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First World War Tanks

First World War Tanks Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2009 Title First World War Tanks
Author E. Bartholomew Publisher Shire Library
Published 2009 ISBN 978-085-2637-99-9
Format 32 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $11.95


The First World War had numerous developments that transformed warfare forever. As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Over the skies of the battlefield, one new technology was being employed to observe the movements and disposition of enemy forces - the aeroplane. Then some smartass took a gun aloft to take out opposing observation aircraft and aerial warfare soon followed. Meanwhile, down in the muddy trenches, infantry warfare pushed battle lines back and forth sometimes inches at a time and these advances were achieved at great expense in human life.

In the years leading up to the 'Great War', armies were experimenting with tractors as means of moving across terrain that would bog down wheeled vehicles. These early tests provided far better mobility on muddy terrain, but the operators were exposed to hostile fire. Armored vehicles soon followed and the first tanks were born.

This title takes a look at the development of these early tanks and the requirements that lead to these unique designs. For instance, the long bodies and full-length track allowed these early tanks to cross trenches and obstacles that would trap shorter designs. The side-mounted turrets were inspired by early naval vessels and naturally resulted in these early steel hulls getting nicknamed 'landships'.

While these early tanks had a positive effect in combat, it didn't take the opposition long to figure out how to exploit various weaknesses that were discovered in each design. These countermeasures would lead to further developments in mobility, armor, armament, and eventually the adoption of the now-familiar turret.

The author is the former Education Officer and Assistant Librarian for the Bovington Tank Museum and brings his expertise to the title to provide us with a concise look at these early armored vehicles, their design features, and their effectiveness in combat. It provides a good look at the early tanks developed and fielded by each of the major powers in World War One and will provide the reader with a good overview of early armored combat as well as a look at each of these vehicles through period photography.

This is an interesting monograph that will provide the armor historian and period modeler with a nice look at these early vehicles in context and serve as a great starting point for those who'd like to drill down into more details.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!