Allied Tank Development


Allied tank development began with an 1899 “war-car” designed by Frederick Simms featuring a Daimler engine, bullet-proof casing, and revolving machine guns.  Simms offered his invention to the British government, but they rejected it as toy-like and useless.  It wasn’t until 1914 that the first British tank was built by Hornsby & Sons, named the Killen-Straight Armoured Tractor.  Attending the preliminary unveiling of the tractor was future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was to become a large advocate of tank warfare. He established the Landships Committee to investigate the potential uses of “tanks”, so named because they resembled water carriers.  The primary character urging government development of the tank, however, was Colonel Ernest Swinton, Secretary for the Committee for Imperial defense.


In 1915 the first British tank to be constructed for combat was “Little Willie,” a 14 ton beauty that could carry up to three people and move at a max speed of 3 miles per hour.  Close on their heels, the French also constructed their first tank in 1916, called “Schnieders” after the factory where they were made.  The US followed by using French Renault tanks in 1917, and then built their own model, the M1917.  By the close of World War I, tank warfare was a fledgling, but significant new form of fighting, championed by the British and French, with the French Renault tanks hailed as the ideal AFV.  The Germans, however, did develop their own tanks, but produced very few and were loathe to use them in battle.


Despite these early advances by the Allies, tank warfare remained a little-used and under-developed segment of the military.  This changed, however, when the Germans started their Blitzkrieg attacking styles while invading Poland in World War II. The Allies were forced to retaliate with AFVs of their own design, and Allied military sectors began to launch large-scale development programs.  Though the German tanks were initially considered superior, Allied AFVs soon learned to hold their own and won several decisive battles.  For instance, the British Matilda II tanks under General Montgomery defeated the Germans in North Africa, and 500 Russian T-34 tanks defended Stalingrad against German forces.  Finally, a combined army of Russian T-54s and American troops under General Patton were able to defeat the Nazis.


To see pictures and descriptions of some of the more famous Allied AFVs, follow the following links:






Image from:


Back to Tanks


Back to Home.