The Mark V tank in action at Bovington Tank Museum. © Bovington Tank Museum
The last fully operational First World War British tank is to be run for what could be the last time as it prepares for a special appearance at the Lord Mayor’s show in London.
The Mk V tank is being driven from its current position in the Tank Museum at Bovington onto a low loader so it can be transported to London, where it will be drawn before the crowds on Sunday November 10 2007.
Staff in period World War One uniforms from the museum will accompany the tank as it is drawn along to mark two important 90th anniversaries significant to armoured warfare.
“In November 1917 tanks appeared before the mass British public for the first time at the Lord Mayor’s Show,” explained museum spokesman Nik Wyness. “The first tank attack in history took place the previous September and their introduction to the war was shrouded in secrecy.”
“It was 90 years ago this month that parade spectators had the opportunity to see them for themselves, and they were fascinated by the two tanks that took part.”
Trundling at a speed of just 3 mph towards the German lines, the eight men inside these primitive steel machines would be shaken, roasted (the temperature inside rose above 150 Fahrenheit) and sick from petrol and carbon monoxide fumes before contact with the enemy was made. They would then engage the enemy with their two cannons and provide a shield for the following infantry.
Just after their appearance in London, tanks played a major role in the Battle of Cambrai, where they proved highly effective. The amount of ground gained on the first day was equal to that obtained during four months of slog during the Ypres offensive.
“This was the first major tank driven assault, which punched a hole through German defences… church bells were rung simultaneously throughout Great Britain for the first time since the war was declared,” added Nick. “Our appearance will be particularly poignant given the proximity to Remembrance Sunday.”