How Much Do You Know About the Tanks of WWI?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: The Great War

About This Quiz

In 1914, a Serbian political fanatic assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The killing ignited a firestorm that gathered into World War I, which quickly devolved into industrialized murder. Can you survive no man’s land in our tanks of World War I quiz?

Wielding high-tech killing contraptions, like long-range artillery and machine guns, the Great War’s leaders too often relied on outdated battlefield tactics. Soon, they started digging trenches to protect their troops, and a deadly stalemate descended. They required new technologies to defeat the trenches … and tanks were the answer. Do you know which side designed the first tanks?

Today's tanks are technological marvels, capable of doing everything from calling in artillery to launching satellite-targeted precision munitions. But the tanks of WWI were much simpler beasts.

As the Allies scrambled for answers, they stumbled upon a way of moving tanks across the cratered landscape of the front. Do you know which method they devised?

Initially, tanks weren’t exactly cutting-edge machines. Do you remember which parts of these armored vehicles were particularly challenging to perfect?

From Schneider CAs to Mark IVs, the tanks of World War I crushed barbed wire and altered trench warfare in many ways. Let’s see if you really know the tanks of the Great War in our battle-scarred quiz!

What phenomenon sparked the development of tanks during World War I?

In World War I, both sides were equipped with high-tech weapons but burdened by old-school tactics. The result? Men hunkered in trenches trying to stay alive. Tanks were mean to break the stalemate.


What were casualties like at the beginning of the war?

Machine guns and artillery harvested men like crops in the beginning of the war. Generals desperately needed innovative technologies to protect their troops, and newfangled tanks seemed like a good start.


Trench warfare rendered which type of force obsolete?

Before WWI, horse-mounted cavalrymen were a force to be reckoned with. But the trenches and machine guns of the Great War made these units nearly obsolete. Armed men suddenly had very little mobility, and they needed more protection.


Which country was among the first to develop tanks?

Britain and France were the first to really explore the tank concept. Once German officials understood that there would be tanks on the battlefield, they realized they needed armored vehicles, too.


Early Allied tanks were called _____.

When the Allies began developing tanks, they called their machines landships. The term "tank" took over, though, in part because the vehicles looked a little like water tanks on wheels.


How did the very first tanks do on the battlefield?

The first tanks were very, very unreliable. They were as likely to break down as they were to actually make it into action.


True or false, in 1914, did the combatants have ANY armored vehicles?

It’s true, both sides did have armored vehicles, but they were meant for fairly level ground. In the muck and devastation of no man’s land, these vehicles got stuck or were simply incapable of traversing the terrain.


Ernest Swinton was instrumental in the development of tanks during the war. He was from _____.

Swinton was a British army officer renowned for his practical battlefield tactics. He’s also the one responsible for brainstorming some innovations that made tanks workable.


What innovation did Ernest Swinton add to armored vehicles to make them practical for WWI?

Wheels got stuck or were destroyed on the front. But a tracked vehicle, surmised Swinton, would better withstand the rigors of battle and also make tanks much more capable on rugged or muddy surfaces.


The first tank design with a caterpillar track was called what?

Built by William Foster & Co., the first tank with caterpillar track was called "Little Wille." It was merely a test vehicle, but it was an important sign of things to come.


The war started in 1914. When did the first tanks arrive in battle?

In 1914 and 1915, commanders realized that their old strategies weren’t going to work. By 1916, the first tanks finally hit the battlefield, immediately terrifying the men tasked with destroying them.


What was a major problem with the very first tanks?

Engineers struggled to make the tracks work properly on the heavy armored vehicles. Sometimes, the tracks would simply fall off as the tank moved forward. But engineers quickly improved on their early designs.


The first tanks had a top speed of ____ per hour.

The first tanks were achingly slow, barely hitting a walking pace. They topped out at around 4 MPH.


Which army built more tanks than every other country in the war ... combined?

The French went all-in on the tank concept, understanding that these vehicles were a key to winning the war. By the time the last bullets were fired, the French had built more tanks than all other countries in the war combined.


The British deployed 32 tanks at the Battle of the Somme. How many of those tanks made it through no man’s land to German lines?

Of the 32 tanks that the British threw at the Germans, nine made it to German lines. It was a small breakthrough, but it was progress.


What was the name of the first British tank to see significant deployment in the war?

The Mark I tank was the first British tank to see real action. It was a 28-ton monster armed with two six-pound guns and three machine guns.


How did the barbed wire of no man’s land affect British Mark I tanks?

Barbed wire was a nightmare for infantry but no problem at all for the Mark I, which simply drove through the nasty tangle of metal. Germans who witnessed the spectacle knew they needed a solution to the Mark I, and fast.


What sort of horsepower did the first tanks have?

By today’s standards, the first tanks had weenie little engines — 100 hp was normal during the war. It’s no wonder these machines could only hit walking speed.


True or false, could Mark I tanks cross trenches 9 feet in width?

The Mark I could indeed roll over 9-foot trenches. At last, the Allies had machines that could bypass the deep ditches that criss-crossed thousands of miles of the front.


What was the name of the first French tank?

The first French tank was the Schneider CA. It had no turret and was essentially an armored box on tank tracks.


What was a major design flaw in the French Schneider CA?

The Schneider CA had a prominent overhanging nose, a feature that was meant to smash barbed wire. Instead, the nose constantly hung up on battlefield obstructions and trenches, meaning that crews had to abandon the vehicles.


Many tanks were made in "male" and "female" versions. What were the female versions designed to do?

Male tanks had large guns, the females did not. Instead, the female tanks had more machine guns and were meant to devastate infantry.


How many tanks did Germany ultimately deploy during the war?

Germany was very late to the tank party. By the time the war, ended, the Germans had only sent about 20 tanks into battle, a fact that clearly didn’t help their war fates.


The Germans deployed the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank, which presented which challenge to its own crews?

The A7V was a huge, heavy German tank. Its heft was a drawback, as the tank only had a range of about 15 miles.


The British deployed many Mark IV tanks at the Battle of Cambrai. How many tanks did they use?

At the Battle of Cambrai, 480 Mark IV tanks swarmed the battlefield. But by the second day, only half of those tanks were still in action.


The French Schneider CA had a strange fuel system. Where where the fuel tanks located?

Let this be a lesson to all future tank engineers — don’t put the fuel tanks at the front of the vehicle, where they become a ripe target for enemy bullets. It’s no wonder the Schneider had a less-than-stellar battle record.


How many American-designed tanks entered the war?

No tanks of American design made it to the war. American tank crews learned to use British and French tanks instead.


Germany had very few tanks during the war, so how did its troops bolster their supply of armored vehicles?

German troops knew they needed more armor in their ranks. So they made concentrated efforts to capture Allied tanks, which they then learned to use for their own purposes.


True or false, were tanks the deciding factor in the war’s outcome?

Tanks were definitely an advantage for the Allies during the war. But tanks alone didn’t turn the tide of the fighting. Allied cooperation and German attrition played bigger roles.


What happened at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux?

In April 1918, at the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, British and German units clashed in the first tank-on-tank battle in history. In a ferocious fight, the Germans were forced to pull back.


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