When the Germans realised what a threat tanks could be, they made their trenches wider to trap them; one answer to this was to build longer tanks, and the Mark V was stretched by six feet to create the Mark V*. As an interim solution this was adequate but a further improved version, the Mark V** was designed for 1919.
The Mark V
The Allies were the first to built tanks, and so the Germans had to come up with methods to stop them. At first they widened their trenches, so that the tanks that rolled into them would become trapped. The Allied answer to this was to build a longer tank, one that could drive through a wide trench. Thus, the Mark V was born.
The Mark V tank was designed in the United Kingdom by Major Walter Gordon Wilson and was produced by the British manufacturer Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon. It was intended to be an entirely new kind of tank. The first arrived in France in May 1918. They were ‘male’ and ‘female’. Males had 6-pounder (57 mm) guns and machine guns, and the females only had machine guns. Some were both male and female, having both male and female weapons. The tank was 26 ft 5 in (8.5 m) long and weighed about 29 tons. It had a crew of 8 – a commander, driver, and six gunners. 400 were built, of which 11 survive.
A more advanced version of the Mark V was intended for 1919, but by November 1918 the war was over.
The Mark V first saw action at the Battle of Hamel in northern France on July 1918. 60 Mark Vs supported an attack of Australian troops on the Germans. The attack was successful. Following this victory, American troops began to use the Mark V. The 301st American Heavy Tank Battalion fought in the Western Front in late 1918.