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First tanks used on battlefield in France
The first official photograph taken of a Tank going into action, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15th September 1916 Photo: Imperial War Museum

First tanks used on battlefield in France

The Somme, 16 September 1916 - The British Army this week used tanks for the first time in battle in an attempt to break the stalemate in the Battle of the Somme.

In a communiqué to London, Sir Douglas Haig noted that they had used ‘a new type of armoured car, which has proved of considerable utility’.

The arrival of the tank – described as an ‘armoured monster' against which 'bullets fell from its sides harmlessly' – is intended to give a boost to the British forces in France as the slaughter of the Battle of the Somme continues. They are an extraordinary sight on the battlefield and appear to be particularly useful in resisting German machine guns.

Soldiers have referred to the tank as more a ‘moving fort’ than a mere armoured car. It is slow-moving and unwieldy but its heavy armour has significantly disrupted German defence where it has been deployed.

L-R: An experimental tank in January 1916, and Chimpanzee Valley on 15 September 1916, the day tanks first went into action. (Images: Imperial War Museum)

As well as their practical use, they are seen also to be huge morale booster for troops who have witnessed German soldiers empty their guns on them, without avail.

According to government ministers, it was Winston Churchill who advocated for the development of the tank when other parties were entirely skeptical that they would be useful.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.