One hundred years ago the face of modern warfare was forever changed .
On September 15, 1916, the British attacked German positions at Flers-Courcelette – part of the larger Somme offensive – with 32 tanks.
The hopeful reaction to the new machines naturally spurred interest in how they had been conceived and by whom. A brief interview with Lloyd George conducted as he left the War Office appeared two days later. He attributed the credit to Churchill who had converted ministers to their potential, whilst seeking out the expertise of the Admiralty in designing armor plating.
The following week, battle reports gave details of the tanks and the actions of their crews at Flers-Courcelette. ‘Single handed one of these strange craft is prepared to engage an entire battalion, an entire battery, a trench crammed with machine guns, and come out of the fray victorious.’ The same report revealed the new weapon’s shortcomings as unwieldy boxes mounted on tractor chassis and prone to mechanical failure.
Before the tank, crossing muddy, sandy, or any other difficult terrain was hard to cross with any vehicle. Crossing enemy lines were much harder, as there was no safe way to cross trenches, break through barbwire, or get past enemy fire, and there was no artillery that could be easily moved across the battlefield. Artillery was carried by trucks, wheeled around like a trailer, hauled on train cars sometimes, or just stayed in place during the whole battle.
Tank designs evolved into sleek weapons with the now-classic characteristics of speed, mobility, and firepower, and have gone on to dominate modern day warfare.
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