Little Willie, the world's first tank

Contributed by The Tank Museum

Little Willie on it's turn table at The Tank Museum © The Tank Museum

Weighing 18 tons, with a crew of 2 plus four gunners Little Willie was the first completed tank prototype in HistoryIn 1915 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, created a Landships Committee to tackle the problems of trench warfare. After many experiments an agricultural firm, William Foster & Co. of Lincoln, was contracted to build a prototype machine based on some imported American tracks. When these failed the British designers came up with a successful pattern and were fitted to Little Willie. At one time Little Willie also had a turret but this was taken off. The completed vehicle was running by the end of 1915 but by then a new design was under construction and this would become the prototype for all British heavy tanks in the First World War. Therefore although Little Willie never saw combat and was redundant almost as soon as it was made, it represented a major step forward in military technology. Without the lessons learnt from its construction and trials it would have been impossible to build the vehicles that would supersede it.

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