** World War I: weapons systems land warfare motorized vehicles








World War I Land Weapons Systems: Motorized Vehicles--Tracked Vehicles


Figure 1.--

The British introduced the revolutionary new weapon in World War I--the tank. It strongest proponent was none other than Winston Churchill. The Germans were not impressed with the tank at first and did not have the industrial capcity to produce them. The British developed the tank. The French produced the largest number. The Americans did not produce any tanks, but used British and French tanks. There were problems at first. Winston Chuchill was a major proponent. The Battle of Cambrai (November 20-December 7, 1917) was the first tank against tank battle. The British tanks were so lightly armored on top that German machine guns in higher positions like roof tops or upper windows could use armor piercing rounds to penetrate the tank and blow the fuel tank or the ammo. Even a hand grenade exploding on the top could destroy the tank. The first tanls also got stuck in the mud. The British worked on both tank design and tactics. In the final year of the War, the improved tank along with the American infantry delivered a knock out blow the Germans. The Allies broke through the German Siegfried Line on the Western Front and forced the Germans to request an armistice. The German people were shocked, having won the war in the East. The Germany Army unimpressed with the tank at first, finally realized their mistake at the end of the War. As a result, German military thinking in the inter-War era focused on the tank. It became a central component in Blitzkrieg. What the Germans did not fully apprecite in World War I was the importance of the truck and would launch the War without the capability of producung large numbers of trucks and still dependent on draft animals. America's industrial might was not a factor in the War, largely becuase The Germans asked for an armistice before American industry could be geared for War. The United States began to build the M1917 light tank, but the War ended before it could reach the AEF in France.

Trench Warfare

The Trench warfare which developed on the Western Front was a killing machine. After the Germabswere stopped on the marne, a vast trench system began to snake out from the Swiss birder toi the Chnnel. The leathality of weaponry meant that men had to go underground. Artillery, machineguns, and barbed wire made it impossible to chievce the southout break through. The trenches were built in depth. And attacking forces would be bigged down giving defenders in rear areas tge time to ammas defensives. Movement in rear areas was faster than attackers could manage as they attemoted to puh through the trench defenses and inevitable mud. The War bogged down and consumed men in unbelievanle numbers.

The Trench Problem

The combatats set out to develop weaponry to break through the trenches. The German answer was poisoin gas. It added to the misery of the trenches, but there was no break through. The Allies quickly developed poison gas weapons of their own. The British answer was the tank. It proved able to resist machine gun fire, open holes in barbed wire defenses, and cross trenches. Brbed wire was a critical component of the trench defenses. It slowed down infantry assaults, giving time for machine gun fire to descimate attackers emerging froim the trenches. The tanks proved able to drag barbed wire away from defensive positions using grappling hooks. They also could flatten areas covered with wire so that soldiers were not slowed down. The tanks also provuded cover for the advancing infantry as well as moving needed heavy weaons forward, wapons that the infantry could not carry.

Performance

The first use of tanks was not impressive. They were unreliable and difficult to maneuver over the all consuming mud and and uneven ground of the Western Front. Conditions inside the tanks was nearly unbearable. The tankers had to endure hot and cramped, fume filled interiors. The Allies used tanks to little effct on a snll cale to limitd effect. The Battle of Cambrai (November 20-December 7, 1917) was the major nzttle with large numbers of tabks were committed. The British tanks were so lightly armored on top that German machine guns in higher positions like roof tops or upper windows could use armor piercing rounds to penetrate the tank and blow the fuel tank or the ammo. Even a hand grenade exploding on the top could destroy the tank. The first tanks also got stuck in the mud. The British, however, recognoized the potentisal. The Germans took the opposite lesson and disreharded thee tank potential. The British worked on both tank design and tactics. In the final year of the War, the improved tank along with the American infantry delivered a knock out blow the Germans. Over 600 Allied tanks supported the war-winning Allied offensive on the Western Front (August 1918). The Allies broke through the German Siegfried Line on the Western Front and forced the Germans to request an armistice. The German people were shocked, having won the war in the East.

Country Trends

The history of the tank began in World War I when the British introduced the first armoured all-terrain fighting vehicles (1915). They were rushed into production in response to the horrors and unprecedented bloodl letting on the Western Front. It ininiated the modern era era of mechanized warfare. The French were impressed with the idea and began working ion their own versions. The first models were unreliable, getting stuck in the mud and breaking down (1916). Even so they did make advances into the German lines before breaking down. The Germans did not take the threat seriously becuse of the poor initial performnce. The British abd French in contrast set out to improve the early designs. As a result, the Allies had several thousand tanks with much improved performance, something the Germans had no anticipated. They would play an important role in the war-winning Hundred Days Campaign (1918).

Britain

The British introduced the revolutionary new weapon in World War I--the tank. It strongest proponent was none other than Winston Churchill. The British developed the 'Landship' as it was first called at the Bovington grounds. The initial models were unimpressive. Few people, espoecually the Germans,esaw thst the new weapon would break the Western Front trench warfare stalemate and revolutionized land warfare forever. The Britih developed 10 models (1914-1918) in the Military Factory. The initial idea for the building a tank came from studying farm equipment with caterpillar tracks. It became known as a tank because it looked like a metal water carrier and to maintain secrecy while they were being developed. The first tank, Little Willie, was developed by British scientists and inventors (1915). It weighed 16 tons, measured 8 metres long and had a maximum speed of 3.2 kmh which of course did not impress the Germans. The British focused on a romboid design. The Mark I was the world's first tank, meaning tracked and armed armoured vehicle, to actually enter combat. The Mark IV was the design most heavily produced--over 1,000 units. The British tanks ultimately achieved speeds of up to 13 kmh with the tanks they committed toi the Hiunbdred Days campaign. That did impress the Germans. The British made what they referred to as male and female versions. The female versions had fewer guns. The British began to paint their tanks in camouflaged colors, but as they were soon covered in mud in combat, they shifted to brown. Britain produced 2,600 tanks during the War.

Canada

Canada as with World War II played a major role as part of British forces on the Western Front. A Canadian reader tells us, "As far as I know the only tanks used in any combat by the Canadian Army were British. And I think British crewed. Canada started to make some tanks but were too late."

France

The French were imprssed with the British tanks and developed tanks if their own. They would ultimately produce the largest number during the War. As with the British, the French impetus to build tanks resulted from the heavy casualties on the Western Frint and the desire to break thriugh the German trench line. The first French tank was the Schneider CA1. The French built some 400 units. The French experimented with a range of tank designs, including the Frot-Laffly landship, Boirault machine and Souain designs. Another 400 Saint-Chamond tanks were produced (April 1917-July 1918). They were were largely underpowered and had design problems, especially with the caterpillar tracks, which were too short compared to the tank's length and weight. Both proved unsucessfulin combat conditions. Much more sucessful was the Renault FT light tank, which was highly influential in post-War tank design. It was the Allied tank that impressed the Americans the most. The FT has been described as the firsrt modern tank. It would have the largest production run of any tank of the war, with over 3,700 built. That was more than all British tanks built combined.

Germany

The British began building tanks (1915) and the German Army first faced the new tanks (1916). German troops panicked. They had never seen such monstrous war machines before. The British only had a few tanks and most of what they had broke down or got stuck in the mud. They moved at a snail's place. The German High Command initially responded with a crash effort to produce tanks of their own as well as anti-tank weapons. The result was the monstrous A7V--a 33 ton heavy tank. But the project was sidetracked as German generals concluded because of the 1916 performance that the tank threat was overrated. The Germans decided that the considerable commited of scarce resources and industrial capacity. The Germans did not have the resources the Allies had and thus devoting scarce resources to an unproven military technology was something German leaders declined. Their assessment was correct in 1916. The mistake was that innovative technologies could be improved which is exactly what the British and French did. The technological and learning curve during war was very fast. The Allies rapidly improved their tanks and construction technuiques. And by 1918 when the Allies struck in force, the Germans realised they had made a terrible mistake, but it was too late. The Germans had ordered only 100 chassis (early 1917). Ten were to be produced as combat vehicles with armoured bodies. The other ten were done as ´┐Żberlandwagen cargo carriers. The number to be armored was increased to 20. They saw combat (March-October 1918). They were the only tanks produced by the Germans to be used in combat. German troops in contrast faced several thoudand Allied tanks. The Germany Army unimpressed with the tank at first, realized their mistake by the end of the War. It was a mistake that they would not make twice. Hitler would reoear many World War I mistakes (two front war and making war on America), but a focus on tanks was not one of them. As a result, German military thinking in the intet-War era focused on the tank. It became a central component in Blitzkrieg. What the Germans did not fully appreciate in World War I was the importance of the truck. Perhaps because it was an institutional bias for combat and weaponry and because the trucks were mostly used in Allied rear areas. As a result, the Germans would launch launch World War II without the capability of producung large numbers of trucks and with an army still dependent on draft animals.

Russia

Russian engineers worked on tanks during the War. Vasily Mendeleev came up with a 170 behemouth with modern features. Aleksandr Porokhovschikov designed a model with a single wide rubber track. The Tsar Tank desinned by Lebedenko had a tricycle design. None of these designs were actually built. Russia just did not have the industrial capacity to devote to an unproven technology.

United States

Unlike World War II, there was no British trechnology transfer to America before America enteresed the War. The major focus of the Wilson Administration was keeping out of the War and concing the beligerants to end the fighting. There was no important preparadness effort. America's industrial might was thus not a factor in the War, largely becuase The Germans asked for an armistice before American industry could be geared for War. The Americans did not produce any tanks, but used British and French tanks. America did not design any tanks during the War. The United States began to build the M1917 light tank, but the War ended before it could reach the AEF in France. American began building British and American designs, but the War was over before American output could be shipped to France.







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Created: 10:33 PM 8/30/2018
Last updated: 4:01 PM 11/23/2021