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The Mark I Tank’s Role In Changing Trench Warfare

1516 words - 6 pages

During the First World War, 1914 to 1918, the “Western Front” referred to a series of trench lines that ran from the Belgian coast, to the Alps. The Western Front was a direct result of the stagnation. Both the axis and allied sides “dug in” and settled down to a war of attrition, with little movement over three years. Born from the need to break the domination of trenches and machine guns over the Western Front, Britain designed the world’s first combat tank, known as the Mark I. It was developed to be able to cross trenches, resist small-arms fire, travel over difficult terrain, carry supplies, and capture fortified enemy positions. Similar to how the Minie ball, rendered conventional line infantry tactics obsolete leading to trench warfare, the Mark I rendered conventional trench warfare tactics obsolete leading to modern armored warfare.
The intensity of trench warfare was immense. On the first day of the Battle of The Somme, the British attacked the German trenches and lost 60 thousand men with a further 90 thousand men wounded. Trench warfare is induced when superior firepower of the defense compels the opposing forces to “dig in” so extensively as to sacrifice their mobility in order to gain protection. The typical trench system in World War I consisted of a series of two or more lines running parallel to each other and being at least 1 mile in depth. Each main line of trench was lined by a field of barbed wire, machine guns, mines and riflemen. This created an area between the trenches called “no man’s land”. As the name implies, “no man’s land” did not belong to either side. Intended to slow down and entangle attacking infantry, it was pitted with craters, blackened tree stumps and mangled bodies from constant shelling. After the buildup of these trenches in 1915, the Western Front became a deadlocked struggle between equals.
To investigate a mechanical solution to the stalemate of trench warfare, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill created the “Landships Committee”. The first successful tank prototype developed was named the Mark I tank. The Mark I was rhomboid shaped caused by the need to be able to cross German trenches, which could be up to 8 feet wide with barriers over 4 foot 6 inches high. Instead of traditional tires, long caterpillar tracks were given to grip the muddy ground. Albert Tritton of Foster & Co, Lincoln, came up with a new design. This enabled the adoption of the characteristic all-round track layout, which gave the Mark I unrivalled cross-country performance. The Mark I was also armored to reflect machine gun fire and was armed with either two six-pound naval cannons and four 8mm Hotchkiss Machine Guns, or with four .303 Vickers Machine Guns and two 8mm Hotchkiss Machine Guns. The Mark I was innovational because no vehicle had existed before that had the ability to cross through “no-man’s land” and over trenches while reflecting arms fire. On September 18th, 1916, The Daily Chronicle,...

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