In the midst of war, in the winter of 1916 the headquarters of the Entente began to prepare a joint campaign to completely take the strategic initiative in their own hands and fight for a victorious end. It was decided to conduct operations to use the maximum available means, including being at the stage of implementation. The main objective of the proposed declared the coming seizure of German communications centers and transfer the combat zone on the coast of France. Place a large joint combat operations of Great Britain and France was chosen r.Somma. Terrain conditions were not favorable for maneuver — very hilly and uneven, but the Allies hoped that the numerical an advantage over the enemy will allow them to overcome the negative reasons. To ensure the operation of success was drawn 6 cavalry and 32 infantry divisions. Provide fire support to 2.2 million pieces, 1.2 thousand mortars, 300 aircraft. The first time it was planned to use a new kind of languid ground weapons — tanks.
Operation began on July 1 and lasted until 18 November 1916 the Germans were well prepared, and the success of the Allies was diversified. British attack was repulsed, the French also took a day or two for a few villages Fri and two positions. But the German army under the command of Karl von Bulow in no time was able to organize the defense and pulled additional reserves.
By 12 September the Allies broke through the position of the Germans, but then to develop coming, the forces are no longer enough. Then came to the aid not previously used type of weapon. Exactly 97 years ago, September 15, 1916, the British had the first in the history of mankind tank attack. For drawback experience crews machines were not yet prepared. The tanks themselves were nemanevrenny, cumbersome and slow-moving. Night march to the front were 49 cars, only 32 of them were able to advance to the initial position. In support of the role of attack was only 18 tanks, while others, despite the harsh appearance, could not overcome the natural obstacles. Yes, and this number has had a decisive influence on the development of hostilities. Thanks to the support of the British armored troops on the front of the 10 km long moved inland by 4-5 km. On operation took just 5:00, and the loss of manpower Britons were still lower compared with other operations.
In carrying out the attack the British used tanks Mk.1, an experimental model that was released a year ago, in 1915. The creators dubbed it «Little Willie». After a series of tests machine was recognized as ready for combat. First operating standards of the tank came in 1916, once it was launched with the British command order for 100 of these machines. Tank Mk.1 carried out in 2-versions: «Male» («male" version of the tank had a machine gun and two 57mm guns) and «Female» («female" version was equipped with machine-gun armament). Armor thickness was 6.10 mm, it will withstand the fragments and bullets, but a direct hit by a shell for her was devastating. Weighed machine 30 m in length was 10 m, speed — 6 km / h, could overcome the trenches and barbed wire. The crew consisted of 8 people, in one case was with them and the engine. The temperature in the belly of the steel beast reached 50 degrees. In the equipment of the crew came mask, because the crew lost consciousness from the shortcomings of oxygen and exhaust.
The subsequent application of large tanks British troops took place November 20, 1917 near the town of Cambrai. It was the first mass tank attack.
It took the role of the third tank body kitted 476 armored vehicles. Under the plan the operation supposed to break through the German defenses, take Cambrai and go to Belgium. In the early afternoon Tank Corps struck the German positions. The unexpected attack many armored vehicles fired, as an instrument of demoralization. Surprised by the enemy actually did not resist — the defenders did not have the ability to combat tanks, nor the respective weapons, and most importantly — have been thrown into a state of shock. Tanks made by the Germans truly frightening memory, causing the animal nightmare and panic. Closer to the evening of November 20 tanks, accompanied by infantry, moved deep into the front at 10 km and rushed to Cambrai. Was captured more than 8 thousand prisoners, 100 guns and several hundred guns. But later became apparent inconsistency in the actions of infantry and tanks, and the English coming to a halt, and by November 29th braked hundred percent. November 30 German command organized a counter-offensive and soon lost lands were returned. Then the British entered into battle tank 73. The tanks were advancing in groups of 3 cars in a triangular pattern, followed by 3 lines of infantry followed: first captured the trench, the second destroying enemy personnel, third ensured the rear.
First tank battle with the introduction of combat vehicles from both sides came out only at the end of the war, April 24, 1918 It was a clash between British tanks Mk.1 and the German A7V tanks near the village of Villers-Bretonneux. Artillery and infantry in this battle did not take the role. With a more superior maneuverability tanks and coherence of the British crew left the battlefield favorites.
Order to create a military vehicles in Germany was Josef Vollmer. The tanks had to meet a number of requirements: reliable engine, minimize noise, the ability to replenish ammunition for 6 hours, a small silhouette, excellent sealing, the rapid replacement of the motor.
Designed by Volmer tank received the title of LK-I («light tank"), at the same time be ready for release and more than languid tanks LK-II. It was supposed to make the third part of the tanks with machine-gun equipment, and others — with a gun. Take part in the hostilities they happen not immediately —
war completed earlier than tanks were collected. Came the phenomenon — Germany, which had the ability to make tanks, not inferior opponent slowed down their development because of the lack of flexibility of the industrial system. If she had enough light combat vehicles, it is unclear how the war would have turned around.
In the battles of the First World War tank demonstrated their abilities. Apart from the significant physical harm, he made a psychological confusion in the ranks of the defending side. It was clear that the greatest potential battle machine has yet to reveal.