Beasts of Steel – The First Tanks On The Battlefield I THE GREAT WAR Week 112


We’ve seen many deadly technological advances so far during the war, in the form of new weapons: the flamethrower, incendiary bullets, poison gas; but perhaps none would have a stronger impression on the world of the future than one which appeared in battle for the first time this week: the tank! I’m Indy Neidell; Welcome to the Great War. Last week saw a combined British and French assault on German positions at the Somme. The Germans called off all offensive maneuvers at Verdun, but Bulgarian and Turkish troops under German command invaded Romania, who had just joined the war. And a zeppelin was shot down over Hertfordshire. That zeppelin was the first victim of the new incendiary bullets and I’ll begin this week with another new piece of technology: the tank. They were premiered September 15th at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The idea for the tank originated with the need for some kind of armored vehicle that could cross no man’s land, break through barbed wire and assault German strongpoints. Already in December 1914, Ernest Swinton of the Royal Engineers had floated the idea of such a vehicle. Actually, even in 1903 H.G Wells had dreamed of such a vehicle in his short story: The Land Ironclads. And caterpillar tracks were used in agriculture by 1905. The tank prototype “Little WIllie” came out in late 1915 and then in January 1916, a larger one with guns called “Mother” came out. The tanks used today were the Mark I model, which was based on the Holt tractor. There were two variants: the male model with two six-pound guns and four machine guns, and the female, which had six machine guns. But integrating tanks into existing tactics posed problems. Should they be concentrated together or spaced out? Should they advance ahead of, with or behind the infantry? British high command decided to spread them out and send them ahead of the men. And they would advance with a creeping barrage of artillery. Then they would flatten the German barbed wire and their guns would support the British infantry. 49 tanks were to be part of the attack. Some were hit by German artillery. Some broke down. Some failed to advance. And in fact, nearly all of the 36 tanks that actually crossed the starting line stopped working for one reason or another. So they were really unreliable. But they did advance several kilometres, finally capturing High Wood as well as Flers, Martinpuich and Courcelette. And certainly terrified the German infantry. But really, for the Germans that day it was actually the creeping barrage tactics that had the biggest impact, not the tanks. There was also just about zero communication between the tanks and the infantry and sometimes, the infantry sped on ahead of them because the creeping barrage was safer than plotting along by the tank. Still, they gave an inkling of what was to come. And for the assault, the German lines had been breached to the point that they were in deep trouble, even though the British had not really broken through. After this though, Winston Churchill, who had enthusiastically backed the development of the tank, wrote to admiral Jacky Fisher: “My poor land battleships have been let off prematurely and on a petty scale. In that idea resided one real victory.” But British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, was impressed enough to ask the War Office for 1,000 more. There was some other important action at the Somme this week. Back on the 9th was the Battle of Ginchy. The 16th Irish Division was given the job of finally taking the village. They attacked from the south, which was new and had a piece of luck. The two German divisions brought into the sector failed to establish communications with each other, so the defenders were unsupported. When the Irish attacked, within two hours the ruins of Ginchy were in the hands of the 4th Army. Just so you know, when the Battle of the Somme began on July 1st, that day the British took around 60,000 casualties to take 3 square miles. Between July 15th and September 12th, it was around 120,000 casualties for about 6 miles. So in terms of casualties per ground gained, the rate had not changed. It just doesn’t have such a dramatic impact because it wasn’t all in one day. But the Germans had lost a bit of land. And German Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg ordered September 15th: “The main task of the Armies is now to hold fast on all positions on the Western, Eastern, Italian, and Macedonian Fronts, and to employ all other available forces against Romania.” And at home in Germany, the Hindenburg Programme was underway to remobilize the German Army. Recruiting German labor and forcibly deporting 700,000 Belgian workers to Germany. Cardinal John Farley, the archbishop of New York, declared: “You have to go back to the times of the Medes and the Persians to find a like example of a whole people carried into bondage.” President Woodrow Wilson protested this through ambassador to Berlin, James Gerard, and told him to raise the issue with German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. Gerard said: “There are Belgians employed in making shells, contrary to the rules of war and the Hague Conventions.” “I don’t believe it”, was the reply. Gerard said: “My automobile is at the door, I can take you in four minutes to where 30 Belgians are working on the manufacture of shells.” The chancellor declined this invitation. There was new action to the south this week as the Italian Front was once again active. Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna, launched the Seventh Battle of the Isonzo River on September 14th. After the Sixth Battle a few weeks ago, which had taken Gorizia from the Austro-Hungarian defenders, he brought in thousands of fresh recruits and tons of supplies. He wanted to strike the Austrians on the Carso before they recovered from that battle. But guess what? They already had, and had beefed up their defenses a lot and by early September had four defensive lines. Two more than the Italians knew about. On the 10th, the Italians began their artillery barrage. Though for the three days, they fired blindly into the fog and didn’t do much damage. When the fog cleared on the 13th, however, and with some aerial observation, they destroyed much of the Austrian front lines, blew holes in the barbed wire and wrecked their communications. But the Austrians had left only a token force of men in the front lines and their losses were very small. Then, the Italian infantry attacked. The duke of Aosta had 100,000 men and they attacked the Austrians on a 14-kilometer front, which was a huge density of men. The Italians emerged from the smoke and dust in compact blocks of men and made targets pretty much as tempting and easy as the British did at the Battle of the Somme on July 1st. The Austrian gunners had been waiting for this moment and as the Italians came on, wave after wave, shoulder to shoulder…they just mowed them down. One Austrian officer said it looked like an attempt at mass suicide. And when the Italians reached the deserted Austrian line, they were met with flamethrowers, tear gas and machine gun fire from beyond. The attacks continued for the remainder of the week. And Austrian casualties pretty much matched Italian after the first day. The 15th saw ferocious Italian artillery barrage but there was still no breakthrough and heavy casualties on both sides. And one event, which produced no casualties at all, happened in Kavala in neutral Greece. On the 12th, the 4th Greek Army Corps, 25,000 men, deserted to the Germans and were sent to Germany as “guests”. This, as you may guess, provoked a public outcry in Greece. Two day later, Kavala was occupied by the Bulgarians. And on the front, the Salonika Front, French general Maurice Sarrail began a new offensive on the 12th with a Five Nation Army. Serbian, Russian, Italian, French, and British. The next day, the Serbs advanced towards Florina and Monastir. And we reach the end on another week of war. New offensives in the Balkans and on the Italian Front. The Germans deciding to only launch offensives in Romania for the time being, and forcing hundreds of thousands of foreigners to build their weapons. The Irish on top at the Somme and the debut of the tank. The tank. I know a lot of you had been waiting for this week’s episode because of that. So there you are. One of the greatest and most advanced machines of destruction is now a battlefield reality. And they will continue rolling machine guns blazing away. And the French will use them, and the Germans will use them. And then after the war, they’ll be improved and improved and in all of the devastating conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries thereafter, they will be there. The symbol of military destruction, the symbol of awe-inspiring devastation, the symbol of modern war. If you wanna find out more about the development and history of the tank, you should check out our special episode about them right here.

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100 thoughts on “Beasts of Steel – The First Tanks On The Battlefield I THE GREAT WAR Week 112”

  1. Vay Kek says:

    I finally caught up, now to watch all the Specials.

  2. Pleppfisch says:

    Great video, I just discovered this channel a few hours ago and I'm really enjoying watching your videos!
    So now that you have made a video about tanks you could make a video about anti tank weapons for the germans, because as we all know they didn't had like much tanks they could sent out to the battlefield so they invented guns like the T-Gewehr. Would be very cool to see a video about that 🙂

  3. raider762 says:

    Tank you very much.

  4. berhorst59 says:

    I guess the first tank was the Trojan Horse

  5. DutchAndGamer says:

    if im correct, the word Tank comes from the british not wanting the germans to know they had armored transport

  6. iraq first says:

    Keep on
    Great job

  7. S.H.T mk says:

    What a birthday feast filled with the blood of me anyway holiday merry me I tanks

  8. Nicolas de Fribourg says:

    ah TY Indy

  9. macsporan says:

    At last, a gleam of Dawn's early light in the long night of trench warfare, a false dawn sadly as having taken two years to invent tanks it will now take the Allied powers another two years to learn how to use them.

    Still progress is progress, and well done Winston Churchill, Col Swinton, and all the others who made this possible: but it is going to be heartbreaking to watch the World War I generals apply their own unique brand of incompetence to this new and wonderful thing.

    The truly remarkable thing about all this is that the population of the world was only one seventh of what it is now and yet human life is valued so much more by just about everyone.

    And that's an even better sort of progress.

  10. scrooge1374 says:

    You getting adds from Tommy Hilfiger now! Good for you guys keep it up!

  11. Anime Adaptations says:

    When/were tanks used on the eastern front?

  12. Combat_Quokka says:

    ps the auss stol the av7 😛

  13. Donald Hill says:

    an irony in the development of the Tank is that once Armies knew how to use them they could arguably be credited with reducing causalities simply by making trench warfare impossible.

  14. Hyr Zuhows says:

    Interesting fact and funny story: The first prototype of an armored and armed vehicle with a 360 degree turret was presented in 1906 in Vienna: The "Austro-Daimler Panzerwagen". It was proposed in 1903 by Leopold Salvator, a General of the austro-hungarian army, and developed by Paul Daimler. However: When the vehicle was tested at military exercises under supervision of emperor Franz-Joseph, the loud startup noise of the engine caused the horse of a General to balk. This prompted Franz-Joseph to reject the "Panzerwagen" as being impractical for the military.

  15. tremor3258 says:

    First tanks are such a comic secret weapon – clear flaws, not quite used as effectively in hindsight – seemingly terrifying and invincible for their first appearance, easier to handle in the future.

  16. lek1223 says:

    Will you be doing a special episode on Rasputin and his stance on the war?

  17. CemtecUk says:

    Great vid as always 🙂 I found a small channel today called Oak Leaves & Iron, he mostly does ww2 stuff and he's very new but I'm loving his content so far.

  18. siebe vanhoutte says:

    Germany lost Taborra to the Belgians this week

  19. rdjhardy says:

    Fact: Mother was a male tank.

  20. Adrian A says:

    And so they concentrate all offensive force in Romania… I see.

  21. kroolandwart says:

    Will you take a look at prototype/proposed tank designs of the war? like the Tsar tank, or the K-wagen?

  22. GameZone Now says:

    wouldn't be awsome if this eventually be on DVD , would surely buy it , make it happen

  23. Huber Sepp says:

    hey great work as always from you guys i follow you since the early year of 2015. I am in a Historical k.u.k. cavalary Regiment. Would you maybe feature our historical counterpart if i provide you the research? Or maybe just a bit about the gear?

  24. Freddy Mercuri says:

    Come on! You didn't even talk about the battle of Kaymakchalan.

  25. NJS1346 says:

    For "Out of the Trenches". Now that tanks have appeared on the battlefield could you please go into detail on how the armored fighting vehicle got the name "TANK"? I believe your audience will find it very interesting since most people think it is an acronym. Thank you everyone at The Great War for all you do. I continue to tell all the Soldiers I work with about your channel and many have even thanked me for showing them. I look forward to each new episode.

  26. scottski02 says:

    The British used hacks.

  27. I ride around and stuff says:

    Very good work at 01:18 – really enjoyed how you animated that photo.

  28. Faiz 101 says:

    I subscribe after watch this video…good channel guys

  29. Hurr Durr says:

    wow the first tanks rolled out exactly 100 years ago on my birthday

  30. calin vasile says:

    2:49 Those soldiers where made from other material than todays keyboard warriors…

  31. Neil Wilson says:

    This channel is excellent.

  32. Robin Masur says:

    English subitles would be GREAT for deaf people, so please can you do something? 🙂

  33. Onebadterran says:

    Did any nation attempt to counter the tank by building a large tunnel that, when driven over, would collapse and the tank would fall into a pit it could not get out of?

  34. Onebadterran says:

    How did diplomats move between countries at war?

  35. Nimrod Zar says:

    How many of you people came here because of BF1? Im just curious.

  36. the Creative Assembly machinimas says:

    I don't get something… you have waves after waves of Italians charging against mgs and…after the first day Austrian casualties matched Italian ones?

  37. napoleons says:

    Kavala troops were not deserted. The surrendered to Germans because Greece was not officially at war and after Germans assured that were not to surrender to Bulgarians.

  38. Dylan Harrison says:

    tanks were created because of machine guns. Machine guns changed combat forever.

  39. Steve20127 says:

    Keep your hands still!!

  40. Sturmtruppen666 says:

    I was waiting for this day so I could go around saying "The tank was invented today, a hundred years ago"!

  41. PaperMind says:

    Hell even Leonardo Da Vinci had the idea of a tank.

  42. Evan Kennedy says:

    3:31 Stalin?

  43. CCs Welding says:

    hey Indy…TANKS for the information ….i'll let myself out

  44. Dave S. says:

    Can you tell the story of how Tanks got their name?

  45. Tihomir Slavchev says:

    You hear a big mistake for Bulgaria

  46. dugroz says:

    At 9:08, what is inside that tank? It looks like a horse's head.

  47. George Washington says:

    You should get a brass oil lamp to complete the look

  48. Xnerdz says:


  49. Vid T says:


  50. Michael Triola says:

    Is it me, or is Bethmann Holwegg ludicrously tall?

  51. jason todd says:

    why was there no mention of lancelot de mole

  52. Luiz Alex Phoenix says:

    The USA, a country built by slave work, condemning forced labor. Oh, the hypocrisy…

  53. Ed Dacey says:

    4:52 i dont know if it was intentional but you can see a face in the picture behind if you look really closely abode where is says "of the armies is now" you can see to bomb holes for eyes and a man for an ear and a really creepy face reply if you saw it to xD

  54. Nino Schier says:

    What's the name of that machine at 1:19 ?

  55. Mike 1958 says:

    Nice job covering armor. One hasn't lived until you have fired a 105 mm gun or a 152mm gun it is awesome to feel that power. indescribable.

  56. S Ryan says:

    Did they ever use tanks as personnel carriers in WW1? Seems like a few dozen tanks would be a really efficient way to get hundreds of men across no mans land safely.

  57. Diego Lavera says:

    Alright guys, I finally found the 5 nation army but where is the FREAKEN 7 NATION ARMY 😉

  58. Callsign Whiskey17 says:

    Um. Any one else notice the lewis gun in one of the intro pics isnt loaded?

  59. TheWaffle says:

    heheheh "Little Willy"…

  60. Podemos URSS says:

    9:37 That name comes from a Russian spies TV show, it's the fake identity the protagonist (a Soviet spy infiltrated in the German high command during WW2) uses.

  61. Jordan Bond says:

    Hey guys love this show doing so well I'm a history graduate from sterling uni in Scotland. I love history and always wanted my girlfriend and son to get into history your show is something we have both enjoyed together so thank you.

  62. Fabrizio Cimò says:

    I love these videos because it is entertaining like a tv series… but it's true!

  63. Darragh Collins says:

    One of the few times an Irish regiment wasn't used as cannon fodder…

  64. Flllopakk says:

    is it true that the belgian workers at least the major part recieved a proper salary?

  65. Taran Greenwald says:

    For Farley to say that as someone who was an adult when the slaves in the US were freed is pretty astounding

  66. Karl Hiscock says:

    0:29 Indy's like "you know the drill by now"

  67. Tommy Bender says:

    Indy…facts & details…0h yeah..

  68. Edd Grs says:

    It's interesting that we had bombers and fighter planes before we had tanks.

  69. Mad Hatters in jeans says:

    Tank tank tank tank tank

  70. TheForsakenEagle says:

    1:01 "Hold my beer!"

  71. TomheT 000 says:

    Arcbishop John Farley was either oblivious of his country's own history or simply did not consider people of other ethnicities people… we all know the answer though.

  72. Gent Boy says:

    Cool channel!

  73. Thomas Brady says:

    How does Austria still have people left

  74. Cameron McCarty says:

    Right after he said “The tank.” @ 0:17 lightning struck outside my house lol very dramatic

  75. DragonKaiser says:

    What ever happened to Portugal

  76. MarcAFK says:

    We'll get them next time, the 8th battle of the Isonzo will be the last!

  77. Domnul Pământ says:

    1:47 wait did you just assume the gender of those tanks?

  78. snakes3425 says:

    How Germany Captured it's First Tank
    German Soldier: Schnel Hans Schenl ze British are having their tea and crumpets und have left the keys in the ignition

  79. Yamame Even says:

    The new Fighters and plane airforce and the Tanks are the only modern warfare weapons which evolves the fair fight between both sides, all other chemical bombs and nukes and flamethrowers are really bad for humanity itself and aren't really fair on a battlefield. But am I talking about fairness in war? War itself isn't fair in the first place, But humanity haves to be saved and the individual human have to matter…

  80. VYxFrost says:

    start of episode
    Oooh boy, I'm so excited!
    end of episode after tank speech-
    ..I feel like a bad person, now ;~;

  81. Rob Sin says:

    The futility of WAR😪😪😪😪

  82. seneca983 says:

    Incidentally, "kavala" would mean "perfidious" in Finnish. I just found it a funny coincidence that major desertion happened in a place called Kavala.

  83. bossel says:

    There were only 61,000 Belgian forced labourers in Germany & only from October 1916 to February 1917, additionally there were some 60,000 forced labourers (French & Belgian) till the end of the war behind the front lines in Belgium & France. See e.g.: Jens Thiel: "Menschenbassin Belgien". Anwerbung, Deportation und Zwangsarbeit im Ersten Weltkrieg. Klartext Verlag, Essen 2007

  84. Robofish says:

    I don't understand the casualties number for the 7th Isonzo battle. At one point it is stated that the Austrian frontal defence lines held only a token force and that the Italians were attempting "mass suicide" but later, the casualties numbers are the same.

  85. Amy Davison says:

    So cool

  86. Arsene Who? says:

    What a fantastic invention….and like most other fantastic inventions…it was British.
    Clever old us, eh????
    It scared the life out of the Germans who thought the tank was absolutely terrifying and some kind of devil machine.

  87. Arsene Who? says:

    Little Willie didn't perform well…..
    BIG Willie did…. Where have I heard that before??? Ha Ha ha Ha..

  88. Arsene Who? says:

    Italian military failure….that's unusual, I'd never have guessed that.

  89. coolMguy says:

    :51 “victim”
    Deserving target

  90. Samar Vora says:

    H. G. Wells thought up the tank when the machine gun was being put to use. DaVinci did it when muskets were unreliable.

  91. Narmatonia says:

    Little Willy and Mother? The Freud is strong with these tanks

  92. Essex 37 says:

    anybody hereafter The Future Of Warfare?

  93. Shinku Kirito Ichika says:

    Standing in the line of fire
    32 will lead the way
    Coming over trench and wire
    Going through the endless grey
    Standing in the line of fire
    Moving on through the fray
    Coming over trench and wire
    Live to fight another day

  94. Randy Warren says:

    If I remember correctly,Da Vinci sketched a version of the tank in the 1500's!

  95. Rob Nelson says:

    Standing in the line of fire.
    32 will lead the way
    Coming over trench and wire
    Going through endless grey.

  96. Moonatik says:


  97. Rifleman Moore says:

    "The Devil is coming!"

  98. Abdelrahman Wael says:

    Its funny cause the persians actually banned slavery

  99. Elefterios Skouras says:

    can you guys plz explain the Kavala incident in greater detail?

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