Manual The British Tanks 1915-19

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He did not know how thick the armour should be to ensure complete protection.

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The same month Lieutenant Kenneth Symes began to test 2 inch 51 mm armour plate by firing at it with various captured German guns. In June, this programme was expanded by testing several types of plate at Shoeburyness , delivered by armour producer William Beardmore and Company. The Tank Supply Committee approved the production of a prototype on 19 June , but the design was not to be finalised until late August Partial drawings have survived and show a vehicle 8.

However, the weight was estimated at roughly a hundred tons , much heavier than the 28 tons of the Mark I. The huge increase in weight came from the enormously thick armour for the time three inches at the front, two inches on the sides. The hull roof consisted of a horizontal half-cylinder, apparently also with a uniform armour two inches thick.

The front was a vertical half-cylinder, the transition between the two being a half-dome. Many sources claim that the main armament, a nose-mounted cannon, was a standard millimetre 6-pounder gun. John Glanfield, in his history The Devil's Chariots , states that it was a millimetre or pounder gun. The preliminary design, for which partial blueprints are in the Albert Stern archive at King's College London , featured two six-pounders in sponsons either side of a bulbous nose equipped with no fewer than five machine guns.

Originally, the shell-proof tank was referred to simply as the Heavy Tank, then Foster's Battle Tank. Where the nickname 'Flying Elephant' came from no one knows for sure, though it was probably the result of the trunk-like nose gun, domed front, and enormous bulk combined with a traditional British lightheartedness.

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The tank was fitted with two pairs of caterpillar tracks. The outer tracks resembled those of the Mark I, but were flatter and 61 centimetres wide, while a pair of additional, narrower tracks were fitted to the underside approximately 6 inches higher than the main tracks. They were not intended to be used for normal driving but were to be engaged to give extra traction over rough ground and would have helped to prevent "bellying", i.

Each engine had its own primary gearbox , both of which drove into one single differential. This differential powered two secondary gearboxes, one for each main track. This differs from the solution chosen for the later Whippet in which each engine drove its own track. It is certain that construction was started at some point, but did not result in a completed prototype. Albert Gerald Stern , the head of the Tank Supply Department, wrote that the War Office ordered the end of the project late in , because it deemed mobility more important than protection.

Historian David Fletcher speculated that the project ran into trouble because the vehicle was grossly underpowered; top speed was estimated at two miles per hour, and it seems unlikely that it could have worked itself free when stuck in mud. However, John Glanfield writes that Tritton, in an effort to lighten the machine and make it more practicable, halved the thickness of the armour, reducing the overall weight to a still hefty 50—60 tons.

Its appearance would have remained unchanged. Four of the crew, two drivers one of whom also acted as commander; he operated the brakes, the other the primary gearbox and two "gearsmen" one for the secondary gears of each track were needed to control direction and speed, the latter never more than a walking pace.

As the noise inside was deafening, the driver, after setting the primary gear box, communicated with the gearsmen with hand signals, first getting their attention by hitting the engine block with a heavy spanner. For slight turns, the driver could use the steering tail: an enormous contraption dragged behind the tank consisting of two large wheels, each of which could be blocked by pulling a steel cable causing the whole vehicle to slide in the same direction. Many of these vehicles broke down in the heat of battle making them an easy target for German gunners. There was no wireless radio ; communication with command posts was by means of two pigeons, which had their own small exit hatch in the sponsons, or by runners.

Because of the noise and vibration, early experiments had shown that radios were impractical, therefore lamps, flags, semaphore, coloured discs, and the carrier pigeons were part of the standard equipment of the various marks. During the First World War, British propaganda made frequent use of tanks, portraying them as a wonder weapon that would quickly win the war. They were featured in films and popular songs. When first deployed, British tanks were painted with a four-colour camouflage scheme devised by the artist Solomon Joseph Solomon.

It was found that they quickly got covered with mud, rendering elaborate, camouflage paint schemes superfluous. In late , the Solomon scheme was abandoned and tanks were painted with a single shade of dark brown. At the rear of the tank, a three, four or five digit serial number was painted in white or yellow at the factory. At the front there was a large tactical marking, a prefix letter indicating the company or battalion, and a number training tanks had no letter, but three numbers. Tanks were often given individual names and these were sometimes painted on the outside.

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A small handful were known to carry artwork similar to aircraft nose art. The first tanks were known as the Mark I after the subsequent designs were introduced. Mark Is that were armed with two 6 pounder guns and three. Ernest Swinton is credited with inventing the terms. To aid steering, a pair of large wheels were added behind the tank. These were not as effective as hoped and were subsequently dropped. The Gun Carrier Mark I was a separate design, intended to carry a field gun or howitzer that could be fired from the vehicle.

In service, it was mostly used for carrying supplies and ammunition. Forty-eight of them were built. Initial production of the Mark I was to be by Fosters and Metropolitan: 25 from Fosters and 75 from Metropolitan, which had greater capacity in Wednesbury at the Old Park site of the Patent Shaft Company, a subsidiary of the Metropolitan.

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As there were not enough 6-pounder guns available for all tanks, it was decided to equip half of them with just machine guns. A new sponson design with two Vickers machine guns in rotating shields was produced. Later in the war when newer tanks came into use some Mark Is were converted to be used for carrying supplies.

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A few Female Mark Is were used as mobile wireless stations by installation of a wireless transmitter. The radio could only be operated once the tank had stopped and erected a very tall mast that carried the aerial array. With the Army declaring the Mark I still insufficiently developed for use, the Mark II for which orders were first placed in July would continue to be built, but would be used only for training.

As the promised Mark IV tanks had not arrived by early , it was decided, despite the protestations of Stern see below , to ship the 25 training vehicles in Britain to France, [21] where they joined the other 20 Mark IIs and 15 Mark Is at the Battle of Arras in April The Germans were able to pierce the armour of both the Mark I and Mark II tanks at Arras with their armour-piercing machine gun ammunition. Five Mark IIs were taken for experiments on improved powerplants and transmission. They were provided to firms to show what improvements they could make over the Mark I system in an open competition.

In the demonstrations held in March , only three of them were able to compete alongside Mother , which had been fitted with a Daimler petrol-electric system.

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Wilson's epicyclic gear system , which replaced the secondary gear and the gearsmen, was clearly superior and adopted in later designs. Fifty were built. This is why there were two distinct training types, the Mark II being little more than a slightly improved Mark I. However, development of the new features was so slow that the change from the Mark II was very gradual. They did not see action overseas. Fundamental mechanical improvements had originally been intended, but had to be postponed. The main change was the introduction of shorter-barrelled 6-pounder guns. It had all its fuel stored in a single external tank located between the rear track horns in an attempt to improve crew safety.

The sponsons could be pushed in to reduce the width of the tank for rail transportation. Rails on the roof carried an unditching beam. A total of 1, were built: males, females and tank tenders, which were supply tanks. The Mark IVs were used successfully at the Messines Ridge in June , where they outpaced the infantry on dry ground, but in the Third Ypres of July and August they found the swampy ground difficult and were of little use. The Mark V was first intended to be a completely new design of tank, of which a wooden mock-up had been finished.

However, when the new engine and transmission originally destined for the Mark IV became available in December , the first, more advanced Mark V design was abandoned for fear of disrupting the production run.

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  • The designation "Mark V" was switched to an improved version of the Mark IV, not equipped with the new systems. The original design of the Mark IV was to be a large improvement on the Mark III but had been scaled back to be a mild improvement because of technical delays. Four hundred were built, two hundred each of Males and Females.

    Several were converted to Hermaphrodites also known as "Composites" by fitting one male and one female sponson so that each tank had a 6-pounder. This measure was intended to ensure that female tanks would not be outgunned when faced with captured British male tanks in German use or the Germans' own A7V.

    The Mark V was first used in the Battle of Hamel on 4 July , when 60 tanks contributed to a successful assault on the German lines by Australian units. It took part in eight further major engagements during the War. Four were retained by Estonian forces , and two by Latvia.

    It had a larger "turret" on the roof and doors in the side of the hull. The extra section was also designed to house a squad of infantry. The weight was 33 tons. Of orders for Males and Females, had been built by the Armistice — the order was completed by Metropolitan Carriage in March Lateral forces in a turn now became unacceptably high, causing thrown tracks and an enormous turn circle. Therefore, Major Wilson redesigned the track in May , with a stronger curve to the lower run reducing ground contact and the tracks widened to The cabin for the driver was combined with the commander's cabin; there now was a separate machine gun position in the back.

    Of a revised order for tanks Females and Males , only 25 were built and only one of those by the end of The Mark VI was one of a pair of related projects to develop the tank initiated in late The Mark V would be the application of as many advanced features as could be managed on the Mark I hull design and the Mark VI would be a complete break with the Mark I hull.

    The Mark VI project design had a completely new hull — taller and with rounded track paths. The single main gun was in the front of the hull. It did not progress past the stage of a wooden mock-up; the project was cancelled in December in order that a tank co-developed with the US the Mark VIII could go forward. Mark Knothe, the Technical Liaison Officer between Stern, Elles and Anley, contributed to the development of the tank, designing a longer Mark I with Williams-Janney hydraulic transmission; [24] one of the Mark IIs used as test vehicles had used a hydraulic transmission. In October Brown Brothers [b] in Edinburgh were granted a contract to develop this line of research further. In July , the prototype was ready.