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September 15, 2006

Here she comes, the Debutante...

Treat 'em Rough!

15 September, 1916. The British offensive on the Somme, one of the bloodiest fights the Brits ever fought, is starting to lag. Something is needed to give it a kick, a push - get over that next hill, clear the Boche from that wood... break into the green fields beyond, where there are no trenches, no wire, no interlocking fields of fire from Maxim guns, and the Cavalry can finally earn their pay and fodder, damn those hoity-toity prima donnas!

So, we'll try a new weapon, one that Colonel Swinton has been working on with the Holt Tractor Company, under the sponsorship of... the Navy, backed by Winston Churchill.

Mark 1 (Male) pushing through wire.

Gathering up crews from the Navy, and C and D Companys of the Machine Gun Corps, and commanded by a sailor, Captain H. W. Mortimore, RN. 50 tanks arrived, but only 24 proved serviceable for that first day.

Mark 1 (Female) demonstrating trench crossing capability.

At 0620 hours, off they rolled into history and legend, at the Battles of Flers and Delville Wood. It was not an entirely auspicious debut... Of the very first attack, Mark 1 from D Company, MGC, under the command of Captain Mortimore, was sent out and overran an enemy trench. The tank was then promptly hit by a shell and disabled. Of the main attack, three of the six tanks got bogged in the mud, one broke down, and the other two continued towards the enemy line slowly, supporting the infantry. In an event presaging the training and operational issues which would bog combined arms attacks forever the infantry moved ahead, away from the protection of the tanks. WWI was the last war where the infantry would be able to outrun the tanks at walking speed - from then on the tanks would keep losing their infantry in the other direction... As is true with any new weapon, there were successes and failures. Concerns raised included the view slits - they were too thin to be able to see much while moving, and they were targets for enemy gunshot; the exhaust - it made too much noise and the heat could have ignited the fuel fumes. Then there was the amount of mud that got into the treads and gummed them up - and the heat in the fighting compartment - not only did it drastically reduce crew endurance, in some portions of the vehicle it was was hot enough to jam the guns.

Captured British Mark 1 (Male)

But after this day in 1915, we were stuck with the things, and the people who man them... At least they don't leave meadow muffins...

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Heh. C'mon, you know you want to know - you're dying to know what the music and lyric was!

[Yeah, I know there's a lot of American graphics in a post about a British innovation - get over it... 8^D ]