Little Willy Starts and Loses

Little Willy Starts and Loses
Little Willy in Bovington


Tank panopticon. Today we again visit our tank panopticon, and we will start almost from the very beginning. Rather, from what has been preserved from this beginning in metal. And it will be the British tank "Little Willy", with which all the other tanks began.

And it happened that when the war was raging all over Europe, namely in August 1915, a completely peaceful American ship arrived in Liverpool, which brought, in general, the most peaceful cargo: four American caterpillar tractors, and to them also a full range of spare parts and everything else. Of course, they could be sent to the army to carry heavy guns. But fate wished that they would not go to the front. When Colonel Crompton was informed of their arrival on August 3, he immediately ordered them to be transported to Barton-on-Trent, where the test site of the 20th Royal Naval Air Force squadron was located. Crompton did not arrive there immediately, because he was late at home with the preparation of drawings for the ... Admiralty Committee for Land Ships. Yes, yes, such a committee was created in England at that time, and he was committed to trying to create a machine that could fight the enemy in a completely new way.


The very first option with "tracks from the excavator": "No. 1. Lincoln »

The Committee on "land ships" by this time had already abandoned the wheeled vehicles that were first offered to him, and decided that the "ships" should be tracked. Some of the committee members spoke in favor of long articulated cars, but neither Crompton nor his assistant Lieutenant Walter Wilson approved of this idea, as they feared for the durability of the connection of the twin car. Of course, on paper everything looked great: they say, one half of the land ship gets stuck in the funnel from the projectile, and the other then pulls it. But when they began to test such a connection, it turned out that it was unreliable and could not be used!

Therefore, it was decided to use the chassis of new tractors, which did not have joints in the chassis in principle. Albert Stern, Committee Secretary, from his Pell Mellstrich headquarters in London, immediately after that contacted William Fritton, an engineer from William Foster and Co., over the phone, and they decided that if there was nothing wrong with the joint come out, make a "land ship" from one section.


Mounted tower layout!

In the meantime, all the tractors went to Lincoln, to the Tritton company, and then, on August 11, everyone else gathered there. Tritton and Walter, the quality of American cars seemed doubtful. For example, to hook track tracks with leading sprockets it was necessary with a sledgehammer! In addition, although tractors were made to order and Crompton in it indicated that their bow should be raised, this was not done. Therefore, the caterpillar tracks of the machines sent along the entire length of them landed perfectly like the tracks of modern excavators. A lot of bad words were said about the Americans, but work on the “ships” was nevertheless begun.

September 8, 1915 the first car was ready, and it was run in the yard of the plant. It turned out that she was completely uncontrollable, so they immediately began to redo it. By September 14, a new version was ready. On it, the chassis was made raised. On September 19, committee members Eustace Tennyson d'Aincourt, Ernest Swinton, Walter Wilson came to watch her. Then the car was covered with tarpaulin - and in this form the first in stories humanity, a real tank was sent to Cross-Cliff Field, Krossskliffskoe field, where they began to test. It turned out that the trucks often slide off the steering wheels, but, nevertheless, on September 21, the committee in London sent its famous telegram from Tritton: "The ballad died at the test site yesterday morning." That is, the tank was "born", although no one has called it a tank yet.


New tracks, new track contour. Ready for the test!

Tritton suggested making tracks stamped. Strength was higher and technology simpler, although the foundations of the truck were still cast. It would seem so so complicated? But after all, all this had to be fastened with bolts, the mounting holes were marked and drilled under them, and the tracks themselves were connected so that the caterpillar track did not break up later! But everything was done, and on December 3, 1915, new trucks were put on the prototype of the machine. They tested it right in the courtyard of the Foster factory, and everyone liked this new car right away. Previously, the caterpillar contour was opened, but now it was closed with a metal sheet, which reported greater rigidity of fastening to all wheel pairs. There was confidence that the track chains would no longer fall down. And by the way, when now the car was lifted by a crane, they did not sag more than an inch!


Go! It was smooth on paper, but forgot about the ravines!

Of course, both Tritton and Wilson, looking at their brainchild in metal, were very happy. However, they already knew that Little Willy would not be finalized. By the way, this name itself appeared because one of the employees decided that the car was similar (!) To its constructor Wilson, that's why they called it that. Well, this is purely British humor. Although, on the other hand, the very first Tritton and Wilson machine was generally called “No. 1. Lincoln ”(by the name of the city where the manufacturer was located). More importantly, both Tritton and Wilson started to work on the Mother tank somewhere in the middle of August, and by the beginning of December its wooden model was ready.


The wheels are just huge ...

That is, it was obvious that they turned out to be a “stillborn child”, but his tracks and tracks were quite functional. In tests, the tank moved awkwardly, which, however, was caused by the presence of a massive tail carriage with large diameter steering wheels. The driver using the cable system could deflect it to the sides, which led to the rotation of the tank. But the turning radius was, of course, very large. But the width of the moat that Little Willy could have overcome was estimated by the military as insufficient, as well as the height of the vertical obstacle that he could have.


"Willy" on Dollys Hill

Interestingly, at first the tank had a very solid turret, quite suitable to put in it a 40-mm automatic gun. And such weapons were fully consistent with the project, according to which the "land ship" was supposed to have exactly the "pom-pom" installed in the tower. In the frontal armor plate there should have been a machine gun, and in the body - holes for firing from a personal weapons crew members. But while at Lincoln the tower model still stood, then at Little Willy it was no longer there, and all efforts were directed at improving the chassis.


"Willy" and next to him is the king himself!

Although it was the tower tank, armed with a quick-firing cannon, that was much closer to modern vehicles than the adopted British "rhomboids." In any case, the military lost interest in Little Willy, but they did not begin to disassemble it for metal. He ended up at Wembley Park in London, with no rear wheels. At the end of 1917, this park became a real cemetery of experienced British tanks. And here "Willy" stood for a year. He got to the future Royal Tank Museum in Bovington already in 1919 and was stored there until 1928, when King George V arrived in Bovington. He took pictures with this tank during a walk, which, however, did not affect his fate. The tank was overgrown with blackthorn and in this form was still about 20 years old. There are legends of the Second World War that “Little Willy” was used as an anti-landing pillbox by Bovington and that he was hidden because it was a national relic, and that he was transported to Gloucestershire, where he stood near the airfield as a pillbox. The main thing, however, is that the tank has been preserved and looks very good so far, although it is completely empty inside.


Tank in the museum, 1987

In 1980, it was repainted in a matte gray color, which, as the museum experts decided, is closer to its original color than “deep bronze green” (green with a bronze tint) - the traditional color of British tanks of World War II, which was painted at one time and this tank.


Repainted Willie

Now he stands in a place of honor in the museum hall, and each of his visitors can see where exactly the whole world tank building began.


"Willie" in the museum, 2013

PS Interestingly, having tested the "Little Willy" as a running platform for a combat vehicle, the British did not even make an attempt to put at least some weapons on it. The layout of the tower with the pom-pom, of course, does not count. When the designers removed it, they closed the hole under the tower with an iron sheet with a small gap and thus arranged something like a flat-shaped ventilation fungus. True, nine rifle embrasures were provided by car, but nowhere is it said that “Little Willy” was fired at least once on the move.


Tank in three projections (Fig. A. Sheps)

Meanwhile, its construction made it possible to install two side sponsons on it and put either two machine guns or two 37 mm Hotchkiss guns in each. Although the designers initially did not like the cross-country ability of the car, why did they choose the option with a “rhombic chassis”, but even in this version the first British tank would not be inferior to the French CAI Schneider tank. Why was this not done and why the very first British tank was never tested by shooting? Today we can only guess on this subject ...


Tank "Little Willy" in a hypothetical version with a tower and machine-gun sponsons (Fig. A. Sheps)

References

1. David Fletcher. British Mark I Tank 1916. (New Vanguard No. 100). Osprey Publishing, 2004.
2. David Fletcher. The British Tanks 1915-19. Crowood Press, 2001.
3. Classic Military Vehicle magazine March 2012.
4. Shpakovsky V.O. Tanks are unique and paradoxical. M. - St. Petersburg: ACT; Landfill, 2007.
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  1. Theodore 20 May 2020 18: 18 New
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    They did not have their own Koshkin!
    1. Grandfather 20 May 2020 19: 44 New
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      Quote: Theodore
      They did not have their own Koshkin!

      Yes, he was with everyone, as the war found out. everyone rushed forward in technology, and the tanks were about ... about .. the same by the end of the 40th
  2. hohol95 20 May 2020 18: 59 New
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    And why the commission from RI did not buy it?
    Yes, there were simply no factories for its production ...
    And the chassis became the "progenitor" of the Hound hull.
    1. Catfish 20 May 2020 20: 06 New
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      Hi Aleksey! hi
      Very similar to the "Willie", but still not really.
      1. hohol95 20 May 2020 22: 48 New
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        So children sometimes do not look like parents at all good
        1. Catfish 20 May 2020 22: 57 New
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          As it was in the old song:
          "Mom is red, dad is red, I will brunet!
          Our neighbor is apparently to blame for this. " laughing
          1. hohol95 20 May 2020 23: 01 New
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            "Mom is red, dad is red!
            Red I myself!
            I recognize the whole family by red hair! "
            I remembered the film "Do not play the fool." In it, Evdokimov had a son Siyatvinda!
            But the son turned out to be native.
            1. Catfish 20 May 2020 23: 18 New
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              Alas, I have not seen the film, but Evdokimov’s performances have always been liked. And about the red ones, I remember Swan called Chubais "rusty Tolik." wink
              1. hohol95 20 May 2020 23: 19 New
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                But now they write that redheads are becoming less and less. Disappear ... Redheads!
                1. Catfish 20 May 2020 23: 21 New
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                  Why? By the way, if they disappear, then they are not the ones. Tolik lives and thrives. request
                  1. hohol95 20 May 2020 23: 27 New
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                    Tolik ... This Tolik ...
                    Let's not talk about sad things!
                    It is sad that in our country even armored cars could not be produced in the quantities required for the front.
                    1. Catfish 20 May 2020 23: 56 New
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                      And the build quality of domestic armored vehicles during the war, to put it mildly, was pretty lame. The Germans produced tanks an order of magnitude smaller, but the quality is much higher. But with armored vehicles, yes, there was a problem, and armored personnel carriers were not released at all. But there was a serious reason for this - tanks and planes were needed.
                      1. hohol95 21 May 2020 07: 56 New
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                        Oh, I didn’t complete my comment - I meant the First Imperialist ...
                        But it’s pointless to argue about the quality of equipment released before and during World War II!
      2. Pane Kohanku 21 May 2020 12: 32 New
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        Very similar to the "Willie", but still not really.

        because with the tractor layout. The Swedes then made a similar “Landswerk”, and it was he who was the first tank to be driven by Heinz Guderian, the creator of the Panzerwaffe, in the late 20s. He was in Sweden either on an internship, or on the exchange of experience.
        1. Catfish 21 May 2020 17: 36 New
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          I watch Swift Heinz everywhere managed to visit and ride all the tanks, he also did not ignore our training grounds, being still a captain, if I am not mistaken.
          1. Pane Kohanku 21 May 2020 17: 42 New
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            he also did not ignore our training grounds, being still a captain, if I am not mistaken.

            this needs to be clarified! Because the "pseudo-authors" of the 90s, the "universal good man," shouting "the fascist sword was forged in the USSR!" in our "works", both Heinz and Goering could fuse us for an internship. I think we didn’t have one or the other. Svirin (peace be upon him!) Did not mention Heinz, EMNIP.
            although the wiki writes the following:
            In the summer of 1932 he came to the USSR with an inspection at the Kama tank school near Kazan, together with his superior, General Lutz. Guderian himself in Kazan never studied [6].
    2. novel66 20 May 2020 20: 17 New
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      Whippet - Greyhound!
      1. hohol95 20 May 2020 21: 58 New
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        It’s excusable for me, not a cynologist, but a simple layman to know the difference between greyhounds and hounds!
        1. novel66 20 May 2020 22: 01 New
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          very important differences - the hound requires a hunter with a gun, and the greyhound itself is a gun
          1. hohol95 20 May 2020 22: 52 New
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            And in terms of the tank - do you need a hunter or the crew can handle it?
            1. novel66 21 May 2020 06: 55 New
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              very accurate! if without art support - a greyhound, if necessary - a hound
    3. Pane Kohanku 21 May 2020 12: 30 New
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      And the chassis became the "progenitor" of the Hound hull.

      in 1916-1917 there was a discussion of tanks. At first they wanted to buy a "Schneider", but then they justly got sick. Further, the opinion settled on the Renault tank with a machine gun. And then the revolution ... in general, did not grow together! hi
      1. hohol95 21 May 2020 16: 02 New
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        And what plant were going to release?
        They didn’t really make cars, but decided to make tanks.
        1. Pane Kohanku 21 May 2020 16: 24 New
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          and the tanks decided to produce

          It seems that the conversation was about purchasing. They produced only armored cars from us (and most of them bought it. They didn’t). The only thing that can be called the first Russian “tank” is the Akhtyrets armored tractor designed by Colonel Gulkevich.

          Although this image is more accurate:


          Here, Alexei, I look again that our good authors, who wrote in the 90s and early 2000s, could "break firewood" because of the small amount of information. drinks
          Watch your hands! wink
          Kolomyets article for the 1997th year. There are two such tractors produced.
          http://armor.kiev.ua/Tanks/WWII/tractor/bronetr1.php
          And here is the book of his own authorship - if I am not mistaken, 2014-2015. I bought in 2015.

          Armored Tractors - Already Alone!
          That is, apparently, somewhere he was sealed up, but he corrected the error in subsequent editions! It is a pity that two armored cars are still indicated on Wikipedia!
          1. hohol95 21 May 2020 16: 31 New
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            You do not consider it serious to manufacture 1 or 2 armored tractors on an imported chassis and 8 armored vehicles on a chassis of your own production. All other BAs were either imported (Austins, Renaults) or manufactured on an imported chassis (Garford, FIAT, Austin Putilovets).
            Only chassis purchases and own reservations.
            But the chassis still needs to be bought, brought and delivered to the factory for alteration.
            1. Pane Kohanku 21 May 2020 16: 40 New
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              8 armored vehicles on the chassis of its own production

              and I don’t remember at random how many “Russo-Balts” there were booked for the 1st Automobile Gun Company. Well, a few more anti-aircraft - also on the chassis of the "Russo-Baltic." The rest was collected from the world on a string. request AND! Several unsuccessful armored cars were booked by the Bratolyubov - also on our chassis. hi That is, yes - almost all cars were foreign. More than 1000 cars bought the secrets of his comrades in 1914-15. There was still an unsuccessful purchase of 61 Sheffield-simplex and army-motor-lorries armored cars - the armored cars were declared unsuitable, and they stood throughout the war in Petrograd. drinks
              1. hohol95 21 May 2020 16: 52 New
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                They grabbed what they could buy. Many did not sell corny or did not make similar. The British did not give up the last batch of “Austins” and sent them to the Western Front. Rearmed "Hotchkisses" and used for their needs.
  3. John22 20 May 2020 21: 52 New
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    The first prototypes are a search for a concept and technical solutions and it’s difficult to get candy right away. The main thing that happened is an armored armed vehicle of breaking through wire fences and enemy trench lines! To disguise themselves as spies, they called the car a self-propelled tank for the Russian army: a tank.
    1. Catfish 20 May 2020 22: 28 New
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      The word "tank" comes from the English word tank, that is, "tank" or "tank", "tank". The origin of the name is this: when sending the first tanks to the front, the British counterintelligence rumored that the Russian government ordered a batch of tanks for drinking water in England. And the tanks went by rail under the guise of tanks (fortunately, the gigantic size and shape of the first tanks corresponded to this version). They even wrote in Russian “Caution. Petrograd. " The name has taken root. Interestingly, in Russia, the new combat vehicle was originally called "Lohan" (another translation of the word tank).

      Although there are other options. Although, probably, the name ROMB would be more suitable. smile
      1. hohol95 20 May 2020 22: 55 New
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        Although there are other options. Although, probably, the name ROMB would be more suitable.

        If not trough, then let it be a sucker!
        1. kalibr 20 May 2020 23: 04 New
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          An article from the Niva magazine!
          1. hohol95 20 May 2020 23: 06 New
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            It is the most. The British decided that the chassis could not cope with obstacles and wire fences and created their famous "diamonds".
            1. kalibr 20 May 2020 23: 08 New
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              Well then ... A familiar book, a familiar author! But I would advise you still these publications:

              1. hohol95 20 May 2020 23: 14 New
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                Where without such literature. The people will look. Will find. Reads. Perhaps he learns for himself new information.
              2. hohol95 21 May 2020 16: 35 New
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                But is there any information about the use of tanks during the famine in the Volga region? For plowing fields for grain.
  4. BREAKTHROUGH READY 21 May 2020 09: 53 New
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    The British military can be understood, they needed a tool to break through the trench defense, and then they didn’t think much of any “maneuverable war”, and there is little to compare with rhomboid monsters.
    Unlike Mark1, which had at least bulletproof protection, the “Little Willy” had an armor thickness of only 6 mm, which is simply ridiculous against the main German 7,92 × 57 cartridge.
    .
    PS: I never cease to be amazed at the contrasts of Topvar, comparing this article and the sketch about Japanese armored amphibians located next door.
    1. kalibr 21 May 2020 15: 56 New
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      About the Japanese tank. It's like a pianist who does what he can. There are problems with the information. Well, the man of the Japanese magazine Armor Modeling does not have everything where everything is written about him, to the last nut. And projections on every detail ... And what's the point that I have it? I don’t read Japanese, but translate through Google ... English is still there, I know it. And the Japanese shouldn’t even try ...
  5. dmmyak40 21 May 2020 09: 53 New
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    He entered the future Royal Tank Museum in Bovington in 1919 and was stored there until 1928, when King George V arrived in Bovington.
    Yes, VO and its editors continue to break through the bottom of illiteracy: King George V !!!!!!!!!! Georg, my friends, Georg.
    PS Soon we are waiting for the British kings Charles I and II, the French king Louise XII, the Russian emperor Nikolaus I b II.
    And after such mistakes, VO editors post articles about "victims of the exam." Sad friends ...
    1. kalibr 21 May 2020 15: 47 New
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      And what so revolted you, dear Dmitry? New time, new songs. You are not outraged when in our spelling we write the battleship "King George V". Nowhere in the literature on ships has I met “Georg”. Only George. ”And why in one place and in another? What kind of Norman Guillaume Bastard did we become German Wilhelm? We have many such strange spellings with names, city names, etc. It happened historically? Yes, it happened ... But everything is changing and the more correct, why not fix the wrong? And calm down, the Russian Emperor Nikolai will remain Nikolai anyway! And Peter - Peter!
  6. irontom 21 May 2020 14: 09 New
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    Our answer
    July 15, 1915 Gulkevich sends to the Main Artillery Directorate (hereinafter - GAU) a report explaining the need to create armored vehicles armed with machine guns and guns on the basis of American Holt tractors (today it is the famous Caterpillar company), which while they were purchased for the needs of the Russian army: “I found a way to use a special engine that can be equipped with machine guns and a light gun, and just as easily destroy wire fences ... Armored cars, cat Until now, they have only been used for the installation of machine guns, they have the disadvantage that they cannot pass along any roads, much less pass through wire fences and destroy them; meanwhile, there is a “caterpillar tractor”, which is specially designed for movement on any soil, even on plowed fields. Its special design meets yet another important purpose: to tear and trample wire fences into the ground. ”
    and only on January 18, 1916 did Gulkevich receive a request for a project “with drawings, explanations or models attached to it”. While the IR was considering the project, all the tractors were in active parts, and the developer had to wait for the purchase of the next batch.

    The result is known - “Akhtyrets” is one piece.

    Ellis-Chalmers tractor with a 76,2 mm anti-storm model of 1910 mounted in its body.
    Source - bronetechnikamira.ru
  7. Jager 5 July 2020 16: 12 New
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    Very interesting!