Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Landships: Dawn Of The Pimped Up Armoured Vehicle… or Tank

It’s hard to imagine what Genghis Khan’s enemies thought when he would send armored elephants into the cities he was invading; most could not even imagine what an elephant was, let alone understand what it meant to have one charging toward them. That surreal feeling is likely very close to what the enemies felt in WW1 as the UK’s first armored tanks were rolled out of imagination and into battlefield existence.

World War 1 was fought largely by trench. It soon became difficult to have machinery of any sort rolled or pulled though the pitted and pocked land that served as the front. The challenge to create a vehicle that could negotiate the rough terrain, over large gaps and up steep embankments, was one begging for a solution.

The UK – First Battle Tanks Out Of The Gate

The UK was the first to begin developing tanks and other such armored vehicles. The idea of an armored vehicle, itself, was not new. Certain cars used for transporting officers and soldiers were already enforced with steel and other metals to ensure a safer mode of transportation. What the military needed was something that could handle travel, negotiate difficult terrain, and give soldiers the ability to fight the enemy.

Designed with the Holt Tractor in mind, the tank began to take shape. Instead of using conventional wheels, the Holt chassis, the tracked runners that replaced wheels, became the basis for the vehicle. This tell-tale caterpillar track of the Holt chassis would serve as the inspiration for tanks from across the world, including those made in France, Germany and Austria.

Originally called “landships” and later renamed “tanks” to keep their existence secret, this new equipment could go as fast as 4 mph with a range of 22 miles. The armor was thin at only 6-12mm but as it was the only armored vehicle capable of traversing the severe lumps and bumps of the front, it was formidable. The tanks could cross trenches 3 metres wide, plowing through barbed wire or other small impediments. It carried multiple machine guns and light artillery pieces giving soldiers the ability to initiate battle or respond to aggression.

Though the tanks could do what no other vehicle could, they were also very unreliable. The Battle of Somme in 1916 was the first time the tanks were deployed into battle. Of the 49 sent, only 32 made it to there. Still more broke down or got bogged down in the mud and trenches, so by the time the actual fighting began only 9 were actively engaging in battle. Looking at these pictures, it can be seen that many a tank could find itself on its side and inoperable if any hole or hill was hit on an unusual angle.

France Becomes #1 In Tank Production

France was openly critical of the UK and its first use of the tanks at what they considered to be a small battle. It gave away the element of surprise, a great advantage that could have been saved for a battle that had the chance to turn the war’s direction, leading to a faster resolution. In response to this, France started to develop its own tanks.

Even though France began production after the UK, it ended up being the largest provider of tanks for the war and for many years to come. Experimenting with different ideas they developed three distinct types of armored all-terrain vehicles. They were the first to develop a tank that had the ability to climb almost straight up hill: the Renauld FT, which was classified as a light tank. It was the first tank to have a fully rotating turret and its design still has great influence on the tanks used today.

German Tanks Late In Coming

At first Germany did not follow suit to make tanks, but concentrated on ways to make their enemies’ tanks fail. They would go on to produce only 20 tanks of their own in total and most of these were used near the end of the war.

The German tank was called the A7V. The armor ranged from 20mm to 30 mm thick, which was thicker than ally tanks but with hardened steel so the protective natures of the vehicles were quite close. The A7V, and later the A7V-U, were armed with at least 6 machine guns and had a front mounted cannon. The tanks would usually man up to 17 German soldiers and could travel up to 9mph on roads, but slowed to a crawl of 3 mph over rough terrain.


World War 1 Tanks and Armoured Vehicle Photos