Monday, September 19, 2011

Big Willie

She was the Empire's super secret development project. Absorbing tons of R n D, bling and brain power - so many cats were involved from thinking her up to her combat debut it is nigh impossible to name a single name as her poppa. 

And the gig was to breakthrough and exploit

"You might drive a steam-chariot triumphantly through a regiment. Imagine three or four of these machines driven at a galloping speed through a square of infantry; the director might be seated in perfect safety in the rear of the engine, and a body of cavalry, about fifty yards in rear, would enter the furrows ploughed by these formidable chariots, and give the coup-de-grace to the unfortunate infantry."

From the ancient days of Leonardo's tortoise looking thingy to 1833 and up to the armored chariots of Land Iron clads conceptualizing the panzer or tank into a real live weapon really had to wait til certain tech levels were reached. Great Britain's Joseph Hawker invented the idosity of "propelling a road locomotive employing endless flat linked pitch or other chains passing round the rims of the main moving wheels. The details of his patent reveal clearly the influence his idea had on the whole concept of crawler tractors and tanks employing drive and clutch steering."

Northwestern Military and Naval Academy's Commandant Harley Davidson of Great Satan, the French Levavasseur project, Russia's Vassily Mendeleev and Osterreiches Günther Burstyn all fiddled about with creating uparmored land wagons capable of fire and maneuver potential. 

Yet only the British Empire flung brainpower, industrial might and bling bling at her Landships Committee to make the idea an en masse reality in a make or beak attempt to end the horrific grinding trench/machine gun stakemate of WWI and by 1915 had created an entire posse of steel critters to unleash with Somme Offensive

Big Willie Mark I, was hot, noisy, unwieldy nigh incommunicable and suffered mechanical malfunctions on the battlefield debut.

The first panzer attack was supposed to come at 6:20AM on September 15, 1916 but it got going about an hour early.    
Captain H.W. Mortimore got cranked up early.  His was supposed to be one of three tanks to initiate the action but the other two were delayed.   Mechanical issues proved to be a real downer the first time out as only 32 of the 49 tanks available got off the mark that day.  Of those, 5 ended up stuck in a trenches or shell holes, 9 broke down and 9 were too slow to keep up with the other tanks, let alone the troops.  
 However, the 9 slow pokes were successful in mop-up operations as the 9 that managed to keep going, breeched enemy lines and caused considerable damage.  The sight of these new beasts were quite a shock to the German army. 

Warfare was totally changed as Big Willie clanked new ideas about the operational art of fire and maneuver and brought new machines and tactics into the arena of organized conflict.

Pic - "Flers-Courcelette"