Little Willie Tank

The British Little Willie was a prototype, which initiated the development of tanks and is considered the cornerstone for the well-known British Mark tanks.


Development and use:

When the Western Front froze in late 1914, early 1915 and the movement war became a positional war, decided the newly formed British Landships Committee headed by Winston Churchill, that an armored vehicle must be developed to break through the German positions.

It was used on agricultural machines, as they had a chain drive and could drive on difficult terrain. One of the first prototypes was the Killen-Strait Tractor, which did not meet the requirements. Then on July 29, 1915 Sir William Tritton, director of the agricultural machinery factory William Foster & Co. Ltd. commissioned to build a corresponding vehicle. Tritton drew on an already existing concept of the chief developer William Rigby, but extended this chain by using seven instead of the previous four wheels. The chassis used was one of the Bullock Creeping Grip Tractor Company from the USA. The suspension was adjusted accordingly.

In order to facilitate the control two trailing wheels were mounted, which served at a slight curve to control and did not have to run over the brake as usual. On September 9, 1915, the prototype was tested under the name Number 1 Lincoln Machine the first time.

After the first test, the weakness in the flat chains, which pushed too much ground when turning the vehicle and thus blocked itself. After repairing, it was noticeable that when crossing a trench, the chain links hung too low and jammed. The use of cast chain links with integrated center guide teeth finally solved this problem.

The engine was a 105-hp Daimler engine installed in the rear, the fuel supply via the tanks lying above him by gravity worked. In the front area sat two drivers, one operated the steering wheel, the clutch, the front transmission and the throttle, the other the brakes. In the rear area also sat two operators of the transmission. In between, the two operators of the weaponry were housed.

The armament was a heavy Vickers 2-pounder cannon and six Madsen machine guns. The machine guns should be housed in a non-swiveling tower. For the armor 10mm thick steam boiler plates were considered, only in the later tanks armor steel was used.

After further testing both Tritton and his advisor Lieutenant Walter Gordon Wilson decide that the vehicle is not sufficient. On September 17, 1915, the project was put back and worked on the work on a successor model, which led to the Mark I tank. Although it was still working on the Little Willie in the meantime, after the Mark I tanker proved to be suitable for the front, the project was completely discontinued.

The prototype survived World War I and was saved from scraping in World War II in 1940, when Britain urgently needed raw materials for the war economy. The vehicle is now in the Bovington Tank Museum, where the interior has already been expanded.

The nickname Little Willie came from the British press, who dubbed the Number 1 Lincoln Machine prototype so in reference to the German Crown Prince Wilhelm.


First prototype Number 1 Lincoln Machine


Little Willie early design


Little Willie final design



Technical specifications:

Designation: Number 1 Lincoln Machine
(Little Willie)
Country: Great Britain
Length: 5,45 meters
Width: 2,8 meters
Height: 2,41 meters
Mass: 18,29 tons
Maximum speed: 3,4 km/h
Armor: 10mm
Main armament: 1 x Vickers 2-pounder cannon
Other weapons: 4 x Madsen machine guns
Drive: Foster-Daimler 6-cylinder water-cooled gasoline in-line engine with 105 hp
Reach: unknown
Crew: 6 man



Number 1 Lincoln Machine


Little Willie final design


Little Willie at the Bovington Tank Museum






You can find the right literature here:


British Armoured Car Operations in World War I

British Armoured Car Operations in World War I Hardcover – October 12, 2016

Readers have come to expect a level of detail and critical rigor from the established military historian and author Bryan Perrett. They will not be disappointed at all here by this new publication. Focussing predominantly on the British armored car units of World War One, it also untangles many fascinating strands forming the history of modern warfare. Full of detail, it acquaints the reader with the complete history of the armored car, from invention onwards, setting the history of its Great War service career firmly in context. Well written in an accessible style, this publication serves as an impressive tribute to the armored car, one of the most effective weapons utilized by the allies during the course of the Great War.

Click here!



British Battle Tanks: World War I to 1939 (General Military)

British Battle Tanks: World War I to 1939 (General Military) Hardcover – August 23, 2016

When British soldiers charged across the Somme in September 1916, they were accompanied by a new, revolutionary weapon--the tank. After a stuttering start, armored behemoths such as the Mark IV, Mark V, and Whippet Tank played a crucial role in bringing World War I to an end.

Marking the centenary of their battlefield debut, this comprehensive volume traces the design and development of the famous British weapon system, from the initial concept of a steam-powered tank during the Crimean War, to the role the British military played in creating the infamous German Blitzkrieg tactic of World War II. Bolstered by historic photographs and stunning illustrations, author David Fletcher brings us the thrilling history behind British tanks of the First World War.

Click here!



The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (New Vanguard)

The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (New Vanguard) Paperback – April 17, 2012

The first Rolls-Royce armoured car was a privately owned vehicle fitted with a machine-gun and a limited amount of armour plate at a dockyard in France. It was used by a squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service in Flanders in 1914. Backed by First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill more and better versions followed until, by 1915 there were about 100 of them which were then handed over to the Army. "They searched the world for War" as Sir Albert Stern said of them and before long there were Rolls-Royce armoured cars operating as far apart as German South West Africa, the Western Desert, Gallipoli, all over the Middle East and the north west frontier of India.

All of them used the classic 40/50hp Silver Ghost chassis. They were fast, silent and reliable but above all strong. "A Rolls in the desert is above rubies" said Lawrence of Arabia and the Duke of Westminster would have agreed with him following his famous raid to rescue the kidnapped crew of the steamship HMS Tara. At least one car accompanied the adventurous MP Oliver Locker-Lampson on his adventures in Russia.

After the war, unable to find a better model the War Office simply copied the original Admiralty design with minor improvements. If that was not enough the Royal Air Force also acquired some to support their operations in the Middle East. A new design with a larger body and dome shaped turret also appeared for service in India. They also served in Ireland and even, briefly in Shanghai.

The 11th Hussars still had Rolls-Royces in Egypt when the war against Italy began and the youngest of these was over fifteen years old when they went into action, but after that their numbers dwindled as newer vehicles came along. But then history repeated itself. Britain was threatened with invasion and a new army of veterans was raised to assist with defence. Some battalions built home made armoured cars, on private chassis and at least three of these were based on Rolls-Royces.

Click here!



Armoured Warfare in the First World War (Images Of War)

Armoured Warfare in the First World War (Images Of War) Paperback – March 17, 2017

A hundred years ago, on 15 September 1916, on the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme, the tank made its debut on the battlefield. The first tanks were crude, unreliable, vulnerable weapons, but they changed the character of land warfare forever, and Anthony Tucker-Jones's photographic history of these pioneering armored vehicles is the ideal introduction to them.

In a selection of over 150 archive photographs he offers a fascinating insight into the difficult early days of this innovative new weapon, describing its technical history and its performance in combat. While the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 is often held up as the first large-scale tank battle, tanks had already served at Flers-Courcelette on the Somme, during the Nivelle offensive and the battles of Messines and Passchendaele.

His book shows that the development of the tank was fraught with technical obstacles and battlefield setbacks. It was invented by the British and the French at almost the same time to help break the deadlock of trench warfare, and the British deployed it first in 1916. Belatedly the Germans followed the British and French example. The initial designs were continuously refined during two years of intense warfare. Finding the right balance between power and weight, getting the armament right, and working out the best tactics for tanks on the battlefield was a tricky, often deadly business.

Click here!






This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Français (French) Italiano (Italian) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish) العربية (Arabic)

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!