Can you help keep Patriotrealm on line?



User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Some time ago, I watched a fascinating documentary about the history of tanks.

I did not know that they were originally to be called landships, because they were modeled on the early warships used by naval forces around the world. But allies felt that the name would give an hostile WWI Germany a hint of what was being planned, so the name tank was coined. 

Because it looked somewhat like an old water tank.

From their humble beginnings in the early 20th century to the sophisticated armored behemoths of today, tanks have evolved significantly, shaping military strategies and battles along the way.

The concept of armoured vehicles dates back to ancient times, but it wasn't until World War I that the modern tank was born. In 1916, the British unveiled the Mark I tank, a tracked, armoured vehicle designed to break through enemy lines and traverse difficult terrain. These early tanks were primitive by today's standards, with rudimentary armour and limited mobility, but they represented a revolutionary leap in military technology.

‘Little Willie’, the first prototype tank with tracks. Image courtesy of Richard Pullen

By early 1915 the First World War was in a bit of a stalemate and many thousands of Allied soldiers were dying daily. 

The problem was the barbed wire that lay along the 700 odd kilometres of fortified enemy trenches that ran through Belgium and France. The only way to break through was finding some sort of vehicle that could ride over the trenches, the barbed wire and expose the machine guns for the artillery to attack.

Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, gathered together technical experts and formed the Landships Committee whose brief was to develop armoured fighting vehicles for use on the Western Front.

It was on 15 September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (Battle of the Somme). that tanks were first seen in battle. I cannot imagine how the German troops must have felt seeing these dalek type robotic monsters approaching.

With their single " eye " emitting such ferocity and seemingly impervious to attack.

But early tanks only had a top speed of 6 km an hour. And, unlike the daleks, the early tanks bodies were vulnerable to concentrated fire.

Conditions inside were horrific – heat that could reach 50 degrees centigrade, extreme noise and toxic exhaust from the engine, as well as violent movement.  The 8 man crew would often be severely sick. Communication was difficult.

Despite early attempts to upgrade the tanks, their soft bodies were too exposed: They were hopeless in the mud. At the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele, 31 July- 1 November 1917), the tank did not look long for the battlefield. 

The British government set out to raise funds to improve the development of tanks and to build more of them. They appealed to the public.

It is interesting to note that each city in the United Kingdom tried hard to be the highest fundraiser. Glasgow won and raised 16 million pounds.

After the war, the people of Glasgow went on strike for better working conditions and the tanks that they had paid for were sent in to quell the strike.

By WWII, tanks had become almost synonymous with battle.

Following World War I, the interwar period saw rapid advancements in tank design and technology. Nations around the world experimented with different tank prototypes, refining their armour, firepower, and mobility. 

In the 1930s, the Soviet Union introduced the T-34, a revolutionary medium tank that set new standards for speed, armour, and firepower. Meanwhile, Germany developed the Panzer series, including iconic tanks like the Panzer IV and Tiger I, which became formidable adversaries on the battlefield.

They were faster. They were better designed. They could traverse different terrain. ( These days, they are able to speed forward at an impressive 80 km per hour.)

The effect on the human psyche of an approaching fleet of Panzer tanks or Tiger tanks on the populace must have been terrifying. 

Tanks became faster, more heavily armoured, and better armed, leading to iconic battles such as the clash of titans at Kursk and the Allied breakout in Normandy. The introduction of tank destroyers, self-propelled artillery, and specialised variants further diversified armoured tactics, highlighting the versatility and adaptability of tank warfare.

Fast forward to the wars fought since. 

By 1950, the Korean War had begun.

The tank was, again, a key component in the great war machine.

They played a crucial role in the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. The conflict, fought between North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, aided by the United Nations forces led by the United States, saw extensive armoured warfare across the Korean Peninsula.

At the outset of the war, North Korean forces launched a massive invasion of South Korea, catching the South Korean and UN forces off guard. The North Korean People's Army (NKPA) utilized Soviet-built T-34/85 tanks, which proved to be highly effective against the lightly armed South Korean and UN troops.

In response, the United States rapidly deployed its armoured units to the Korean Peninsula. American forces introduced a variety of tanks, including the M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing, to counter the North Korean armoured onslaught. These tanks provided much-needed firepower and mobility to the UN forces, helping to stem the initial North Korean advance.

One of the most famous tank battles of the Korean War occurred during the Battle of the Imjin River in April 1951. UN forces, including British Commonwealth troops, engaged in fierce combat with North Korean and Chinese forces, with tanks playing a significant role in the fighting. 

As the war progressed, both sides continued to deploy tanks in various offensive and defensive operations. The rugged terrain and harsh winter conditions in Korea posed significant challenges for armored units, but tanks remained a critical component of ground warfare throughout the conflict.

The introduction of newer tank models, such as the M46 Patton and M4A3E8 Sherman "Easy Eight," provided UN forces with improved firepower and armour protection. These tanks played a vital role in breaking through enemy lines and supporting infantry units in their advance across the Korean Peninsula.

 By Vietnam, the tank had again been brought into play. And many a bombardier would relive his moments - with his buddies - in those intense moments of battle.

Early in the conflict, the United States deployed tanks primarily for infantry support and reconnaissance missions. The M48 Patton and M41 Walker Bulldog were among the tanks utilised by American forces during the early stages of the war. These tanks were primarily employed to provide fire support to infantry units, conduct patrols, and protect convoys and bases.

However, the dense jungles and rugged terrain of Vietnam posed significant obstacles for tanks. The thick vegetation limited visibility and mobility, making it difficult for tanks to maneuvre effectively and engage enemy forces. Additionally, the lack of suitable infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, restricted the deployment of armoured vehicles in many areas of the country.

Despite these challenges, tanks were occasionally used in offensive operations, particularly during large-scale battles such as the Tet Offensive in 1968. During this campaign, tanks played a crucial role in urban combat and clearing enemy strongholds in cities and towns across South Vietnam.

The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong also utilized tanks during certain phases of the conflict, albeit on a smaller scale compared to the United States. The Soviet-built T-54/T-55 and Chinese Type 59 tanks were among the armored vehicles supplied to North Vietnamese forces. These tanks were used in a limited capacity for infantry support and as mobile artillery platforms.

One of the most notable engagements involving tanks during the Vietnam War was the Battle of An Loc in 1972. This battle saw intense tank battles between North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese forces, with both sides deploying armoured units in significant numbers.

 Enter the Gulf War and the dramatic change to tank warfare. Tanks did not have air filters for the sand. The heat was so much greater. 

Sand and dust can cause significant problems for tanks and other military vehicles, as they can infiltrate engine compartments, air filtration systems, and other critical components. This can lead to engine overheating, mechanical failures, and decreased operational effectiveness. Sand can also impair visibility, damage optics and sensors, and hinder crew mobility within the vehicle.

To address these challenges, coalition forces employed various strategies and technologies to mitigate the impact of sand and dust on their equipment. This included implementing enhanced filtration systems to protect engines and air intakes from sand ingress, conducting regular maintenance and cleaning procedures, and deploying specialised equipment such as sand skirts and filters to reduce the amount of debris entering the vehicle.

Despite these measures, the desert environment remained a formidable adversary, and sand-related issues were among the many logistical and operational hurdles faced by coalition forces during the Gulf War.

And they did. In fact, the tank had become a much more sophisticated beast.

It had night vision. Highly effective armour. Suddam Hussein had a massive military in Iraq. Kuwait was less well endowed. Enter the USA.

In the 21st century, tanks continue to play a vital role in modern warfare, albeit in a changing geopolitical landscape. The rise of urban combat and advances in anti-tank technology pose new challenges for armoured forces, requiring ever changing solutions and tactics. Additionally, the rise of unmanned systems and autonomous vehicles promises to revolutionise the battlefield, raising questions about the future role of manned tanks in military operations. Heaven forbid we ever get Electric Tanks. 

One thing I have been thinking about though: Modern tanks are equipped with a wide range of advanced technologies, including digital command and control systems, GPS navigation, satellite communication, and networked battlefield sensors. These integrated systems enable modern tanks to communicate and coordinate with other friendly units, share real-time situational data, and conduct complex tactical maneuvres with precision and efficiency. 

It would be a bugger if the GPS went down and the satellites were knocked out....... 


Still,  when you look into the eye of a Dalek that says " exterminate " it is possible that it will, indeed, annihilate. And exterminate.

And it all began at the Battle of the Somme.





Donate to keep us online

Please donate to 

Swiftcode METWAU4B

BSB 484799



Reference PR

Please email me so I can thank you.

Responsive Grid for Articles patriotrealm
Clear filters