World's First Tank - 9/6/1915

History |


On September 6th of 1915, near the beginning of World War One, the world's first tank was manufactured in Great Britain. The Brits nicknamed the tank “Little Willy.” However, the tank weighed 14 tons and got stuck in trenches on rough terrain. Sometimes, it only traveled at the rate of about two miles per hour. What's more, Little Willy was all too easily overheated. Soon enough, improvements were made to the “Little Willy” prototype, and “Big Willy” was introduced to the military. After that, tanks became a more common sight on battlefields all over Europe. 

A tank is an armored military vehicle with conveyor belt tracks (instead of wheels) underneath it, and a large tank gun at the front. The tank is designed for forward facing combat. The tank's heavy armor means that it can engage the enemy even under fire. The presence of tracks instead of wheels helps the tank find advantageous locations in rugged terrain.

Big Willy made its debut on September 15th of 1916, at the First Battle of the Somme, near Courcelette, France. This fleet of tanks was called Mark I. However, even these tanks were hot and noisy, and they kept malfunctioning on the battlefield. A few design improvements later came the Battle of Cambrai in November of 1917. That was when a fleet of 400 Mark IV tanks roamed the battlefield and emerged victorious, capturing about eight thousand enemy troops and about a hundred guns. Tanks in World War One were developed separately and simultaneously by France and Great Britain. The French and the British had invested in thousands of tanks, but the Germans, unconvinced of their usefulness, only manufactured twenty.

As the story goes, British navy minister Winston Churchill believed in the concept of what he called land boats, but wanted to keep the invention a secret from the enemy forces. So the soldiers were told that these new vehicles would be transporting water to the battlefields, because part of this new army vehicle resembled a water tank, so the soldiers might believe it to be true. When the boxes arrived, they were marked “tank,” and have been so named ever since.

In World War Two, as tanks became more advanced, highly explosive anti-tank warheads were developed, along with other anti-tank weapons, which had the ability to destroy certain types of tanks. So the armor of the tanks was further reinforced to accommodate these weapons. So stronger anti-tank weapons were developed. And so on. 

Tanks have remained a crucial military weapon. They have been in service ever since they were first invented. Modern tanks are a result of a hundred years of technological development. A modern tank can mount a large cannon in a rotating gun turret. Other tank technologies have included the internal combustion engine, which allows an object that weighs 14 tons to move swiftly over the landscape. Tanks have been redesigned many times throughout the years, as new concepts of armored warfare are continuously developed. 

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Mike Sexton

Chief Editor

I have always had a passion for writing since a young age and can still remember the first time a teacher assigned us to create our own newspaper it was my favorite project. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper and loved learning about new topics. I knew I found my new passion and as soon as I stepped foot on UCLA my mind was made up. Since getting my degree I have done all types of writing and love the freedom it gives me to work from anywhere. I hope you all love my writing as I am excited to produce quality articles each day for you!