The Tank Museum's model of a Mark IV British tank in Trafalgar Square (Photo: Centenary News)

WW1 Tank Centenary - Tank display marks historic 1916 attack

Posted on on 15 September 2016
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100 years after the first tanks rolled into action, a replica First World War British tank took up positions in the heart of London for the Centenary, reports CN Editor Peter Alhadeff.

The tank 'stood guard' at the foot of Nelson's Column, drawing hundreds of curious onlookers, as well as the international media and cohorts of photographers, to Trafalgar Square.

Britain's Tank Museum organised the event in tribute to the pioneering tank crews who went into action for the very first time on 15 September 1916 as part of a renewed Allied offensive on the Somme.

"In the First World War, tanks were used on Trafalgar Square to draw attention to the fact that the war effort needed support. From what were called 'tank banks', war bonds were sold," explained Richard Smith, Director of the Tank Museum.

100 years on, public attention was again fired as the replica Mark IV tank edged into the London traffic under its own power, for loading onto a transporter and its next destination, the historic centre of government in Whitehall.

The tank leaving Trafalgar Square, flanked by photographers (Photo: Centenary News)

At Horseguards Parade, the Mark IV was displayed alongside a present-day British Army battle tank, highlighting the dramatic changes in warfare heralded by the tentative debut of armoured vehicles a century ago.

The first tanks were used to assault German lines between the Somme villages of Flers and Courcelette in September 1916. The attack is also notable for the deployment of Canadian and New Zealand troops.

Forty nine tanks were made available. But only 32 reached the start line because of mechanical and other problems, and of these just 18 eventually went into action.

Nevertheless, the tank's potential encouraged further development, leading to the first mass formation attack at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917.

For the Centenary event, the Tank Museum used a replica Mark IV British tank which appeared in the 2011 film adaptation of War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg. 

Also in Centenary News:

Tank crews' descendants mark Centenary

Source: The Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset UK

Images: Centenary News