Grandpa Byer's Military PhotoMany members of my family have fought in the many wars that have taken place in this world’s history…most of them I probably know nothing about. Wars, while usually necessary in order keep our nation secure; take a heavy toll on its youth. Of course, in years gone by, women were not placed in combat positions. That is no longer the case. Now women are among those war dead, just like men are.

The weapons of warfare have become more and more deadly over the years, but I can’t say that there were more war dead because of that. War dead numbers seem to fluctuate with the war, and with the willingness to die, on the part of both sides. Sometimes however, something is invented, and then improved to save lives. Such was the case with the tank. On September 6, 1915, the tank, nicknamed Little Willie rolled off of the assembly line in England. That first tank was less than well received. It was slow…maxing out at 2 miles per hour. It weighed 14 tons, and kept getting stuck in the trenches. Nevertheless, it was important, since wars had moved into that type of fighting. Trench warfare often made soldiers sitting ducks…both the ones in the trenches, and the ones coming up on the trenches. The plan was to make a vehicle that could go cross country, and into the trenches with relative safety.

I’m sure the designers were very disappointed, but they didn’t give up. They went to work to improve this valuable piece of military equipment. The next model…Big Willie debuted a year later, and while it still needed improving, people could now see how important the vehicle would become in response to the trench warfare of World War I. The tank was in existence when my grandfather was drafted into World War I, but I don’t know if he ever had the opportunity to see one or ride in one. I can’t say if the tank changed the way that World War I was going, but it has definitely made a difference in the wars since that time.

The tank has come a long way since those days…including the name. It was never in the plan to call this piece of equipment a tank. They had planned to make a landboat, and organized a Landships Committee to begin development. It was vital that they keep the vehicle a secret from enemies, so workers were apparently told that they were building a machine to carry water on the battlefield. Some say that the tank resembled water tanks. Whatever the case may be, the new vehicles were shipped in crates labeled “tank” and the name stuck.

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