Today is the 101stanniversary of the first tank-on-tank battle in history.
In the spring of 1918, the Imperial German Army mounted a massive attack on Allied lines in northern France and managed a real breakthrough – the first in years of static trench warfare on the Western Front. They moved 15 divisions to take the strategic town of Villers-Bretonneux which was defended by British, Australian and Canadian troops. After capturing their objective they moved forward and were met by three British Mark IV tanks – one of them “male” (a term used to describe a tank armed with machine guns and a cannon on each side), and two “female” machines (equipped with machine guns to be used against infantry). These tanks normally required a crew of 8 but the male had lost half its men to a poison gas attack.
The Germans countered with a section of three very large A7V monsters (shown below) with crews of 18 men. Two of the British females were knocked out but the male scored hits on the German tanks, eliminating one and driving the others off. At that point seven smaller British Whippet tanks arrived and tore into the advancing German infantry, halting their attack.
Germany lagged far behind in tank technology in World War I and scarcely produced any armoured vehicles. But their post-war General Staff learned their lesson, studied Allied textbooks and tactics, and built a terrifying Blitzkrieg array ready when World War II began in 1939.