Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tanks & The First World War - Little Willie

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, the beginning of tanks began with Little Willie so here is his story.

The Landship Committee, headed by the First Lord Of The Admiralty, Winston Churchill, set out plans to create, as the name suggests, a Landship. For this plan to go ahead, a prototype was needed to be made, with work beginning on this prototype in Autumn 1915. It was first known as a Foster's Landship, but was later named Little Willie.

Little Willie was powered by a Daimler six cylinder petrol engine and could travel at a maximum speed of 3.5 mph. It could hold a maximum crew of 5 who were protected by 10mm thickness of armour.

Little Willie was finished being constructed at the end of 1915, however, his life was cut short due to a brand new prototype being designed and made around this time, known as Mother. This was to be the prototype for what would be the Mark I tanks. Therefore, Little Willie was no longer needed and so never saw combat, although he was used for a while as a driver trainer.

Today, Little Willie is in safe hands, being looked after by the wonderful volunteers at Bovington Tank Museum, in Dorset. Here he takes centre stage, right at the beginning of the Tank story, being the oldest surviving individual tank. Having seen him myself, I will admit he has his own special charm and just shows how little they knew at the time about this modern warfare and what was needed.

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