Brett Ayers


            The development of a new weapon called the ‘tank’ has had a huge impact on the Great War.  The word tank was chosen because of its vagueness to keep the actual object a secret.  No one individual can be given sole credit for the tank.  These tanks were developed based off of several previously created inventions, such as the caterpillar tread, developed by Richard Edgeworth in 1770, the improved internal combustion engine developed by Nicklaus August Otto in 1885, and the machine gun, developed by Hiram Maxim.  However, it took the vision and tenacity of Colonel Ernest Swinton of the British Army and Committee of Imperial Defense Secretary Maurice Hankey to put these ideas together and get the British to develop them into the tank.  The tank is basically a small arms proof metal hull mounted on caterpillar treads and powered by an internal combustion engine.  Most tanks can travel somewhere between 4 and 8 mph.  Almost all tanks are armed with multiple machine guns, and some are armed with cannons ranging from 37mm to 75mm in muzzle diameter.  The primary purpose of the tank is to counter the machine gun’s advantage of mowing down infantry, to break the trench stalemate, and to replace cavalry (which were especially vulnerable to machine guns) as a fast attack option.  Tanks made their debut at the Battle of Somme in 1916, where the British used them in an attempt to break through the German trench lines.  Due to the unreliability of the tanks, they could not actually break the German lines themselves, but the terrified German conscripts abandoned their trenches, allowing them to be taken despite the fact that the tanks were all bogged down.  The British have since improved their tanks, and have shared advice with the French and Americans on tank construction.  The Germans, thinking tanks to be ineffective, have nonetheless found themselves forced to put some into development.  This has had and will continue to have a gigantic impact on the way battles are fought.  Due to the bullet proof nature of the tank, trenches protected by machine guns are no longer a viable option.  Hopefully this will end the murderous trench war of attrition and encourage an eventual end to this Great War.





Works Cited:


Duffy, Michael.  “Weapons of War:  Tanks.”  FirstWorldWar.com.  2000-2004.  10   December 2004.  http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/tanks.htm


Hanlon, Mike.  “Tank Comparison Table.”  Trenches on the Web.  1996-2002.  10 December 2004.  http://www.worldwar1.com/arm001.htm


Trewhitt, Phillip.  Armored Fighting Vehicles.  New York:  Amber Books Ltd., 1999.