Tanks – The Fallen Giants Of The World War I

  

A British tank which has crashed into a tree, near Cambrai, Franc, 1917:

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The development of tanks in World War I was a response to the stalemate that had developed on the Western Front. Although vehicles that incorporated the basic principles of the tank (armour, firepower, and all-terrain mobility) had been projected in the decade or so before the War, it was the heavy casualties sustained in the first few months of hostilities that stimulated development. Research took place in both Great Britain and France, with Germany only belatedly following the Allies’ lead.

First World War tanks were descendants of vehicles like this early caterpillar-track farm machine, built by Rustin and Hornsby of Lincoln and used in England, 1902:

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In Great Britain, an initial vehicle, nicknamed Little Willie, was constructed at William Foster & Co., during August and September 1915. The prototype of a new design that would become the Mark I tank was demonstrated to the British Army on February 2, 1916. Although initially termed “Landships” by the Landships Committee, production vehicles were named “tanks”, to preserve secrecy. The term was chosen when it became known that the factory workers at William Foster referred to the first prototype as “the tank” because of its resemblance to a steel water tank.

A light tank moving on rough terrain, 1917:

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The French fielded their first tanks in April 1917 and went on to produce far more tanks than all other combatants combined.

One of the first American tanks driving past the “Flatiron” building in New York, 1917:

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The Germans, on the other hand, began development only in response to the appearance of Allied tanks on the battlefield. Whilst the Allies manufactured several thousand tanks during the War, Germany deployed only 1680 of her own.

A British tank in France during World War I, 1917:

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The first tanks were mechanically unreliable. There were problems that caused considerable attrition rates during combat deployment and transit. The heavily shelled terrain was impassable to conventional vehicles, and only highly mobile tanks such as the Mark and FTs performed reasonably well. The Mark I’s rhomboid shape, caterpillar tracks, and 26-foot (8m) length meant that it could navigate obstacles, especially wide trenches, that wheeled vehicles could not. Along with the tank, the first self-propelled gun (the British Gun Carrier Mk I) and the first armoured personnel carrier (the British Mk IX) were also constructed in World War I.

A British armoured car crippled by enemy gunfire with its crew either dead or captured. The Vickers Maxim guns have been disabled and their cartridge belts torn away, 1918:

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French troops entering the Rhineland, 1918:

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An American tank, 1917:

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An American tank, 1917:

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A “male” MKIV tank at the Lord Mayor’s show in London, 1917:

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Victory the Bulldog posing on a tank in Trafalgar Square during a campaign to sell War Loan certificates, 1917:

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A man standing on top of a tank in Trafalgar Square and speaking in favour of war bonds, 1917:

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Germans testing the climbing powers of captured British tanks, redecorated in German colours, 1917:

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A light tank which has got into difficulties after tumbling into a trench, 1917:

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A British tank crossing the trenches in Flanders, 1917:

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A German tank emerges from the forest, in preparation for an attack, 1917:

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A British Mark A Whippet Medium tank advancing through the mud to penetrate the German lines at Morcourt. Only two hundred of these tanks were ever manufactured, 1918:

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An early French tank encountering rough terrain, 1917:

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A British tank burns furiously, having been caught in the jet of a flame thrower and its fuel contents ignited, 1918:

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An American soldier walks ahead of an MKIV British-made tank, 1918:

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A British tank of the kind that managed to break down the German barbed wire defences at Cambrai, 1918:

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An American Army tank, 1917:

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A British Mark I tank, the first ever military vehicle of this kind, in France, November 1916:

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An early British tank, equipped with a wood fascine to aid trench-crossing, Belgium, circa 1917:

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The crew of a German tank surrendering to the crew of a British tank in a scene from a British film shot in Dorset, England, 1927:

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A man dismantling a tank with a blow torch, during the post war disarmament in Germany, 1920:

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Renault FT-17 light tanks on patrol duty, within the area of the French concession in China, 1927:

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British Army tank trials in Lincolnshire, 1918:

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Soldiers of the 18th Infantry Division fleeing from shell fire in the French village of Exermont, 1918:

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German soldiers clustered around a tank in a Berlin street during a troubled period of the Weimar Republic, 1920:

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French soldiers holding flags and riding in tanks in front of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees during a Bastille Day Victory Parade celebrating the end of World War I, Paris, France, 1919:

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A group of men inspecting a tank parked at Lincoln’s Inn, London, during an inquiry, 1919:

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Two women war workers driving a steam engine at a site for tank trials in Lincolnshire, 1918:

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The tank which played a prominent role in the Johannesburg rebellion, where union unrest erupted in the Rand Revolt, in which white workers, fearful of being replaced in the mines by lower-paid non-white workers, staged a bloody strike that was ended only by the intervention of government troops. The tank is seen passing Corner House, the Head Office of the Chamber of Mines and the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Corporation, 1925:

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A British tank used in World War I is hoisted aboard the Cunard SS Vardulia at the King George V dock in London. It is to be shipped to Cornell University in New York, 1926:

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A wrecked tank on the battlefield at Ypres, 1919:

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Two dummy tanks being pushed along a road by German soldiers, 1925:

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A man dismantling a tank after the end of the Great War, 1920:

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The authorities make Limerick city a special military area and workers respond by calling a general strike until the end of martial law. The “Scotch and Soda” tank as a barricade in the city, 1919:

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Field Marshal Sir William Robert Robertson (1860–1933) visiting tank trials in Lincolnshire, 1918:

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British tanks in Westminster Bridge Road, London, taking part in the Peace Procession, 1919:

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Crowds gather to see the tanks during the French occupation of Dusseldorf, 1923:

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A British armoured tank leaving Wellington Barracks in London on the 8th, and penultimate, day of the General Strike, 1926:

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Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans, 1919:

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