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Interpreting the Evidence

British Tank, France, July 1918

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load British Tank, France, July 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Photograph of a large British tank in France, July, 1918. The tank is part of the 10th Tank Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Soldiers are training for the battle of Amiens. The two men below the tank are Lieutenant Galbraith and Lieutenant Wallsers.
Historical Context
This photograph shows a large British tank of the 10th Tank Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) somewhere in France in July, 1918.  The tank is training for the battle of Amiens.  The two men below the tank are Lieutenant Galbraith and Lieutenant Wallsers.

Originally, the tank was intended to be an extension of Naval weaponry by the British, and to be considered somewhat of a "land ship."  However it was Winston Churchill who urged for the construction of the new military weapon.

In 1916 the first combat tank was ready for production and in September of 1916, with crews supplied by the Royal Navy, the first D1 tank was guided into action at Devil Wood.  Although the initial conquests of the tank were successful, as their development took German opponents off guard, these original tanks proved to be rather unreliable.  This was due in part to their hasty deployment in an effort to solve the stalemate problem; tanks broke down and often times fell into the trenches where they were unable to move. In addition, crew conditions were just short of unbearable, since temperatures inside the tank would rise to sweltering degrees, and fumes produced nearly suffocated the machine's operators.  

It was not until November of 1917 when at the Battle of Cambrai, the British Tanks Corps successfully breached the German front.  The success sparked interest by Americans, French, and German opponents to produce their own tank series.  Although initial impressions of the tank questioned its usefulness, early interest expressed by American military leaders such as General George Patton and General John J. Pershing who pursued tank development, lead to developments of the American Mark VIII and the French Renault; patterned after British models.  

The use of the tank continued after the war, and technological development only got better; today we see tanks that go 10 times faster than those made in World War I, with twice the artillery, and half the man power.  Between 1916 and 1918, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the USA produced over 8,000 tanks.

Essential Question
How does technology change the way wars are fought?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the ways in which tanks changed war strategies.
Historical Challenges
Describe the use of the airplane, the machine gun, and the submarine in comparison to the tank during World War I.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Research and calculate the difference between materials used to produce a tank during World War I, and to produce a tank today.
ELA: Write a letter to the Royal Navy in favor of tank production. Be sure to make a convincing argument as to why tanks should be used during warfare.