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A Peripheral Weapon?: The Production and Employment of British Tanks in the First World War

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The tank was arguably the most important technological innovation that developed during World War I; however, without the support of the British Army and the allocation of important wartime resources, it would have remained merely a peripheral weapon. For far too long, the depiction of the British War Office and GHQ, France, as anti-technological and cavalry-oriented has persisted. While some historians have recently challenged this view, much of the traditional versus progressive school of thought, in regard to the production and employment of the tank, still survives. By posing the question: was the tank a peripheral weapon? this work reveals the vital role of the War Office in the production and employment of this stunning new weapon.

The War Office was behind the creation of the original Tank Committee, the New or Advisory Tank Committee, the Tank Directorate and the Tank Board. It was these bodies, particularly the Tank Board, established in 1918, that facilitated the crucially important liaison between the users of tanks in France and the producers at the Ministry of Munitions. Without War Office involvement in this way, without its continued orders for more and better tanks, and without the consistently high priority status accorded to tank production by General Haig, it is inconceivable that the tank would have reached the level of technical sophistication, and therefore usefulness, that it had by late 1918.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Historians will welcome this thought provoking contribution which will spark argument as well as renewed interest. Recommended.


The Journal of Military History

The book is a fresh look at an old subject, but one that will be of considerable interest both to those interested in the history of armored warfare and those interested in new scholarship on the First World War.


The NYMAS Newsletter

This study offers many insights into areas which may have been neglected in purely technical or development and studies of the tank in action. While its approach is scholarly, original firsthand accounts are used throughout to help make this a readable account.


RTR Journal TANK

Childs offers the development of the British tank as perhaps the first modern example of introducing a new weapons system during a war, noting that rather than the years taken to study and perfect weapons during the luxury of peacetime, the tanks went from prototype to Mk I in three months. He particularly focuses on whether tanks received wide support from both civil and military bodies, whether significant resources were allocated to permit mass production, and whether enough consideration was given to creating a coherent doctrine of tactical employment. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

Meet the Author

DAVID J. CHILDS is currently teaching at Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I Organization and Production 9
1 The Mechanical Warfare Department 11
2 Production and Continuity 31
3 Production and Manpower 53
4 Production and Steel 75
Pt. II Obstacles to Employment 91
5 Tanks Behind the Lines in France: Spare Parts, Salvage, and Transport 93
6 The Fighting Arm 123
Pt. III Employment 139
7 The Search for a Tactical Doctrine of Employment 141
8 The Last One Hundred Days 171
Conclusion 191
Selected Bibliography 197
Index 205
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