The War Archives - Allied Tanks, Trucks & Weapons of WWI
Allied tanks, trucks and weapons of World War 1
WORLD WAR I often described as the Great War, or the ‘war to end all wars’ – was the first conflict in which technology played a significant role... a role that allowed slaughter to take place on an unprecedented scale. Following the German invasion of Belgium and north-eastern France in August 1914, the opposing sides quickly became bogged down on the Western Front. Far from it ‘being over by Christmas’, the armies dug-in for what turned out to be a very long haul, facing one another across, often narrow, strips of no-man’s land. It proved impossible to make any significant gains and the war became virtually static. The tactic of preceding an infantry advance by a heavy and prolonged artillery barrage proved less successful than was hoped and when the infantry were ordered to go ‘over the top’, thousands were immediately cut down by a hail of enemy fire.
New technologies were developed in an attempt at breaking the stalemate. Toxic gas, for example, proved to be a fearsome, if unpredictable, weapon. Machine guns were deployed in huge numbers. It was hoped that the appearance of tanks on the Somme in 1916 would allow a breakthrough, but mechanical unreliability combined with a lack of understanding as to how these new weapons should be used meant that it was not until the Battle of Cambrai in late 1917 that the potential of the tank became apparent. But, the effects of technology were not just felt by those in the trenches. Armaments factories worked day and night to supply the fighting men with the tools for the job. In the first 20 months of the war, British factories produced close to 25 million artillery shells, and the rate of ammunition production increased exponentially as the war dragged on... for example, by the end of 1918, the number of rounds of artillery ammunition produced in American plants was in excess of 20 million, with a further 10 million rounds provided to the US Army by the French and British.