The first foray into the creation of the Tank

Spread the love

The mechanisation of warfare was predicted by the writer HG Wells in his book “The War of the Worlds”. The might of the Victorian British Empire’s finest is brought low by the Martian fighting machines armed with heat ray and black smoke plus their flying machines and spider like capture vehicles. The Boer war had shown that long range artillery was going to be a huge factor in the next war and the use of Flying machines for scouting was also already quite widespread. However, following the first year of the First World War it became clear that the stalemate of the trenches would not be broken by shell fire, cavalry charges or slowly advancing lines of  men.  What was needed was a weapon that could negotiate the mud and wire clearing a path before it whilst being impervious to the machine gun bullet. What was needed was an armoured vehicle and it came in the form of Little Wille.

Image credit

It was Winston Churchill, back then the First Lord of the Admiralty who realised that if the ships of the sea could transfer themselves to the land then the chances of the army could be greatly improved. In 1915 Britainnia just about still ruled the waves but this success was based on greater naval power. Chuchill ordered the creation of “landships” which was basically the humble tank in all but name. The Landships committee was set up to see to the problem and in true British style it ignored the urgency of the task and asked an agricultural firm, William Foster and Co, to come up with something using imported caterpillar tracks from the USA. This was an abject failure so Foster and Co designed their own tracks to go on what was essentially a moving castle.

Image credit

Little Wille (a poke at the German Crown Prince at the time, even though it was powered by a German Daimler engine!)) was anything but little. It was a lumbering high sided monster that was going to have a turret on it but the prototype only features firing flaps. It would have still done the job but by then the Mark 1 was already in development and could be produced quicker and there were faster and more maneuverable. Little Willie never made it to France but it was used for training purposes for a time. As it was never used in anger its effectiveness and fuel consumption are all theoretical but it does represent a shift forward in what the British Army were thinking of doing right at the beginning of the War. You can’t drive Little Wille but a modern Tank Driving Experience might get you some idea of what it was like. Go to  armourgeddon to get some more info.