WW1 British Tanks WW1 US Armor

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.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

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 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.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

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
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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 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.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Mark V
A Mark IV showing the proper use of the unditching beam. 

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.

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