First manufactured in Lincoln for World War 1, tanks were first decided upon having a military function – to break the stalemate. However, as time passed by, it was later discovered that tanks could be used in a completely different way – propaganda.
On December 25th 1914, it was stalemate. Everybody expected a technological weapon and as a result, many ideas were being put forward. The first to react were Wales, who came with the utmost extraordinary idea of an iron clad. Winston Churchill followed in February the next year, coming up with a prototype of a tractor, known by the name: “Elephant Feet.” The whole idea revolved around preventing falling in holes. Finally, though, an idea was put forward by William Trittin and Walter Wilson from Lincoln, who came up with the idea of creating a machine with caterpillar tracks. The name: Little Willy. The downside to it however, was that it hadn’t the capability of crossing trenches. Later on, they were determined to use their second invention – the water tank. Named water tank for secrecy, the Big Willie had caterpillar tracks all over the machine, giving it the capability of crossing trenches.
After the “wonder technological weapon” had been invented, Douglas Hague – military organiser – took it upon himself to order a staggering 100 tanks! This gives an indication of how much faith he had in tanks. In fact the video showed how much faith people on the whole had in tanks by telling us people were being recruited and that those recruits were willing to give their lives up for the experience. Mark Dillon is an example as he was one of the recruits.
It was July 15th 1916 – 15,000 British soldiers killed and 35,000 wounded. The tanks weren’t ready. Not too soon later – in September 1916 – 49 tanks were sent for the battle and gaps had to be made between the infantry and the tanks to prevent friendly fire. Upon meeting the Germans, they were in full shock – scared of such a machine. They had no idea as to what it was – just an image in front them, getting nearer and nearer by the second. They are crushed through any barbed wire in their way.
German troops just kept on firing away the tank, unaware that the bullets bounced off – much hotter than when it had left the gun. At the time, it was invincible (considering Germans had never seen it before and had no idea whatsoever on how to overcome this problem) and therefore, made a successful attack. Another good aspect of the tank was that if the tank got struck, a plank could be thrown in front to help grip it back on track. Moreover, the tank had a net to prevent grenades from being thrown in. It was said: “Tanks changed an active war to a mobile war.”
So, in conclusion, it is fair to say that tanks were successful in this aspect; they had the ability to cross trenches and break the stalemate which was, of course, a major thing at the time.
Moving on, as previously stated, the tank was also used for propaganda. Firstly and foremost, immediately after the invention, people back home began to believe it was something that could potentially win the war. Therefore, positive morale was created. What’s more, people relied on newspapers for news which led to people being given the wrong information on some occasions. Since photographs were unavailable at the time, cartoons were made. In actual fact, a tank film was made. Being broadcasted in 107 cinemas, over 20 million people attended. The film showed a tank in action. However, people reacted in an expected way – they preferred the picture to the description.
In addition, the government decided to set up tank banks and piggy banks were made. In the first week, a massive ï¿½25,000 was made and that is nothing but a strong indication of the amount of propaganda being fed. People were also patriotic, but nothing like that had ever been thought of – ï¿½25,000 to support the war! Even a drunkard like Dick Dolan invested instead of spending money on alcohol!
Nothing about how many tanks broke down was mentioned due to the fact that negative morale would have been created. This shows how cunning the British were as they were refusing to feed the British citizens the correct information.
Instead, a song was made:
And the tank went on,
And they crawled along,
With an independent air,
And the guns began to blare,
And the huns began to swear.
huns = Germans
After considering all of the points, it is fair to say that they were successful in this aspect, meaning they were successful in both the military and propaganda cases.
Despite they were successful, however, tanks are also known for their problems. One famous example is at the battle of Somme when 49 tanks were sent to fight. Only 32 were ready for conflict – 18 fought, 5 got stuck and 9 more broke down. Problems were a factor from the start – they were inevitable.
Likewise, the British sent 400 tanks forward but they were sent back because they couldn’t manage to hold ground. They needed to dig in but didn’t. So, all of the advancing was in vain. It was later said that tanks can’t hold a position.
Also, tanks took so long to turn, resulting in delays. Another way in which tanks were seen as bad is that they were very vulnerable. Here is a list of things they were vulnerable to and why:
> Infantry – Foot soldiers close to the tank managed to find weak spots with the tank and therefore used them to their ability
> Mines – Minefields and landmines have been known for cutting through the tank’s bottom armour
> Aircraft – The opposition could have used missiles to pierce the top armour, a weak spot
Although tanks were known for crushing barbed wire, there was a mess of it on the outside. This could have made it hard for Allies or hard for the Germans to move around.
What’s more, whilst inside the tank, conditions were poor: people were left unconscious after being thrown around from corner to corner. In addition:
> Temperature – 50 degrees Celsius inside – very hard to work
> Sound – Too loud to hear someone shouting – have to use hand signs
> Atmosphere – Toxic fumes from engine + guns
> Space – very limited – crew of 8 to 9
These outline the main problems for the crew. Being too hot, too loud, too polluted and having a very limited amount of space is something crucial for the crew.
The most important thing, however, was that tanks were expensive, meaning a great amount of money being spent on them. Which makes it more interesting is that the Germans managed to capture tanks. This meant that they could find out how to build one and use them against the British. Which was exactly what happened: Germans decided to build a tank named A7V. In actual fact, on April 21st, Britain and Germany had a Tank vs Tank fight. Britain won and by summer, 800,000 German lives were lost. The Germans lost the war and blamed it on the tanks. But – considering all of the problems – was it really the tanks?
Finally, tanks were used to influence public opinion in a number of ways. Propaganda was the main contributor as everything that was said was believed by the many British citizens. With only pictures and cartoons made – alongside a film – the public had no other way of getting to know the tanks; photographers couldn’t film footage and therefore had no way of showing the public real footage. Instead, a film was shown about how tanks were and no real footage was shown. This had a major influence on the public as the public had no other choice but to believe everything that was happening – both in the newspapers and through TV.
Another major contributor was that songs were made and that caused the public to sing along to them. With hardly much idea of what was happening, their singing was rather meaningless.
What’s more, the Tank Bank also influenced the way the public thought about tanks. Since a lot of people joined, joining had no connection to feeling guilty whatsoever. This therefore, made a lot of people join (partly due to patriotism as well) and as a result, they felt good; what they were doing was something good for their country. In addition, if Britain won the war, bankers were promised money in return. This – of course – provided security as people had so much faith in their country. However, whether money was given out or not is not known.
Conclusion – Summary & Opinion
So, to summarise, the tanks were successful in both the military and propaganda aspects. Despite problems with the Tank, they still did their and that was the main thing at the time. Furthermore, tanks gave people back home positive morale – something they urgently required. If not for the tank, there may never have been a break in stalemate and if there was, the Germans may have thought of one before the British, which could have resulted in a loss for the British.
All in all, I think the tank was a successful piece of work in both the military and propaganda aspects and I also believe it did win the war – for many reasons.
Firstly, although tanks were accused of not winning the war, they were a positive sign for the British citizens. Despite the fact they were named more as a propaganda message than a military message, they were seen as a motive for people to start joining the army. Since people had so much faith in tanks, more people began to join the army and that is what was said to have won the war. However, they wouldn’t have joined the army if not for the Tank in the beginning.