Why didn't Tanks end the Trench Warfare in WWI

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by Rockhem, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. Rockhem

    Rockhem Member

    I have always wondered, why didn't the tanks end the trench warfare in WWI, I thought that the whole point of the tank was to end the trench warfare, and why didn't the tank manage to do that? What problems did the tank have to not be able to end the trench fighting?
  2. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    The reason why the British AFVs of the Great War did not end the stalemate of trench warfare was both mechanical and doctrinal.

    The first time AFVs were used in battle the were a great surprize, an Iron Monster which was impervious to barbed wire and bullets. Alas, they were SLOW and vunerable to gremlins -- the clever little creatures which cause mechanical breakdown.

    And the AFV were not properly supported by the Brits with sufficient infantry to exploit this initial success, even after had broken-down.
  3. Rockhem

    Rockhem Member

    Yeah, I have always read that tanks require infantry support or will quickly become over run, is that what happened or was it just the mechanical failures and the lack of being able to fix them quickly the downfall of these tanks? Also, why would it really matter if they were slow, if they had the ability to be impervious to most weapons the opposing team had except for maybe mortars or artillery pieces?
  4. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Thank you for your insightful questions.

    I recently found a piece on the internet regarding a recently (post 2000) unearthed AFV discovered on a Great War battlefield. The machine had been buried for close to a century but had not suffered, apparently from extensive environmental degradation. From one angle it appeared almost as a brand-new machine, except upon close examination there was a hole. Walk around the fascade and...

    Apparently the hole was the entry point of a direct-fire large caliper artillery round that was fired point blank by the Germans. The one side of the AFV was much intact while the interior and opposite wall were mostly missing. It is supposed the AFV was buried as a war grave rather than suffer anyone having to try to seperate body parts from the steel and iron.

    At least the end must have been quick.

    The ground speed of these AFV apparently topped out at two-miles-per-hour over the test terrain in England. Their journey though No Mans Land in France was even slower as these monsters lumber and lurched into and out of shell-craters and mud-pits. I can imagine a man-made horror for the crews trapped in their private hell, with the noise, fumes and heat. And then to have the front of the machine pointing skyward one moment only to plunge suddenly down the next. No wonder gremlins would love that environment.

    How could one expect a sickened crew to be able to find tools, let alone spare parts, in the near-total darkness of the cramped compartment of these first AFVs. As I recall something like 2/3 of the first attacking AFVs were stopped early (before objective) due to mechanical failure.
  5. Rockhem

    Rockhem Member

    Thanks for your answers, I learned a lot from this thread about the AFVs in WWI. It seems that they weren't as impervious as I thought to their enemies. I knew they were unreliable, but this has provided much more information about the subject than I had know before.
  6. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Tanks did play a big part in bringing trench warfare to an end. It was not however an overnight thing and initially tanks were used in very small numbers and on unsuitable ground. Tanks can and do get bogged down in bad ground conditions. It was not until the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 that tanks were used in enough numbers and on suitable ground. The Trench did not disappear because movement was still very slow but what did change was the distances that armies advanced (and withdrew). The battles of 1918 saw a lot of movement.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  7. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    Yes, the British created the tanks in an attempt to break the stalemate in the trench warfare, but it didn't work due to all kinds of problems.

    WWI tanks were too primitive. They were slow (slower than infantry on foot), and they were mechanically unreliable (often break down). They weren't as indestructible as the tanks in WWII (even hand grenades can disable them if hit the right spot). There weren't enough of them produced either.

    As the tanks were a new toy back then, nobody had developed the correct way of using them. Some members had pointed out already, they weren't supported by infantries the way it supposed to be. It would be hard to do so even if they tried... there wasn't any radio in the tank. How were they supposed to communicate with the infantry if they tried?
  8. Alexander

    Alexander Member

  9. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Basil Liddel-Hart wrote a book called something like: "Why it is so hard to learn from Military History". Perhaps to call it a book is too grand; call it a thick pamphlet. In this work he points out the all too common practise of officers taking "liberal licence" to correct their actual blunders when writing after-action reports. They do so to cover their reputation and advance their career.

    Remember the ending of the cinema "Galipoli"? The staff officer reporting lied in reporting to the General Officer Commanding as to the effectiveness of the attack by the Austrialian Light Horse (dismounted), saying other than it was a complete slaughter, dooming the remaing wave to suffer the same fate.

    I am not sure if it were actual doctrine on the day of the first AFV attack to accompany the AFVs with infantry -- it may have been the case. In actuality there was inadequate infantry support.

    And remember that some 3/4 of the AFVs slated for the attack suffered mechanical failure.

Share This Page