100 years ago today, the tank went to war

It’s precisely 100 years since the first tanks went to war in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in France.  They were originally thought of as “landships”, but the name “tank” was adopted as a security measure, to conceal their true nature.  The Telegraph reports:

Tanks were first used on 15th September 1916 in an attack to destroy German strongpoints between the villages of Combles and Courcelette.

They had been developed in only two years with support from Winston Churchill at the Admiralty in an attempt to break the bloody stalemate of trench warfare and were originally known as landships.

Of the 49 supposed to be deployed for their first battle, only 32 made it to the start line and only nine made it across no-mans land to the German lines.

There’s more at the link.

Here’s footage of that first attack by Mark 1 tanks.  It’s silent, so don’t adjust your volume.

Here’s an excerpt from a BBC documentary about tanks, including World War 1 footage.

To mark the centenary, a Mark IV tank dating back to 1917 was driven into Trafalgar Square in London.

Today’s tanks, for all their sophistication, are still fundamentally the same as those earliest models:  a hull bearing a powerful cannon, mounted on tracks rather than wheels for greater cross-country mobility.



  1. Nitpick – that tank in Trafalgar Square is a replica built for the Warhorse movie.

    And it sounds like a centrifugating washing machine, it should be said. 😀

  2. I now have this image in my mind of Chevy Chase in his National Lampoon's Vacation role, accidentally driving the tank into the statue of Nelson and knocking it over.

  3. The use of tanks in WWI so impressed the US war department that they went to the leading firearms designer of the day, John M. Browning, and asked him to come up with some way to counter the threat.
    He started with the standard .30-06 rifle cartridge, and scaled it up to .50 caliber. And thus the .50 BMG was born. He also designed an automatic crew serviced weapon to fire the new round. When adopted by the army it received the designation M2, the infamous Ma Deuce. Which along with its cartridge holds the record for longest continuous service of any firearm.
    Will also note, that WWI tank armor was one inch or less so vulnerable to the new round.
    By WWII tank armor had advanced to the point that a .50 BMG was no longer adequate, though still a proven killer on lighter armored or any unarmored vehicles.

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