WW1 British Armor WWI British Medium Tanks

Medium Mark C “Hornet”

British ww1 tanks Great Britain (1918)
Medium Tank – 50 built

Photo: IWM

An even better Whippet

Sir William Tritton had designed the original ‘Chaser’ tank; the Medium Mark A popularly known as the Whippet. Tritton had personally visited the Western Front in 1917 to speak with crew of his tanks and get their reflection and suggestions. He also got a first-hand chance to see the terrain over which his tanks were being used and this left a deep impression on his mind.
The original Whippet, the Medium Mark A, even before production was complete was being seen as needing replacement. A follow-on design to incorporate the feedback from the troops and the requirements of the War Office. The two prospective replacements for the Whippet were semi-rival designs in this regard and were the Medium Mark B which was the design on Major Walter Wilson and the Medium Mark C designed by the designer of the Medium Mark A, Sir William Tritton.
Wilson had already started on his ‘B’ design and as a result, Tritton from the firm of William Foster and Co. with his chief engineer, William Rigby started to put together the ‘C’ design following a request by Admiral Moore on 3rd January 1918. Drawings were ready by 14th February and these were accepted as a design by the War Office on 19th April 1918. Construction then began on a prototype which was ready in the August of that year. Despite having started design and construction after Wilson, Tritton’s machine was ready one month prior to Wilson’s and was nicknamed ‘HORNET’ at some point. Quite why the military authorised two replacement designs to go ahead is unclear as is the switch from a fast hunting dog to a stinging insect for the name inspiration although a large aggressive insect with a very unpleasant sting certainly fits the bill for the role. It is possible the intention was to produce both in order to compare them for performance and order the better of the two or it could just be indecision or desperation to make sure they got one functional design.
The Medium Mark C was a large tank, completely unlike the Whippet it was to replace, she was actually larger and taller than the Mk.V and 2 tons heavier than the Medium Mark B of Major Wilson.
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The distinguishing features of the Medium Mark C are the very large box structure at the front which housed the commander and two machine gunners and the driver. Despite the lack of a turret the commander was equipped with a fully rotating cupola for improvised vision and a map table to assist in navigation. No radio was fitted but semaphore was provided for and the crew could communicate by means of speaking tubes. Previous tank designs suffered from terrible ventilation in particular of engine fumes and carbon monoxide from guns. The Medium Mark C separated the crew from the engine fumes with the bulkhead and large fans were also fitted to provide fresh air for the crew compartment although in event of a gas attack etc. the crew would have to resort to gas masks. Other innovations for the Mark C included the ability to add sulphonic acid to the exhaust to create a smokescreen just like the Medium Mark B. For The driver though was located centrally and was provided with a large flap which could be raised for better visibility when driving in a non combat area or road march while the rest of the crew used any of the 11 view ports provided around the tank. In keeping with the design of the Medium Mark A the Mark C used 7 Timken bearings on the main roller bearings which took the greatest load and non-timken bearing rollers fore and aft of these.

Medium Mark C Hornet during trials probably on the William Foster test field in Lincoln. Little Willie can be seen in the background of one of the shots
Consideration was given to creating both a Male and a Female version of the Medium Mark C just like there had been for the Medium Mark B. The Medium Mark C Male planned to have a single 6 pounder L/40 gun facing forwards and the female just machine guns with provisional plans for the production of 4000 female and 200 male tanks in case the war had continued into 1919. The new tanks required by the War Office were to be medium tanks though which meant machine guns only. So, in the end, no ‘male’ or ‘female’ versions were made and the Hornet was just armed with 4 Hotchkiss machine guns.

Rear view of a Medium Mark C rear door which is open and the rear machine gun position (to the left of the exhaust pipe)
Unlike the Medium Mark B of Major Wilson which was suffered from production delays the Medium C ‘Hornet’ prototype had been completed on schedule and subsequently received a production order for 200 machines (later increased to 600). By the time of the Armistice in November 1918 though no vehicles had actually been completed. 36 machines which were in various stages of construction though were finished and delivered to the 2nd Battalion, Tank Corps. A further 14 vehicles were constructed from the spare parts and materials which had been assembled for production. The remaining balance on the order was cancelled and no more Mark C’s were to be made.

Layout of the Medium Mark C Hornet

Very clean Medium Mark C, [this photo shows signs of a contemporary ‘touch up’ removing the background] Photo: Beamish Archive

Hornet on trial in test ground of William Foster and Co. Ltd. The state of the ground is obvious from the amount of mud all over the hull. More vehicles can be seen in  the sheds in the background. Photo: IWM

Medium Mark C
Medium Mark C, standard livery 1919.

The new engine

Early in 1917 following problems with engine deliveries Colonel Albert Stern had engaged Harry Ricardo to develop a tank engine capable of 150hp, using no scarce metals like aluminium (which was prioritised at the time for aircraft production) and could run at sharp angles of tilt (35 degrees) for up to 100 hours on low grade petrol. The engine had to be compact but the design of the tank allowed for a wider and much taller engine than before. This allowed Ricardo to develop a rather tall 6 cylinder engine with long stroke pistons. Once completed this engine could actually produce 165hp at maximum speed (1200rpm) which allowed for a 10% overload on the engine for short periods without damage.

Stern ordered 700 of these engines from 5 separate engine makers immediately for the tanks like the Hornet which weren’t even in the design stage at the time. Stern felt that this step in ordering engines for tanks as soon as possible would remove the problems of supply which were holding back tank production. The British War Office however, was decidedly unimpressed with such foresight, production management and strategic thinking, and ordered Stern’s bosses at the Ministry of Munitions to cancel this ‘wasteful’ order forthwith. Stern therefore doubled the order to 1400 engines. This was the character of that man. The engine bay in the Mark C was large, large enough to fit this engine and like Major Wilson’s tank had also learned the lesson of isolating the crew from the engine by means of a firewall.
The Oldbury trials of March 1917 had showed the value of the epicyclic gearbox which further developed by Major Wilson would find much tank use in later years. These engines and gearboxes were to find their way into the Mark V in July 1917 and prospectively for the VI heavy tank but no orders for the Mark V were placed until November that year. When the engine was finally made though more aluminium was allowed to be used in the manufacture permitting the engine to be lighter than originally thought.

End game

The Medium Mark C Hornet, was a better tank overall than the Medium Mark B, but unlike the Mark B she was neither sold nor deployed outside of Great Britain.

Medium Mark C’s during the 1919 Victory Parade, London
The Medium Mark C’s made an appearance at the Victory parade in London in July 1919 and a single vehicle was modified with wire handrails to form an unforgettable and rather hazardous amusement ride for visitors at Bovington Camp in July 1921.

Medium Mark C amusement ride, Bovington July 1921

Medium Mark C’s deployed to the streets of Liverpool in August 1919

Medium Mark C’s deployed the Glasgow in 1919 and stationed in the Salt Market (the city’s cattle market)
The only action the Medium C ever saw was a brief deployment of approximately 6 tanks of which at least 3 were Medium Mark C’s to Glasgow in January to March 1919 after a period of civil unrest but were withdrawn without a shot fired. Likewise to quell a public disorder at least 4 tanks were deployed to the streets of Liverpool in August 1919 but again left within firing a shot. One vehicle was put on outdoor display at the Imperial War Museum at the Crystal Palace, London between 1920 and 1924 before she was towed to Cricklewood for breaking.

Imperial War Museum Crystal Palace, London 1920-1924 Medium Mark C being towed to Cricklewood. Photo IWM
The Medium Mark C instead formed the backbone of the Royal Tank Corps from 1924 to 1925 until it was replaced by Vickers tanks. As the Medium Mark C’s were phased out they went to stores or training. In 1930 six vehicle were sent to the Mechanical Warfare Experimental Establishment (M.W.E.E.) for development work on an armoured recovery vehicle. Two examples were sent to Bovington camp for storage but like the Medium B were not saved but cut up for scrap before WW2. There are no surviving examples.

Medium Mark C Bovington ~1920 showing its ease of crushing barbed wire entanglements. Photo: Tank Museum

Medium Mark C Hornet serial number H2272 stuck in a roadside ditch in the 1920’s providing an interesting view of the top of the vehicle


Royal Tank Corps Journal, November 1926
Medium Mark C, Charlie Clelland
Glasgow Digital Library
David Fletcher “British Tanks 1915-19”, Crowood, 2001
Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis “(AFV Weapons Profiles No.7) Medium Tanks Marks A-D”, Profile Publications, 1970
Medium Mark A Whippet, David Fletcher, 2014
Medium Marks A to D by Christopher Ellis and Peter Chamberlain
Medium Mark B Tank, David Fletcher, Wheel and Track 42 – 1993
Medium Mark C Tank, David Fletcher, Wheel and Track 43 – 1993
Landships, David Fletcher, 1984

Medium Mark C ‘Hornet’ specifications

Dimensions 26’ long, 9′ 6” high, 8’ 4” wide (7.92m x 2.9m x 2.54m)
Total weight, battle ready 20 tons (19,182kg)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, 2 x machine gunners
Propulsion 6 cylinder Ricardo producing 150hp at 1200rpm
Suspension track and bearings only
Speed (road) 8 mph
Range 140 miles (230km)
Armament 4 x Hotchkiss machine guns with 7200 round, service rifles and cup grenade launchers. (Lewis guns could also be used)
Armor 6-14mm max.
Total production 50 (200 ordered 1918, 36 in service, 14 assembled from parts)
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Video of the Medium B and C trench crossing trials. Source: IWM
Mark C Hornets on trial on the test field for William Foster and Co. Ltd. showing their surprising agility. Source: IWM
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WW1 British Armor WWI British Medium Tanks

Medium Mark B “Whippet”

UK flag Great Britain (1918)
Medium tank – 102 built

A more suitable Whippet

The Medium Mark A Whippet was still in production when serious thought was being given regarding a new improved machine. The British War Office desired a new machine for service in summer 1918, to embody the role of the Medium Mark A but with specific improvements. The role was to be that of exploiting breaches in the enemy lines to disrupt and destroy behind the front line. In order to achieve this, trench crossing, which was limited in the Mark A, was to be increased but the overall length minimized partially to aid transportation of the machines by rail. The initial requirement for the new tank was for 380 machines with 40 intended for training purposes. Production was supposed to reach 650 machines to fill the perceived need for ‘medium’ tanks.

Wilson’s New Whippet

Major Walter Wilson (credited post war as the co-inventor of the tank with Sir William Tritton) started his own work on a replacement for the Mark A in July 1917 and focused on the needs of the British War Office for improved crew comfort, cross country mobility, and improved fighting ability. To improve mobility, Wilson intended to use a new 4 cylinder in-line version of the equally new Ricardo 6 cylinder 150hp engine. The 4 cylinder version was only rated at 100hp but was shorter in length than the 6 cylinder version. Orders for the 4 cylinder engine were placed with the firm of Messrs. Mirlees, Bickerton, and Day Ltd. in August 1917, but at just 100hp this new machine could barely manage just over 6 miles per hour (~10 km/h) which made it slower than the Mark A. This new machine received the designation of Medium Mark B.

Tritton’s New Whippet

The Mark A tank from Sir William Tritton (credited post war as the other co-inventor of the tank) of William Foster and Co. Ltd. in Lincoln was a novel design but it also had some significant shortcomings. Tritton, like Wilson, had been tasked by the War Office to prepare an improved tank to replace the Whippet. As it turned out, both designers’ vehicles ended up looking nothing like the preceding Mark A. Tritton countered with his own design. By all accounts, the rivalry between the two was fairly good natured but that would not mean that the design work would not be taken seriously. The new vehicle from Tritton was designated the Medium Mark C Tank. The two designs ‘B’ and ‘C’ are sometimes confused but the C can be readily differentiated from the B by the much taller superstructure cab and the raised upper hull running along the back between the tracks.

Production delays

Production of Medium Mark B tanks was slowed, however, by production capacity for the new Ricardo 150hp engines (6 cylinder) which were taking priority over the 4 cylinder version. Those engines were destined for the existing Mk.IV tanks. The Wilson epicyclic transmission was also intended to be utilized in the Mk.IVA variant. These transmissions though were also needed for the Medium B. Very few Mk.IV’s were upgraded to the MK.IVA but despite this, the program caused significant delays to Medium Mark B production. Worth noting is that the Mark B utilized a single engine compared to the Medium Mark A’s two engines.

Males and Females

The original idea for the Medium Mark B called for ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ versions of the machine, the females being armed with machine guns and the male version with an unspecified type of 2 pounder guns. The Male version was canceled in March 1918 and without a male counterpart, the Medium Mark Bs were not referred to as ‘Female’ machines.

Layout of the Medium Mark B

Suitable for an acrobatic midget

The original British War Office plan called for the engine as far back as possible, moving the center of gravity to the rear and improving trench crossing capabilities. However, in order to ensure a sloping rear deck, the engine ended up further forward than intended and created a very cramped space for the crew.
Additional work was needed with the engine and transmission as the combination of the Ricardo 100hp engine and the Wilson 4 speed epicyclic transmission was reportedly very unreliable. The engine was divided from the crew compartment by a steel bulkhead, protecting the crew from much of the heat and fumes and from potential engine fires. The bulkhead was fitted with two small doors which led into the cramped space to work on the motor.
This was the most significant thing about the machine. Despite the advantage of having a steel bulkhead separating the engine area from the crew space, access through the small sliding doors was extremely tight. So cramped and difficult in fact that, according to General Duncan, the work of servicing this engine was “only suited to an acrobatic midget.” When it could be done, the actual servicing reportedly took three times longer than other vehicles as well.
The prototype Medium Mark B was completed by the Metropolitan Carriage Wagon and Finance Company of Birmingham, England in September 1918, beaten by Tritton’s Mark C machine by a month. Subsequently,  Wilson’s B machine was sent on trials.

Medium Mark B ‘Whippet’ during trials at the Metropolitan Carriage Wagon and Finance Co. test ground in Birmingham, England. The superstructure is remarkably clean considering how dirty the rest of the vehicle is from mud. Major Wilson is in the center with the cane and to his right with a pipe and hands in his pockets is the famous engine designer Harry Ricardo. Photo credit: IWM

The General Staff had waited to examine the Medium Mark A’s performance in combat before placing orders for production of the Medium Mark B and the trials of the Mark B showed that despite its ungainly appearance, it was a capable machine and worth ordering into production. Some 450 machines were on order by the middle of 1918, presumably also conditional on a suitable performance at the trials.
Orders were placed with three manufacturers, Metropolitan Carriage Wagon and Finance Company (M.C.W. & F. Co.) of Birmingham which was contracted for 100 machines, and the North British Locomotive Co. (N.B.L. Co.) in Glasgow and Coventry Ordnance Works in Coventry (C.O.W.) were both contracted for approximately 100 machines each. A fourth firm, Patent Shaft and Axletree (P.S. & A.) of Wednesbury also received a production contract but this was canceled before any were produced. Coventry Ordnance Works was the first company to finish a machine, and between these three firms some 102 vehicles were produced.
By the time of the armistice in November 1918, only 45 tanks had actually been completed and the outstanding tanks on order were canceled. Other sources state that the ‘45’ was the in-service number and that actually 102 had been finished with the other 57 awaiting acceptance by the Army. Another source states that just 23 vehicles were completed, delivered and tested by the time of the Armistice and 79 more finished afterward, of which 22 were accepted for service (making the total 45) and the remainder (57) being scrapped. Either way, the production and acceptance into Army service number is still 102 machines.
The remaining production vehicles that had been finished but not delivered were scrapped and some of the finished vehicles were sent to Bovington Camp for training, where they remained from 1919 to 1921. Six machines were sent to Russia in May 1919 to assist in the fight against the Bolsheviks and a small number were sent to Ireland in late 1919 as replacements for the obsolete Mk.IVs.

Early Mark B on trials on the testing ground at Dollis Hill, London. Of note in the background is a gun carrier hull, floating experimental tank (possibly Mark IX) and a crane vehicle. Photo credit: IWM

Early Coventry Ordnance Works built Medium B – note the lack of the curved rail above the sponson, and the machine gun ball in the side sponson, a feature omitted on later Medium Mark Bs

It is surprising that, despite the obvious shortcomings, any of the Medium Mark Bs were ordered at all. Tritton’s Medium Mark C was finished sooner and was more capable than the Mark B machine. Additionally, the  Mark B was underpowered for a medium tank, being 2 miles per hour slower than the medium tank it was meant to replace. The commander had very poor visibility, no cupola, no turret and had to rely on a series of vision slits to see.
On the positive side, the Mark B was significantly easier to steer than the Mark A machine and the driver, instead of being in a tight position with a long engine in front of him, had a better high central front position, making it much easier to see. It was also significantly easier to drive, unlike the Mark A which had two engines requiring continuous driving adjustment to stay in a straight line. The original design with seven machine gun positions was overkill, considering a turret with twin machine guns could likely have done the job just as efficiently.

Machine guns

The Medium Mark B had a large fighting box equipped with 5 Hotchkiss ball mounted machine guns, 2 forward, 1 left, 1 right, 1 rear, plus a roof hatch which could be fitted with another machine gun. Yet another machine gun was located on each side in small sponsons which doubled as the access doors to the fighting box. Those sponson mounted machine guns were abandoned later on when it was realized that mud falling from the tracks would render them useless. No radio was fitted in the Mark B but they were fitted with a semaphore system for communication.

Brand new Medium Mark B finished at the works in the North British Locomotive Company, Springburn, Glasgow. (1600 series)

Medium B built by Metropolitan Carriage Wagon and Finance Company (MCW & F Co.) The sponson machine gun is omitted in this later variant and it has an additional large curved steel section above the sponson door to prevent a fully depressed machine gun from being hit by the tracks. All the 1200 series serial numbered tanks were built by MCW & F

One of the advantages of the rhomboid shape design of early British tanks was that they could mount an unditching beam (a large baulk of timber) on a chain. In the event of becoming mired in the mud, it could be fastened to the tracks and would drag under the tank providing sufficient traction for the vehicle to extricate itself. To surmount the small cab at the front, vehicles used rails over which this beam could travel so it would be able to clear the cab. No such rails were provided for on the Medium B which had a very pronounced cabin. This cabin, therefore, negated the benefits of the rhomboid shape and having the tracks running over the top of the machine, but with none of the benefits of a turret.

Two views demonstrating the unditching beam which was slung over the back of some tanks and the rails over which it would be dragged to get the front of the tank. This unditching system was not possible on the Medium Mark B design due to the cabin.

The problem of unditching the tank remained unsolved but, like other vehicles, it could have spuds attached to the 22.5” wide, 6mm thick steel track plates to improve passage in heavy mud. It is worth noting that this same problem over an obstructed track run over the top of the machine was encountered 20 years later, during the initial design of what became the Churchill tank.

Very clean Medium Mark Bs serial numbers 1607 and 1212 respectively undergoing trials, showing the differences made to the area around the sponsons and the semaphore device – Photo of #1212: Beamish archives

The Medium Mark B was considered a superior tank to its Mark A forebear, but still significantly limited in terms of mobility and armament. By the time the vehicles were built and available for use, the war against Germany was over and the need for them had waned. Britain had a surplus of tanks, huge war debts and other matters to attend to. Of the 102 vehicles built, just 45 (see earlier comments regarding confusion over actual numbers) were accepted for service and the remainder were scrapped.

A row of Medium Mark Bs in storage post war.

C.O.W. built Medium Mark B in service with the Royal Engineers (hence the ‘R.E’ crossing a pontoon bridge)

Combat and Post WW1

Remarkably, despite its many failures, some machines did see combat. Some were sent to Dublin, Ireland to assist in maintaining order during the Civil War. They arrived with C Company, 17th Battalion Tank Corps where no doubt the name ‘Whippet’ has helped confound many people subsequently looking for the Medium Mark A ‘Whippet’. If they left the barracks though it was infrequent.
Early Mark B
Early Mark B
Mark B in the standard green livery
Mark B in the standard green livery
Russian Mark B in winter paint
Russian Mark B in winter paint

Medium Mark B ‘Whippets’ ‘Latgalietis’ and ‘Vidzemnieks’ in service with the Latvian Army. Photo: and Latvian War Museum Collection

Medium Mark B ‘Latgalietis’ during training in Latvia. Photo: Latvian war museum collection

Medium Mark B ‘Latgalietis’ in Latvia in storage. Photo: Latvian war museum collection

Three vehicles were issued to the North Russia Tank Detachment (which comprised of six tanks) and sent to Russia in August 1919 to assist in the fight against the Russian Bolshevik forces. One served with the White Russian forces but was later abandoned and dumped in the River Divna along with a Mk.V, and both were hauled out by Bolshevik forces. The remaining two were handed to the Latvian Army in October 1919 who retained one vehicle as late as 1926. One of those vehicles was recaptured by Russian Bolshevik forces and ended up in Red Army service. It is unclear whether it was that Mark B or the one fished out of the Divna River which ended up in the inventory of the Red Army in 1925. That vehicle was unarmed but in running condition presumably for training purposes, and later scrapped.

Medium Mark B in Red Army service. Photo:

Despite the Medium Mark B being canceled and replaced by the more successful Medium Mark C, one remained in British Army service as late as January 1941 at the Royal Engineers Experimental Bridging Establishment at Christchurch, Dorset. A Medium Mark B had been there since late 1918, which is caught on film.

Medium Mark B in use at Christchurch as part of the load testing of a Mark III Inglis tubular bridge. The engine and much of the top deck and at least one of the machine gun ball-mounts appears to have been removed. Photo: IWM
The size and weight of the vehicle were used to test bridge loading and presumably this tank was scrapped during the war. No examples of the Medium Mark B are believed to survive. One, which had been destined to be preserved at Bovington, was scrapped instead.

One of the last remaining Medium Mark Bs outside at Bovington Camp, date unknown. Photo:


Medium Mark B ‘Whippet’ by Eugene Sautin and Robert Robinson
Medium Mark A Whippet, David Fletcher, 2014
Medium Mark B Tank, David Fletcher, Wheel and Track 42 – 1993
Medium Mark C Tank, David Fletcher, Wheel and Track 43 – 1993
Medium Marks A to D by Christopher Ellis and Peter Chamberlain
One more river to cross, J.H. Joiner
Medium Mark C, Charlie Clelland
Kā sauca tankus un bruņumašīnas Latvijas armijā by Dr. Juris Ciganovs
National Archives of Latvia
Walter Wilson; Portrait of an Inventor, A.Gordon Wilson

Medium Mark B ‘Whippet’ specifications

Dimensions (LxWxH) 6.95 x 2.82 x 2.55 m
22ft 10in x 9ft 3in x 8ft 4in
Total weight, battle ready 18 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, 2x machine gunners)
Propulsion Ricardo 4 cylinder water cooled petrol, 100hp at 1200rpm
Wilson 4 speed gearbox
Suspension Tracks and rollers
Speed (road) 6.1 mph (~10 km/h)
Range 65 miles (105 km)
Armament Early version: 7+1 Hotchkiss machine guns with 7500 rounds
Service rifles and cup grenade launchers
Late version: 5+1 Hotchkiss Machine Guns
service rifles and cup grenade launchers
Armor 6 – 14 mm max.
Total production 700 ordered
102 built
45 in service
57 scrapped
Latvia – 2
Russia (Bolshevik) – 1+1
Russia (White) – 1
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Trench crossing trials comparison of Medium Mark B ‘Whippet’ compared to other tanks. Photo: IWM
Medium Mark B ‘Whippet’ used in bridging trial work. Video: IWM

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Irish WW1 & after WW1 British Armor WWI British Armored Cars

Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorries

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1916)
Improvised APC – 5 built

The first APC?

The Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorries were a little known, lightly-armored truck series that saw service in Ireland in 1916, during the Easter Rising. This is, of course, an unofficial name, as the lorries were just referred to as “Armoured Lorry”, “Armoured Car”, “Boilers”, and other vague names in primary sources, thus creating confusion, especially in the later part of the Rising as to whether sources are referring to a Daimler-Guinness or a different armored car.
The Republican rebels, who held down strategic positions in occupied buildings, were causing massive casualties to the British army. Knowing this, what is perhaps the first APC in the world was built in order to protect soldiers en route to objectives and heavily defended areas. It was made from locomotive parts and donated lorries from the Guinness Brewery.
The Daimler-Guinness can actually stake a claim to being the first armored personnel carrier, or at the very least, the first improvised APC, depending on which paradigm one chooses to define what constitutes an APC. Other vehicles that appear to be APCs were being built around 1916, most notably the Locomobile Armored Car (which was in service with the New York National Guard), but they are arguably not an APCs, and were also not fully enclosed. It is also unclear which month it was built (and therefore which one was made first), but the Daimler-Guinness certainly saw service before the Locomobile.

Context: The Easter Rising

The Easter Rising was an attempt by Irish Republicans to establish an Irish Republic separate from the United Kingdom. Irish Republicanism was a long-standing ideology, which long predates The Troubles (1968-1998). Britain’s engagement in World War I provided an excellent opportunity for Republicans and Nationalists to start a rebellion. The Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood met on September 5th, 1914, a mere month after Britain joined the war, to discuss the possibility of a rising. By May, 1915, military plans were being drawn up by a newly formed military committee of intellectuals and Republican leaders.
On the morning of Monday April 24th, 1916, an estimated 1200 Republicans from the ICA (Irish Citizen Army), IV (Irish Volunteers), and Cumann na mBan (The Irishwomen’s Council) rose up and occupied various strategic locations across the city, such as Liberty Hall and the General Post Office. The number of rebels was greatly diminished due to the IV’s cancellation of plans (because a weapons shipment for the rebels from Germany was intercepted), thus meaning that Irish Rebel numbers at first matched British military numbers. On the first day, sporadic firefights broke out across the city, mainly involving occupation of buildings from both sides. The rebels did not capture Dublin’s train stations, meaning that an estimated 15,000 more British reinforcements could arrive by the end of the week.
One of the freshly recruited British regiments, the Sherwood Foresters, from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, was engaged in battle on April 26th at Mount Street Bridge – a location which would become notorious for the heavy casualties suffered by the British.
Seventeen rebel snipers occupied a few buildings, having fortified them since the beginning of the Rising. The Sherwood Foresters were spotted by the rebels, and as they reached the junction of the road, were fired upon. The British took heavy casualties, as they lay down in the middle of the open road, and were unable to return fire – they had no munitions, having just returned from maneuvers. Ten lay dead by the end of the engagement, and many more were wounded. The Sherwood Foresters regiment was exceptionally inexperienced, having had to be shown how to load and fire their weapons only once they got off the boat at Dublin. They also did not bring their grenades or Lewis guns, which meant that they could not lay down any heavy fire on occupied buildings. Two days later, more British troops would arrive with heavy reinforcements, including machine guns and artillery in order to capture the bridge.
The warfare experienced by the British was a warfare that they had not been trained for. It was brutal, gritty, and slow-moving urban combat, featuring guerilla warfare from rebels who knew their surroundings. Worse still, the Rising was, for the most part, unforeseen by the British…


The British were seeking to acquire vehicles in order to keep their military effort flowing efficiently throughout the city streets. However, also knowing that heavy casualties were being taken in incidents such as the Battle of Mount Street Bridge (although that battle may have happened after the Daimler-Guinness concept was created), Colonel Bertram Portal at the Curragh Camp (the British rural stronghold in Ireland) decided that improvised armored vehicles would have to be built in order to protect soldiers. They were, essentially, flatbed delivery lorries with locomotive smokeboxes bolted onto the rear, with some armor added elsewhere to the vehicle.
Roughly twenty lorries were donated to the British army by the Guinness Brewery. This included five Daimler-Milnes delivery lorries, which would be converted into Daimler-Guinnesses at Great Southern & Western Railway Company, Inchicore Works. There is a debate as to whether or not the lorries were donated by Guinness or simply ‘appropriated’ by the British Army. However, it is highly likely that the trucks were, in fact, donated. In a letter from General John Maxwell (Commander-in-chief of British forces in Ireland) addressed to A.E. Guinness, dated 17th May, 1916, it is stated:
At this moment when the lorries you have so generously put at our disposal are being returned to you, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you personally, and your firm, for the splendid spirit you have displayed in coming to our aid during an extremely critical period. I can further assure you that the assistance given to us by your lorries practically saved us from a breakdown in our transport arrangements, and enabled us to get through without a hitch. I should like to bear testimony to the pluck and loyalty with which your drivers have attended to their lorries throughout the late rebellion. It is impossible to speak too highly of their qualities, and I consider they are an honour to their firm and to their country.
The letter is quite clear. In a private letter, Maxwell has no need to lie about the situation – If the lorries were stolen, and if the letter was to be viewed by the public, then, and only then, would Maxwell need to lie. However, even the Republican newspaper “An Phoblacht“, in a 2013 article about Guinness’s loyalism states that there are conflicting reports about how these lorries got into British hands. Notably, thirty-three drivers from the Guinness Brewery also volunteered to drive the donated trucks, and, presumably, drove Daimler-Guinness conversions too, as most soldiers did not know how to drive. Many workers who refused to aid the British when asked were also dismissed, which further suggests that Guinness was a willing collaborator.
There is a suggestion that the smokeboxes used for the conversion were boilers taken from the Guinness Brewery, but it seems as though this is just a misconception. It appears as though they were actually locomotive smokeboxes, as they have features indicative of this such as the double-barred hinges (see photos).
Fairly little is known about the vehicle’s construction at Inchicore, and it is unclear when exactly they were built and when the concept was made. It is likely that the vehicles were constructed at some point between late Monday and early Wednesday. It is believed that the construction of one vehicle took roughly a full workday. The diary of Colonel Bertram Portal would reveal substantial information, but, unfortunately, it was up for auction in 2013, and no transcripts have been released to historians (see Sidenote II below).
It is also likely that the men who built the vehicles wished to remain anonymous, and did not tell their stories, as they collaborated with the British – something which would prove to be an incredibly unpopular move. In a letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office at the Inchicore Works addressed to a former secretary at the Bureau of Military History, Dublin, dated November 15th, 1951, it is stated:
Rising of Easter week, 1916. Our Secretary has forwarded me your letter of the 5th November, together with leaflet, and I have gone into the matter very fully and contacted existing members of the staff who were in this Department in 1916, and whilst there is recollection of events at that time, I am afraid there is very little in the way of documentary evidence which would be of assistance to you. It is, for instance, common knowledge that we did under direction of the British Army Authorities, through their Army Ordnance, construct “armoured” vehicles by mounting locomotive boiler barrels on road lorries, as shown on the photographs herewith, but there is no record of the number so turned out, and the only record I can trace is an entry in our Accounts Ledger which reads as follows:- “Half Year Ending 30th June 1916. Works Order A. 282. Military Account, War Office. “Armouring Motor Cars £365*” The wording of the entry and the amount expended would go to show that there was more than one vehicle turned out. This work was carried out by Works employees, chiefly Boilermakers. Having regard to the time that has since elapsed, it is not now possible to produce documents of any kind beyond the ledger Record quoted above. I am also enclosing a group of photographs showing an armoured train, and armoured cars constructed at Inchicore in 1922 which may be of interest.” (*£33,523 in today’s money, 2016)
A recent article from, reports some dubious and unsubstantiated claims. Firstly, it is reported that Sir William J. Goulding, the owner of the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR), authorized the donation of twelve locomotive smokeboxes to the British for the conversion. There is no evidence to substantiate this claim, and, it appears as though only ten smokeboxes were actually used, as one Type 1 Daimler-Guinness (which is believed to be the first conversion) featured only two smokeboxes. These were larger than the other smokeboxes used on the other Type 1 Daimler-Guinnesses, but it still appears slightly shorter than the others. Secondly, the article reports that the work was carried out by military engineers from the 3rd Reserve Calvary Regiment. In reality, photos appear to show that it was mostly civilians present at the construction of the vehicles, and the above letter from 1951 suggests that it was mainly the boilermakers themselves who carried out the work, only under the direction of British army ordnance. The final dubious claim is that some vehicles had rear-facing Lewis guns. Whilst there is a pistol port notably larger than others (in fact, clearly large enough to mount a Lewis gun) at the rear of the vehicle, the actual use of it by a Lewis gun is not proven to the satisfaction of the author. (See Sidenote IV below)
There were three types of the vehicle:
Type 1 – The most commonly seen version, featuring cylindrical locomotive smokeboxes bolted together and placed on the rear of the vehicle, with a small area of the flatbed extending past the smokeboxes (presumably for ease of access).
Type 1a was made from two long smokeboxes, with four gun ports, and seemingly only two dummy ports painted on each side. The passenger / fighting compartment was slightly shorter than the ones seen on Type 1b and 1c.
Type 1b and 1c were made from four shorter smokeboxes. Type 1b and 1c can only be differentiated by small details, such as the layout of their pistol ports, and support bars on the cab roof. 1c also had substantially more dummy ports painted on than 1b. These are also the most commonly photographed Daimler-Guinnesses.
Type 2 – A box-shaped version with a fighting compartment adjoined to the driver’s compartment. It appears to have been made from steel plates. It has a rectangular rear which appears to be made from two water tanks riveted together. Only one photo is known to exist.
Type 3 – Somewhat similar to the Type 2, but with a V-shaped prow, probably for deflecting bullets. Only two photographs are known to exist, thus meaning further information is unavailable.
As revealed from photographs, Type 1s had holes in the roof for chimneys (smokestacks) sealed up with metal plates, which would be necessary to avoid grenade attacks or rebels firing down into the passenger compartment from above. There was a door at the rear of the vehicle, for entry and exit – for the Type 1, this was the smokebox hatch. It is unclear what kind of hatches the Type 2 and 3 vehicles had. Usually four small pistol ports were added to each side of the smokeboxes, and dummy ports were painted on to confuse snipers – although looking closely at even poor quality photographs, it appears somewhat obvious which are which. Steel plates were also added onto the cab of the vehicle, as well as the engine compartment for protection.

Combat and tactics

Daimler-Guinnesses are most well known to reverse up against entry points to a building, allowing soldiers to enter with minimal casualties from snipers, but they actually performed many roles such as scout, APC, gun-truck, artillery tractor, and general transport of military goods. They could carry an estimated 15-20 soldiers, but there were only four pistol ports on either side, and according to Sergeant Sam Cooper of B company, 2/6th South Staffs, firing from inside was uncomfortable due to the space being too small and enclosed. However, there are reports of the Daimler-Guinness being used to broadside rebel positions, which shows that it was not too uncomfortable. Cooper also recalls that every bullet that bounced on the vehicle’s armor left his ears ringing.
The idea of painting on dummy pistol ports was truly inspired, but its actual effectiveness was dubious. They were quite obvious, and, above all, if weapons were poked out of the pistol ports, it would be clear which ones were real. However, there are no credible reports of snipers ever hitting a soldier who was inside the vehicle. The vehicles were likely to be, for the most part, bulletproof.

Combat at the GPO

All sources agree that the Daimler-Guinness first saw action on Wednesday the 26th. By combining the information as given in AFV news, Caulfield’s “The Easter Rebellion“, and a statement from Volunteer Joseph Sweeney (a sniper on the GPO’s roof), its first engagement is fairly well detailed.
On Wednesday night, a Daimler-Guinness was supporting the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. They crossed the Liffey over the Butt Bridge, moved along Gardiner Street, turned left onto Parnell Street, and moved up to Moore Street. Then, in order to reassess rebel strength, the vehicle turned off Parnell Street and onto Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), and stopped in front of the Gresham Hotel. It was spotted by Volunteer Joseph Sweeney, who stated that he, Volunteer Reilly, and three other rebel snipers fired at the vehicle with rifles. All of their bullets ricocheted. Then, Sweeney (and possibly Reilly) decided to fire at the driver’s slits, with the aim of killing the driver in order to disable the vehicle. Between three and five shots were fired by Sweeney, and the vehicle stopped. The vehicle then attempted a restart, but it failed, and lay motionless until later that night. Once dark enough, and when all the lights were all out, it was towed away, reportedly by another Daimler-Guinness.
It is highly unlikely that the vehicle was damaged by, or that the driver was killed by, rebel fire – it seems as though the vehicle suffered from an untimely mechanical failure.
Another engagement at the GPO is reported just before 3pm on Thursday the 27th. According to an account from Max Caulfield’s “The Easter Rising“: “There were constant alarms that the military had begun their attack. Once almost the entire garrison rushed to the northern side of the building, with a few craning dangerously out of the windows to see, after someone had reported an armored car coming down Henry Street. From the roof of the warehouse in Henry Street, Volunteer John Reid and his comrades opened fire on the monster. Bullets bounced harmlessly off its plating, until somebody tossed a bomb and stopped it.” Men were then lined up in the main hall shortly after 3pm, and Patrick Pearse announced the destruction of the vehicle. This may be the only time a Daimler-Guinness was knocked out by rebels.

Combat near the Four Courts

Wednesday – Shortly after 5pm, the Sherwood Foresters, under the command of Colonel Portal marched out of Dublin Castle towards Grattan Bridge. They were pinned down by rebel fire from the Four Courts building, just over the Liffey. A Daimler-Guinness brought sixteen sharpshooters to the Church of the Immaculate Conception opposite the Four Courts building across the river. From behind tombstones, they began to return fire on the rebels, but to no avail. The Daimler-Guinness then towed an 18-pounder gun to Grattan Bridge, and commenced fire with four hits to the east wing, which allowed the Sherwoods to continue their advance.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)

Combat at Capel Street

Wednesday – During the advance up Capel Street, presumably in the evening at some point before 8pm, an unknown number of Daimler-Guinnesses (possibly two), were used to secure buildings. They did this by the typical method of reversing up to building entry points. It is unclear which unit the Daimler-Guinnesses supported.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)

Combat at North King Street

Wednesday – A Daimler-Guinness was spotted by rebels on Bolton Street (north of Parnell Street), but no further details (such as exact time) are available.
This account does not appear to be substantiated outside of AFV news. (See Sidenote IV below)
Thursday – The first well-documented usage of a Daimler-Guinness near North King Street was in fact not in combat. Captain Edmunds of A Company, Sherwood Foresters, was in charge of a sector between Capel Street and Coles Lane. He found a large supply of sacks in a factory in his sector, and unspecified armored cars were used to deliver sandbags filled with earth to be used as barricades at strategic points on Abbey street, west of the GPO, and possibly elsewhere.
Friday – In the early morning, an unspecified armored car was used for reconaissance (presumably a Daimler-Guinness), which took light fire from Mauser bullets. This followed an incident on Thursday in which a Red Cross ambulance attempted to reach the Richmond Hospital, but was fired upon from the rebel barricade.
Despite such minor roles, it was on Friday evening and Saturday morning that the Daimler-Guinness saw its longest and most brutal fighting. North King Street housed a major rebel stronghold known as “Reilly’s Fort“, and the rebels were dug-in deep. Nevertheless, General Maxwell ordered an attack; an encirclement with three battalions was planned. Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Taylor of the 2/6th South Staffs, was given orders to press westwards from Capal Street to join up with the 2/5th South Staffs, who were advancing eastwards from Queen Street. From the Sherwood Foresters, he learned that North King Street was too strongly held for an unsupported infantry assault, so at some point after 5:45pm, an armored car arrived to support the attack. The vehicle slowly drove up the road, and soldiers followed closely behind, firing at all the houses along the street. They broke into houses, occupied them, and tunneled from building to building using pickaxes. In the early stages of the battle, civilians were guided back to the Bolton Street Technical Schools, Taylor’s base of operations.
Two hundred yards up the road, rebel Volunteers Frank Shouldice, Thomas Sherrin, William Murphy, William Hogan, John Williamson, and John Dwan held positions on an iron stairway outside Jameson’s Malt House. They were spotted and the armored car slew across the street and fired broadside at them, thus indicating that this almost certainly a Daimler-Guinness and not another type of armored car. Unharmed, the rebels returned fire, but to no effect. The armored lorry continued to back up against the front doors of houses, to allow infantry to disembark with relative safety. However, this tactic did not negate all casualties. According to Sergeant Sam Cooper of B company, 2/6th South Staffs, one soldier was found dead below a window, probably hit by a sniper shortly after he disembarked from the armored lorry.
The Daimler-Guinness later came close to Sherrin’s position and hailed the Volunteers with bullets. They returned fire and, most importantly, threw grenades at the vehicle, causing it to withdraw. None of the Volunteers were hit in the exchange.
There is a misconception that the Daimler-Guinness smashed through the rebel barricade, but this does not appear to be the case. According to Caulfield, the rebel barricade was still in tact by midnight, and the South Staffs had made very little progress in the battle. This meant that the British had to turn to guerilla tactics…
Saturday – By 2am, the Daimler-Guinness slowly struggled towards the barricade. It came within thirty yards, and stopped to allow a party of soldiers with crowbars and pickaxes to disembark. They broke into House No. 172, owned by Mrs. Sally Hughes, where twenty other families were taking refuge. Hughes recalls that “about thirty soldiers” entered, although this might be an exaggeration. They ransacked the house, then led two civilian men upstairs and shot them dead. The rebels retreated once they heard the pickaxes hammering at the walls.
Songs were heard being sung from the rebel barricades, this astonished the South Staffs to the point where they stopped firing whilst each of several songs were sung. As daylight began to cast over Dublin, the South Staffs stopped tunneling and stormed over the empty rebel barricade, where they took fire from Reilly’s Pub. Seeking cover, the soldiers dashed off into Beresford Street, where Frank Shouldice shot them all dead, one by one, from his iron stairway. By 7am, the rebels began to run out of ammo, and were exhausted. By 9am, Shouldice took a vote with his men; they decided to run from their positions. Soldiers fired on them once they were halfway across the street, but it seems as though they all made it to safety.
By circa May 17th, 1916, all of the remaining Daimler-Guinnesses were in the process of being dismantled. The lorries and smokeboxes were returned to their owners.

Overall significance

The Daimler-Guinness is normally treated as a footnote in history, however this is not because it was a ‘bad’ vehicle with minor significance. As Maxwell stated in his letter to Guinness, the trucks that were given to them were a true help to the British military effort, and this is no exaggeration. In fact, even a simple assessment of its short combat history reveals that the Daimler-Guinness not only allowed the British to adapt their tactics for guerilla warfare, but also preventing the number of British casualties from being so high. If British soldiers had remained unshielded from enemy snipers, the rebels may have even been able to hold out much longer. The artillery barrages from the Gunboat Helga were fairly ineffective against buildings such as the GPO. Even the fearsome 18-pounder guns, with their incendiary rounds, caused few direct casualties. However they did cause plenty of collateral damage, such as effectively gutting the GPO after a roof collapse. It was the soldiers with rifles and machine guns that caused casualties, and the eventual surrender of rebel forces which ended the Rising.
The author notes that the Daimler-Guinness has also probably not become such a renowned symbol because it was, frankly, a British vehicle. Whilst there is much attention pointed at glorifying the Rebel side of the Rising, until recently there has been little on the British side of the story, and if it were a rebel vehicle it would be, without doubt, glorified. The Daimler-Guinness tends to be little more than a footnote in modern sources (particularly museums in Dublin); although a contemporary painting by Archibald McGoogan entitled “After the Bombardment” showing both a Type 1 and 2 Daimler-Guinness is currently on display at the National Library of Ireland’s “Rising” exhibition in Dublin. It can be viewed here. Around Easter 2016, some articles about the Daimler-Guinness have sprung up on the internet; they have provided excellent information and have contributed invaluably to this article.
Originally published on 9 February, 2016.
The Easter Rebellion” by Max Caulfield
British Use of Armoured Vehicles During the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland“, article from AFV News Volume 35, No.1, January, 2000.
Revolution in Dublin, a photographic history 1913-1923” by Liz Gillis
Courage Boys, We Are Winning, an illustrated history of the 1916 Rising” by Michael Barry
The Rising, 1916” Newspaper publication, 2016
A Terrible Beauty, 1916“, a docudrama directed by Keith Farrell, 2016
The GPO: Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre“, the GPO, Dublin, as visited by the author on 31st March, 2016
Proclaiming a Republic”, Exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, as visited by the author on 3rd April, 2016
A letter from General Maxwell to A.E. Guinness, dated 17th May, 1916, as seen in “Courage Boys, We Are Winning, an illustrated history of the 1916 Rising” by Michael Barry
A letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office at the Inchicore Works addressed to a former secretary at the Bureau of Military History, Dublin, dated 15th November, 1951, accessible from the Buereau of Military History (provides much detailed information, as well as enhanced photographs. Note: there is no apparent source citation on this article, and it does sometimes offer dubious information) (provides many additional photos, some not seen in this article)
Easter Rising on Wikipedia

Daimler Guiness

Rendition of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b by Tanks Encyclopedia.

Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorry by Arkhonus

A British soldier sits on the rear of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b near the Granville Hotel (now the Savoy Cinema), Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), north of the River Liffey. The smokebox door allowed troops entry and exit, and, reportedly, the ability to be placed against windows and opened, allowing soldiers to storm a building. The two barred hinges can be seen clearly in this photo, which is more typical of a locomotive smokebox than anything else. A large pistol port is seen just above the lower hinge bar, which is clearly larger than the other pistol ports, and a dummy port is seen just above the top hinge bar. This larger port was reportedly for use of a Lewis gun. Source
Possibly on O Connell street
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b, location unknown, possibly Sackville Street. Source
Another view of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1b. Exact location unknown, possibly Sackville Street, or nearby. SourceDaimler Guinness with a crows
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b surrounded by a crowd of civilians on Sackville Street. Source
Daimler Guinness type 1b other view
Believed to be the same vehicle as in the view above, roughly at the same time. Source
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b from an unknown film, presumably a newsreel, probably from British Pathe. Footage of the Daimler-Guinness can be found in “A Terrible Beauty, 1916“, a docudrama directed by Keith Farrell, 2016, both real and reenactment.
MS 2074
Daimler-Guinness Type 1b, possibly shot from a second story window. Exact location unknown, possibly near to the Four Courts building or the GPO. As taken from Elsie Mahaffy’s scrapbook available here.

HD soldiers with daimler guinness probaly sackville street
Front view of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1c on Sackville Street. The engine compartment and cab have been armored up for protection. Judging by the layout of the painted on pistol ports, this is not the same vehicle as in the above photos. Source

Daimler-Guinness Type 1c, believed to be on Sackville Street. Source

Redacted photo of the Daimler-Guinness Type 1c from 1951, believed to be taken at Kingsbridge Station (now Heuston Station). This is a rare photo of rifles shown poking through the pistol ports. Despite some claims, firing from inside the vehicle was probably not such an uncomfortable experience. Source

Unaltered version of the above photo. Most men appear to be civilians, that being the case, it is likely that the men were airbrushed out because they (or their families) did not wish to be associated with their allegiance to the British. However, it is suggested that military engineers performed the work. A drawing or edited version of this photo was included in  “Popular Mechanics Magazine”, November, 1916, and can be viewed here. Source
more builders of the daimler guinness
Daimler-Guinness Type 1a photographed with its builders. This one seems to be perhaps the rarest Daimler-Guinness, and does not appear to have many dummy ports painted on. The passenger compartment appears to be shorter than other Daimler-Guinnesses, and was seemingly made from only two smokeboxes (which appear wider than other smokeboxes seen on other vehicles, however).

Daimler-Guinness Type 2 at the junction of Sackville Street and Bachelors Walk. The O’Connell monument can be seen in the background. This type was supposedly built when no more smokeboxes could be acquired. This is the only known photograph of it (although other, digitally enhanced versions exist). It may look fake, but this is because the background is out of focus and it is one of the poor quality versions of the photograph. It has been suggested that perhaps two metal water tankers and a few additional steel plates were made for this conversion, which is a very likely explanation. Source

Drawing of a Milnes-Daimler truck. Whilst this one does not belong to the Guinness Brewery, nor is it the exact model, it is very similar to what the Daimler-Guinness armored lorries would be based on. Source

A train built in 1902 at Inchicore. The steambox at the front is incredibly similar to those used on Type 1b and 1c Daimler-Guinnesses. However, it seems as though most of the handles were removed for the conversion, their boltholes still visible. The chimneys, too, were removed and the holes were covered with steel plates. Source

Sidenote I: Other Improvised Armored Vehicles, 1916

Several other improvised armored cars made in 1916 in other workshops at Inchicore, the Guinness Brewery, and another unknown workshop are also reported in “Improvised Armour, From the British Army 1916, to the Islamic State 2016“, an article by, and AFV news. The only one described in detail in the articles is a QF 3-pounder (it is unstated whether this was a Hotchkiss or a Vickers 3-pounder) mounted on the rear of an armored truck. It was driven on Wednesday 26th to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), and on Thursday, it bombarded the rebel 3rd battalion’s position at Boland’s Mill from a firing position at Mount Street Bridge. The rebel 3rd battalion was headed by Eamonn de Valera. de Valera ordered a large, green flag to be hoisted on an empty building three or four hundred yards away. When this was done the British adjusted their fire to the empty building instead. Later that day, the 3-pounder SPG was taken by the Sherwood Foresters to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, to an unknown fate. It is unclear why such a modification would be made, presumably it was for providing rapid access to indirect (and possibly direct) heavy fire.

Sidenote II: Colonel Bertram Portal’s Diary

Another reason as to why so little is known is known about the construction of Daimler-Guinness trucks is because the diary of Bertram Portal (who came up with the concept) was lost until 2013, where it was found in a charity shop. It was then up for auction for £28,000 ($39,700). No notes were allowed to be taken, and it seems as though no transcript has been made available to historians. Viewing the transcript would almost certainly reveal invaluable information. According to the auction house, it was unsold and returned to its seller.

Sidenote III: Other Armored Cars at Inchicore, 1922

Between 50 and 150 armored Lancia trucks were supplied to the British, many of which were sent to Ireland. Whilst in service with the Free Staters in 1922, at least 50 were given armored roofs at Inchicore, and another 7 were converted to drive on railways as a result of IRA activity on the railways. Some even had a machine gun turret. These conversions took place between September 1922 and April 1923. More is known about these vehicles than the Daimler-Guinness; there is even newsreel footage from British Pathe (which can be accessed here) showcasing the up-armored Lancias. These vehicles strongly resemble the earlier Pierce-Arrow, as well as other vehicles made in India and Mexico.

This armored Lancia was used as an artillery tractor by the Free Staters during the Irish War of Independence in 1922. Seen here at the junction of Dame street and Georges street in Dublin, looking towards Trinity college. Credit: National Library of Ireland, photographic archives Source.

Sidenote IV: Unsubstantiated Claims

Some information in this article has been noted as potentially unsubstantiated or not proven to the satisfaction of the author. Most primary sources, such as photos, eyewitness accounts, and newsreel footage are available online from the National Library of Ireland Archive, and the [Irish] Bureau of Military History Archives. The two main sources which gave the author trouble with cross-referencing of events are “British Use of Armoured Vehicles During the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland“, an article from AFV News Volume 35, No.1, January, 2000, and “Improvised Armour, From the British Army 1916, to the Islamic State 2016“, an article from It is possible that claims and accounts from both AFV news and have been written using primary sources and accounts from Irish archives which have not seen by the author of this article due to the vast number of accounts that would need to be trawled through.
That being said, neither of these articles state their sources, and some select claims cannot simply be cross-referenced with archives (for reasons stated), nor can they be corroborated by any of the other sources used to write this article – most worryingly, Max Caulfield’s highly regarded “The Easter Rebellion“. Published in 1963, Caulfield was able to interview many survivors of the Easter Rising, which makes it a highly useful source, although some exaggerations may have been made in the euphoria of the coming 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising (in 1966). The role of the Daimler-Guinness in the shelling of the Four Courts by the Sherwood Foresters on Wednesday, as claimed in AFV news, is particularly difficult to substantiate; troubling, as that would be a fairly noteworthy event. Smaller claims, as made by, such as the use of a rear-mounted Lewis gun are not too unreasonable to assume to be true, there is just a lack of primary evidence.
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

WW1 British Armor WWI British Medium Tanks

Medium Mark A “Whippet”

British Empire (1917-1918)
Medium tank – 200 built

From idea to production

The Whippet tank is what its name implies; a Whippet, a breed of fast hunting dogs used for chasing prey down and catching it. ‘Fast’ here being comparative. Compared to the much larger and heavier British tanks of WW1, the famous ‘rhomboid’ shaped machines, these really were Whippets.
Designed to effectively emulate the role of scout and cavalry, push ahead, harass the enemy and to use machine guns to sow confusion, the Whippet was intended to work with those heavier tanks and not to replace them.

The Order

The tests at Oldbury of the new Whippet design had met with approval. Some 200 Whippets were soon placed on order with this new polygonal style upper body. The goal was to have them delivered to France by the end of July 1917 and a further order of 200 was placed that summer which was canceled about 4 months later. Of these first 200 machines, only 166 had been completed by the summer of 1918 and it was into the autumn before the remaining 34 arrived. All 200 vehicles were assembled at the Wellington Foundry works of William Foster and Co. Ltd. The name ‘Tritton Chaser’ was gone. This was now ‘The Whippet’ or officially the ‘Medium Mark A’. They were to face the trials of combat very soon after they arrived in France.
Whippet A301 on show to the crows at the Lord Mayor’s Parade pictured outside the High courts of Justice, London probably 1919. Photo: BNF
Whippet A301 on show to the crowds at the Lord Mayor’s Parade pictured outside the High courts of Justice, London probably 1919. Photo: BNF
The Tritton Chaser had morphed into a similarly looking but larger ‘Whippet’ tank. This production vehicle was noticeably different to the rebuilt Chaser. The basic shape was the same but that curved exposed front fuel tank now had an angled armored cover. The distinctive open mud chutes on the side were slightly redesigned and there were now four roughly rectangular shaped openings. A fifth small circular one at the rear behind the fourth mudchute was for accessing the drive chain and the covering plate is sometimes missing in photographs. Another change was that those 16 Skefco roller bearings were now reduced to just 6 on each side. They bore of the most of the weight from the tank.

Factory fresh Whippet tank with just 2 of the four machine guns fitted. Photographs nicely show the changes made to the suspension arrangement and mud chuting. The small ‘arm’ seen projecting from the front is a steel arm used for attaching the canvas mud guard. Later Whippets would also have a small section of angle steel attached to the area around the front mudchute. This vehicle is actually the very last prototype prior to authorized production. Photo: IWM

Whippets under construction at the Wellington Foundry works of William Foster and Co. Ltd, Lincoln. Photo: IWM

Early design of production model Whippet tank, still with a horizontal exhaust outlet. This is curved upwards on production vehicles. Photo: IWM

One of the first production models, serial number A202, which was built in mild steel ‘soft plate’ (see door). Pictured here near to Albert, France in April 1918. Why this unarmored and unarmed early production Whippet is there can only be speculated on. Photo: IWM

Additional front metal bracket added to some Whippets the purpose of which is unclear.
These 200 vehicles were each assigned a serial number from A200 up to A399. The first Whippets to arrive in France were delivered in December 1917 and were involved in combat from then on. In April 1918, Tritton visited the front once more and discussed the Whippet and possible improvement which may have been mainly connected to the conditions inside the vehicle which were unpleasant. The heat and fumes from the engine, the fumes from the machine guns all meant that the vehicle could become stiflingly hot and tiring for the crews to operate. On top of this, the exhaust was vented on the side of the vehicle ahead of the crew space meaning, as it traveled forwards, exhaust gas could both obscure the view of the crew and re-enter the vehicle making the conditions inside even worse. The only relief from these conditions would be to open the small roof hatch which was intended for the commander to use when guiding the vehicle or the large rear door. Obviously keeping those open in combat was extremely hazardous.

Asymmetric layout of the Whippet tank. Note how the polygonal cab structure protrudes over the track run on the left hand side of the machine

The 7.72 liter 45hp Tylor engine as fitted to the Whippet tank. This side valve water cooled unit was manufactured by the Tylor Company of London and was also used (singly) on the War Department AEC Y Type 3 ton truck
In service, some Whippets were fitted with large wooden stowage boxes on the back supported by an angled steel strap fastened to the cab of the tank. These boxes would provide some much needed stowage for the crew and may also have helped in carrying additional cans of petrol. Many vehicles in service are festooned with petrol cans to extend the operational range of the vehicle.

Whippet tank next to a row of sponsons, Tank Corps Central Workshops, Teneur, France, Spring 1918. The photo provides a nice view of the engine access panels as well as the wooden stowage boxes. Photo: IWM

Two views of Sir Edward Patrick Morris, the Prime Minister of Newfoundland (Canada), on his visit to the Tank Corps Gunnery School at Merlimont, France on the 2nd July 1918 examining A326 showing the wooden stowage box and steel spud strap clearly. A326 was later stripped for spares and all but scrapped by August 1918 but was later one of the Whippets sent to Russia in 1919. Photo: IWM

A220 carrying piles of kit on the back, several petrol cans suspended from the top of the mud chutes and items strewn over the front too. The 3 rectangular items on the right of the cab next to the exhaust are wooden track spuds although these are more commonly seen carried at the back. A lot of vehicles can be noted to have a steel strap riveted hanging around the sides of the cab on which to hang items. A220 was later captured by the Germans and subjected to various trials sporting a large black cross on the sides. Photo: IWM

Nice study of the rear of Whippet A267 ‘Cork II’ pictured April 1918 near Albert, France showing the usual method of hanging the wooden track spuds and a typical assortment of kits stowed wherever the crew can put it. The vehicle on the left has a towing cable around the nose. Photo: IWM

A290 (probably) heavily festooned with an array of kit and clad in petrol cans. (A290 was known as ‘Cherubim II’) Close examination shows the use of small black stripes near to the vision slots which were added with the intention of making the targeting of the vision slots harder for enemy snipers. Photo: IWM

Black false vision slits (which have faded – look bottom left and top right of the ‘9’) as shown on A259 Caeser II at Bovington. Note the rudimentary additional vision/pistol port provided in the superstructure. Photo:

A233 ‘Crossmichael’ pictured at Biefvillers, near Bapaume, France on the 24th of August 1918 is relatively uncluttered but with a towing cable fastened the tight right hand side. Photo: NAM and IWM

Whippet in service at Demiun near Amiens, France showing stowage boxes at the back, the canvas mud guards in pace and multiple cans of petrol strapped to the nose of the tank. A single track spud is hanging from the cab on which two of the three crew are riding to avoid the unpleasant conditions inside. There was no such relief for the driver. Photo: IWM

Tales of daring do

The Medium Mark A Whippet was to see its first combat on the 26th March 1918 at Mailly-Maillet, north of Albert, France. It had been considered to send Whippets to the Army in Palestine too but that didn’t happen. The Whippet tank was to enjoy some notable combat actions most famously the actions of Musical Box (A344), and Caeser II (A259).
On the 8th August 1918, near to the town of Villers-Brettoneux, France, Whippet A344 known as Musical Box was about to become a legend. In command of the tank was Lieutenant C.B. Arnold. It began an attack with 7 other vehicles, which for one reason or another being stuck or suffering mechanical failure. This left Musical Box on her own to support some Australian Infantry and Mk.V tanks attacking the German lines. Musical Box attacked a battery of German field guns, which was somewhat suicidal at best but scattered the Germans with its machine guns allowing the Australian infantry to advance into the German position.
Lt. Arnold pressed on regardless for several hours resulting in the dispersal of a large segment of a German infantry division, a transport column and even an observation balloon. The combat had caused the cans of petrol carried on Musical Box to be perforated leaking petrol dangerously into the tank so much so the crew were having to wear their respirators. Eventually, Muscial Box was crippled and set on fire by a direct hit from a German gun and the crew bailed out. The driver was shot but he and the machine gunner were captured. Lt. Arnold survived the war as a POW having inflicted a loss on the Germans far out of proportion to what could be expected.

Burnt out remains of A344 Musical Box pictured the day after the incredible fight with Australian soldiers of the 15th Brigade and some German prisoners.
On the 29th August 1918, Caeser II (now preserved at the Bovington Tank Museum), commanded by Lieutenant Cecil Sewell, was with the 3rd Battalion Tank Corps at Frémicourt, France. During this action, a fellow tank had slipped into a shell hole, overturned and caught fire trapping the crew inside. Sewell stopped his tank and ran out across open ground in full view of enemy fire digging out the door of the tank so the crew could escape a horrible fiery death. His own driver was wounded in this time and he went to his aid but was hit by enemy fire while doing so. Nonetheless, he got to his driver and while rendering medical aid was hit once more, this time fatally by enemy fire. For his heroism and total disregard for his own safety Lt. Sewell was awarded the Victoria Cross.
A final and more minor note of interest is that in combat in March 1918, A226 ‘China II’ resorted to borrowing a single infantry Lewis gun to replace battle damaged Hotchkiss machine guns, so, on at least one occasion, a production Whippet did use a Lewis gun.

The downside

Despite the Whippet having been designed and been up and running as a prototype in a very short time the pressures of mass production had meant that delivery of the Whippet was rather slow. The tank itself wasn’t really of any use in combat until 1918 and although the Whippet was proven to be quite useful in combat the flaws in the design were apparent. The machine guns were prone to jamming and the armor was vulnerable to anti-tank rifle fire. The steering was awkward at best and dangerous at worst.
The habitability of the vehicle was very poor and the poor driver had his work cut out steering and getting a good view of the path ahead. The Germans, though, who had captured at least two fully functional vehicles, were by all accounts impressed with the speed. Obvious parallels are drawn between the German LK II vehicle, which was still in the pre-production phase at the time of the Armistice, and the Whippet. Quite how much influence it had on the design is still debated.

Johnson’s Whippet

One particular variant of the Whippet which sadly led to nothing was a modification carried out in 1918 by Colonel Philip Johnson. The unsprung Whippet with the 6 Skefco roller bearings was modified by means of fitting leaf springs transversely beneath the hull. The twin 45hp Tylor engines were replaced with a single V12 Rolls Royce Eagle petrol aero engine and the Walter Wilson designed transmission from a Mk.V just visible in the lines of the rear of the vehicle.
The new larger engine is shown by the much larger front hull shape with the lines of the original size still visible. With this new spring suspension and much more powerful engine this vehicle was capable of 30 mph (48 km/h) and retained the same polygonal superstructure of the original. Sadly this machine was a dead end for the Whippet as it was just too expensive, Colonel Johnson though went on to other projects.

Colonel Johnson modified Whippet showing expanded engine area for the Eagle engine. It’s possible the nose says A214 which would make sense as A214 was severely damaged at Bray, France including the loss of the engine so this prototype could have been rebuilt using that wreck and other parts. Chamberlain and Ellis however state this vehicle was modified in two stages, first the spring suspension and then later the engine area which would invalidate this theory. Photos: Beamish Archive courtesy of the author and IWM

V12 Rolls Royce Eagle engine. ~300hp at 1800 rpm. Photo: Sherbondy

That time the Army gave a man a tank

One final oddity for the Whippet in British service is this vehicle which was handed over to Commander Baynton Hippisely RN for some experiments in Bath, England.

Baynton Hippisely pictured in 1908, then an officer in the North Somerset Yeomanry. Photo: Public Domain
Bayntun Hippisley was born in July 1865 and retired from the Army in 1913. His family was well-to-do with an estate at Ston-Easton, near Bath in Somerset. At the outbreak of WW1 Hippisley, who was considered an expert and pioneer in the use of wireless telegraphy was recruited by Naval Intelligence. He was given the rank of Commander (RN) (Temporary rank listed 17/12/1915) and set to most secret and vital work intercepting wireless communications from German U-boats and Zeppelins.
During the war, he was personally issued a Whippet tank for “tests of a secret nature” on his estate. The vehicle concerned is recorded by him as being A381 which is known to have served with the 6th Battalion Tank Corps in October 1918 when it received some damage and was immobilized. The nature of the experiments Cmdr. Hippisley conducted is not clear and the vehicle had no obvious external differences to a standard Whippet save for some bullet scars. It’s possible that he was primarily occupied with wireless work with it but with the end of the war he seems to have made use of it more as a tractor on the estate maintaining the engines and hauling timber and trees or pulling them down etc.

Commander Hippisely’s Whippet A381 at his estate
The vehicle remained with him until March 1936 when he states that he received a letter from the War Office officially disposing of it and giving it to him as a free gift. He had already received for his war service an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1918 and in 1937 the CBE (Citizen of the British Empire). The tank appears to have been the last operational Whippet tank too when sadly in 1942 at the request of the Ministry of Work and Planning it was sent for scrap for the war effort.

Disposal and new life

Despite the success of the Whippet in combat and the potential work like that of Colonel Johnson had shown, the Whippet wasn’t going to be built anymore. Tritton already had his own improvements in mind and the Whippets left over after the shooting war on the Western front ended in November 1918 were progressively decommissioned. Many were scrapped or sold off. 17 vehicles were deployed/sold off to the white Russian anti-Bolshevik forces but to little avail with an initial 6 sent to General Deniken followed by 11 more in July 1919. Either destroyed or captured during this bitter civil war, at least one vehicle was rearmed by Bolshevik Russian forces with a 37mm gun.

Russian Whippet rearmed with a short barrelled 37mm cannon in place of the forward facing machine gun. Noteworthy is that this vehicle still retains on the nose the White-Red-White British markings. The markings were also commonly repeated on the front ‘horns’ of the vehicle on both sides and on the top of the engine to assist aircraft. On the horns, the vertical bands are 1ft (30cm) wide each.

A371 Sphinx in use by Russian forces showing the signs of wear and tear as well as the surprisingly large size of this tank
In Russian service, the last of the Whippets disappears in about 1922 presumably to scrap although in Russian service they were known as ‘Tylors’, or ‘Teiylors’ after the brand of engine.

Mark A Whippet
One of the first Mark A in operations, in March 1918.

Mark A Whippet
A late Whippet, A259 “Caesar II”, now in the Bovington tank museum.

Mark A Whippet
The A347 “Firefly” of the sixth battalion, B company, one of the numerous “X-companies” attached to larger units made of heavy Mk.IV and V during April-May 1918. This one is now displayed at the Royal Museum of the Army in Brussels.

Whippet with rear storage 

White Russian Whippet “Sphinx” with Wrangel’s 1st tank division, 2nd Det. South Russia 1920.
Red Russian Whippet
Captured “Red” Russian Gun Whippet rearmed with a 37mm gun, winter 1920

Beutepanzer “Whippet”

Captured use

As previously mentioned, the Bolshevik Russian forces had made use and modified their captured Whippets. The Germans who had captured at least two fully functional vehicles in 1918 put them both to use. One (A220 shown previously) was subjected to numerous trials. The other vehicle, Whippet A249, which had been captured at Bray, France (South of Albert) in March 1918, was shipped back to Germany where it ended up in the service of the Freikorps following the armistice.

A249 in Freikorps use January 1919 in Berlin. The building behind is the Eden Hotel in west Berlin. Photo: Rainer Strasheim, British Tanks in German Service Vol.2, 2011 Tankograd No.1004

Another view of Whippet A249 in Freikorps service in Berlin post war. Note that the large skull and crossbones has been painted over the large black cross on the side. A249 was eventually taken back into allied hands in 1919 and presumably scrapped.

A variety of views of Whippet A220 captured by the Germans along with A249 at Bray in March 1918. Subjected to a variety of tests this vehicle was presumably taken back by the Allies the end of 1918.

Whippet to Africa

One vehicle was purchased by the government of South Africa. A387 was intended to be a memorial and to be used for fund raising events and was named ‘HMLS Union’. HMLS Union however was to be no idle memorial. She was used as a tank during the Rand Rebellion in South Africa of 1922 where it was committed during the assault on the headquarters of the rebels. During this it became either stuck or broke down and was subsequently recovered by means of a steam truck.

HMLS Union is the focus of attention as she heads into action during the Rand Rebellion 1922
Following the restoration of order HMLS Union appears to have gone back into retirement until 1939 when she answered the call of empire once more in one final hurrah for King and Country. She came back to serve but was never deployed to combat, thankfully because HMLS Union is one of the very few surviving Whippet tanks and is currently on display in Pretoria.

The entirety of S.Africa’s armoured force in 1939 at the outbreak of World War 2 consisting of 2 Vickers Crossley armoured cars, 2 Medium Mk.I’s and HMLS Union.

Whippet of the Rising Sun

In September 1918, a further 4 Whippet tanks, A370, A386, A390, and A391 were sold to the Japanese complete with some track spuds. The only notable change made was the addition of a separate hatch for the driver allowing him a better view during a road march.

A390 during river crossing exercises. No armament appears to be fitted.

Three unidentified Whippets (the fourth is out of shot) in Japanese service on a road march. All vehicles display a small Army emblem Star on the nose and are fitted with the standard Japanese army 8mm machine guns. Note the view of the modified drivers front plate which is now a moveable hatch improving vision and no doubt ventilation too. Closer inspection shows what appear to be hoops of some description around the exhaust possibly to help keep netting off it. A tow cable is neatly fastened to the right hand side of the lead tank.

A very detailed photo of an unidentified Japanese Whippet with what appears to be an extemporized running board on the right hand side held up with straps. The metal brackets for the canvas mud guards are still fitted so this modification may be more to do with carrying troops or stores than to prevent mud being thrown up.

Colourised picture of A386 in Japanese service, presumably shortly after delivery as the British markings are still on show.

Japanese Whippet being put through its paces. Possibly at Narashino which is East of Tokyo Photo: Shimoharaguchi

Nice lineup of Whippet tanks arranged behind a row of Renaults at the Imperial Army Academy, Tokyo. Photo: Shimoharaguchi

Close up of a very clean Whippet in Japanese service showing the modification to the driver’s plate and the Japanese machine guns fitted. Photo: Shimoharaguchi
These Whippets remained in Japanese service until 1922 when they were scrapped presumably worn out despite having been provided almost new from the UK in 1919. There was no license to produce them in Japan anyway and they were large, under armed and rather clumsy.

A final operation

With the First World War effectively over the British deployed some 16 Whippet tanks to Ireland in 1919 due to ongoing troubles with rebel Irish activity. The 16 Whippets sent were part of B Company 17th Armoured Car Battalion of the Tank Corps and were stationed at Marlborough Barracks in Dublin. In celebration of the end of World War One, a parade was held in Dublin in July 1919

Dublin victory parade July 1919. Four Whippets took part; A230 GOFASTA [Go Faster] previously known as ‘Cynic II’, A378 GOLIKELL (Go Like Hell), A351 Fanny Adams, and A289 Fanny’s Sister. Noteworthy is the fact that two of the vehicles still retain the full engine deck paint White-Red-White markings for aerial observation purposes. The official guide was that a 1 foot White, 2 foot Red, 1 foot White band of color was able to be seen at 1800 feet and was to be painted on the roof of the cab. Here painted on the engine cover is clearly larger than that officially recommended.

B Company on patrol against rebel Irish activity in County Clare November 1919. These photos are sometimes noted as being 1920 but the one on the left appears in the November 26 1919 edition of the Belfast Telegraph. Photo: BNF
By May 1922 it seems all of the Whippets deployed to Ireland were withdrawn as Ireland descended into civil war.

A failed sale

The British still had some surplus Whippets available in July 1924 and had negotiated a somewhat exorbitant price of ‎£5000 per vehicle for 3 tanks to the government of Romania. The vehicles were to be officially sold as ‘scrap’ from left over war stock but the Romanians estimated with just 2-3 months work they could be in service. The deal though never took place as the British government inexplicably never approved the sale.

The name ‘Whippet’

It is perhaps a testament to the success of the Medium Mark A that it is almost completely referred to as ‘The Whippet tank’ rather than by its official name. The first use of the name ‘Whippet’ is on the front of the Tritton Chaser itself and such a success the vehicle was that during the war even the later Renault were sometimes called a ‘Whippet’ tank too.

Contemporary postcard passed by the War Censor (Author’s collection)
In a British parliamentary debate in July 1927, Viscount Sandon asked the Secretary of State for War if he would “consider restoring the designation whippets, as used officially during the War for small tanks, in place of tankettes, unless the former term is still used to represent a particular type?” The reply from Commodore King was that “The nomenclature of the various types of tanks is under consideration.” The name Whippet though generally drops out of use by WW2 although can still be found on occasion referring to light vehicles including the occasional armored car. There was even an official British suggestion in 1940 to regroup light tanks into a ‘Dog’ class of vehicles by which time all the Whippet vehicles were officially marked as ‘obsolescent’.

British Mk.VIb on exercise recorded in the press as a ‘Whippet’. Photo: The Press, 1938

Surviving Whippets

Despite 200 being built, today there are just five surviving Whippet tanks in Belgium, the USA, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
A284 was previously at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and may currently be in storage
A387 known as HMLS Union (His Majesty’s Land Ship) is at the Army College in Pretoria, South Africa
A259 formerly of C Battalion, known as ‘Caeser II’ is presently at Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset, UK
A231 known in service as ‘Carnaby’ formerly of A Company, 3rd Battalion, is held at CFB, Borden, Canada (incorrectly showing serial number A371 which was known as ‘Sphynx’ and was captured in Russia in 1919 and still in Russian service in 1924)
A347 known as ‘FIREFLY’ is held at the Royal Museum of the Army, Brussels, Belgium



Col. Johnson’s Whippet

Crew 3 – Driver, Commander, Machine Gunner (although a second machine gunner may have been in place on occasion) 3 – Driver, Commander, Machine Gunner (although a second machine gunner may have been in place on occasion)
Propulsion 2×7.72 litre 45hp Tylor JB4 petrol engines, 33 kW each@1200/1250rpm V12 Rolls Royce Eagle water cooled petrol engine, over 300hp
Fuel 70 gallons (318.2 litres) Unknown
Range 80 miles (130 km) Unknown
Weight 14 tons (14,225kg) 14 tons (14,225kg)
Speed 8.3mph (14km/h) 30 mph (58 kph)
Ground pressure 15.8 lbs per square inch (1.11 kg/cm2) Unknown
Trench crossing Official 8.5 feet (2.59m), Tests 10 feet (3.05m) Unknown
Suspension 6 Skefco roller bearings each side Transversely mounted leaf springs
Armament 4x.303 calibre Hotchkiss Machine guns, (1 forward, 1 left, 1 right and 1 to the rear) with 5400 rounds 4x.303 calibre Hotchkiss Machine guns, (1 forward, 1 left, 1 right and 1 to the rear) with 5400 rounds
Armor 6 – 14mm 6 – 14mm
Dimensions 20’x 8’7” x 9’ (6.1×2.61×2.74m)


Landships Forum
RFC Minute 2272.G from General Staff to GOC RFC 14th March 1918
Tank Medium Mark A “Whippet” by P. Kempf and T. Rigsby
Tank Medium Mark A “Whippet” Survivors by P. Radley
Textbook of aero engines, by E.H. Sherbondy, 1920
Medium A (Whippet) Tank in South Africa 1919-2009, by Richard Henry. Military History Journal Vol.14 No.5 June 2009
AFV News Vol.39-3 – British Tank names by Peter Brown
Cabinet Officer Papers 120/354 August 1940 to September 1942: Tank Nomenclature and Classification
National Library of France
Logbook of a Pioneer, Sir Albert Stern
Imperial War Museum collection
National Army Museum collection
The British Tanks 1915-1919 – David Fletcher
Landships of Lincoln, Richard Pullen
Medium Mark A Whippet, David Fletcher, 2014
Mk.A Tank Whippet of Japanese Army, Osamu Shimoharaguchi, 2015
Patent GB126,671 filed 2/2/17 by William Ashbee Tritton
Tanks of the World 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain and Christopher Ellis
Rand Rebellion 1922 
A brief history of the Hippisley Family, by Mike Matthews, 2014
Belfast Telegraph November 26th 1919
About the Hippisley family
‘The surplus Whippets’. Telegram from Colonel Antonescu, Romanian Army, 3rd July 1924
Innovating in Combat by Dr Elizabeth Bruton
The London Gazette, 21st December 1915
The London Gazette, 29th October 1918
‘Potent Weapon of Modern War’, The Press, Vol. LXXIV, Issue 22334, 23rd February 1938
Tank Nomenclature, Hansard HC Deb. 25th July 1927 Vol.209 c850850
Innovating in Combat blog
Beute-Tanks: British Tanks in German Service Vol.2, 2011 Tankograd No.1004 by Rainer Strasheim
And a thank you to Seon Eun Ae for translating some of the Japanese parts

Craig Moore, one of our writers and editors includes the Whippet tank in this video he made for The Tank Museum, Bovington, UKCentennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

Provisional Handbook of the Chaser Mark I: Whippet Tank Service Manual
Provisional Handbook of the Chaser Mark I: Whippet Tank Service Manual

By Andrew Hills

In 1916, the British Army had started using tanks in battle in an attempt to break the deadlock of trench warfare. These large lumbering Heavy Tanks were slow and unable to exploit weaknesses in enemy lines or a breakthrough. What was needed was a new ‘Medium’ Tank, and the Lincolnshire firm of William Foster and Co., the brains behind the Heavy Tanks set to work on a new Medium vehicle. By February 1917, this new vehicle, known as the Tritton Chaser or ‘Whippet’ was ready in prototype form. Two hundred of these Whippet tanks, officially known as the Medium Mark A were produced. This manual dates to the early days of the Whippet as it was being produced for the Tank Corps. A guide to the operation and maintenance of this new, smaller, and faster tank.

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Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

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David Lister General War Stories

By David Lister

A compilation of little known military history from the 20th century. Including tales of dashing heroes, astounding feats of valour, sheer outrageous luck and the experiences of the average soldier.

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WW1 British Armor WW1 USA Armor WWI British Tanks

Tank Mark VIII International Liberty

ww1 British tanks American ww1 armor  Great Britain/USA(1918)
Heavy tank – 125 built

A joint British-US design to be built in France

With industrial resources stretched to the limits in France (after the loss of the eastern Lorraine region in 1914, which accounted for a large part of the heavy industry) and Great Britain, (due to massive debt, labor shortages, steel diverted for shipbuilding) the news that the USA entered the war was received with great hope.
Soon after April 1917, the British planned to send a delegation to the USA to convince them to co-produce the next British tank model. But soon afterwards it was thought more judicious that the initiative should be led locally and endorsed by Congress. Via the American military attaché in London, some contacts were made with the US Navy for the Marine corps, based around the next project available, the Mark VI. However, the latter was tailored for the capacities of the British industry and relatively small.
Mark VIII 'Liberty' Tank at Fort George G. Meade, MD, USA
Mark VIII ‘Liberty’ Tank at Fort George G. Meade, MD, USA
Therefore, Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Gerald Stern proposed the Tank Mark VIII, fictitious at the time, a much bigger design. Meanwhile, the American Department of War intervened and asked that the model be developed for the US Army and sent Major H. W. Alden to the Mechanical Warfare Department design team at Dollis Hill. He arrived in October to find that much of the plans had already been made by Lieutenant G. J. Rackham, a veteran from Flanders.

The Tank Mark VIII Liberty design

The Mark VIII had similar features to the British-built rhomboid tanks, with full-length high track run and large track links, sponsons, and raised superstructure at the front. The latter housed three Lewis machine guns in ball mountings, while the driver had a small raised cabin or cupola with four vision slits.
The sponsons housed two 6-pounder (57 mm) guns, while two hull machine-guns in ball-mounts were placed just behind on the hull doors. Other great improvement was the engine compartmentalization through a bulkhead, preventing noise and fumes from invading the fighting compartment. The hull form was studied after reports and much rounder. The sponsons were made retractable to reduce the width for transport, which was in itself fairly limited compared to the total length of the hull. This would later cause serious agility issues.
The ammunition (208 shells and 13,848 machine-gun rounds) was stored inside a large locker on the fighting compartment platform where the crew stood. The US Liberty V12 (replaced by the Ricardo equivalent on the British design) was fed by three armored fuel tanks at the rear holding 200 L (240 US gallons), ensuring a 60-80 km (37-49.7 mi) ride on rough terrain.
The sheer length was intended for assaulting the new German anti-tank trenches and ditches of the Hindenburg line, and possibly to carry twenty infantrymen (thus performing as an APC), added to a crew of twelve. The hollow British prototype was ready in June 1918 and later shipped to the USA for completion in September, by hand-built components. During trials the links failed frequently and had to be strengthened, lengthened and reshaped, in hard cast steel before production. Protection was better than average, with frontal and side thickness of 16 mm (0.63 in).


The gradual set-up of the production was a long an protracted affair. By September 1917 the US Army HQ in France planned its own tanks corps with French and US-built Renault FTs to equip 20 tank battalions, while five heavy tank battalions were to be given the new Mark VIII. James A. Drain from Gen. Pershing’s staff initially ordered 600 Mark VI tanks (then in development).
Later on, Stern was removed from the project by Churchill (the Mark VI was eventually cancelled in December) and instead was sent to study tank production in France, consulting both the French Minister of Munitions, Louis Loucheur, and Gen. Pershing.
However since French production capacities were severely limited, they devised a ten point agreement stating the component production would be separated between Great Britain and USA, and final assembly performed in France, in a brand new factory which had been built from scratch.
The new project was named the Mark VIII “International”. The projected figures of 1,500 heavy tanks had to be then shared among the Allies, including France, whose own project Char FCM 2C had barely advanced at all.
Later on 11 November the name was changed again to “Liberty” in relation to its US-built 300 hp (220 kW) Liberty engine.
Initial production figures stated that 1,200 vehicles could be produced monthly after extensions of the facilities. This proved way too optimistic. The British-built factory at Neuvy-Pailloux, 200 miles south of Paris, was not even completed by June 1918.
Another company was hired and did finish the factory in November, but the war was over then and the whole project was suspended. Meanwhile, the Liberty engine had its piston recast and was only available in October. US component production was also not ready before October. Armament from the UK was fixed and tested later in November.

Active service

Due to the end of the war, the needs for the Mark VIII dwindled rapidly. Nonetheless, due to the effort and money already spent, the Congress authorized the production of 100 tanks for US needs, built on US soil and partly British components. These were delivered between 1919 and 1920 by the Rock Island Arsenal at 35,000$ apiece and served with the 67th Infantry (Tank) Regiment, based in Aberdeen, Maryland.

These were the only heavy tanks in US service until the arrival of the M6 in 1942. The side machine-guns were later eliminated to have a peacetime crew reduced to ten, and all machine-guns were replaced by M1917 Browning models. They suffered from poor engine ventilation and reliability issues, phased out in 1932 and in 1934 were placed in reserve.
The first British-built Mark VIII was delivered the day of the armistice, with a mild steel hull and Rolls-Royce engine, but ultimately seven more were completed (out of a 1,500 unit order to the North British Locomotive Company and William Beardmore & co) with the definitive V12 Ricardo engine.
With extra sets of parts, twenty-four more were built after the war, with five sent to the Bovington training center and the others ultimately sold for scrap. The lengthened Mark VIII* (star) projected late in 1918 was supposed to be even longer, with the rear and front section of the fighting compartment stretched by a total of three meters.
This would have allowed it to cross anti-tank ditches up to five meters long. Production was cancelled soon after the armistice.
Surviving vehicles are on display at Fort Meade, Maryland, and at the Bovington Tank Museum in England. A further example is being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, Georgia.
In Steven Spielberg’s movie ‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade’, a tank vaguely resembling a Mark VIII is seen, but with an added turret on top.


It is often said that in 1940, the surplus Mark VIII Liberty tanks in USA Army storage were sold at scrap value to Canada for training. This is wrong. They were offered for sale but that offer was declined. The Canadian Army purchased 236 American M1917 tanks for training tank crews instead. These were licensed built WW1 Renault FT tanks.

Mark VIII specifications

Dimensions Length 34ft 2in (10.42m).
Width 8ft 5in (2.57m).
Width with Sponsons 12ft 10in (3.92m)
Height 10ft 3in (3.13m)
Total weight 38 tonnes
Crew 10 US – 12 British
Propulsion V12 Liberty or Ricardo crosshead valve, water-cooled straight six petrol engine 150hp @ 1250rpm
Road Speed 5.25 mph (8.45 km/h)
Range 50 miles (80 km)
Trench Crossing ability 15ft 9in (4.8m)
Armament 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
7x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun or
7x M1917 Browning machine guns
Armor Max 16 mm
Track links Length 1ft 1in (32.5cm)
Width 2ft 3in (67.5cm)
Hatch Length 3ft 5in (1.05cm)
Width 2ft 4in (71cm)
Total production 125


Mark VIII 'Liberty' Tank being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, GA, USA
Mark VIII ‘Liberty’ Tank being restored at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, GA, USA – Source: Rob Cogan for the Armour Journal, NACM
Cutaway Mark VIIIThe protype testing in 1918
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs
All Posters
Originally published on 9 June 2014

Tank Mk.VIII Liberty
by GiganautMark VIII Liberty in US service, 67th Armored Regiment, Maryland.
American Mark VIII Liberty, US Infantry’s 67th Armored Regiment, Aberdeen, Maryland.
British Mark VIII, prospective view
Prospective view of a British Mark VIII, as it could have looked if deployed during the great summer offensive of 1919.
WW1 British Armor WWI British Tanks

Tank Mark I

United Kingdom United Kingdom (1916)
Heavy tank – 150 built


100 years of armored warfare

The Tank Mark I marked both the dawn of armored warfare and the start of the whole tank lineage that would soon find its treasured place in almost all armies of the world. It is important to remember that, although a weapon of war, perfected in the art of death and destruction on land, the tank also saved lives, thousands of them. This started right in 1916, when the first Mark Is helped restore the confidence of the exhausted and depressed fighting men, after facing years of being treated like meat for the butcher. This was the weapon that would unlock the stalemate and put an end to trench warfare.
In reality, things get more complicated and, as crude as it was, the tank was never more than an organic part of a refined late trench warfare as a whole: New infantry tactics (inaugurated by the Canadians at Vimy Ridge), creeping artillery barrages with deadly precise schedules, better air reconnaissance and even strafing and aerial bombardments, and of course better coordination with tanks. The Mark I was the first of a lineage that stretched until 1918 with the Mark VIII Liberty, a lineage which also marked the beginning and the end of the “rhomboid” type in a period of just two years. As the famed “Little Willie” prototype is celebrated as the first practical tank, built a hundred years ago, the Mark I was the first operational tank.

The Big Willie in an illustration showing the first tank being tested with a tail wheel. According to photographs, it was painted in white, a color adopted by the navy for land vehicles.

The “Little Willie”

The Mk.I tank was the first operational tank in the British army and in the world. It was based on the “Little Willie” (The Lincoln machine) project, supported by the Landships Committee, headed by Walter Wilson and William Tritton. It was largely an attempt to overcome the previous model’s issues. One of the solutions was to avoid adding a turret and mounted the guns in sponsons instead. The Little Willie, also known as the “Lincoln machine number one”, was tested and modified, and the lessons were taken in account for the development of the Mark I and its prototype, called “Big Willie” or, more commonly, “Mother”.

“Mother”, the production prototype

In December 1915, the final prototype was ready for the first trials, which took place in April 1916. It was named officially “His Majesty’s Land Ship Centipede”, but was know colloquially as “Mother” or “Big Willie”, as a joke directed towards the German Kaiser and the crown prince, both named Wilhelm. In the meantime, the “Tank Supply Committee” succeeded the Landship Committee, under the chairmanship of Albert Stern. Other members included Ernest Swinton,  the head of the committee, General Haig, who acted as a liaison officer, Hugh Elles who would  later become the commander of the tank force in France. The trials were held up in an impressive reconstruction of no-man’s land with trenches, parapets, craters and barbed wire, and impressed all officers except the Secretary of War, Lord Kitchener. Despite of this, an order was secured for 150 tanks in two batches, with one order being issued 0n 12 February 1916 and another on April 23.


The Mk.I was elaborated to encompass all the lessons learnt from the Little Willie trials in 1915. No turret (giving a low center of gravity), armament mounted in sponsons, bolted hull made of boiler panels, newly designed tracks inherited from the Little Willie and a large, easily recognizable rhomboid hull, with the tracks surrounding the hull, making up the entire length of the machine. This shape could not be underestimated. While Great Britain learned the difficult trade of crossing heavily cratered, muddy terrain with the previous Lincoln machine, a radical solution was adopted, which proved adequate to the task, but too radical at the same time, and would emerge in postwar years.

The “Mother” on trials. It was made of boiler plates, chiefly to speed up construction. Following Mark Is had hardened steel plates.
Indeed, a running track of this size allowed to gap the largest known trenches of the time, negotiate craters, while the front three meter recess allowed the vehicle to climb almost any obstacle. But, in addition of being heavy, these full-running tracks caused a safety problem for the crewmembers, who could get caught in it and be dragged under the tank. It also limited the ability to store anything on top, save for a narrow portion of the central hull. Visibility was perfectible and a lot of space was lost by cramming all the return rollers. A nightmare for an engineer, as well as the maintenance crew.


Propulsion relied on a six cylinder petrol engine at the rear of the hull, with no compartmentalization, due to the transmission system tunnel, which ran through the tank and, more importantly, because, at that stage, the engine was relatively untested and finicky enough to force engineers to need to be able to get their hands on the engine just in case. In addition, the engine had to push quite hard to carry the 28 tons of steel with its just 105 horsepower, with a crushingly low of 3.7 hp per tonne. Not surprisingly, the burden was made greater by the incredibly sticky nature of the mud, which was shown by recent studies to just stick to metal, which meant a tremendous force was required to extract whatever was plunged in it.
At least in the case of the tracks, the flat shape and serial arrangement made it more likely to “surf” on the surface, although taking along a large amount of mud in the process. Being clogged in a sinkhole was just the level of effort which the valiant little Daimler was not ready to undertake. Breakdowns were commonplace and ruined the early stage of the assault, largely diminishing the number of tanks that just had the luck to make their way into the no-man’s land and reach the destination. Also, the engine not being separated from the fighting compartment proved ruinous for the crew, which fell ill quite quickly, but that feature remained unchanged until 1918. The general staff didn’t see this sickness as a limitation either, given the relatively short distance which had to be crossed between opposing trenches. A mobility aspect which was incorporated into the design concerned the removable sponsons, allowing the tank to be narrower and thus, providing easier transport by rail.


The crew comprised eight men, of which two were drivers (one for the gearbox and the other for the brakes) and two others controlling the gears of each track. This system needed perfect coordination, which was difficult due to the noise inside and the protective leather helmets they used. The four others were gunners, serving the six-pounders and the machine guns, depending on the armament. 50% of the Mk. Is were armed with two guns in the sponsons and three machine-guns (two in the sponsons, one axial in the hull), named “males”, and the other half were “females”, armed with five machine-guns. These were either Vickers models or the 8 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss air-cooled equivalents. The tanks were quite big, weighing 28 tons with an eight meters long hull and an overall length of nearly ten meters with the additional tail wheel, another feature kept from the Little Willie. It was designed to help crossing very large trenches, but later proved impractical and was dropped.


No less than 150 Mk.Is were built at William Foster & Co. of the Lincoln Metropolitan Carriage and Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon & Finance Co. at Wednesbury. The first order of 100 was increased to 150 in April 1916, acting as a pre-series for further mass-productions. The Foster deliveries concerned 37 males, while Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon, and Finance Company, of Birmingham, delivered 113 Tanks, including 38 “males” and 75 “females”. Later on, two rails were mounted over the hull to handle a wooden beam, used for unditching. The first were ready in a hurry and deployed in August, just in time for the Somme Offensive. From the end of 1917 and until 1918, some of the surviving ones were converted as signal tanks with a large antenna at the base of the driver’s cab, participating in the battle of Cambrai. Others were converted as supply tanks.

Succession: the Mk. II and III

As the Mark I showed many limitations, the next batch of 50 tanks (25 females and 25 males) were built at Foster & Co and Metropolitan for training purposes only. There were some claims about their unhardened steel plates, but all data seems to show that the Mk.IIs were regular Mk. Is with a few modifications for training purposes. Some 20 were sent to France for advanced training and those left remained at the Wool training ground in Dorset.
However, in 1917, there weren’t enough tanks operational for the offensives planned in April 1917 near Arras, and twenty surviving Mk.Is and all the Mk.IIs remaining in Britain were put in action (despite some protests), suffering high casualties, mainly due to the new armor-piercing bullets the Germans employed.
The Mark IIIs were training tanks as well (the great improvements were still planned for the Mk.IV) and were all fitted with Lewis machine guns in smaller, lighter sponsons. Otherwise, few changes were visible at the beginning, as this batch of 50 vehicles was designed to incorporate all the Mk.IV improvements. Deliveries were slow and none left Great Britain.

The Mark I In Action

Their first operational use was in September at Flers-Courcelette, but this first attempt was a near disaster. Most of the tanks broke down on their way, others bogged down in the mud. However, despite the lack of training of their crews, some managed to reach their designated objective, if only too few. Only 59 were part of this attack, most of them being captured afterwards by the Germans. The first issues quickly arrived at the War Office. When they appeared however through the fog, they had an uncanny psychological effect on the German troops, which fled their trenches, leaving their machine guns. The distant roar and clinging of the tracks, and later the slow-moving masses emerging from the fog which resembled nothing built yet were enough. But their ability to take punishment and return fire was compelled by the fact the Germans were caught completely unaware of their existance. A real surprise achieved by the well-guarded secret behind the name that stuck ever since, the “tank”.

Sick Crews

The noise, the smell and the temperature that reached nearly 50 degrees Celsius were just unbearable. There were powerful emanations of carbon monoxide, cordite, fuel and oil vapors, all made worse by poor ventilation. The crews often opened the narrow door situated just behind the sponson, in an attempt to get some fresh air in. With poor training and almost no internal communication, steering was enormously difficult, resulting in mechanical over-stress, causing many breakdowns.


Another factor was the petrol engine, overwhelmed by the weight of the hull combined with the very sticky, heavy mud typical of the region, something that was rediscovered when excavating and experimenting with the supposed battlefield of Agincourt. Coordination between the tanks also proved inadequate, theoretically by using a set of fanions, flags, lamps, semaphores and other devices inspired by navy practice. There was no radio on board. Pigeons were used instead to report positions and status with the General Headquarters.

Protection issue

Crew security was also an issue inside the tank. If the 8 mm (0.31 in) plates were proven bullet proof, each impact produced mini-shrapnel inside the hull, injuring anybody inside. Following the first reports, thick leather jackets and helmets, or a combination of leather and chain-mail, were provided to the crews. Spall liners only appeared decades later.

Surviving example

Despite its historical importance, which could already be perceived in 1916, only a single male survived. The world’s oldest surviving combat tank is showcased at the Bovington Tank Museum, in static display. Its Number is 705, C19 and it was named “Clan Leslie”, but both its true identity and wartime history remain a mystery. It was suggested that it might have been used as a driver training tank, numbered 702, the second Mark I built. It was discovered laying in 1970 in the grounds of Hatfield House, the world’s earliest proving ground for tanks.

Video footage of Mark I at fers-Courcelette in september 1916


David Fletcher – Osprey British Mark I Tank 1916
Wikipedia Mark I tank
The “Big Willie”, or Mother on militaryfactory
The Mark I on tanks-photographs
About camouflages and liveries (landship II) Mark I tank

Mark I specifications

Dimensions Length 26ft (7.92m).
Length with tail 32ft 6in (9.92m)
Width 8ft 4in (2.53m).
Width with Sponsons 13ft 2in (4.03m)
Height 8ft (2.44m)
Total weight 27.5 (female) 28.4 (male) tons
Crew 8
Propulsion British Foster-Daimler, Knight sleeve valve, water-cooled straight six 13-litre petrol engine, 105 hp at 1,000 rpm
Road Speed 3.7 mph (5.95 km/h)
Range 28 miles (45 km)
Trench Crossing ability 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Armament Male Tank 2x Hotchkiss QF 6 pdr (57 mm) gun (1.4m long barrel)
4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine guns
Armament Female Tank 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
1x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun
Armor From 6 to 15 mm (0.23-0.59 in)
Track links Length 8 1/2 inches (21.5cm)
Width 1ft 8in (52cm)
Sponson Hatch Length 2ft (61cm)
Width 1ft 4in (41cm)
Rear Hatch Length 2ft 3in (69cm)
Width 1ft 3in (37cm)
Total production 150


First engagement
The irst engagement of the Mk.I at Flers Courcelette, 15 September 1916. Despite their poor performance, the tanks were increasingly popular among soldiers, with propaganda and songs talking about “miracle weapons”.
Mark I Lusitania
The Mark I C19 at Bovington

tank Mk.I
The “Mother” prototype in trials by April 1917. The hull was made of resistant boiler panels which, along with poor ventilation, kept the interior very hot. Proof against normal infantry weapons, it was sensible to machine-gun rounds and could be disabled by field guns and specially-crafted armor-piercing bullets.
tank Mk.I Male
A wooden and wire mesh frame was added to the roof of the Mark I tank to deflect hand grenades thrown at the tanks by the German infantry. The Mark I Male tank was armed with a 6pdr gun and three machine guns. On 15th September 1916, 2nd Lieutenant J.P. Clark commanded this Mark I Male tank No.746 in C Company, Section 3, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC). It was later given the unit number C15. It crossed German trenches and returned to Allied lines at the end of the day.
Tank Mark I female in 1917
Mark I Female tanks took part in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette on 15th September 1916. They were armed with four 0.303 in (7.62 mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns in side sponsons and a 0.303 in (7.62 mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun in the front cabin. A two wheeled steering tail was attached to the rear of the tank. Tank No.511 was commanded by 2nd Lieutenant E.C.K. Cole on that day as part of D Company, Section 4, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC). It was given the unit number D25. It engaged the enemy and returned to Allied lines at the end of the day.
Mark I Female tank No.523, C20 under the command of Lieutenant MacPherson, C Company, Section 4,  Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC)
Mark I Female tank No.523, C20 under the command of Lieutenant MacPherson, C Company, Section 4, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (HSMGC) was due to be part of the attack 15th September 1916. Like many other tanks, it broke down. It was repaired by the afternoon and tried to catch up with the advancing units. It had to be abandoned on the battlefield on 16th November 1916 after it ditched and could not get out.
Mark I Male tank No.745 D22 of the
This Mark I Male tank No.745 saw action on 15th September 1916 as part of D Company, Section 4. It was given the unit number D22. Lieutenant F.A. Robinson commanded the tank. Unfortunately, the tank crew mistook some soldiers as the enemy. They fired on and killed some British troops. The tank ditched but managed to get out. It returned back to Allied lines after the battle. It was back in action again on 26th September 1916 attached to C Company. It was hit and destroyed. The rear tail could be locked in the up position when necessary. The three ‘A’ shaped bits of metal on the roof were used when the sponson needed to be removed for rail travel.
Some Mark I Male tanks were used as supply tanks. This is tank, No.712 called 'Dodo', was part of B battalion, 5 company, 8 section, B37.
Some Mark I Male tanks were used as supply tanks. This is tank, No.712 called ‘Dodo’, was part of B battalion, 5 company, 8 section, B37. It was photographed 7th June 1917 at Messines. This was the first time old Mk.I tanks were used as supply vehicles. This tank was later renamed “Badger”, it presumably remained with “B” Battalion until the Mk I and II supply tanks were withdrawn.

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

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WW1 British Armor WWI British Tanks

Tank Mark IV

UK flag United Kingdom (1917)
Heavy tank – 1,220 built

The Mark IV was a greatly improved version of the first British tank, the Mark I. It was better protected and the fuel tank was relocated. It was, numerically, the most important tank of the First World War, with 1220 built: 420 “male”, 595 “female” and 205 tenders.
Mark V
A Mark IV showing the proper use of the unditching beam. Before that, an early solution was the use of a wide 3.5 m (11ft 5in) wide fascine.

A New, Enhanced Model

The Mark I had proved to be far from perfect on the battlefield. Attrition rate was enormous. The Mark II and III, both training machines, featured many modifications to the original Mk.I.
This culminated with the final Mark IV, a joint product of William Tritton and Major Walter Gordon Wilson. Basically, the Mark IV was a modified Mark I, taking into account all the war experience acquired on the front.
The director of the Tank Supply Department, Albert Gerald Stern, was also instrumental in this process. He argued for the adoption of a new, more powerful engine and an improved transmission.
But this project was ambitious, and the deadline of 1 April 1917 was never attained. Instead, to speed up production, as many parts as possible were borrowed from the Mark I. The early production version was armed with three (male) up to five (female) compact, light and reliable Lewis machine-guns (later Hotchkiss Mk.I), mounted in sponsons and the front of the hull.
However the Hotchkiss, although sturdier and more affordable, was criticized for its lack of magazine capacity (14 rounds compared to 96 for the Lewis). Later this issue was solved with a new flexible 50 rounds ammunition strip. The QF 6pdr (57 mm) guns on the male tanks were now short-barreled.
Another improvement was to carry a large fascine, made of brushwood bundle with chains, carried at the front. Later it was replaced by a chained unditching beam, reinforced with sheet metal, stored on two parallel rails running the entire length of the roof.
This provided better trench crossing capabilities, and became a trademark of the Mark V. Another attempt was the tadpole tail, a large extension of the rear tracks horns. But rigidity quickly proved an issue on trials and it was apparently never mounted on operational tanks.
The main improvements were an increase of armor, up to 12 mm (0.47 in), and the relocation of the fuel tank. The later has enough room for 265 l (70 gallons), for an operational range of 56 km (35 mi).
The Mark IV was propelled by the Daimler-Foster, 6-cylinder in-line sleeve valve petrol engine, which developed 105 bhp at 1,000 rpm, allowing a speed of 6.4 km/h (4 mph). Transmission had 2 forward and 1 reverse primary gears and 2 speed secondary gears. It was still relatively complex for the driver, but an improvement over the previous models.

Production and Variants

Due to the urgent need for tanks the production of the Mark IV was dispatched to Metropolitan, Fosters of Lincoln, Armstrong-Whitworth, Coventry Ordnance Works, William Beardmore & Co and Mirrlees, Watson & Co. An initial order of 1000 tanks was issued by the War Office in August 1917.
The last were delivered after the armistice in November 1918. They had been converted to armored tank tenders (205 in all). Standard production was 420 “male” and 595 “female”. Normal weight, in battle order, was 28.4 tons (male) and 27.4 tons (female). Ammunition provision for the males consisted of 180 HE rounds. Unit cost was about about £5,000.
Two variants of the design appeared. One equipped with a “tadpole tail”, never to be used on the battlefield. The other was the mass-produced tank tender, which was identical to the regular female, but unarmed. They carried gasoline and ammunition.

The Mark IV in Action

First blood for the Mark IV came on June 7th, 1917, with the attack of Messine Ridge. The terrain was very rugged, heavily cratered, but cold and dry, which allowed some sixty plus tanks some success, although lagging behind the infantry. Later, during the third battle of Ypres (31st of  July), most of the Mark IVs committed literally sank in the mud.
The power to weight ratio was such that in a heavily cratered terrain and swampy ground, the Mark IVs frequently bogged down and the overheating and overused engines usually broke down in the process of bailing out. Most fell prey to German artillery or were captured afterwards. Their contribution was insignificant. However in November 1917, at Cambrai, a large concentration of Mark IV’s (460) proved decisive despite a complicated and well-defended trench system.
During the German spring offensive, British officers discovered in surprise some German assault troops were accompanied by captured Mark I and IV. These “Beutepanzer” sightings rose so often that encounters with the German-built A7V were rare in comparison. This led the War Office to order the modification of the armament of some Mark Vs into “hermaphrodites”, fitted on one side with a female sponson, and the other side a male sponson, to give these tanks a way to deal with enemy armor should they come across it.
However, the first tank-to-tank duel involved one of these German A7V during the second battle of Villers-Betonneux, in April 1918. Two British Mark IV female and one male spotted and engaged the A7V. But after several miss-hits, the two Females, useless, retired. After many shots and two hits, both tanks retired in a draw.
When the Mark V, better protected, with a better engine and greater speed came into service, the production of the Mark IV was phased out and the last converted as supply tanks. No Mark IV seemed to have been sent to the Whites in Russia. However, a few Beutepanzer Mark IV took part in the revolutionary events in 1919, on the army’s side.

Seven Mark IV have survived. The Female “Flirt II” is displayed at Museum of Lincolnshire Life, and another one is at Ashford (Kent). One male, “Lodestar III” is hosted in Belgium, at the Royal Museum of the Army in Brussels, while another, a female “Grit” is on display at the Australian War Memorial. The “Deborah”, a female, was excavated at the village of Flesquières in France. It is now been restored, possibly for display at Saumur.A former war bond tank, the “Liberty”, is under restoration at the United States Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen, Maryland, after decades of decay. A male, the “Excellent”, which later became HMS Excellent, was used at a Royal Navy shore establishment training camp, and later kept fully functional for the Home Guard in 1940. It is now an exhibit at the Bovington tank museum and the only one in the world in running condition.


Mark IV tadpole tail
One of the few Mark IV experimentally fitted with a “tadpole tail”, to help with the crossing of large trenches, like those of the Hindenburg line. This added part never shown enough sturdiness and production never materialized. The idea of a longer hull was realized by the Mark V*, a variant of the former, at the end of the war.
Mark IV supply
A Mark IV converted as supply tank, in 1918, at Villers-Bretonneux. 205 of these were built or converted on the stocks when the Mark V came to replace older models.
Mark IV captured
A captured Mark IV in Berlin, during the military repression of the Spartacus league, within the German revolution, 1919. Nearly forty Mk. IV were captured during the course of the war, and pressed in service as “Beutepanzer Wagen” by the Germans, with big Malta crosses to prevent friendly fire. In some case, British armament was replaced by German guns and machine-guns, and the crew boosted to twelve.

Centennial WW1

WW1 tanks and AFVs
All Posters


Osprey British Mark IV Tank by David Fletcher
The Royal Armoured Corps by Captain J.R.W. Murland
Tank Hunter World War One by Craig Moore Mark IV Male tank Mark IV Female tank

Mark IV specifications

Dimensions Length 26ft 5in (8.05m).
Width without sponsons 8ft 4in (2.54 m).
Width Male with sponsons 13ft 6in (4.11 m).
Width Female with sponsons 10ft 6in (3.20 m).
Height 8ft 2in (2.49 m)
Total weight Female 27 tons
Male 28 tons
Crew 8
Propulsion British Foster-Daimler, 6-cylinder in-line sleeve valve petrol engine, 105 hp at 1,000 rpm
Road Speed 3.5 mph (5.63 km/h)
Range 15 miles (24.14 km)
Trench Crossing ability 10ft (3.05m)
Armament Male Tank 2x Ordnance Quick Firing 6-pounder (57 mm) six
hundredweight Mark I 23 calibre guns
3x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Lewis air-cooled light machine guns
Armament Female Tank 5x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Lewis air-cooled light machine guns
Cab & Front Armor 12 mm
Side Armor 8 mm
Rear Armor 6 mm
Track links Length 8 1/2 inches (21.7cm)
Width 1ft 8in (52cm)
Sponson Hatch Length 2ft 7in (83cm)
Width 1ft 5in (44cm)
Rear Hatch Length 2ft 3in (69cm)
Width 1ft 3in (37cm)
Total production 1220 (595 Female, 420 Male, 11 testing, 54 reserve)
Entered British Army Service April 1917

tank Mk.IV male
Mark IV Male of an unknown unit, St Omer, May 1918. regular dark khaki livery. Notice the three white and red bands and the crew symbol (the “red hand”). Modifications compared to the Mark I included reinforced armor, a relocated fuel tank, an extra front machine-gun and better trench crossing equipment.
tank Mk.IV female
Mark IV Female, equipped with Lewis machine-guns, Ypres, July 1917. Trench crossing capabilities were relatively good due to the very large rhomboid tracks, but the power-to-weight ratio was so feeble that big slopes and deep craters proved impassable, and various solutions were tested. Among them a pair of very large arms (attached to the front), each fitted with a roller and a long “tadpole tail” at the rear, but both solutions proved costly and unpractical. A simpler idea proved successful: a pair of parallel rails, running over the roof, sustaining a very large fascine or an unditching beam. The fascine were also used to assault the antitank trenches of the Hindenburg line.
tank Mk.IV female with roof deflector
Mark IV Female, equipped with five Hotchkiss Mk.I machine-guns
tank Mk.IV male in Palestine
Mark IV Male “Kelly’s Heroes”, Palestinian campaign, battle of Megiddo, 21 September 1918. Around 200 Mark IV were sent by order of General Allenby to this sector to help the breaking through of the Turkish lines towards Jordan. As the conditions in the desert were largely different than those in Europe, the rail and unditching beam were dismounted. The flat ground allowed better speed, but because of the scorching heat the engine overheated and crew comfort suffered.
Mark IV Male tank 'Hyacinth' H45 of H Battalion, 24th Company, 10 Sec was ditched in a German trench while supporting the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, one mile west of Ribecourt
The Mark IV Male tank ‘Hyacinth’ H45 of H Battalion, 24th Company, 10 Sec was ditched in a German trench while supporting the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, one mile west of Ribecourt. It was commanded by 2nd lieutenant F.H. Jackson. It reached the starting point and the 1st objective as it attacked the Hindenburg Line trench system. Notice the red letter Z hand painted over the vision slit in an effort to conceal its locations from snipers and machine gunners.No white red and white identification stripes at the front yet as German tanks or Beutepanzers had not been encountered on the battlefield yet. 20 November 1917, Battle of Cambrai.
Male Mark IV tank 2021 C24/C23 Crusty captured.
Male Mark IV tank 2021 C24/C23 Crusty captured. Notice the artwork at the rear and the pattern on the sponson to confuse German snipers as to where the vision ports were.
British Mark IV Female tank
British Mk IV Female tank No.4651 “CONQUEROR II” C47 of C Battalion, 9th Company, went into battle on 20th November 1917. It was commanded by 2nd Lieutenant W.Moore. The tank attacked the enemy and successfully returned to Allied lines. On 23rd November 2nd Lt W.Moore lead his tank crew into battle again. Whilst attacking German positions the tank was knocked out by a penetrating armour piercing AP shell that set the tank on fire. It was photographed burnt out in Fontaine-Notre-Dame. On the right hand side of the tank the crew had painted a caricature of a frightened looking German Solider. In April 1918 it was photographed again in No.21 German tank repair workshops
Six Mark IV tanks were used to raise money for the war effort.
Six Mark IV tanks were used to raise money for the war effort. They toured the towns and cities of Great Britain from November 1917 to the end of WW1 on 11th November 1918. This was an encouragement for people to buy government War Bonds and War Savings Certificates. This tank is No.130 Nelson tank and was on display in Trafalgar Square, London.
Beutepanzer Wagen IV (b)
Beutepanzer Mark IV Male. By the beginning of the summer in 1918 the Germans had recovered a large number of abandoned Allied tanks. After the successes of the Spring Offensive in 1918 and the recapturing of most of the November 1917 Cambrai battlefield, over 300 damaged tanks were now situated behind German lines. Over 100 British Mark IV tanks were refurbished and prepared to fight for their new masters. They were called Beutepanzers (Trophy tanks).
BeutepanzerWagen IV (b) female
BeutepanzerWagen IV(b) female Large German Army black crosses, a type of Christian cross with arms that narrow in the centre and have a white border called a ‘Bundeswehr Schwarzes Kreuz’ were painted on the captured tanks to identify the fact that they were under new management. The design of the German identification black cross changed in the second half of 1918 to the ‘Balkenkreuz’ (beam or bar cross). Some of the later repaired Beutepanzers had this newer cross design painted on their sides instead.
supply tank Mk.IV
Supply Mark IV “Auld Reekie” The Army needed a method of resupplying the tanks on the battlefield and the simplest option was to build new or convert old tanks into supply tanks. Their armoured hulls would protect the crew and the stores it was transporting. As it was a tracked vehicle it could cross the same terrain that the battle tanks were driving across.

Tank Hunter WW1
Tank Hunter: World War One

By Craig Moore

The First World War’s fierce battles saw the need to develop military technology beyond anything previously imagined: as exposed infantry and cavalry were mowed down by relentless machine-gun attacks, so tanks were developed. Stunningly illustrated in full colour throughout, Tank Hunter: World War One provides historical background, facts and figures for each First World War tank as well as the locations of any surviving examples, giving you the opportunity to become a Tank Hunter yourself.

Buy this book on Amazon!