1st Use of Tanks in War

Battle of Flers–Courcelette.: Mark I tanks fill with petrol on the day tanks were first used in war, September 15, 1916
Battle of Flers–Courcelette.: Mark I tanks fill with petrol on the day tanks were first used in war, September 15, 1916

Historical Context

While the actual battlefield effect of a tank in World War I can be debated, it is known that the introduction of these menacing machines caused terror in the German ranks. Attempts to get the British government to construct armored machines went back to 1914, when a select group of Army officers tried to persuade the War Office to introduce them.

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill convened a committee in 1915 to investigate if a mechanical solution to the trench warfare problem could be found, as a stalemate had ensued on the Western Front. So tanks were, in part, introduced to meet the unique challenges of traversing the trenches - they could be shot at without effect, could trample barbed wire, and were able to roll over wide trenches.

The name "tank" was adopted to maintain secrecy for its purpose while it was being developed. The first tanks, as seen above, were the Mark I vehicles, nicknamed Little Willies. They drove at a whopping maximum speed of 5.9km/h (3.66 mph) and had a crew of eight.

They were first used on the morning of September 15, 1916, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, which was itself a part of the infamous Battle of the Somme. Since then tanks have become a mainstay of warfare, offering heavy weaponry, mobility and defense against small arms.

Photo Info


Photographer: John Warwick Brooks
Date taken: September 15, 1916
Location taken: Chimpanzee Valley, Flers–Courcelette, France

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1916-09-15 First use of tanks in warfare, "Little Willies" at Battle of Flers-Courcelette, part of the Battle of the Somme

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