In September 1916 the British army use tanks for the first time on the Somme.
Ever since the first trenches were dug on the Western Front, individuals in the British military had been working on a new type of weapon.
The problem on the Western Front was that weapons like the machine gun made it very difficult to attack the enemy without losing too many soldiers. This is why the Western Front was stuck in deadlock.
But if soldiers could get across No-Man's land under some kind of protective shield and take out the machine guns then other soldiers might be able to follow them and an attack could be more successful and result in fewer casualties.
This was the thinking behind the tank.
It took months for British engineers and military commanders to come up with a design that they thought could work. Then they had to find men to drive the tanks and work out what the tactics should be.
The Germans had no idea what the great big machines were. They had been kept very secret.
Unfortunately the ground was very muddy on the 15th September and a lot of the tanks got stuck or broke down. However it was obvious that this new weapon had a lot of potential if it was used in the right way.
The design of the tank developed during the war, becoming better and better, and Britain and France became more experienced in using them. By the end of the war the tank was an important and dangerous weapon, one that would go on to dominate the battlefield in World War Two.
Did you know...
When we think of Winston Churchill we think mostly about what he achieved in World War Two. But Churchill was important in World War One as well. He was one of the main people responsible for persuading the British government they needed a tank. He found the money to fund tank experiments and worked hard to keep the project moving forward even when people said it was a silly idea.
Soldiers pose with a tank. Tanks were used for the first time at the Somme in September 1916. They attracted a lot of attention from the Allied soldiers and came as a shock to the Germans when they first appeared.
Swansea’s daily newspaper, the Cambrian Daily Leader, reported the battle three days later, under a headline ‘New Terror for Huns’. The account was enthusiastic about the new machines and their potential, declaring them ‘A marvellous aid to our fighting men’. The reporter believed that this new weapon would change the course of the war: ‘It is, from all accounts, a huge structure built of steel and mounted on caterpillar wheels, which enable it to climb over shell craters and trenches, whilst its ram-like front carries it through wire entanglements as if they were thistle-down. Impervious to shrapnel or even direct rifle bullets, or, indeed, to anything short of a direct hit by a high-explosive shell, its business is to advance to the enemy's trenches and to blow his machine-guns and gunners out of their positions, so clearing the way for our infantry to move forward’.
The government organised tank tours around Britain to promote the selling of war bonds and war savings certificates. ‘Julian’ was amongst the six touring tanks which visited some of the towns and cities across Britian. ‘Julian’ visited and demonstrated on the promenade in Aberystwyth in 1918 as is demonstrated in the following photo. Julian’ the tank also visited Newport, Carmarthen, Aberdare and Abergavenny in south Wales, whilst ‘Egbert’ visited Swansea and Bridgend.