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  • A battle rages between British and German forces during World War I.

  • The British soldiers are pinned down in their trenches.

  • Bullets fly overhead, grenades explode all around.

  • The Germans are confident that victory is within their grasp.

  • But then a rumbling can be heard across the battlefield.

  • It sounds like a mechanical monster, grinding up everything in its path.

  • The Germans begin to cower in their trenches.

  • Could this be the new British war machine that they have heard about?

  • The rumbling gets louder.

  • The Germans peer over their trenches to watch the vehicle of their demise come over the

  • hill.

  • What they see makes them stare wide eyed.

  • Their jaws drop.

  • Then the entire German army bursts into laughter as they point at Little Willie, the useless

  • tank.

  • Little Willie was the first tank as we think of them today.

  • However, there were vehicles that came before it and contributed to the tank design.

  • For example, in 1899 Frederick Simms designed thewar-car,” which had a bullet-proof

  • casing and revolving machine guns.

  • It was basically a heavily armed truck, but you can see how something like thewar-car

  • eventually developed into tanks.

  • It was in 1914 that Ernest Swinton, a British army colonel and William Hankey, secretary

  • of the Committee for Imperial Defence came up with the idea of a heavily armored vehicle

  • withconveyor-belt-like tracksover its wheels.

  • Their thought process was that the tracks would be useful for driving over rough terrain

  • and breaking through enemy lines.

  • They presented their plans to Winston Churchill who quickly got on board with theland

  • boatidea.

  • He then organized the Landships Committee to begin developing the prototype of what

  • would become Little Willie.

  • In order to keep this new project secret from British enemies, workers were told the vehicle

  • they were building would carry water on the battlefield.

  • It was not too far fetched as the new prototype did resemble a water tank.

  • It is for this reason that we call these vehiclestankstoday.

  • The very first tank, that later would be called Little Willie, rolled off the assembly line

  • on September 6, 1915.

  • It was designed by an agricultural firm called William Foster & Co. of Lincoln and was built

  • in England.

  • The first name given to the tank was No. 1 Lincoln Machine.

  • It weighed 14 tons and was designed to aid the allies in trench warfare.

  • The name of the tank was changed to Little Willie based on an insult to German leadership.

  • Little Willie was the nickname that the British gave to the German Crown Prince Kaiser Wilhelm.

  • The mocking of the crown prince ended up as an affectionate name for the first tank.

  • The design for Little Willie consisted of a large body, shaped similar to a water tank.

  • It had 10mm thick armor and could hold a crew of five soldiers.

  • Little Willie was powered by a Daimler six-cylinder engine that put out 105 horsepower.

  • Considering the bulkiness and weight of Little Willie, the engine gave the tank a top speed

  • of about three miles per hour on a good day.

  • Most of the time Little Willie traveled around at two miles per hour.

  • It was not the speediest tank ever built.

  • In order to keep Little Willie from tipping over, a wheeled counterbalance was attached

  • to the tail of the tank.

  • This also helped Little Willie steer, but not very well.

  • The ride inside of Little Willie was anything but comfortable.

  • It had no suspension whatsoever.

  • It was like riding around in a giant tin can on tracks.

  • Needless to say, Little Willie was not going to be the best vehicle to use when it came

  • time for combat.

  • The weaponry on Little Willie worked fine.

  • The tank's main armament was a Vickers 2-pounder gun.

  • It was also equipped with various secondary armaments such as Maxim, Hotchkiss, Lewis,

  • and Madsen machine guns.

  • These guns would all later be removed from Little Willie and dispersed to it's big

  • brother, Big Willie, or soldiers that were able to do Little Willie's job better than

  • the tank itself.

  • So how useless was Little Willie actually?

  • You probably are thinking it couldn't be that bad.

  • But it wasoh it was.

  • Little Willie was designed to cross the trenches during World War I.

  • This was its main job.

  • Under the assumption that Little Willie would be able to do what it was designed for, The

  • British Army ordered 100 of the tanks to be used in the war.

  • Unfortunately, during testing Little Willie kept getting stuck in the trenches and couldn't

  • get out.

  • The one job Little Willie was created for, it could not do.

  • The order of 100 tanks was quickly canceled.

  • When traveling across the battlefield Little Willie could barely reach two miles per hour.

  • This is about one mile per hour slower than the average human walks.

  • Not runs, but walks.

  • Little Willie was slower than a grandpa taking a stroll in the park.

  • Not ideal in a war time situation.

  • Imagine you are in the midst of trench warfare during World War I. Bullets are flying over

  • your head, screams and whistles fill the air.

  • You need support badly.

  • You look to your left, the men in your platoon are hunched down, afraid that if they peek

  • above the trench they will be sniped.

  • The men to your right are tending to wounded soldiers.

  • You begin to panic as you realize this may not only be the trench you've lived in for

  • the past few weeks, but the trench you might be buried in as well.

  • Then the ground starts to shake.

  • You hear the rumbling of a motor and squeaking of tracks on wheels.

  • You carefully peer over the trench and see a large metal contraption coming towards you.

  • It's Little Willie!

  • You cheer and signal for the driver to come over and provide cover for your men.

  • Little Willie lumbers over at 2 miles per hour.

  • You have to wait over ten minutes just for it to get to you.

  • Then when Little Willie does arrive one of its tracks gets stuck in the trench.

  • It spins and spins, but Little Willie is stuck and can't get out.

  • Now Little Willie needs rescuing.

  • You just shake your head at the useless tank.

  • This is what happened in training exercises during the Little Willie testing phase.

  • The constant breakdowns, and getting stuck in trenches, was why Little Willie never deployed

  • to the battlefield.

  • It was probably for the best that Little Willie didn't see battle.

  • It probably would have caused more harm than good.

  • Another problem with Little Willie was that the engine had to work extremely hard just

  • to get the tank moving at a speed of two miles per hour.

  • This strain on the engine caused it to overheat.

  • An overheating engine inside a large, enclosed, metal vehicle is like turning on the burners

  • of an oven full blast while you're inside it.

  • The crew in the tank would literally begin to cook and would have to open hatches or

  • abandon the tank.

  • This overheating problem was another reason that Little Willie never made it to the battlefield.

  • Probably the biggest problem Little Willie faced was that it was redundant.

  • Using what they learned from Little Willie the Brits built a bigger, better, version

  • called Big Willie before its predecessor was even tested.

  • Little Willie was never destined to be more than a first step.

  • But in the hearts of military historians Little Willie means so much more.

  • When you think of it, was there any actual benefit to having built Little Willie?

  • Well, you might be surprised.

  • Little Willie did provide some benefits, which may have made it not completely useless.

  • Or maybe the cons outweigh the pros.

  • We'll let you decide.

  • The first benefit that Little Willie provided was the lessons learnt from its construction.

  • Little Willie was not easy to build and the engineers ran into several difficulties, including

  • how to keep the tracks from falling off and how to keep Little Willie from tipping over.

  • The tracks themselves started by only going part of the way up the body of the tank.

  • This seemed like a good idea at the time because it saved on material, and made the tank a

  • little lighter.

  • But the tracks would damage easily or come off when driving over rough terrain.

  • So the engineers went back to the drawing board and came up with a new idea.

  • They re-designed the tracks to encircle the entire body of the tank from top to bottom.

  • This made the tracks more durable and helped keep them on their wheel bearings.

  • It was due to the trial and error of Little Willie that tanks today have tracks that go

  • around the entire body of the base of the tank.

  • Therefore, one could argue that without Little Willies flaws, tanks today would have taken

  • longer to develop or would be less efficient.

  • Thanks Little Willie.

  • Another aspect of Little Willie that was useful was the potential that political and military

  • leaders saw in it.

  • Sure Little Willie was not able to drive over trenches without getting stuck.

  • Or would break down in the middle of a testing field because of overheating.

  • But it was the first tank ever built.

  • The potential was there, and Little Willie had to be built to show the world it was possible.

  • Once Big Willie and subsequent other tank designs were built using the foundation that

  • Little Willie set, the British Army found another use for the first tank.

  • Little Willie was used for driver training.

  • The thought may have been that if you could drive Little Willie, you could drive anything.

  • Countless men were able to do their jobs and conquer the enemy because they received their

  • training driving Little Willie.

  • That is something to be proud of.

  • Maybe Little Willie's biggest contribution to the world of warfare is the nostalgia that

  • went along with it.

  • Curators at The Tank Museum in England are proud to display the first tank ever made.

  • At the time Little Willie rolled off the assembly line the automobile had been around for just

  • over 35 years.

  • That is a long way to go from a basic horseless carriage to a tank that could be outfitted

  • with guns and a crew of five in such a short time.

  • Without Little Willie and its struggles we may not have tanks today.

  • It was through the processes of engineering and modern science of the time that Little

  • Willie was made a reality.

  • The British basically took the idea of an armored boat and brought it on land.

  • It had never been done before Little Willie.

  • Sure the tank itself was pretty useless and never saw combat, but without Little Willie

  • so many ideas that led to modern useful tanks may never have been thought of.

  • So yes, Little Willie may have been the most useless tank ever made, but in our hearts

  • it was a true hero.

  • Now go see what Little Willie evolved into by watching the Top 10 Most Powerful Tanks.

  • Or for tank battles watch The Battle of 73 Easting - The Most Intense Tank Battle In

  • History.

A battle rages between British and German forces during World War I.

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B1 willie tank trench useless british battlefield

The Most Useless Tank Ever Made (Little Willie)

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/25
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