went ahead and made them. The admiralty experts were invaluable, and gave the greatest possible assistance. They are, of course, experts in the matter of armour plating. Major Stern,(formerly an officer in the Royal Naval Air Service) a business man at the Ministry of Munitions had charge of the work of getting them built, and he did the task very well. Col Swinton and others also did valuable work.”
— David Lloyd George, 19 September 1916