Secondhand STEEL

Military historian Richard Pullen takes a look at the story of the first German tanks and why Germany was initially so unsure about the merits of tank warfare

When we think of German tanks in warfare, our minds are naturally drawn to the legends of World War Two, the Tiger and the mighty Panther, but there was a time before this in World War One when Germany had little to no interest in tanks. Many of their Generals didn’t see a need for tanks and most had little comprehension of why the Allies were so obsessed by them.

The first British tanks rumbled into the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916 and their debut wasn’t the decisive victory that the Allies had hoped for.

These first Mk I tanks were slow, unreliable, had a myriad of design flaws and in many cases were not built for the terrain they were asked to cover. This and subsequent battles through 1916 and into 1917 at Thiepval, Bullecourt and Passchendaele did little to bolster the tank’s reputation and left the Germans confused and unimpressed by the new top-secret weapon. A couple of the new Mk II tanks were captured, extensively examined and then destroyed by the Germans after Bullecourt. There is no evidence to suggest that they planned to use these tanks themselves or build their own, based on the captured British armoured machines.

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