Britain, WWI, and the tank industry have a shared history that needs to be told to students and the public alike. Tanks were invented by Britain during WWI. They quickly became a sort of celebrity for the people and soldiers who served alongside these machines. Some called them ‘metal monsters’ for their gigantic size and seemingly unbreakable bodies. They were not like anything seen before in a battlefield.
On 30th June 1915, in west London Churchill attended the operational display of an armored truck that could cut though barbed wire. In a short period of less then 3 months, that truck had evolved into an enclosed armored vehicle or a tank, as we know them now. This first tank was named as ‘Little Willie’. Not long after that,Little Willie evolved into ‘Big Willie’, also called’ The Mother’.
‘The Mother’ was the first tank to enter into war. It was modified and given the name ‘Mark I’ – weighing 28 tons, had a speed of 3.7 mph, and eight crewmembers. The first battle, Mark I took part in was on 15th September 1916, in which 49 tanks were deployed and only 9 could achieve their targets.
Looking at the British advancements in tanks, other nations also entered in the race for better tanks. First to jump in were the French.Their first machine was named‘Schneider’ – weighing 15 tons, a speed of 5mph and six crewmembers. But it was not a huge success as it was not reliable and was out of order most of the time.
The first great breakthrough in the tank industry came with the making of ‘Mark IV’ –weighing 28 tons, a speed of 3.7 mph and eight crewmembers – it was a highly evolved form of Mark I. More than a thousand of Mark IVs were made during WW2.
In 1917, the French had caught up with the British; they made the first super-light-weight and fast tank with a rotating canon. It weighed around five tons, with a speed of 6mph, and only two crewmembers, the MKWEB reports.
The Germans were quite slow to pick up on this technology. German commanders thought it wasn’t a very manly act to hide inside a metal container on the battlefield. Most of the tanks the Germans used in WWI were those captured from the British forces. They even built a complex where captured British tanks were repaired and used against British and allied forces.
By building a replica of a long line of tanks built during WWI, Festive Board is trying to spark the interest for history in the public and children alike. They are working on an outdoor theatre production called ‘Best Company’, which will be based around the Mark I, replica that they are trying to build.
The Heritage Lottery and Arts council in England have funded this project. This replica will feature working parts of the tank, and its rotating tracks. There will be a side opening to the tank for the viewers to observe the inside of the machine as well.