The First Modern Tank

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
alf
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The First Modern Tank

Postby alf » 13 Mar 2006 00:20

The first modern tank was patented in 1912 by an Australian Inventor, Lance De La Mole from South Australia. He submitted his plans to the Britsh War Office where they sat. In 1915 he resubmitted his plan after learning of the losses suffered by infantry attacking across no mans land. Again his plans were filed away.

Yet in 1916, British Tanks suddenly appeared, similar in many ways to De Moles model

The De Moles tank of 1912

Image


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanks_in_World_War_I

In 1912, A South Australian named Lance De Mole submitted a proposal, to the British War Office, for a "chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches". The British War Office later developed a very similar tank themselves. The War Office’s "Big Willie" design had Holt Caterpillar tracks and a "climbing face" like the De Mole proposal. Inquiries from the government of Australia, after the war, yielded polite responses that Mr De Mole’s ideas had unfortunately been too far advanced for the time to be properly recognised at their just value.


In 1919 the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors said of De Mole
" He is entitled to the greatest credit for having made and reduced to practical shape as far back as the year 1912, a very brillant invention which anticipated, and in some ways surpassed, that actually put into use in the year of 1916. It was the claimant's misfortune and not his fault that his invention was in advance of his time, and failed to be appreciated and was put aside because the occasion for its use had not arisen"
( Bryan Cooper - The Ironclads of Cambrai. p28)

Of course the "true" Inventors of the tank were Sir William Tritton, managing director of Fosters of Lincoln, and Major W G Wilson, who developed "Little Willie" and "Big Willie" independently. But De Mole preceded them and was fated to be ignored by history.


http://www.trivia-library.com/b/militar ... e-tank.htm

TANK
Description. The tank is an armored vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. It is armed with machine guns and artillery and moves on metal caterpillar treads. The name "tank" originated during W.W. I, when the British, to keep their new weapon a secret, shipped the first tanks to France in crates labeled "Water Tanks."

Origin. Although Guido da Vigevano in 1300, and Leonardo da Vinci in 1500, designed armored combat vehicles, the first modern, motorized tank was invented by E. L. de la Mole of North Adelaide, Australia, in 1912. De la Mole sent his designs to the British War Office where they were filed away into bureaucratic obscurity.

Not knowing that de la Mole had already invented the tank, Col. Ernest Swinton of the British Royal Engineers began reinventing it during the early years of W.W. I. After reading an article on American agricultural tractors, Swinton obtained one of these and encased it in metal armor. Swinton's primitive tank impressed the War Office, which assigned Lt. W. G. Wilson to further develop the invention.

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Postby ChristopherPerrien » 28 Mar 2006 04:26

To be honest < I don't see any guns on that design, and I fail to see how anyone could invent a machine for the "trench warfare" of WWI, before anyone knew that such trench warfare or even WWI, was going to occur. Holt tractors and catapillar supensions were being tested and/or used for moving artillery and supplies across rough terrain before the war, by various armies and I think this is what De LA Mole had in mind for his machine.

However the true inventor of the "tank" is Ernest Swinton and he even thought of the name. Tritton and Wilson should get
credit for much of the "mechanical engineering" and of course we should give alot of credit to Winston Churchill, for having the foresight and the will to make Swinton's idea happen.


I alway's thought a good name for a tank would be "Swinton's Bitch". However ,they never would let me name one that.

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Postby Duckman » 28 Mar 2006 06:18

ChristopherPerrien wrote: and I fail to see how anyone could invent a machine for the "trench warfare" of WWI, before anyone knew that such trench warfare or even WWI, was going to occur.


Errr, St Petersburg 1864-5?
The Russo-Japanese War?

Of course people didn't KNOW the next war would be trench warfare. The fact that they didn't forsee it was a failure of vision. There were plenty of examples of armies getting bogged down in trench warfare prior to WWI. It was not like it COULDN'T have been forseen, even if no-one expected it to.

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Postby Gwynn Compton » 29 Mar 2006 10:49

The American Civil War, the Boer War and the Franco-Prussian War also each saw trenches being dug on some scale, yet not in the way they would be in 1914. It was however, the German army that had a higher percentage of engineers in each division IIRC when the war broke out.

The Maori in New Zealand also employed larger trench systems in their Pa which caused the British plenty of trouble despite having superior small arms, numbers and artillery.

Europe was learning about the trench, they just couldn't comprehend how useful it would be.

Gwynn

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Postby ChristopherPerrien » 29 Mar 2006 15:05

Y'all both miss my point. Sure trenches have been use in SEIGE BATTLES for at least 2000 years , but to have an entire WAR bog down to two opposing indepth lines of trenches and fortifications, a 400 mile seige front, was not considered possible. This was cause by three things 1) the total moral bankruptcy and incompetence of most generals on both sides 2) the defensive power of the entrenched rifleman over the attacking rifleman 3) the machine-gun.

Swinton must get credit for realizing that an " armoured machine-gun destroyer" capable of crossing trenches and no-man's land, was the solution. Not only that, he developed the correct tactics for the use of tanks. Which sadly were not correctly followed by many of the idiot generals of the allied side.

The western front of WWI was an "anomaly"(sp?), unforeseen by anyone , and was proven as such by the developement of the Tank, and the advent of small unit tactics refered to as "Von Hutier/Ludendorf/Infiltration tactics". The tank and these tactics and the airplane were the foundation of the combined arms warfare of WWII and today, which put trenches and seige warfare back where they should be, in the history books.

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Postby Duckman » 30 Mar 2006 08:02

ChristopherPerrien wrote:Y'all both miss my point.

No, no, I get your point, and up to a point, you are quite right. The scale in WW1 was quite unlike anything that came before. But that is not the same as being "before anyone knew that such trench warfare...was going to occur".

I remain intrigued by your original statement:
I fail to see how anyone could invent a machine for the "trench warfare" of WWI, before anyone knew that such trench warfare or even WWI, was going to occur.

I can see three ways to read this (there may be more).

1. The machine was not invented - the whole story is a fraud?
2. The machine was not invented for trench warfare - in which case what was it invented for?
3. Since "trench warfare" could not be forseen*, the invention can only have taken place after the outbreak of static warfare. Ergo, the first wartime inventor must be given precedence over a prewar inventor who came up with a machine for which the purpose could not be forseen.

OTOH, we have a 1912 Patent application for a "chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches".

Seems like de Moles at least was thinking outside the box...

Duckman

*I think it could, and this patent application would appear to endorse that viewpoint.

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Postby alf » 30 Mar 2006 08:44

The point actually is Swinton DOES get the credit for inventing the "first" tank. However De Mole had preceded his designs and the same army that Swinton was a member of didn't have the sense to put two and two together. Note: De Mole submitted his plans twice. The second time he was a mere private of the Australian Imperial Forces ( AIF) and naturally ignored by the War Office.

DeMole's tank design had no guns shown. But all that was required was to fit sponsons to the side and it would identical to the earlier British tanks - Mark1-1V's. It wasn't the guns that were important but the mechincal and technical aspects.

Two country's Governments were involved post war and a Royal Commission, all accept that De Mole had patented a design that predated Swintons attempts and was superior to early British efforts. His only misfortune was no-one had the sense in the War Office to think. A good "what if " would be if he had submitted his plans to the Admirality rather than the War Office. Perhaps history would have been different.

Anyway its a moot point, his tank was never built and infantry was needlessly slaughtered for way to long.

The comments about "how could anyone have known" well in 1907 the British Army did test some theories. It found that two machine guns could wipe out an infantry battalion in under three minutes if they were advancing in the open.

Haig is famous for the comment later that only two machine guns per battalion was ample, thats the reason why. Sadly he and many of his ilk came up with the "solution" of throwing many battalions at those machine guns, so some men should survive to take them. That theory was very popular up till 1918.

I will end with the quote from my first post, it sums it up perfectly.

He is entitled to the greatest credit for having made and reduced to practical shape as far back as the year 1912, a very brillant invention which anticipated, and in some ways surpassed, that actually put into use in the year of 1916. It was the claimant's misfortune and not his fault that his invention was in advance of his time, and failed to be appreciated and was put aside because the occasion for its use had not arisen"

( Bryan Cooper - The Ironclads of Cambrai. p28)

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Postby ChristopherPerrien » 30 Mar 2006 17:38

OTOH, we have a 1912 Patent application for a "chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches".
Seems like de Moles at least was thinking outside the box...

Duckman

*I think it could, and this patent application would appear to endorse that viewpoint.


As I stated earlier he considered his machine a tractor. Sure it had tracks, but various footed wheels and tracked systems had been experimented with by various armies since (if I remember correctly) about 1895.

His design does look much like modern day tank hulls and all it needs is a turret. But I will add that the comments that his vehicle was a better design than what was actually used are wrong. Crossing one trench or what can be called rough terrain
would be something his vehicle might have been able to do, perhaps as good as later tanks or modern day tanks,

But here is the real funny part, which will seem real strange to most

Modern day tanks and/or De Mole's vehicle would not work or would not have been able to cross no-man's land, the wire obstacles and the vast trench systems of the Western Front. The rhombehedral( sp ?)all round track design of Mother/Centipede/ Big Willie/ The Mark I was the best design for the actual hell that composed much of the Western Front.
As I said the Western Front was truely an anomally, The trench and wire systems of the western front were too big for vehicle such as Moles vehicle or the Renault FT-17( the actual first modern TANK), or the ST. Chamond, or the AV-7, only vehicles with long hulls and all around tracks like the MK'S, and to some extent the Whippet Medium tank had a good chance of crossing something that I would call rougher than rough terrain.

This is why Swinton invented the tank, his ideas worked and cause the acceptance of tanks to occur, Granted the Romboid all -round track system of the MKI-VI was only good for that war and those conditions , hindsight and the later acceptance of designs having a De Mole hull does not make it , the First Modern tank. That credit goes to the designer of the Ft-17 with its turret ( De Estienne?), and credit for the first REAL tank goes to Swinton, although his first tank became obsolete as fast as it destroyed the "trench war" of WWI.

As to why I say DeMoles machine or modern day tanks could not cross no-man and the trenched of WWI, I speak with authority, having looked at pictures of the wire and trenches of WWI, I can safely say that even a M-1 of today could not cross or go through or over them, it has the wrong hull and track design, the MKIV was definitely a superior design for WWI.

Whereas some people have studied tank history and others have driven them professionally, I have done both.

Regards to both of you , I am glad to talk to others with an interest in Tanks and their history,
Chris


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