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Armoured vehicles were greatly outnumbered by horses in WW1

Posted in Cars, Historical articles, History, Transport, War, Weapons on Friday, 28 June 2013

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This edited article about vehicles in World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 307 published on 2 December 1967.

WW1 tank, picture, image, illustration

Tank on the Western Front by Severino Baraldi

Although some experiments were made with armoured vehicles during the early 1900s, it was not until the outbreak of World War I, in 1914, that the motor industry was called upon to demonstrate the usefulness of the petrol engine in wartime.

One of the earliest armoured cars was bought by the Russians from a French firm named Giradot & Voight. The light armoured body was built onto a Charron chassis with a 30 h.p. engine. The whole vehicle weighed nearly two-and-a-half tons and could reach a speed of 28 m.p.h.

The story of that British invention, the tank, is well known. Two main types were first built, and they were known as Male and Female. The Male tank weighed 31 tons and its armament consisted of two 6-pounder guns and six machine guns. The Female weighed 30 tons and carried six machine guns. Tanks were first used on the Somme in 1916, but were not generally employed until 1917.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that their official title was His Majesty’s Land Ships. The word tank was in fact a code name which was used to suggest that they were merely large water tanks when they first appeared at the front, but the name stuck!

These early monsters were powered by a 6-cylinder Daimler engine which gave them a maximum speed of less than 4 m.p.h. Nevertheless, they were extremely effective and could straddle trenches where the German infantry could do little against their heavy armour plating.

Once the war had started, a wide variety of petrol-driven vehicles began to appear, from ambulances to Scout cars.

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