The case was taken back to Fosters, suitably engraved and put on display in the factory. A photograph of it appears in their 1920 book ‘The Tank-Its Birth and Development’
On 3 December 1915 the first trials of Mother took place in Lincoln and, according to Stern, were “very successful”.
One of the tests that had been ordered by d’Eyncourt was the firing of the 6 pounder gun to see what effect it would have on the crew and the sponson. When Maj Hetherington attempted to fire the gun it misfired. The gun was elevated so that the cause of the misfire could be investigated when it went off, sending the shell in the direction of the Cathedral which was only about a mile away.
After two hours of searching however the shell was found, safely buried in a field. The conclusion reached by all was that a bigger test facility would be needed.
Picture courtesy of Richard Pullen
In parallel to the development of the No 1 Lincoln Machine and Little Willie, Wilson had created a wooden mock-up of a larger, alternative design, roughly based on a rhomboid shape and with the tracks running around the complete outside of the vehicle.
It was first shown to the likes of D’Eyncourt, Hetherington and Swinton earlier in the month in Lincoln and then, on 29 September 1915, it was shown to a wider audience at the Trench Warfare Department’s experimental ground in Wembley Park. It was known as the Wilson machine and also as the Centipede.
The following day instructions were issued for Wilson and his team to produce a working prototype of the new design while at the same time continuing with their work on Little Willie
Tritton and his colleague Wilson oversaw the building of what came to be known as the Number One Lincoln Machine.
Construction started on 11 August 1915 in a corner of the factory in Lincoln. The machine was little more than a boiler plate box body fitted with a dummy turret. The wheels were to both help with steering and to make the somewhat top-heavy machine more stable.
Number One Lincoln Machine
The machine moved for the first time, inside the factory, on 8 September 1915 ** and it started trials on the South Common, next to Cross O’Cliff Hill in Lincoln, on 10 September 1915. These trials were not successful because the tracks weren’t up to the job; they were fine for steady use on level ground but on anything more severe they had a tendency to sag and fall off the rollers.
Despite his continuing reservations about tracked vehicles, Tritton was determined to improve the design and he and Wilson spent many late nights in their office in the White Hart Hotel working on a solution.
The South Common (Courtesy of Richard Pullen)
The Last Standing Remnant of William Fosters Factory (Courtesy of Richard Pullen)
**B Liddell Hart, The History of the Royal Tank Regiment, p44.