Could you hack it in a World War One tank?

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1. Haig's trench-busters

In 1916 the British developed a new weapon designed to break the deadlock on the Western Front. It was codenamed the "water-tank". The pioneers who fought inside them were drawn from various parts of the British Army, and few had any idea what to expect. Before going into action, they would have learned the perils of operating inside one of these deadly machines.

Modern tanks are a jumble of exposed brackets, junction boxes, and hard angles that cut and bruise the ingénue crewman as he learns to slink about the inside. However, inside early vehicles like the Mark IV, there were all manner of additional hazards, like exposed scalding pipes and moving machinery. Once committed to battle, the first tank men also discovered that the armour plate ‘spalled’, sending small shards of metal around the tank's inside, as it stopped bullets and fragments on the outside. Chainmail face masks were quickly improvised to protect them.

Early tanks were agonizingly slow in their movements and the soldiers inside must have felt like sitting ducks. But the tanks soon spread panic in German lines and demonstrated their potential to change the face of war. When the British tanks went forward, the terrified German soldiers threw everything they had at them - including machine gun fire, grenades and mortars - to try to destroy the metal beasts. They became one of the most dangerous places to be in World War One.

2. Primitive metal monster

WW1 Tank

The first British tanks were primitive machines. The Mark I tank weighed 29 tonnes and had an engine scarcely more powerful than a modern small car. It lumbered over the trenches at less than four miles an hour and was prone to break down or get bogged down in the mud. As the war progressed, the British built better tanks which improved on the Mark I's basic design.

3. Join the tank crew

Would you have what it takes to be part of a World War One tank crew? Click on the labels below to find out about each crew member's role in battle.

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4. Into battle!

Watch a dramatisation of an intense World War One battle - an underprepared tank crew take on the German army at the Battle of Amiens in August 1918.

This video contains strong language, and scenes of violence in a battlefield setting.

5. Greatest tank battles of World War One

Although they did not decisively win the war, tanks made a big difference in several key battles.

Battle of Flers Courcelette

September 1916

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Battle of Flers Courcelette

The Mark I tank fought its first battle of World War One. Only nine of the 48 tanks made it across enemy lines, but they terrified the German troops.

Battle of Cambrai

November 1917

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Battle of Cambrai

Eight army divisions, 300 planes and 476 tanks smashed through the German's heavily defended Hindenburg line. Tanks made a crucial difference in the fight.

Battle of Amiens

August 1918

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Battle of Amiens

Coordinating with the infantry, 450 tanks took to the field. This was a turning point in the war. The British advanced seven miles in one day.