WW1 Tanks By Zach Van Brocklin


Giant metal behemoths roll across the battlefields of World War I. Machines like these have never been seen before. What is this new, destructive technology? The tank. While primitive at first, these deadly machines help turn the tide in WWI battles and reshaped the way we think of combat today.

Development of the Tank

The idea for the tank came from the development of farm vehicles that used treads. This equipment could cover rough ground with ease due to the easy flow of the caterpillar-like treads. However, several British military leaders disliked the idea because they were officers of cavalry (horse-riding infantry) regiments. They saw these "tanks" as a threat to cavalry's importance in the field.

Eventually, the proposal of a tank gained support from several military leaders, most notably Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest Swinton and Winston Churchill. The support likely came because of the stalemate in the Western Front. By June 9th, 1915, an agreement was made to state the requirements of the new weapon. The tank must:

  • Have a top speed of 4 mph on flat land.
  • Have the ability to turn sharply at max speed.
  • Have the ability to climb a five foot parapet and cross an eight foot gap.
  • Have a working radius of 20 miles.
  • Hold a crew of 10 men, with two machine guns and one light artillery gun.

The First tanks

The first tank created was dubbed "Little Willie". It was designed by Lieutenant W. Wilson and William Tritton. It actually wasn't designed for combat, and was rather a template for future, upgraded tanks. Like so, "Little Willie" soon developed into "Big Willie", which resembled the British Mark I tanks used later for the remainder of the war. Military officials approved the design, despite it having several flaws, and ordered 100 "Big Willies" for the war effort. "Big Willie" was essentially bulletproof and was armed with machine guns and/or cannons.

"Little Willie"
"Big Willie"

The first Mark I tanks were rolled into battle on September 15th, 1916, on a mass British attack on Somme, France. Originally, 50 tanks were released but 14 broke down or got stuck in the harsh terrain. While the overall effect was very little, this attack started a new era for war.

British Mark I

Evolution of the tank

"Little Willie". The first tank.
"Merkava" Modern day Israelian tank.

While the tank wasn't extremely helpful in World War I, it certainly has seen action in the past and is still in use today. One could say the tank's use in WWI sparked a new era of land combat. In the wars following WWI, tanks became the backbone of ground operations. They were upgraded dramatically in World War II, and usage was also increased. The Cold War saw the rise of the modern tank. These new designs brought along more destructive weapons, thicker armor, and increased mobility. Soon, an army without tanks was next to useless, because the armor benefits the tanks gave couldn't be matched. New corps were founded, such as the U.S Tank Corps or the Armored Divisions. Even today tanks are used. The U.S used them to invade Iraq in 2003 and they have been used in the Middle East since the early 2000's. The tank still provides the mainstay of land combat in the 21st century.


  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_tank
  • http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/tanks.htm
  • http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/the-western-front-in-world-war-one/tanks-and-world-war-one/
Created By
Zachary VanBrocklin


Created with images by Vasnic64 - "Char d'assaut Mark IV Anglais (English MarkIV) - (photo VestPocket Kodak Marius Vasse 1891-1987)"

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