Where are my Tanks?

April 1916 was a good month for tanks.  On the 3rd of the month the initial order for 100 vehicles was increased to 150.  The original plan was for 50 to be armed with the 6 pounder gun (male tanks) and 100 would be equipped with machine guns (female tanks) but a week later the order was amended to 75 of each variant.

GHQ in France was already getting excited about the prospect of tanks arriving in theatre.  On the 26th Colonel Swinton wrote to GHQ to outline what would today be called the fielding plan.

“About delivery, I know how anxious the Commander-in-Chief and you are to get some machines at an early date, and all of us here are equally anxious to expedite things in every way possible.

When I saw Sir Douglas Haig on Friday the 14th, the idea was if possible to have some machines over in advance by the middle of June (not the 1st).  I said that I feared it was not possible, but I deferred giving a final answer until I saw Stern, who had the manufacturers’ progress charts.

On Monday the 17th, when you saw Stern and me together we said that to get any machines over by the middle of June would not be possible, but that we were doing all we could to shove on with the production.

In regard to this matter, upon which so much depends, it is best to be categorical as to what we expect can or cannot be done, and so to avoid disappointment and the reversal of plans.

By 1st June: No machines will be ready and no crews.

By 1st July: Some practically finished machines will have been delivered at home which will be in a fit state to move and so to instruct men to drive, but owing to their design they will not be fit to take to the field, even if they are manned by machine-guns and armed with MG supplied in France.  In this regard I shall be able to give you more definitive information in four weeks’ time.

By 1st August: The Supply Committee informs me that all the machines will be ready and some will have been shipped to France – strikes and acts of God excepted.

The number of crews that will be trained will depend on the rate at which the machines are received during July, but I anticipate that crews for seventy five tanks will be fully trained in any case.”