WWI Tank

Lincoln was at the forefront of the invention of the ‘tank’, playing a vital role in the development of the fighting machine that changed the face of warfare.*

William Foster & Company  was the pioneer of the tank. It was from the designs and drawings made by William A Tritton, then marketing director of the company , that all the tanks were made. The first prototype was known as Little Willie. The design was begun on 2 August 1915; construction started on 11 August; the machine was able to move by 8 September; and performance trials began on 14 September… only 45 days after Tritton first produced his sketches! Early trials proved less than successful. Fortunately Tritton had anticipated some of the problems and, with the assistance of Lieutenant WG Wilson, the Admiralty Overseer, was already working on the successor to Little Willie.

The design of Big Willie, was begun on 24 August 1915. Later re-christened Mother, Tritton’s revised tank was able to move under its own power by 6 January 1916. The design prove to be a tremendous success and almost one month later , on  2 February, a trial took place in the presence of a very distinguished audience that included Field Marshal Lord Kitchener. Following the trial an order was placed for 100 Big Willies. Throughout the war Tritton continued to improve on the design of the of the tank. Contracts were dispersed to other factories, including Marshall Sons & Company, of Gainsborough, for the production of the tank. By the end of the war, 2696 tanks had been delivered to the British Army, with a further 8000 more having been ordered. For his contribution to the development of the tank, William Tritton was knighted by King George V on 13 February 1917. The directors and workers of William Foster & Company presented Sir William with a magnificent illuminated address.*

The tank in the picture is named Daphne:

She was built in Wednesbury, West Midlands from plans drawn in Lincoln. For many years she was believed to be Flirt II, until her original serial number was discovered in 2013. Daphne was damaged by German artillery on 21st August 1917 at the Ypres Salient and taken away for repair.

At the end of the war Daphne was presented to the city of Gloucester, where she stood in Gloucester Park until 1940. During the Second World War Daphne served as a pillbox on Hucclecote airfield, until she was transported to Bovington Camp in Dorset in the mid 1940s.

Bovington Camp museum acquired Daphne in 1947 and, after being restored in 1983 by apprentices at Rustons Gas Turbines, loaned her to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in 1989 where she remains today.*

WWI Tank

*From signboards in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life

8 Comments CherryPie on Jul 14th 2016

8 Responses to “Lincoln: Birthplace of the Tank”

  1. Sean Jeating says:

    You can’t say civilisation does not advance … for in every war they kill you a new way.
    [Will Rogers]

    • CherryPie says:

      Man has made many advancements in science and understanding and ways to save life, but he still persists with using the science for more destructive reasons.

      Civilsation has regressed…

  2. James Higham says:

    Daphne’s looking mighty pretty.

  3. It’s a fascinating tale. I think tanks are terrifying things, though!

  4. Steve Rawbone says:

    Hi there,
    A great story, but there is an error in the last paragraph. Presently, it reads:
    ‘Bovington Camp museum acquired Daphne in 1947 and, after being restored in 1983 by apprentices at Rustons Gas Turbines, loaned her to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in 1989 where she remains today.’

    I was one of the YTS students that worked on the tank (at Firth Road) and it was not in 1983 because I was only 14 then! It would have been 1984 and/or 1985.

    • CherryPie says:

      Hi Steve, thanks for commenting and advising the date is incorrect.

      I have checked back in my archives and thankfully it wasn’t me making a typo. I photographed the sign in front of the tank and it does say 1983 so it looks like the Museum of Lincolnshire Life have the incorrect information.