By Anthony Tucker-Jones
A hundred years ago, on 15 September 1916, on the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme, the tank made its debut on the battlefield. The first tanks were crude, unreliable, vulnerable weapons, but they changed the character of land warfare forever, and Anthony Tucker-Jones's photographic history of these pioneering armoured vehicles is the ideal introduction to them.
In a selection of over 150 archive photographs he offers a fascinating insight into the difficult early days of this innovative new weapon, describing its technical history and its performance in combat.
While the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 is often held up as the first large-scale tank battle, tanks had already served at Flers-Courcelette on the Somme, during the Nivelle offensive and the battles of Messines and Passchendaele. His book shows that the development of the tank was fraught with technical obstacles and battlefield setbacks. It was invented by the British to help break the deadlock of trench warfare, and the French and Americans soon followed their example.
The initial designs were continuously refined during two years of intense warfare.Finding the right balance between power and weight, getting the armament right, and working out the best tactics for tanks on the battlefield was a tricky, often deadly business.