On this day in 1916, the first tanks were deployed during warfare.
The First Use of Tanks in Warfare
In the Battle of the Somme, the British deployed the British Mark I tank in a massive offensive move against the Germans.
The British Mark I was the very first tank deployed in the middle of a war. Unfortunately, they did not fare well amid the 7-day battle.
These first-round, primitive tanks were too slow to maintain their positions and were subject to mechanical breakdowns when German counter attacks were launched at Flers Courcelette.
Forty-nine tanks were shipped to the Somme; thirty-two began attacking the first time they were used, and only nine managed to reach German lines across no man’s land.
When the German counterattack began, they were slow and began to quickly break down. However, British commanders believed that they would prove crucial in future warfare, so they ordered hundreds of more tanks to be manufactured. Now tanks are common in war.
Little Willie was a prototype for the British Mark I tank. The first tank prototype in history was built in the autumn of 1915. Unfortunately, Little Willie ended up weighing 14 tons, moved just 2mph and was prone to getting stuck in trenches.
Little Willie is the oldest single tank at The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.