2Aims:Identify the advantages and disadvantages of the tank as a weapon during the First World War.
3The idea of the tank grew out of the development of a farming vehicle which was designed to cross difficult terrain.It was noted that the use of caterpillar tracks would be useful for crossing no-mans land and crushing barbed wire.A Nottingham plumber offered plans to the government – ‘the man’s mad’ was the response
4At first the idea of the tank was not well received. Lord Kitchener described it as“a pretty mechanical toy”.Eventually support for the development of the tank grew, its supporters including Winston Churchill.When the first tanks were sent to France they were labelled as ‘water tanks’ to mislead the Germans.
6The tank could travel at 4mph, climb slopes and cross a 2.5 metre gap. They were fitted with machine guns and canons.It was believed that the tank could achieve a long awaited breakthrough of the Western Front.
7Life in a TankMost tanks had a crew of about 8 men who were cramped into a small space around the tanks engine.Inside the tank it was extremely hot (up to 40 Celsius) and the air was filled with the smell of petrol, oil and cordite. The engine was so hot that the men had to wear leather jackets to protect themselves from burns.
8As well as this, the men were at risk of being injured by metal splinters caused by bullets hitting the tank. To protect themselves masks had to be worn.A splatter mask worn by tank crews during World War One.Another risk of the tank was it unreliability; they often broke down leaving the crew inside stranded and extremely vulnerable.
9Battle of the Somme 1916Tanks were used for the first time. The Germans called them ‘devils coaches’.They broke through the German trenches but there was not enough and many of them broke down.
10Battle of Cambrai 1917Tanks had more success because they were used in large numbers – 378 and the ground was firmer.The tanks dropped huge bundles of wood called ‘fascines’ to help them cross the wide trenches.Although a breakthrough was achieved there wasn’t enough infantry to take advantage.