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Tanks of World War I

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In this site you'll learn about the origin and construction of American and German tanks.  We will explore early tank desgins, their early trials and tribulations, and  list the tank features of the world super-powers during the world war one era.

The Road to Development

            There are many machines that you can trace the roots of the tank back to, however I hav found that most people say it began with the treads or "caterpillar tracks", which are what the tank rides on.  An early form of these were made in 1770 by a man named Richard Edgeworth.  In previous wars such as the Crimean War, a small number of steam powered machines used the "caterpillar track" to manueuvre around muddy terrain during combat. Even with the success of these machines, their development proceeded as slow as it's insect namesake.

           The next steps for the development of tanks came in US steam-powered tank, the "America"1885 when the internal combustion engine was created by Nikolaus August Otto.  The next came in 1899 with Frederick Simms' creation of what he called a 'motor-war car'.  It was built of an engine by Daimler, a bullet-proof shell and was equiped with two machine guns. Unfortunatly the British military saw little use for it and called it a "pretty mechanical toy". It wasn't until June of 1915,  when an early tank proto-type called the "Killen-Strait tractor' was demonstrated for British politicians such as the two future British Prime Ministers, David Lloyd George  and Winston Churchill. During the demonstration the tanks gave a glimpse of it's capabilities in  battle.

         Over a period of 145 years and with the influence of a number of inventions, and demand from various leaders the tank began to to take shape while demonstring it's range of strenghts.  This hulking mass of metal was not created by one single person.

 

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( Picture from www.battlefront.co.nz/ Article.asp?ArticleID=112 )

Use of Early Tanks   
 
 
           French Renault light tankTanks were first used by the British to end the costly stalemates, caused by early trench warfare. They're huge treads and large size gave them the ability to crunch through barbed wire as it ran it over, and go through trenches with ease. It also was meant to withstand fire from another menace created during World War1, the machine gun.  It even attacked the enemy physiologically. Imagine trying to fight a bulking mass of cold metal, equipped with large guns and massive cannons, that mows down just about every one and every thing that crosses it's path! Some people even called them the new cavalry.
 

Early Problems and Pit falls

         Although all of this is easier said then done. There French Schneider tankwere many problems with the early tanks of WWI.  For example the first tank that was taken out of the factory was built September 8 1915 and the tracks fell off September 10.  The tank was quickly repaired and was demonstrated again in front of officials a few days later, were it broke down again. Although fortunately they saw the potential in the tank and let them continue its development. Although the track wasn't the only problem facing the tank.  Another problem that was found with early tanks that they were often found to be extremely unreliable.  It was commonplace for them to brake down, or become stick in a muddy trench or become "ditched" as the soldiers called it.  Also the inside of the tanks were extremely hot and to make matters worse the fumes given off from it nearly choked them.  Soldiers that operated them also said that they were ammunition hungry.  Regardless of these conditions the tank operators persevered and proved they're worth to the military.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(( Top picture from firstaif.info all other pictures are from Firstworldwar.com ))