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December 5, 2011
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Shadowless Tanks Pt.2 by wingsofwrath Shadowless Tanks Pt.2 by wingsofwrath
Disclaimer: Although featuring some real world tank designs, this was initially meant as a reference for my alternate reality comic "Shadowless" thus some of the details have been changed accordingly.

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Tanks can be viewed in better detail…

A similar drawing of French tanks:…


Tanks used by the British Imperial Federation during the Great War against the Second French Empire, 1899 to 1907.

Like their counterparts across the Channel, the first British Tanks were offshoots of civilian tracked tractor designs, after the first year of war showed, without the shadow of a doubt, the inability of existing wheeled armoured cars to negotiate terrain churned up by artillery. The first machine was produced at the Wellington Foundry for testing by the "Landships Committee" in late 1900. The tank bore the name "Number 1 Lincoln Machine" and used mechanical components adapted from those of the Foster-Daimler heavy artillery tractor. It weighed 16.5 tonnes and its 105 hp Daimler engine, gravity fed by two petrol tanks, gave a maximum speed of 2 mph.

The track system was unsprung with the tracks held firmly in place, a result of several redesigns to overcome a series of problems such as excessive ground resistance during turns and sagging track links during trench crossing. Although this limited speed, the design proved so sucessful in the field that it was used on all British tanks up to the Mark VIII.

In terms of weaponry, the first production machine, nicknamed "Little Willie" had six hand held Madsen .303 machineguns firing through loopholes in the sides, front and back of the armoured box.
This proved inadequate, so a second machine, called "Big Willie" was soon introduced by adding a turret with a QF 6 pounder gun on top of the vehicle and replacing two of the Madsens with a flexible mount for a lewis .303 machinegun situated on the front of the vehicle.


The Mark I was a development of Little Willie, the tank built in the summer of 1900 for the Landships Committee by Lieutenant Walter Wilson and the civilian engineer William Tritton, an expert in agricultural machinery.
Working on problems discovered with Willie, the Mark I was designed by Wilson around a rhomboid track layout with a low centre of gravity and long track length to better grip muddy ground and cross trenches.

Since a gun turret above the hull would have made the centre of gravity too high, the guns were put in side sponsons. The prototype Mark I, ready in December 1900, was called "Mother" and production began in earnest February 1901.

There were two base variants of this type, "male", mounting two QF 6 pound cannons and four .303 machineguns and one "female" armed with six machineguns.

The design itself proved very successful and the so called "rhomboids" formed the backbone of the British Tank Corps all the way to the end of the war, being constantly upgraded throughout the conflict.

One version in particular, the "Mark IV" was the most produced with 420 Males, 595 Females and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed supply tanks) seeing action in France.

The Mark IV was an up-armoured version of the Mark I which went into production in May 1904.

Fundamental mechanical improvements had originally been intended but these had to be postponed, the main change consisting in the switch to shorter-barrelled 6-pounder guns since the earlier versions occasionally got stuck while negotiating trenches by planting the gun muzzle into the ground.

It had all fuel stored in a single external tank (located between the rear track horns) in an attempt to improve crew safety. The sponsons could also be pushed in to reduce the width of the tank for rail transportation and two rails on the roof carried an unditching beam.


By mid 1903, the war had ground to a halt into trench warfare and the British High Command decided to mount a series of brutal offensives to try and force the issue in 1904.

However, early in the planning stage it became clear that in case of a breakthrough artillery would have great trouble following the advancing troops. Any successful offensive would therefore be in danger of stalling immediately.
To solve this problem, Major Gregg, an engineer working for the main tank producing company Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance, proposed to build special mechanised artillery, using parts of the Mark I.

The resulting vehicle, dubbed "Gun Carrier Mark I" bore little resemblance to the Mark I tank. The tracks weren't tall but low, almost flat. At the back a rectangular superstructure covered the Daimler 105 hp engine together with the transmission of the Mark I, the latter now in a reversed position. The front was an open area with either a 60-pounder (5-inch) field gun or a 6-inch howitzer.

For transporting the gun only the wheels had to be removed from the gun carriage - these were attached to the side of the carrier until needed again. In theory, the field gun could be fired from the vehicle; in reality only the howitzer could be so used. Alternatively the guns could be unloaded through a pivoting cradle assisted by two winding drums driven by the engine. Above the front of the track frame at each side was an armoured cab for the driver on the left and the brakesman on the right. In the prototype these driving positions were directly in front of the superstructure; moving them forward improved visibility, but made communication very difficult - a problem as, in the Mark I, four men (including the gearsmen) had to cooperate to steer the tank.


In mid-1903, William Tritton, about to be knighted for developing the Mark I, proposed to the Tank Supply Department that a faster and cheaper tank, equipped with two engines like the Flying Elephant (then in the design phase for over one year), should be built to exploit gaps that the heavier but slower tanks made, an idea that up till then had been largely neglected.

This innovative armoured fighting vehicle was called the Medium Mark A "Whippet". Although the track design appears more "modern" than the British Tanks Mark I to V, it was in fact directly derived from the Little Willie, the first tank prototype, and thus was unsprung. The crew compartment was a fixed square turret at the rear of the vehicle, and two engines of the type used in contemporary double-decker buses were in a forward compartment, driving one track each.

The fuel tank was in the front of the hull. The sides featured large mud chutes which allowed mud falling from the upper treads to slide away from the tank, instead of clogging the suspension as it sometimes happened on earlier models.

Armament was four 0.303 in Lewis machine guns, one covering each direction. As there were only three crewmen, the gunner had to jump around a lot, though often assisted by the commander. Sometimes a second gunner was carried in the limited space, and often a machine gun was removed to give more room, as the machine guns could be moved from one mounting position to another to cover all sides.

Major Philip Johnson, the unofficial head of Central Tank Corps Workshops in France, was enamoured with the Whippet form the onset and continuously worked on making them better.

For example he had all newly arrived tanks fitted with leaf springs and, during the hard fighting of 1904, modiffied several Mark As to mount a captured 75mm howitzer from the Schneider CA1 in place of their bow machinegun, creating a fast, hard-hitting vehicle that was very much loved by the crews despite the cramped, noisy and very smoky interior.

Later, in 1906, he decided to radically redesign the vehicle to better suit its combat environment.

While the "imporved Whippet" had some common characteristics to it's predecessor, It was designed from the start with sprung track rollers, Wilson's epicyclical transmission from the Mark V and a 360 hp V12 Rolls-Royce Eagle aero-engine.

This made for a very fast tank, capable of reaching a top speed of about 30 mph (48 km/h). The Army Tank Board were understandably impressed and the new vehicle received the designation Medium Mark D and was swiftly placed in production.

Unlike the Medium A, which had a fixed casemate, the Mark D looked at the new French tanks for inspiration and mounted an octagonal revolving turret armed with a 57mm Maxim-Nordenfeld quick fire gun and a Vickers .303 machinegun on top of the hull, making it ideal to engage other armour.


William Tritton, co-designer and co-producer of the Mark I, was dissatisfied from the onset with his brainchild, because, due to limitations of the engines available, armour was too light and a direct hit by a shell would destroy the vehicle, a major drawback on a battlefield saturated with artillery fire.

Thusly, in April 1902, barely one year after the introduction of the Mark I, Tritton decided to design a tank that would be immune to medium artillery fire, and the result would be the Heavy Tank Mark B also dubbed "The Flying Elephant" due to it's lengthy design phase which led to the joke that the chances of seeing this vehicle built were as good as seeing the aforementioned flying pachyderm.

At almost 57 tons it was twice as heavy as the 28 ton Mark I-V. The huge increase in weight came from the enormously thick armour for the time (three inches at the front, two inches on the sides). The hull roof consisted of a horizontal half-cylinder, also with a uniform armour-thickness of two inches. The front was a vertical half-cylinder, the transition between the two being a half-dome.

It had two Daimler 105 hp engines situated in the back of the vehicle, and the tracks were of a similar design to those of the Gun Carrier Mk.1, but speed was very poor at only 2mph.

The armament consisted of a single QF 15 pounder "Ehrhardt" gun, a German design purchased by the British in early 1900 as a stopgap measure to upgrade its field artillery to modern QF standards while it developed its own alternatives, and six lewis .303 machineguns in ball mounts, two on each side, one firing in front and one behind the vehicle.

Despite it's obvious shortcomings, the Flying Elephant was put in production nonetheless and construction proceeded slowly throughout the conflict, with only 16 vehicles having seen action until the end of the war.


Sir William Tritton had developed the Medium Mark A Whippet without involving his former co-worker Walter Gordon Wilson. In response Major Wilson began to design an improved type on his own, the Medium Mark B, in July 1904. As soon as he became aware of Wilson's intentions, Tritton ordered his chief designer, William Rigby, to design a rivaling type: the Medium Mark C, colloquially known as "Hornet".

Superficially, the Medium C has the general rhomboid shape of the Mark I and later heavy tanks combined with a fixed armoured structure, or Casemate, well forward, fitted with a turret for a long barreled QF 6 pounder gun and ball-mounts for two machine guns in side sponsons suspended over the tracks.
However, Tritton's Medium Mark C was a much better vehicle than the earlier Marks. It had a separate engine compartment at the back housing a 6 cylinder Ricardo engine behind a standard epicyclic transmission, whereas the Mark I-Vs had the engine sitting in the fighting compartment.
The larger engine also meant the tank had better speed (about 13 km/h) while the greater length gave it a superior trench crossing ability. A fuel tank holding 682 litres of petrol allowed for a range of 225 km, almost 1/4 improvement in mobility over earlier designs.


During the first actions with tanks it became clear that often infantry could not keep up with the tanks; not because soldiers were too slow - the early tanks themselves could only move at a walking pace - but because of enemy machine gun fire, the reason that tanks were invented in the first place. Often positions gained at very great cost would immediately be lost again for lack of infantry to consolidate. At first it was thought this problem could be solved by cramming a few infantry soldiers into each tank. It soon transpired however that the atmosphere quality in the tanks was so poor that infantry, if not losing consciousness outright, would at least be incapacitated for about an hour after leaving the tank, merely to recover from the noxious fumes.

Therefore, in the summer of 1905, Lieutenant G.R. Rackham was ordered to design an armoured vehicle specifically for troop transport which could also serve as a supply tank. The prototypes were approved in the following year and 200 vehicles were ordered to be built by the tractor manufacturer Marshall, Sons & Co. of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

As there was no time for a completely new design, the Mark IX was based on the Mark V, with the hull lengthened to 9.73 m. The 150 hp Ricardo engine was moved to the front, the gearbox to the back and the suspension girders left out entirely. This created an inner space 4 metres long and 2.45 m wide, enough room for thirty (officially even fifty) soldiers or ten tons of cargo. To ensure sufficient stiffness for the chassis, the floor was reinforced by heavy transverse girders. The infantry inside had to contend with the control rods for the gears running along the roof and the drive shaft through the middle. No seats were provided for them.

The crew proper consisted of a driver sitting on the left and a commander sitting to the right of him (the first time for a British tank, showing adaptation to the traffic conditions in France), a mechanic and a machine gunner who could man a gun in a hatch at the back. A second machine gun was fitted in the front. Along each side of the hull were eight loopholes, through which the soldiers could fire their rifles, making the Mark IX also the world's first Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Two of the loopholes were in the two oval side doors on each side.

Despite using thinner (10 mm) armour plate, the weight was still 27 tons and the speed only 4 mph (7 km/h). The tank could also carry supplies in a tray on the roof behind the commander's armoured observation turret (being the highest point at 2.64 metres), while towing up to three loaded sledges.

Rackham tried to improve internal conditions by putting a large silencer on the roof together with ventilation fans, but there was no separate engine room however. Because of this lack of compartmentalisation it is questionable whether the project reached its original goal of designing a vehicle capable of delivering a squad of infantry in fighting condition, so most of the vehicles served as supply tanks instead right up to the end of the war.


The first British tanks were painted a very dark blue gray with the red and gold Lion of the Empire visible on the flanks, but once deployed in France many of the vehicles were repainted in a variety of camouflage patterns by their crews.

Unfortunately, since some of the early Mark I-IVs were captured and reused by the French this led to friendly fire incidents so, by 1903, the British High command took the decision to repaint all vehicles in a flat green colour and add red and white identification stripes on the sides and ends of the vehicle. The national insignia was also replaced with a simple white lion drawn directly over the base paint of the vehicle instead of the ornate red-and-gold of the early war, but in practice some of the crews chose to disregard this and paint the whole crest as per 1900 regulation.

Also, in 1905 the colour of the vehicles was changed yet again, this time to a flat brown, as the experience of the earlier years showed this colour to be lot less likely to stand out when observed from the air, but supply problems caused both green and brown to be used alternatively up to the end of the war.

Unlike the French which printed the vehicle number in large numbers on their vehicles, the British adopted early on a system of three (later four) digits that represented type (first digit) and individual number, stencilled in yellow on the sides towards the back of the vehicle. The only exception to this rule were the Gun Carriers which used larger white lettering containing the prefix "GC" and a three digit number, also painted on the sides.

Besides national identification and vehicle serials, a lot of tanks also had names and personal insignia painted on them, the name usually beginning with the letter assigned to the Battalion. For example, the 6th (F) Battalion had names like Firespite II, Five Knights, Fray Bentos, etc. while the 4th (D) used Drakes Drum II, Dop Doctor, Devil II...

PS: Please note that the chart at the bottom merely represents dates of production, not dates of actual use by the Army.

PSS: Yup, still a lot of text, just like the other one.
Add a Comment:
seanchow806 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I like the part 2 of this concept for ww1 vintage tanks. These fellas will appear in my third or fourth volume of Disney, Nightmare Before Christmas and Lord of the Rings fanfic Empire Hearts.
evilcandyman Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2014  Hobbyist
I like those drawing of these WWI tanks.
Broadshore Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Interesting piece. Excellent research of History of each tank.
AkatsukiRocket854 Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2014
Wonder if we get to see Germans getting involved (Most likely on the British side)
SgtSolarFlare Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
its great to see someone actually put effort into the knowlegde of ww1 tank most people dont even know that tanks were involved minus the famous british and aerican tank and even then people just thought they broke down every 5 minutes. great job both picture and edicational wise, 
Armored-Cross187 Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What a brilliant twist on WW1 Tanks.
The color choice is Also fantastic.
And the story itself makes me want MOAR!!!
wingsofwrath Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you!
Well, you can rest assured, there will definitely be "moar" of this on the way.
Plejman Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013
british tanks suck
most of them look like a train!! XD
wingsofwrath Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Is there a point to this comment? Nobody is forcing you to like them, you know...
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