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Tanks In World War I Essay

1171 words - 5 pages

Tanks did not play a very big role in World War One, but they became a new war machine which proved to be very important in wars after World War One. The caterpillar track (on which the tank traveled) was first designed in 1770 by Richard Edgeworth. The Crimean War used a small number of tractors to maneuver around the muddy battlefield. The development of the internal combustion engine in 1885 by Nikolaus August Otto, a tractor was constructed in the U.S. by the Holt Company which used Edgeworth's caterpillar tracks. It was suggested to use it for military purposed but the suggestion was never acted upon. In 1899 Frederick Simms designed what he termed a "motor-war car". It had an engine from Daimler, a bullet-proof casing and armed with two revolving machine guns. However, offered to the British army, it was dismissed as of little use. Lord Kitchener regarded it as "a pretty mechanical toy". The British War Office lacked interest in the machine's potential. But then a British army officer, Colonel Ernest Swinton, remained enthusiastic about tanks' great potential, especially in breaking through enemy trench defenses. Swinton organized a demonstration of the Killen-Strait vehicle to senior politicians in June 1915, almost a year after the war was underway. The demonstration was attended by two future British Prime Ministers, David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. During the demonstration the tractor successfully demonstrated its ability to cut through barbed wire entanglement and both Churchill and George were impressed by its potential. Churchill, with Swinton's urging, sponsored the establishment of the Landships Committee to investigate the potential of this new weapon. The name "tank" didn't exist for it back then and it was seen as a sea-going warship on land, so it was called a "landship". Soon the first landship was produced in secrecy and was codenamed "tank" because it resembled the shape of water carriers. And from December 1915 it was called a tank. Swinton laid down certain key criteria that he argued must be part of the finished design. The tank must have a minimum speed of four miles per hour, be able to climb a five foot high obstacle, successfully cross a five foot trench, and of course be immune to small-arms fire. It should also have two machine guns, a range of twenty miles, and be maintained by a crew of ten men. This first tank was nicknamed "Little Willie" (soon followed by "Big Willie"). It weighed 14 tons and had 12 foot long track frames. The tank could carry three people in cramped conditions. The top speed was three miles per hour on level ground and two miles per hour on the battlefield. The first combat tank was ready by January 1916 and was demonstrated to a high-powered audience. Lloyd George was convinced and ordered production of the heavy Mark I model. Meanwhile the French, who were aware of British tank experimentation, worked on their own designs, but...

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