Robert A. Lynn
- Published on Amazon.com
BRITISH MARK IV TANK
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2007
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $15.95, 48 PAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS
The Mark IV could probably be described as the first main battle tank. About 1,200 were built and they participated in virtually every British engagement on the Western Front from the early summer of 1917 until the very end of the war, plus one action in the Middle East. Apart from its mass production, the Mark IV was also the first tank to be built based upon experience with earlier tanks and the first to be used en masse in combat, in a battle actually planned around the tank. Even so, it could have been a far better machine had it not been for a serious clash of personalities. The Mark IV was based, mechanically on the prototype tank Mother, which in an ideal world should have been improved upon by 1917. The problem was the external conflict between the ideal and the expedient. Everyone agreed that the four-man driving system, introduced with Mother in 1915, was tiresome and inefficient, but what to do about it? Lt. Walter Wilson knew the answer, but Major Albert Stern, head of the Mechanical Warfare Department, overruled him. Lacking technical acumen, and unable to see the brilliant simplicity of Wilson's scheme. Stern ordered the first production tank to use the same system as Mother, while experiments were carried out to find the most effective form of transmission. The matter was decided in favor of Wilson's design in competitive trials at Oldbury in March, 1917, but that was too late to influence the Mark IV. Stern had unwittingly managed to delay the improvement of British tanks by a good 18 months.
The Mark IV was an up-armored version of the Mark I with all fuel stored in a single external tank (located between the rear track horns) in an attempt to improve crew safety. The sponsons could be pushed in to reduce the width of the tank for rail transportation. Rails on the roof carried an unditching beam. There were a total of 1,220 Mark IVs built of which 420 were Males, 595 were Females, and 205 were Tank Tenders which were supply tanks. The Mark IV Male carried four Lewis machine guns as well as the two sponson guns (now with shorter barrels). The Female had six machine guns of which two were operated by the gun loaders.
The first tanks were added, as "Heavy Branch", to the Machine Gun Corps until a separate Tank Corps was formed on 28 July 1917 by Royal Warrant. The 18-month gap gave the Germans time to develop a specifically designed anti-tank weapon for the infantry: an armor-piercing 7.92 mm bullet. Mark IV tanks were used in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in mid-1917, but without great success due to the mud. Nearly 460 Mark IV tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai in November, 1917, showing that a large concentration of tanks could quickly overcome even the most sophisticated trench system. About 40 captured Mark IVs were employed by the Germans as Beutapanzer with a crew of twelve. During the Battle of Amiens in August, 1918, Mark IV tanks with the new Whippet tank penetrated the German lines in a preview of modern armored warfare. The first tank-to-tank battle was between Mark IV tanks and German A7Vs.
This book, BRITISH MARK IV TANK reveals the important role the tank played in the historic Battle of Cambrai in 1917 as well as the first ever tank-versus-tank actions against German A7Vs. In awe of British technology, the Germans actively captured, salvaged, and repaired Mark IVs for deployment against the Allies. Using rare photographs and detailed artwork, author David Fletcher explores the Mark IVs design and development, its variants and accessories , and brings to life its exciting deployment on the battlefields of World War I.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard