Does the Tank Play an Important Role in the First World War?


Doesthe Tank Play an Important Role in the First World War?


Doesthe Tank Play an Important Role in the First World War?

Whythe name tanks? That is probably a question that needs to be askedand answered if we are to get an in-depth understanding of the originand the role played by tanks in the World War 1. The word “tanks”was used to refer to these armored vehicles of war to deceive theGerman intelligence during the World War 1. The England intelligenceshipped the vehicles in large boxes made of wood to France with hugewritings on the sides reading “Water Tanks.” The technique workedvery effectively at confusing the Germans as was later seen in thewar.

AsMcCormack et al., (2014) put it, tanks were always the ultimateinvention all sides that wished to launch a war dreamt of. Tanks wereneeded to ship and protect soldiers through and across enemy linesto unleash terror among enemy lines. The first ever impression of atank was made by Leonardo Da Vinci, but the first attempt toimplement it came four centuries after the drawings. At the advent ofthe first World War, trench warfare became the norm characterizedwith frequent stalemates on the Western front as well as in othertheaters of war. The stalemates started leading to large numbers ofcasualties on both sides, something that affected morale andmotivation among soldiers, till it became apparent that somethingneeded to be done (McCormack et al., 2014). What could that havebeen?

Tanksand Technology in WW1

Theallies started finding ways of making the maneuvers more mobile andfast. Suddenly, the idea of a tank started running in the minds ofmany generals as the only best option left if the goal was to beachieved. The goal was to wage a war of attrition and was held bygenerals of both sides. Plans were set into motion and the productionof tanks began, with the first set being deployed in 1916. Thedeployment caught German soldiers by surprise and it overwhelmed themto a great length (McCormack et al., 2014).

WorldWar 1 was the first war in history to be mechanized. European’sindustrialized power was harnessed to a great length in the war andhelped to put men against mechanized machines in the battlefields. Ascontrasted to wars before the WW1, soldiers in WW1 used heavymachines and applied advanced technology and a high level ofengineering that had never been seen before. Technology before WW1was crude and soldiers in the battlefield normally fired relativelyshort-range and inaccurate muskets with the support of relativelysmall-caliber field canon that were muzzle-loaded. Thewar-revolutionizing weapon called the “tank” was only animagination in the wars before WW1.

WW1saw technology such as aerial bombers, long-range heavy artillery,and machine guns among others coming into heavy application. Warfarewas simply revolutionized and characterized with new inventions thatwould later come to set the pace and stage for modern warfare andweaponry (Ho, n.d).

WorldWar 1 has been termed the testing ground for new technology, beingcharacterized by innovation and experimentation. Some of thetechnological ideas that were viewed as big only lasted shortlybefore they disappeared in the thin air. However, major and mostsuccessful inventions like the tanks, submarines, bombers, andfighter aircraft strikers went through more development andreappeared on a devastating scale in the WW2 (, n.d).Machine gun technology also endured after its introduction to replacethe Gatling guns, to allow for firing of several shots without havingto reload after every shot like in the case of Gatling guns. By 194,machine guns had been perfected to become a ruler of the battlefieldscombined with the barbed wire tactic.

Thefirst aircraft was flown by the Wrights Brothers and only elevenyears later, in WW1, they were in use on battlefields. During theinitial months of use, aircrafts replaced hot-air balloons inreconnaissance purposes. With each side trying to deny the other onecommand in the air, the famous “air circus” began. Some pilotsbecame very good, for example, Manfred von Richthofen, who shot atotal of 80 planes out of the air (Shmoop university, 2015).

Despitethe fact that the first crude tanks were built between 1915 and 1916by the Britons, they never came under heavy use until 1917. Somepeople think that the tank did not play a major role in influencingthe outcomes of the war, but fanatics hold that it in fact was adecisive weapon. One good example where the tank was of majorimportance is in the summer offensive launched by the Allied in 1918against the Axis Powers. The tank was used heavily and helped theAllies win the war. It was particularly used for breaching Germanlines in the battlefield (Shmoop university, 2015). Althoughstalemates were the main motivation for the development of the tank,there had been several attempts and a proposal for the development ofa vehicle that would sweep through barbed wires and cross trenchesand other difficult landscapes without much difficulty.

ABritish tank was the first one to appear in the war, although Francehad made a similar automobile, but with lighter parts. The Frenchmodel had traversable turret. During the war, it is approximated thatthe Allied forces produced about six thousand tanks. The Germans onthe other side managed to make just a few because they were limitedby a lack of resources. According to (2014), thetanks did not prove quite decisive in the war, as evidenced from theimbalance in the number of tanks produced by either side. Tanks werestill in their infancy and were therefore hampered by a wide spectrumof issues. To begin with, the vehicles were much slower, because theyfeatured heavy and crude parts due to design imperfections.Additionally, they were initially thought to be the only option towin the war and were therefore needed urgently in the battlefields.This notion was later disapproved by the outcomes of most wars. Theurgency with which they were produced led to the overlooking of somemajor and important aspects of design that led to slower vehicles.The technology available to the engineers was also limited and enoughtime for experimentation, testing, and perfection was not available(, 2014).

Despitetanks failing to be of much use in the WW1, their potential wasrealized by both sides, especially Germany. Germany would later goahead to use tanks to spearhead major attacks on the Allied forces,something that led to a fast balancing of resources between the twosides.

Theuse of tanks was by Britain following the deployment of Mark I. MarkI was deployed in the battle of Flers-Courcelette, which was a smallpart of the ongoing Battle of Somme. Sadly, by the 15thof September, 1916, the tanks had achieved mixed results, with someconsidering the results a total failure. In addition to the mixedresults, several tanks were broken, although a third of the totalnumber deployed managed to break through enemy lines. The ChineseLabor Corps would later be formed for the Chinese to help inrepairing the broken tanks. At that time, there existed Sino-Britishcollusion (Ho, n.d).

Apart of the Heavy Branch MGC was taken to form The Tank Corps in July1917. A battalion in the Tank Corps was made of 32 officers and 374soldiers. In the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, tank unit was organizedinto groups of three tanks and always went ahead of the infantry.Tanks were left open lanes in the British lines for them to passthrough. Enemies were drawn to the tank, while soldiers followedcautiously. Tank’s achievement and performance led to hardly anysuccess. Less than 36 tanks of all the 49 tanks deployed made to thefirst lines. Enemy fire hit 10 tanks, rendering them badly damaged tocontinue in the battle. Trenches prevented most of them fromadvancing. Enemy lines were broken into, but never broken through,just like an infantry would do without using tanks. The Britons haddeployed tanks in small numbers in small numbers to achieve anydecisive results as was later observed by the French. This exposedthe new weapon, while achieving minimal results. The results of thisconfrontation gave positive feedback that was used in designing laterversions of tanks (McCormack et al., 2014).

Inthe Battle of Arras, tanks were also deployed. The cold and wetweather proved hard for tanks to maneuver, with many breaking downand many failing to tackle the ground. Tanks failed to appear in theAustralian attack at Bullecourt, something that led to mistrust.Enemy fire was also always directed at tanks. By the summer of 1917,more better version of tanks were available. The Mark Vis weredeployed in the Battle of Y pres, but, like before, they provedincapable of handling mud and extremely rough landscape. Theyremained stuck, killing the morale of the Tanks Corps, but theyeventually managed to break through enemy lines, but because of alack of reserves, they were pushed out again (McCormack et al.,2014).

TheGermans relied mostly on captured tanks from the Allies. Theycaptured the tanks and re-engineered them for use in the WW2. Somewere deployed in battlefields, but on a very small scale (McCormacket al., 2014).


WW1was a less mechanized conflict at the beginning, but it became moresophisticated as time passed. Technology and engineering were majoraspects of the war towards its end. Some of the major breakthroughswe see today in the military and science of warfare are a result ofthe war. Both sides invented, tested, and experimented with newequipment, apparatus, and methods. The tanks was a major invention inthe WW1 although its effective use was not realized in that war. Itwas not a decisive invention of the war and battles won with itsdeployment did not give any significantly different results from whatwas being expected. The Allies applied tanks on a much larger scalethat the Axis power in WW1.


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