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British Armour in the Great War

Mark I

Mark I tank

The British Mark I was the worlds first combat tank. It could cross trenches, resist small-arms fire, travel over difficult terrain, and carry supplies. The unusual rhomboidal shape gave it a long track run. The main armament was arranged on the side of the vehicle. The tank was fitted with a wire grenade shield and steering tail, features that were discarded in the next model. The Mark I was first used during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on September 15, 1916. Their effectiveness was hampered by the fact that they were not employed en masse, but were instead scattered piecemeal on the battle field. Big Willie was constructed of boiler plating, weighed 28 tons, and could travel only four miles per hour. The Mark I needed a crew of eight to 10 soldiers to fire the guns, steer the vehicle, and maintain and operate the finicky engine. After the Mark I was demonstrated to the Admiralty, the British Government placed an order for 100 tanks.

Mark I tank

The tanks were given genders. Male tanks had a sixpound cannon (57mm) on either side of the tank, housed in half-turrets called sponsons, while female tanks had machine guns. The two types were to work together: the male tanks would use their cannon to target enemy machine gun positions and obstacles, and the female tanks would target troops with their machine guns. Tanks of the two genders were produced in roughly equal numbers, with an additional few armed with both cannon and machine guns. Probably the last time the tanks Mk.I participated in the offensive near Arras in April 1917, when the British command gathered almost all combat vehicles. The first attack was carried out on April 9 and ended in a floppy failure - the Germans concentrated about 10 guns per one kilometer of the front, prepared "wolf pits" and completed the infantry with armor-piercing bullets. Caught in an extremely unprofitable situation, many tanks were put out of order, and not having fulfilled most of the combat missions.

Mark II

Mark II tank

The British applied several lessons learned during the Battle of the Somme to subsequent designs. Although some Mark II and III tanks participated in battles during 1917, the British produced them in limited numbers and used them primarily for training. After the first application of Mk.I, though not as successful as expected, General D. Haig asked for the front of 1000 tanks, and then 1,250 tanks of improved design. The military council rejected this request at first, referring to the imperfection of the Mk.I design, but after the appeal of Lieutenant Stern, who was a member of the Committee on Land Ships and was heavily promoting the creation of armored tracked vehicles, the situation changed directly to Prime Minister Lloyd George and, in 1917, it is planned to expand the production of tanks. Two new modifications were assembled at once. Model Mk.II differed, mainly, by the absence of an excess "tail" and slightly slanting down sponsons. Instead of an armored cabin, a box with assets was installed under the jack, the capacity of the tanks was increased to 281.4 liters, steel skating rinks were replaced with cast iron ones, and a rectangular hatch with an armored armored cover instead of a round one was made in the roof of the hull. In total, in the period from December 1916 to January 1917, 25 "females" and "males" were built. Subsequently, five tanks were used for experiments with various types of transmissions.

Mark III

Mark III tank

Mark III tank

Model Mk.III was similar to Mk.II, but got holes for sheets of armor (which have not been installed). Every sixth track widened and a beam of self-pulling was introduced. The series also limited itself to 50 tanks, with 7.71 mm Lewis machine guns mounted on 25 "females", as they were standardized for RNAS (tank development was formally still managed by the agency). Most of the Mk.III tanks were used in Bovington as training vehicles, and tanks without sponsors were used to train drivers.

The schematic configuration of this tank is a bit of a puzzle. Photographs and narrative text indicate that it was a derivative of the Mark II [the upper illustration]. But other sources present an entirely different configuration [the lower illustration], without robust provenance.

Mark IV

Mark IV tank

Mark IV tanks incorporated the bulk of the improvements over the Mark I and were widely fielded. The British built 1,220 Mark IVs, making it the most-produced tank variant of the war. Improvements included thicker armor, a more powerful engine, and an improved transmission. The Mark IVs first saw combat on June 7, 1917, during the attack on Messine Ridge. It was during the Battle of Cambrai that the Mark IVs proved their worth. At dawn on Nov. 20, 1917, the British attacked at Cambrai with 476 tanks the most concentrated use of tanks to that point in the war across a 10-kilometer front. It was possible for these tanks to fight on the overseas terrioriys. In 1917, three Mk.IV arrived in Egypt, which they used during the third battle of Gaza. Together with the tanks Mk.II, these vehicles, on the night of November 1 to 2, went on the attack on the Turkish positions, moving in the dust curtain behind the fire shaft. Some of the crew lost their way and returned and 4 more were out of order for various reasons. Nevertheless, part of the tasks were fulfilled by the tanks. Subsequently, Mk.IV was used sporadically, and in early 1918 the crews went to the Western Front.

Mark IV tank

After the war, the remaining tanks Mk.IV quickly replaced by more numerous Mk.V *, but the old machines were used. During the 1919-1920 gg. Mk.IV used to train personnel, and some tanks were used for civilian needs. For example, one of the tanks was equipped with special equipment for towing airships , and several other "demobilized" Mk.IV used for "weighty walks", installing on their roof platforms with boards to transport the public. Subsequently, almost all tanks of this type went to scrap, but to this day seven Mk.IV have survived.

Mark IV Tadpole

Mark IV tank

With respect to Mk.IV, it was possible to apply the definition of Main Battle Tank (main battle tank), since these machines were the main part of the RTC in 1917-1918. In general, the combat effectiveness of this machine was significantly higher than that of the tanks of the first models, but the operational reliability still left much to be desired - a major overhaul for the Mk.IV was required after 100-112 km of run. To improve patency and simultaneously strengthen the offensive potential of Mk.IV, an extended aft part of the caterpillar contour was developed for this tank. For its characteristic form, it was called "Tadpole", and on the appeared place behind the body was mounted a platform with a mortar Stokes. The finalization was carried out by the Central workshops of the RTC. The prototype successfully passed the road tests in the middle of 1917 and even it was decided to begin altering the serial tanks that had already arrived at the front, but almost at the last moment the idea was abandoned in favor of the serial production of Mk.V.

Mark V

Mark V tank

Unlike the Mark IV, the Mark V was easier to handle, requiring only one man to operate the vehicle. The first Mk.V battle took place on July 4, 1918 near the town of Amel, supporting the counterattack of British troops, but the attack on July 23 in the area of the villages of Sauwiller and Montgewal was especially successful when British tanks supported the attack of the 3rd, th and 152nd Infantry Divisions of the French. The German positions were taken, however it cost 15 pitted tanks, 11 killed and 45 wounded tankmen. The biggest operation involving Mk.V was the blow of the 4th British Army near Amiens. Between July 31 and August 5, 11 tank battalions were relocated here, including 324 heavy tanks Mk.IV and Mk.V. The offensive was carried out on a 28 km section of the front, where the average density was 22.6 tanks per 1 km. On the morning of August 8, 415 tanks went into battle, having managed to break through the German defenses.

Mark V *

Mark V tank

The Mk.V tanks were replaced by tanks of modification Mk.V * on which the extended chassis and hull were used. The conversion was caused by the use of trenches and ditches on the defensive line "Siegfried", the width of which sometimes reached 4 meters. This problem was solved by using an additional section of 1.83 meters long, which was inserted behind the sponsors. This allowed not only to add doors to the body with two more 8 mm machine guns, but also to transport 20-24 infantrymen. The total length of the tank increased from 8.06 to 9.89 meters, which allowed to overcome 4-meter ditches, but the weight of "males" increased from 29.47 to 33 tons, and from 28.45 to 32 tons in "females". Nevertheless, the variant Mk.V * was adopted for serial production in May 1918, and the first tanks took part in the summer battles. Since then the earlier Mk.V was still on the pipeline, they were modified to the standard Mk.V *. In total, the company Metropolitan Carriage collected 200 "males" and 432 "females" part of which was later converted into "composites". An important role played by Mk.V *, delivered machine guns to the last line of the attack. During the day, managed to advance 11 km, capture 7000 prisoners and about 400 guns. However, the losses were too great - more than 100 tanks were put out of action, and about half of them were broken by direct hits of shells. The last modification was the tank Mk.V ** . Outwardly it was similar to the Mk.V *, but was equipped with a Ricardo engine boosted to 225 hp. and transferred to the back of the case. The rear wheelhouse was dismantled, and the front deck was modernized, having received two ball machine-gun installations. The caterpillar contour of the rear part became more angular. Only 25 Mk.V ** were built in total, which did not take part in hostilities.

Mark VI

Mark VI tank

Of all the tank types then in production or being planned, only the French Renault and British Mark VI (a 27- to 30-ton heavy tank that never reached production) could be expected to provide satisfactory results. The British, in the same spirit of cooperation, agreed to provide complete plans and specifications for their Mark VI tank so that production of that vehicle could also be begun in America. According to calculations, the heavy tank Mk.VI was supposed to have a mass of 33,000 kg and speed of 6.3 km / h. The thickness of the reservation was the frontal part of the hull was increased to 14 mm, the sides and forage were protected by 10 mm armor, the roof and bottom - 6 mm. It was expected that the power reserve of Mk.VI would be 80.5 km (versus 72 km for Mk.V) with comparable characteristics in overcoming obstacles. It was also planned, to improve the patency of the tank, to use caterpillars of a wide 750 mm. The first presentation of the draft heavy tank Mk.VI was held on June 23 and the second one on July 13, 1917. The dummy commission, after some thought, came to the conclusion that it was inexpedient to launch this tank into mass production. There were several reasons. First of all, I was confused by the unusual appearance and layout of Mk.VI. Further, an unsuccessful installation of the main armament was noted. Doubts also caused reliable operation of the power plant and transmission. In the end, it was concluded that Mk.VI would not have a decisive advantage over Mk.V and the construction of even one prototype did not take place.

Mark VII

Mark VII tank

Simultaneously with the advent of the heavy tank Mk.IV, British designers actively carried out further modernization of its design. To increase the security of the tank without the threat of a sharp increase in its mass was then not possible, in connection with which the main efforts were concentrated in two directions: improving controllability and improving driving performance. So, in October 1917, a project of a heavy tank Mk.VII appeared , in which they tried to combine the design of the serial Mk.IV and new developments. The design work and prototype construction was assigned to Brown Brothers from Edinburgh. In the future, Kitsons Leeds was supposed to be connected to serial production. As is often the case, the prototype of the heavy tank Mk.VII in July 1918 underwent sea trials, but when it came to the deployment of serial production a number of unpleasant nuances emerged. First of all, the tank became heavier - its combat mass rose to 33 tons, and in some sources, this figure is brought up to 37 tons. Further it was found out, that hydrostatic transfer Williams-Jenny is too expensive and difficult in manufacture. In addition, the transmission was unnecessarily cumbersome, had a lower efficiency and was sensitive to wear. Another problem was the constant overheating of the power plant and transmission, which required an additional radiator. I had to transfer the radiator grilles to the roof to reduce dust and clogging. As a result, in the autumn of 1918 the initial order for 74 tanks (all in the "male" version - that is, equipped with cannon-machine-gun weapons) was canceled.

Mark VIII Liberty

Mark VIII tank

The Mark VIII tank was sometimes referred to as the Liberty Tank due to its 12-cylinder Liberty engine. The tank, a joint venture of the United States and Great Britain, was based on the British Mark series of tanks. Of the shortcomings, only insufficiently good work of the controls and overheating of a high-power power unit were noted. In terms of driving performance, the Mk.VIII surpassed the earlier models, mainly due to the upgraded undercarriage - now the tank could overcome trenches and trenches with a width of 4.88 meters, which was even greater than envisaged in the technical assignment. At a length of 10.43 meters, the full radius of the turn was only 12 meters, and the maximum speed when driving on paved roads reached 8.9 km / h. At the same time, the Mk.VIII engine proved to be quite voracious, consuming 0.25 gallons of gasoline per 1 mile, so the range did not exceed 68 km.

However, Liberty engine production remained slow, and those built went to meet Air Corps needs. No Mark VIIIs were completed by wars end, and in fact no American-built tanks entered combat. The Mark VIII was designed to be an "anti-machinegun" weapon capable of traversing a battlefield scarred by trenches, shell holes, and debris while clearing a path for the infantry to follow. By the time the first of these tanks came off the assembly line the war had ended. The operation of Mk.VIII tanks in the US Army was completed in 1932. The tanks removed from the arsenal were gradually dismantled and sent to the "temporary parking" in Aberdeen, where, in the course of time, they were planned to be completely dismantled. However, without work, the old "rhombuses" did not last long. One hundred were made and used in training exercises throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s.

Mark IX

Mark IX tank

At the end of 1917, after summing up the results of the previous tank battles, the British agreed that the tank corps needed a specialized supply tank, which could also serve as a caterpillar armored personnel carrier. So the Mark IX tank appeared (we are better known as Mk.IX ), which was a deeply modernized design of the serial Mk.V *. Since the first task was to deliver troops, at least to the first line of enemy trenches, the engineers had to rework the hull accordingly. In general, the same Mk.V * had the ability to transport up to 10 people inside, good the size of the tank it allowed. However, in the process of transportation soldiers were constantly in a heavily gassed combat compartment and by the time of the landing lost their combat capability. In addition, landing and disembarkation from the tank were carried out through the doors of the sponsors, which was not very convenient for the rest of the equipment. But the worst thing was that 10 people, even with full ammunition, would not last long in the defense of the enemy. A new demand from the army command consisted in the possibility of transferring 50 (!) People or 10 tons of payload.

Mark X

Mark X tank

If the heavy tank Mk.VIII became the last of the "rhombuses", the realization of which was brought to serial production, then among the numerous heirs of Mk.V the final project known as Mk.V *** (with three stars) or Mk.X. It was planned that the design of the serial Mk.V will be so heavily upgraded that it will result in a new tank. Among the changes, in addition to the longer hull, there was an increased armament - in the side part of the sponsors of the improved design, one additional machine gun was installed, which increased the crew by two more people. Of the other innovations, it was planned to use an improved filtration and cooling system inside the combat compartment with the use of new type exhaust fans. In addition, to protect against gas attacks, the same system had to create an excessive pressure inside the shell. The mock-up of the heavy tank Mk.X, which was submitted for consideration in mid-1918, received a good evaluation, but was abandoned. By that time, a more advanced model of Mk.VII had already been launched into mass production and the need for a modernized Mk.V had disappeared by itself.

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Page last modified: 13-11-2018 16:52:47 ZULU