Anti-tank Guns - Tank Threat

Tank Threat

Anti-tank warfare evolved as a countermeasure to the threat of the tank's appearance on the battlefields of the Western Front of the First World War. The tank had been developed to negate the German system of trenches, and allow a return to manoeuver against enemy's flanks and to attack the rear with cavalry.

The use of the tank was primarily based on the assumption that once they were able to eliminate the German trench lines with their machine gun and Infantry support gun positions, the Allied infantry would follow and secure the breach, and the cavalry would exploit the breach in the trench lines by attacking into the depth of German-held territory, eventually capturing the field artillery positions and interdicting logistics and reserves being brought up from the rear areas. Naval crews initially used to operate the installed naval guns and machine guns were replaced with Army personnel who were more aware of the infantry tactics with which the tanks were intended to cooperate. However, there was no way to communicate between the tank's crew and the accompanying infantry, or between the tanks participating in combat. Radios were not yet made portable or robust enough to be mounted in a tank, although Morse Code transmitters were installed in some Mark IVs at Cambrai as messaging vehicles,. Attaching a field telephone to the rear would became a practice only during the next war. With greater use of tanks by both sides it was realized that the accompanying infantry could be forced to ground by ambush fire, thus separating them from the tanks, which would continue to advance, eventually finding themselves exposed to close-assaults by German infantry and sappers.

The early tanks were mechanically rudimentary. The 0.23-to-0.47-inch (5.8 to 12 mm) armor generally prevented penetration by small arms fire and shell fragments. However, even a near miss from a field artillery or an impact from a mortar HE round easily disabled the tank, or destroyed it if the fuel tank was ruptured, incinerating the tank's crew. The need for a 'male' variant was recognized as a tactical necessity to defeat any infantry field pieces found in the trench lines which could easily disable tank track with the HE ammunition. This was achieved by mounting a QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss light 57 mm naval gun mounted in the hull barbettes. Hull and track engineering was largely dictated by the terrain—the need to cross wide trenches—although the relationship between ground pressure and soil-vehicle mechanics was not resolved until the Second World War. Turrets were later introduced on medium and light tanks to react to ambushes during the advance.

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