The Tank is one hundred years old today 15th September 2016, a century ago the first tank was deployed by the British army on the fields of Northern France. It heralded a massive change in warfare, like the musket then rifle and the aeroplane and the aircraft carrier.
Nobody can deny that war drives innovation and science, we can all agree that war is a savage waste of lives and brings out the worst of human nature but can also bring out the best. For all of recorded history the deeds of war have not changed the massacre’s have all faded with age, the torture is learnt about in dusty museums or learnt dryly in a class room. The slaughter of muslims by the crusaders when they took Jerusalem , the muslims putting to death crusading knights, even the great leader An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub who the western world knows as Saladin, was not immune from the deprivations of war, even though he is best known as been merciful.
With the advent of the First World War it led to many totally new types of warfare; aerial combat and scouting, bombing of civilians away from the front of battle and trench warfare. Battle’s had not changed a great deal for a very long time, the tactics where similar spanning back to roman legions and earlier. Forming compact squares to discourage horse, creating lines to get as many people fighting at once. Using horse to probe for weakness, missile weapons to whittle down the number of enemies, the French at Azincourt came to understood that rate of fire is important.
The massive industry of europe drove warfare to a point that armies where no longer meeting on the field of battle like during the Napoleonic wars. The field of battle was able to split a content in half. The number of casualties had also increased, we had become better at killing each other, with rifle, machine-gun and bomb. The brief encounters of battle had changed to a long drawn out slog that would last years not be over in a few short hours or even over a number of days as armies maneuvered into position and tested each others deployment. So like a castle under siege the crenelations became a trench sunk it to the mud of a French field mirrored and multiplied on each side. The generals and leaders struggled to understand this new type of battle, the old tactics were tried again and again with no success other than a few yards gained and 1000’s upon thousands of men lost on both sides. The valiant charges where no more, the men walked through the mud slowly advancing in a long thin line passing over, under or through barbed wire with nowhere to hide they where easy targets for rifles and machine guns. That is why we remember the name Somme, all the lives wasted on both sides, stretching over months with just a continual stalemate.
The Tank was not a new idea, probably the most famous tank design prior to WWI is by the Artist/Genius Leonardo da Vinci. The idea to move troops in an armoured box where they where safe from bullets had great merit. The famous Mark I british tank looks nothing like modern variants, though most modern tanks still use tracks, though there are a few wheeled vehicles that fall under the banner of tank! The Mark I was designed to breach trenches that’s why it’s design is the odd rhomboidal shape. the extreme length of the tracks gave it the ability to drive over trenches, which modern tanks can’t do. But then again trench warfare is consigned to history, hopefully!
There are many factors leading to the eventual surrender of the Germans and their allies but the Tank can be said to be a factor. Though the tank is designed to kill and that is it’s only purpose, it made trench warfare no longer a viable form of battle. So the next time War set the world alight, all the fortifications built-in a statics line were by-passed by a combination of a precision strike then the speed of armoured vehicles and tanks. The idea was put forward by a british officer but put into action by the german command and was called the blitzkrieg.
I game, playing which turns war into entertainment just as people have done for thousands of years, the Romans had there gladiators I have my Xbox and PC. In my time I have led assaults on castles, defended the realm against barbarian hordes. Sunk battleships and bombed fortifications and slaughtered untold Germans, Japanese and Russians and ended many a terrorists life. But I don’t do this in a vacuum of pleasure, I’m aware of the terrible cost in human life that my entertainment has cost the human race, since we first decided a stick or rock could do more damage than our fist. As the opening sequence to Fallout 4 highlights “War, war never changes.”
See you on the other side…