Military Review

Ernest Swinton - one of the first creators of the tank world

14
The idea of ​​constructing a movable and protected weapon with great firepower and designed to break through the enemy’s fortified defense lines is quite old. Back in the XNUMXth century, the great Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci would like to build such a machine from which it would be possible to fire at the enemy’s troops without harming himself. Of course, the plan of the great inventor was simply impossible to realize in the conditions of the XNUMXth century, but it was Leonardo da Vinci’s creation that is considered the prototype of all modern tanks. If we talk about modern combat vehicles that are closer to us, then they were created only in the XNUMXth century during the First World War, and the British officer Ernest Dunlop Swinton was at the origins of tank building.


The ideas of the Italian genius remained unrealized until the beginning of the 20th century. At the same time over the creation of a new type of combat vehicles worked in many countries around the world, creating a sufficient number of prototypes. The armored train and armored car are considered to be the immediate predecessors of the modern tank, but they had significant shortcomings. For example, the range of the armored train was seriously limited, it could move only along the railway tracks. The armored car, due to the overload of the base car chassis, could not carry reinforced armament and armor, possessing low maneuverability, which also significantly limited its capabilities and scope. The car was heavily dependent on the type and features of the area.

The technical ability to build the first real tank in its modern sense appeared only with the creation of tracked tractors, which combined a high maneuverability with the ability to carry weapons and heavy armor. However, the idea of ​​creating such a combat vehicle for a long time met with a misunderstanding of the military and their conservative views. Many considered such a tank to be an expensive trinket, which would have no place on the battlefield.

Ernest Swinton - one of the first creators of the tank world
Ernest Dunlop Swinton


Everything was changed by the First World Warrior, who demanded a radical revision of the military doctrine from Great Britain and other countries. In particular, English Colonel Ernest Swinton, who was sent to the western front to compile reports on the course of hostilities, was personally convinced of the futility of the offensive actions of the British troops. All of their attacks ended the same way: the enemy simply "mowed" thousands of people from several machine-gun nests successfully located on the ground. From the created "positional impasse" it was possible to break out only by suppressing the enemy firing points. But the massive shelling carried out often only improved the positions of the defending troops, deepening the trenches and making the terrain difficult for their own troops. Ordinary infantry attacks also could not cope with this task.

At this moment on historical on the stage Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton appeared (October 21, 1868 - January 15, 1951), a British officer who rose to the rank of Major General. It was he who took an active part in the creation and development of the tank as a combat vehicle during the First World War. Ernest Dunlop Swinton was born in India in the city of Bangalore in the family of an English colonial official. Both externally and in their internal “content”, Swinton was the standard of the British officer of Kipling times: a scholar, a brilliant intellectual, military engineer, commander, journalist and writer. He graduated from the Royal Military Academy, located in Woolwich. In the rank of captain took part in the Second Boer War (1899-1901), which took place in South Africa. The laconic tactical guide written by him on the actions of small units called “Defense of the Duffer Current” almost immediately became a classic, and in peacetime Ernest Siunton turned into a writer, choosing the pseudonym Ole-Lukoye, which indicated that he had a sense of humor and self-irony. The creative path fascinated him so much that he met World War I not with a British field officer, but with a war correspondent.

Like many other representatives of the British aristocracy, Ernest Dunlop Swinton linked his life with military service. Most likely, the hot blood of ancestors raged in his veins, among which were such famous personalities as the Scottish kings Robert I and Robert II. A significant role in the choice of profession was also played by Swinton’s birthplace - Indian Bangalore, “east of Suez”. In these places, the prestige of the army profession in those years was even higher than in the metropolis itself. Therefore, it is not surprising that, having graduated from the Royal Military Academy, located in Woolwich and becoming a military engineer, Sir Ernest Swinton turned out to be in the most "hot" points of the British Empire - in India and South Africa for almost 14 years.

It is believed that it was during the Anglo-Boer War, in which the well-aimed South African arrows literally mowed down the infantry chains of the British, the first time he had the idea to create a mobile firing point protected by armor. Moreover, a clear example was before his eyes. For the transfer of troops and delivery of supplies, the British already in that war began to widely use the "armored", that is, armored, steam locomotives and "locomobiles" - a kind of steam tractors that pulled several wagons with different loads.

The predecessor of all the first tanks was the Holt-Caterpillar tractor.


The next time Ernest Swinton was at the forefront in the 1914 year during the First World War, he went to war as a war correspondent. Together with the usual "Tommy" - so called the British soldiers - Swinton sat in the trenches under artillery shelling, went with them through the so-called "lunar landscape" and pressed into the ground under heavy German machine-gun fire. Upon returning from the front to England in October 1914, Ernest Swinton addressed a proposal to the British War Department to create a "cruiser with a tracked tractor based on a tractor." He already realized that with such a level of losses, the United Kingdom could very quickly lose the war.

There is an opinion that, while in France, Ernest Swinton witnessed how the American crawler tractor of the inventor and industrialist Holt calmly pulled an artillery gun through the impassable mud. The invention of the Yankees simply captivated the heart of Sir Ernest - it was the tractor he saw as the "chassis" for his future offspring. It was in 1914, the idea of ​​creating a tank finally really came to court. Stunned by the very heavy losses and the collapse of all ideas of warfare, the British generals no longer considered the next military inventor to be insane. However, they didn’t show much zeal for the new project of military equipment, believing that it would take several years to build a tank, and the war would end with any result by that moment.

It is worth noting that the Holt-Caterpillar tractor was simultaneously noticed in the UK and France, it attracted the attention of the English colonel Ernest Dunlop Swinton and the French army colonel Jean-Baptiste Eugène Etienne, respectively. It was these two characters that forever entered the history of tank building. They can even be safely called the founding fathers of the tank forces. Independently of each other, both of them were engaged in the development of the first tanks and the promotion of their ideas among the highest military circles of their countries. Ernest Swinton became the creator of the idea of ​​the tank, its guide to life and embodiment. It was Swinton who chose the caterpillar base for the construction of a new combat vehicle, and also proposed to introduce the word "tank" (reservoir) into use. Only thanks to the authority and reports of this British colonel in the Ministry of War, developments in this direction were nevertheless started, he was entrusted with the preparation of the first tank crews, and, finally, it was Swinton who created the first tank memo.

At the same time, the project of Swinton could have remained unfulfilled even under the conditions of the bloody war unfolding in Europe, if First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Winston Churchill had not turned his attention to it. Even his arguments in defense of the new combat vehicle at first could not convince the conservative military leadership, but he would not have been Churchill if he had easily retreated. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who believed in the idea and project of Swinton and other inventors, decided to act. In January 1915, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Lord Asquith, justifying the need to develop a "land armadillo", attaching blueprints of a new combat vehicle to the letter, and in February 1915, the future British Prime Minister founded the Land Ships Committee.



In June of the same year, Ernest Swinton was invited to this committee, who wrote specifications for a new armored combat vehicle for him. Among the main requirements for the tank, he listed: movement speed up to 6,4 km / h, sufficient maneuverability to successfully move around the battlefield, possibility of overcoming obstacles, for example, trenches up to 2,4 meter wide and earth parapets up to 1,5 m. Armament of the tank should have been be represented by two guns and two machine guns. It is worth noting that the concept and set of characteristics proposed by Swinton were much more realistic than the draft by Major Thomas Hetherington, who was clearly addicted to gigantism, considered by the Committee before. He proposed a variant of a combat vehicle armed with 6 cannons and 14 machine guns, at a height of about 14 meters and booking 80-mm precisely would not have been possible in those conditions. Even if this iron monster could be created, he would have proved his utter inconsistency already on the battlefield, becoming an easy target for enemy artillery.

The development process of a new lightweight tank that corresponded to Swinton's concept, which is now instead of the “land battleship” began to be called the “land cruiser,” was entrusted to the Marine aviation Walter Wilson and William Tritton, director of agricultural technology, William Foster & C. Limited. The author of the tank design, which was created on the basis of the requirements advanced by Swinton, was the chief engineer of the company William Rigby. The construction of the first prototype of the tank began on August 11, 1915, and only a month later the combat vehicle was presented to the commission. The tank was called Little Willie or "Little Willy." He became the first ever working prototype of the tank. After the war, it was decided to save the car for future generations, and in 1940 it was once again managed to save it from recycling for scrap. Today, "Little Willie" can still be seen live, now the tank is an exhibit of the Tank Museum in Bovington.

At the same time, during the tests of the first prototype of the tank, a number of its significant shortcomings were revealed. The first of these was low speed: on rough terrain, it could drop to 1,2 km / h, which made the combat vehicle an easy target for enemy artillery. The second problem was low permeability: the prototype could hardly overcome obstacles in the form of craters from shells and trenches, which abounded in the battlefields of the First World War. The third problem was the complexity of the control: in front of the car sat the 2 driver, one of whom was driving the steering wheel, clutch, main transmission and shifting gears, and the other with brakes. Another 2 person located near the engine, they put in action a secondary transmission. To control the weapons installed on the tank, at least 2 crew members were needed.



But the creation of the first prototype of the tank gave positive results. First, this prototype proved the perspective development of tanks. Secondly, based on the results of the tests, the basic requirements for the further development of a new type of combat vehicles were formulated, in particular, the need to increase the length of the tank in order to overcome trenches, etc. Thirdly, a pair of designers —Tritton and Wilson — were formed in Britain positively influenced the development of tank manufacturing in the UK. And already September 15 1916, for the first time in the history of wars, the English Mark I tanks were used in the bloody battle of the Somme.

Information sources:
Alekseev D.S. Tanks of the world: a big encyclopedia. M .: Eksmo, 2015. 256 with.
http://planeta.by/article/776
http://warspot.ru/1408-tvortsy-tankovogo-mira-ernest-suinton
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14 comments
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  1. gla172
    gla172 13 January 2016 06: 49 New
    +4
    That's how they stormed ......
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 13 January 2016 08: 04 New
    -1
    The British showed how not to build tanks.
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 13 January 2016 11: 58 New
      +6
      The British showed what a tank is.
      Moreover, for the first time themselves (and successfully!) They applied them massively,

      Do you want them to have the most correct layout?
      invented ... request
      1. gla172
        gla172 13 January 2016 12: 19 New
        +2
        "" "" "And you want them to also have the most correct layout
        invented "" "" "" "" "

        Not ..., well, of course, the best layout is Mevkava ...
        1. Amurets
          Amurets 13 January 2016 14: 31 New
          +1
          Quote: gla172

          Not ..., well, of course, the best layout is Mevkava ...

          And where did Merkava come in? Similar layouts existed before. The fact that the Israelis used the world experience in tank building is also nothing criminal in this. All countries use other people's developments in the construction of technology. Before writing a comment, I looked, though diagonally " the book of Mikhail Baryatinsky "Israeli tanks in battle." How many types of tanks are there in different countries, the sea. And is it really impossible to choose the best solutions?
        2. voyaka uh
          voyaka uh 13 January 2016 18: 04 New
          +4
          "the best layout is mevkava." ////

          And what? - (pictured) stands firmly on OWN laughing
    2. Amurets
      Amurets 13 January 2016 14: 57 New
      +1
      Quote: parusnik
      The British showed how not to build tanks.

      You see, immediately create a standard scheme. The Germans went the way the engine is back-transmission in front. In France, Louis Renault created, as time has shown, a classic layout. In the USSR there was one and that layout. There were intermediate layouts. And what the British showed as not it was necessary to build tanks, so it was much later, during the years of World War II. When the British urgently created cruising tanks. Especially the Krusader MK series. There are many modifications.
    3. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 13 January 2016 15: 13 New
      +3
      Quote: parusnik
      The British showed how not to build tanks.

      Rather, the Germans first showed how not to build tanks. Compared to the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V, even the British rhombuses seem like normal tanks.
    4. veteran66
      veteran66 13 January 2016 20: 51 New
      +1
      Quote: parusnik
      The British showed how not to build tanks.

      and where are you, "experts" in the 16th year were? How not prompted?
  3. Amurets
    Amurets 13 January 2016 08: 29 New
    +3
    Now you can criticize these developments. Whose idea was better than Etienne or Swinton. It turned out that the layout was better Louis Renault. Most importantly, they were the first who managed to build and test these machines and well done the British who managed to save "Little Willy." I don’t know how now , but earlier in the Far East, and specifically in the Amur Region, very often one could see the machine gun turrets of the MS tanks installed as pillboxes while guarding the railway bridges. The MS tank is a modernized Renault FT-17.http: //otvaga2004.ru/tanki / tanki-fotogalereya / tanki-pamyatniki-ms1-na-dv /
    This is a link where you can see the MS tank. Thanks to the author for collecting and publishing materials about the first ideologists and designers of the English tank building industry. The USSR used the first MK tanks and subsequent developments. The 6-ton Vickers was produced as a T-26 model of 1931 with two towers and Carden-Lloyd wedge heel as a T-27 wedge. Yes, and during the years of the Second World War, the USSR received British Lend-Lease tanks. But that's another story.
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 13 January 2016 15: 17 New
      +3
      Quote: Amurets
      MS Tank is a modernized Renault FT-17.

      Not certainly in that way. MS-1 was made on the basis of the Italian Fiat 3000, which was just a modernized Renault FT-17. So MS-1 / T-18 is Renault’s “second iteration”.
      1. Amurets
        Amurets 14 January 2016 00: 32 New
        0
        Quote: Alexey RA
        Quote: Amurets
        MS Tank is a modernized Renault FT-17.

        Not certainly in that way. MS-1 was made on the basis of the Italian Fiat 3000, which was just a modernized Renault FT-17. So MS-1 / T-18 is Renault’s “second iteration”.

        I didn’t delve deeply into the history of Soviet tank building for this comment. I simply dropped the link. Optionally, you can find books by Svirin, Baryatinsky, Chris Shant in electronic libraries. Therefore, I considered it unnecessary to delve into the topic, especially since basically towers differ only in settings under armament.
  4. Isk1984
    Isk1984 13 January 2016 13: 30 New
    +1
    There is no point in arguing, the Englishman’s engineering turned out to be correct, and taking into account the influence of armored formations on the course of history, then in general one of the technical solutions of the century is a merit on the face, thanks for the article ...
  5. Vladislav 73
    Vladislav 73 13 January 2016 17: 09 New
    +2
    Yes, what's the point of arguing now. The British created a new type of weapon, indicated the direction, so to speak. And how was it necessary or not to build ... who then could know in advance? It’s new because it’s new. Only experience of everyday operation and combat use .
  6. aba
    aba 13 January 2016 18: 40 New
    +1
    Quote: Vladislav 73
    The British created a new type of weapon, indicated the direction, so to speak.

    That's right. The beginning is different for everyone, but later almost everyone came to the classic layout.
  7. kumaxa
    kumaxa 14 January 2016 05: 54 New
    0
    according to the Diskovery channel, the best tank of all time is the T-34. They put 34 top scores according to their criteria.