Sophie (age 8) and Ellie (age 6) tell the story of the invention of the Tank.
At the outbreak of World War One, armies had infantry, artillery and cavalry. Many of the general had been in the cavalry themselves. However, once war started everyone realized that cavalry was not going to be very useful in this war. Machine guns fired bullets so fast that the cavalry were shot dead before they could finish their charge. The war soon became trench warfare as soldiers dug trenches to keep safe from the bullets. You couldn’t put a horse in a trench. The area between the trenches was also very dangerous. There were craters, mud, barbed wire and machine guns. Thousands were killed in attacks on enemy trenches. What was needed was a way of crossing the mud, crushing the barbed wire and not getting shot by the machine guns.
British engineers came up with the answer. They wanted to build a vehicle which could do all that. However, the person who got most excited by it was the person in charge of the Navy. His name was Winston Churchill and he later became very famous in the next World War. He agreed to build the first tanks. As he was in the Navy, he called them Landships. The first tank was called “Little Willie” and the second tank was called “Big Willy”. They realized that if they wanted to keep them secret from the Germans they needed a better name than “Landship”. As a disguise they pretended that they were new types of water carriers. So they called them “Tanks”. The name has stuck ever since.
The first time they used the tanks they were not very successful. However, the next time the British made sure they had lots of them. It was at a place called Cambrai in France. The battle started with a massive explosion under the German trenches. Then hundreds of British tanks rolled forward. They crushed the barbed wire. German bullets bounced off them. In the first few days they won a great victory. The bells of England rang out in celebration. While the Germans fought back at that battle, everyone realized that the tank could win battles.
The next year, the Americans, French and British armies, with their tanks, drove the Germans back and won the war.
After the war though the Germans thought long and hard about how to use tanks. In World War Two it was they who first worked out how to use them properly.
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