History Podcasts

Whippet Tank

Whippet Tank



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The Mark A tank, nicknamed, the Whippet, was introduced in 1917. Faster than the earlier, heavy tanks, the Whippet was intended as a cavalry style weapon. After the failure of British tanks in the thick mud at Passchendaele, Colonel John Fuller, chief of staff to the Tank Corps, suggested a massed raid on dry ground between the Canal du Nord and the St Quentin Canal. General Sir Julian Byng, commander of the Third Army, accepted Fuller's plan, although it was originally vetoed by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig. However, he changed his mind and decided to launch the Cambrai Offensive. (1)

Haig, who was not given this information, ordered a massed tank attack at Artois. Launched at dawn on 20th November, without preliminary bombardment, the attack completely surprised the German Army defending that part of the Western Front. Employing 476 tanks (most of them Whippets), six infantry and two cavalry divisions, the British Third Army gained over 6km in the first day. It was claimed that the use of tanks in the battle was very effective. "Tanks and cavalry co-operated in this attack, and the tanks were a most powerful aid, and cruised round and through the village, where they put out nests of machine-guns." (2)

However, Philip Gibbs of the Daily Chronicle claimed that tanks were still encountering problems: "We thought these tanks were going to win the war, and certainly they helped to do so, but there were too few of them, and the secret was let out before they were produced in large numbers. Nor were they so invulnerable as we had believed. A direct hit from a field gun would knock them out, and in our battle for Cambrai in November of 1917 I saw many of them destroyed and burnt out." (3)

Progress towards Cambrai continued over the next few days but on the 30th November, 1917, twenty-nine German divisions launched a counter-offensive. This included the use of mustard gas. By the time that fighting came to an end on 7th December, 1917, German forces had regained almost all the ground it lost at the start of the Cambrai Offensive. During the two weeks of fighting, the British suffered 45,000 casualties. Although it is estimated that the Germans lost 50,000 men, Sir Douglas Haig considered the offensive as a failure and reinforced his doubts about the ability of tanks to win the war. (4)

Allied casualties during the 2nd Battle of the Marne were heavy: French (95,000), British (13,000) and United States (12,000). The Allies also captured 609 German officers and 26,413 enlisted men, 612 enemy artillery pieces and 3,300 machine guns. It is estimated that the German Army suffered an estimated 168,000 casualties and marked the last real attempt by the Central Powers to win the First World War. (5)

The Allied Supreme Commander, Ferdinand Foch now ordered a counter-offensive. Foch put British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig in overall charge of the offensive and he selected General Sir Henry Rawlinson and the British Fourth Army to lead the attack. The Amiens offensive took place on 8th August 1918. Every available tank was moved to Rawlinson's sector. This included 72 Whippets and 342 Mark V tanks. Rawlinson also had 2,070 artillery pieces and 800 aircraft. The German sector chosen was defended by 20,000 soldiers and were outnumbered 6 to 1 by the attacking troops. The tanks followed by soldiers met little resistance and by mid morning allied forces had advanced 12km. The Amiens line was taken, and later, General Erich Ludendorff, the man in overall charge of German military operations, described the 8th August as "the black day of the German Army in the history of the war". (6)

All the tanks, except Morris's had arrived without incident at the railway embankment. Morris ditched on the bank and was a little late. Haigh and Jumbo had gone on ahead of the tanks. They crawled out beyond the embankment into No Man's Land and marked out the starting-line. It was not too pleasant a job. The enemy machine-guns were active right through the night, and the neighbourhood of the embankment was shelled intermittently.

Skinner's tank failed on the embankment. The remainder crossed it successfully and lined up for the attack just before zero. By this time the shelling had become severe. The crews waited inside their tanks, wondering if they would be hit before they started. Already they were dead-tired, for they had obtained little sleep since the long painful trek of the night before.

Suddenly our bombardment begun - it was more of a bombardment than a barrage - and the tanks crawled away into the darkness. On the extreme right Morris and Puttock were met by tremendous machine-gun fire at the wire of the Hindenburg Line. They swung to the right, as they had been ordered, and glided along in front of the wire, sweeping the parapet with their fire. Serious clutch trouble developed in Puttock's tank. It was impossible to stop since the German guns were following them.

Money's tank reached the German wire. His men must have 'missed their gears'. For less than a minute the tank was motionless, then she burst into flames. A shell had exploded the petrol tanks. A sergeant and two men escaped. Money, best of good fellows, must have been killed instantaneously by the shell.

Puttock's clutch was slipping so badly that the tank would not move, and the shells were falling ominously near. He withdrew his crew from the tank into a trench, and a moment later the tank was hit again.

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(1) Basil Liddell Hart, History of the First World War (1930) page 261

(2) The Daily Chronicle (1st December, 1917)

(3) Philip Gibbs, Adventures in Journalism (1923) page 264

(4) Vera Brittain, letter to Edith Brittain (5th December, 1917)

(5) Martin Gilbert, First World War (1994) page 124

(6) Michael S. Neiberg, The Second Battle of the Marne (2008) page 184

(7) General Erich Ludendorff, diary entry (8th August, 1918)


  • Lieutenant Clement Arnold was certain facing death when taken hostage by Germans seeking revenge
  • German officer Ernst von Maravic ordered Lt Arnold be taken prisoner instead during the Battle of Amiens
  • Clement gave him his 21st birthday wristwatch given to him by his father, his most valuable possession

Published: 16:01 BST, 7 August 2018 | Updated: 19:42 BST, 7 August 2018

A watch gifted by a British soldier to a German foe for saving his life on the battlefield has been unearthed 100 years later to reveal their unlikely friendship.

Tank commander Lieutenant Clement Arnold was facing certain death after being taken hostage by Germans who were seeking revenge for the loss of their comrades at the Battle of Amiens.

He had been in charge of a Whippet tank which ploughed through the German defences causing major casualties before it received a direct hit and caught fire.

A watch gifted by a British soldier to a German foe for saving his life on the battlefield has been unearthed 100 years later to reveal their unlikely friendship (Pictured Lt Arnold)

Tank commander Lieutenant Clement Arnold was facing certain death after being taken hostage by Germans who were seeking revenge for the loss of their comrades at the Battle of Amiens (Pictured Lieutenant Clement Arnold, left and Ernst von Maravic, right)

The circling German soldiers bayoneted to death the tank driver and Lt Arnold was struck over the head with a rifle, knocking him unconscious.

But before the fatal blow was landed, German officer Ernst von Maravic stepped in and ordered that Lt Arnold be taken prisoner instead.

As a gesture of gratitude, Clement gave von Maravic gave the Thomas Russell & Son wristwatch he had been gifted by his father on his 21st birthday, his most valuable possession.


The First Machine

The first machine, known by the 3rd February 1917 as the ‘Tritton Chaser’, was already able to move under its own power and for the first time featured a fully rotating turret for a single .303 calibre Lewis machine gun on a similar appearance to that of the Austin armored car of the period. It sported the name ‘The Whippet’ already and the name would stick.
This first vehicle had problems however, the front was a single vertical plate covering the engine and the driver offset to the right had a very limited field of vision. The fuel tank was at the rear and was unarmored and the machine had no exhausts on either side, meaning the crew would be directly exposed to engine exhaust gases.
This vehicle completed a running trial first of the 11th of February, and then formally on the 3rd of March at Oldbury, near Birmingham where it was demonstrated to representatives of the Ministry of Munitions. At this time the machine was ‘Tritton’s Chaser’ but was officially noted as being ‘Tritton’s Light Machine (EMB) [Experimental Machine ‘B’] and given ‘No.2’ as it was the second vehicle tested that day. During the tests, this vehicle sported a single horizontal green painted band running all around the hull just above the level of the tracks, as each vehicle tested was color coded with green being vehicle number 2 that day as this color coding would help the senior British and French officers present to tell apart which of the vehicles was being tested.
The suspension consisted of 16 sets of Skefco roller bearings on each side above which are the very distinctive holes in the side through which mud picked up across country would be discharged and which also doubled as an additional layer of armor and reduced the weight of the machine. This arrangement was patented by Tritton in a filing dated the 2nd of February 1917 clearly showing the outline of what was to become the layout of the Whippet albeit with just four mud chutes and not the 5 initially used on this first machine.

Images: Patent GB126,671 filed 2nd February 1917
Despite the flaws in the machine it managed just over 8 mph (12.9 kph) as a top speed from its twin 45hp Tylor JB4 petrol engines which was nearly double the speed of the Mark IV and V tanks. Tritton had preferred a more powerful engine to take the tank to over 10mph but the War Office (WO) had supply problems for engines so the 45hp Tylor was all there was for the tank. Sir William Tritton was later to remark that “the choice of the 45hp engines had spoiled an otherwise useful machine”. The drive system was unusual and difficult to master. Each engine drove a separate track and steering was effected by way of the driver adjusting the throttle control on each engine but it did have the advantage of only requiring one driver.
Many of the initial design features of the Chaser tank did eventually make it into the production vehicle but this initial machine was first rebuilt with the top of the machine stripped back. The turret was removed and a much large polygonal superstructure built instead. An exhaust was added to each side of the engine and but it retained the fuel tank at the rear. Machine gun ports were cut into the new polygonal superstructure and at least one ball mount fitted in the right hand side but the front of the engine bay lacked any additional vents.

Rebuilt Tritton Chaser pictured on trial on the William Foster and Co. test field. Photo: IWM
In this form, it was envisaged to now take up to four Hotchkiss .303 calibre machine guns, one in each face of the superstructure covering each side of the vehicle. The crew had increased from 2 to now as many as four (driver, commander and two machine gunners). Further work was then done to this machine with additional engine vents cut into the sides of the engine bay at the front and the moving of the fuel tank to the front under a rounded cover. It is speculated that this may have been to adjust the centre of gravity for the vehicle to improve its trench crossing ability.


The rebuilt Tritton Chaser with its trailing wheels


Close up the Hotchkiss machine gun mount as preserved on A259 Caesar II at Bovington. Photo: tank-hunter.com


Rebuilt Tritton Chaser showing the holes cut for the vents and the new forward placement of the fuel tank. In this photo the vehicle is also using prominent track spuds to obtain additional traction in soft ground. In practice these were used very rarely. Photo: IWM


Rebuilt Tritton Chaser with a rudimentary canvas track guard fitted presumably in an attempt to limit the amount of mud being thrown up onto the vehicle. Machine gun ports have been cut but no armament is fitted. Photo: IWM


Rebuilt Tritton Chaser with experimental wheels fitted (the vehicle in the foreground is a gun carrier). Photo: IWM

This prototype vehicle remained at the testing grounds of the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department at Dollis Hill, London where it was later tested with trailing wheels and even a rear tail-skid (presumably akin to that of the Renault FT) to try and improve trench crossing. No photo of this skid fitted seems to have survived and there is only one poor quality shot of the wheels fitted. It was eventually moved to the Imperial War Museum and later scrapped.The wheels were found to be more effective than the tail skid. Trench crossing trials were held in May 1918 without either wheels or a tail-skid fitted. It was found that the effective trench crossing limit of the production Whippet tank to be 10 feet (3.05m) although the official figure was 8.5 feet (2.59m). Trench crossing ability was to plague the mind of the British military in not just WW1 but well into the next war too. The Army had their lighter faster tank design ready now to go into production.


The Bottom Line

Whippits, (Whipits) and laughing gas are all different street names for the same substance: nitrous oxide. Although doctors and dentists often administer nitrous to relieve pain and ease patient fears, they do so with particular care and extra oxygen.

Prominent levels of nitrous oxide in a non-medical setting can lead to severe, sudden, and permanent brain damage, organ damage, seizures, and sudden death.

While someone can’t develop a physical dependence to nitrous oxide, they could still suffer from a nitrous oxide addiction.


Medium Tank Mk A (Whippet)

The Medium Tank Mk A (also known as the "Whippet") was an armored vehicle specifically designed to exploit breaches in the battle lines created by heavier lozenge-shaped combat tanks such as the Mark I series. The Medium Tank Mk A went on to become the most successful British tank of the war and was utilized to spearhead assaults, going on to cause many German casualties in the process. Designer William Tritton was an expert in designing agricultural machinery and was assigned to work with Major Walter Gordon Wilson in producing a "caterpillar tracked" vehicle for transporting large naval guns. While working on the project, they saw a separate but equal military application of the tractor and were credited with the invention of the Medium Tank Mk A. A prototype (interestingly with a revolving turret emplacement borrowed from an Austin armored car design) was made ready in February of 1917 and underwent evaluations thereafter. An order for 200 was placed in March of 1917 to which the system was delivered for operational service in December of that year. At a later date, Tritton would go on to design the notable Mark I thru Mark V series of heavy tanks for the war effort.

The Medium Tank Mk A fulfilled a need for a fast and cheap armored vehicle to work alongside the heavy-class tanks in plugging gaps in the line while able to make deep forays behind enemy lines in turn. Crossing the wide-spanning network of trenches by tanks of The Great War proved an ever-present issue as enemy forces simply enlarged these gaps as new capable Allied tanks came online. Such obstacles proved an ongoing issue for tanker crews and tank engineers alike.

The Whippet was rather modestly armed with three to four 7.7mm Hotchkiss-brand machine guns, all supplied through 5,400 rounds of ammunition aboard. The Whippet's primary role was in countering infantry so no cannons were issued. Not having a heavy-class cannon like the British 6-pounder the Mark I series used made the Whippet more of an armored personal carrier (APC) than a true "tank". Regardless, she was categorized as a "medium tank". Propulsion was by way of 2 x 45 horsepower standard English heavy industry bus engines, one powerplant supplied for each track. Steering was accomplished by the designated driver using an automobile-style steering wheel. When turning right or left, the throttles of the two engines were increased or decreased depending on the turn required. The tank would need more power on the opposite track of the desired direction. In practice, the engines would stall if the driver took a sharp turn left or right, forcing the tank to come to an abrupt stop. As can be surmised under combat conditions, a non-moving vehicle became a "target of opportunity".

There was no turret as in a conventional tank design per se but a fixed superstructure was fitted instead. The enclosure was large enough to fit the crew of three with up to four machine guns. At times, an additional crewmen could be added for additional fire support which required the removal of one machine gun. The 7.7mm machine guns were repositioned to any one of the four gun mounts giving the tank commander some tactical flexibility. The Mk A's speed of 13 km/h (8.3mph) and range (257 km / 160 miles) proved some of the series greatest assets, her having twice the speed and range of the Mark I series heavy tank. As such, the Whippet became one of the fastest combat tanks on the battlefield and a feared presence among German infantry attempting to defend their positions.

Early actions proved the Whippet valuable as they protected the British retreats of the German Spring Offensive of 1918. In a later recorded combat instance (in fact the second ever tank-versus-tank duel), a company of seven Mk A Whippet tanks engaged two German infantry battalions numbering 800 men in the open near Cachy. The tankers killed over 400 German soldiers ultimately rendering the force destroyed. A German A7V tank inflicted one Whippet loss and another damaged in the foray but the damage to the Germans were already done.

Whippets then took part in the August 8th, 1918 Amiens offensive, breaking through the German lines and raising havoc at the German rear while destroying large numbers of artillery pieces. A Whippet tank nicknamed the "Music Box" was present among this group and roamed behind enemy lines for up to nine hours and credited with destroying an artillery battery, an infantry battalion camp and a transport column while inflicting hundreds of casualties.

Whippets were eventually used by the German Army when captured while the Red Army also made use of the tank well into the 1930's. Examples were also seen in Ireland, Canada, Japan, and South Africa. Production totaled 200 units with manufacture spanning 1917 into 1918 under the Fosters of Lincoln brand label.


Whippets can affect brain development

Here’s why inhalant use among teens and young adults is a big concern: The prefrontal cortex undergoes significant development between 18 to 25 years of age.

This area of the brain takes in information, coordinates actions and thoughts and allows for the use of judgment and forethought.

In other words, the pre-frontal cortex allows you the opportunity to stop and think about the consequences of your actions… before you take them.

Unfortunately, using whippets can impair this development. (Ehirim, Naughton, & Petróczi, 2018)


Mark VIII

London canceled the Marks VI and VII in order to concentrate industry on producing larger numbers of earlier models of tanks plus the new Mark VIII Liberty, which the United Kingdom co-developed and co-manufactured with the United States. The Mark VIII’s best new feature was that its engine was sectioned off from the crew. The war ended before any of the new tanks could enter combat.

Imperial War Museum photo

Physically it’s not difficult, there’s nothing heavy about it, although the gear shift is rather prone to catching your knuckles - Martin Trowsdale

Because the FT was updated through the 1920s and 30s, piecing together the details of its design from 100 years ago was a painstaking task for the team at the Weald Foundation. After all, it’s not as if you can ring up one of the engineers who helped build them and find out what goes where.

It would be a shame to come all this way and not see the FT go for a spin. Weald Foundation engineer Martin Trowsdale climbs into the tank’s cosy driving compartment, and the FT shudders its way down metal ramps onto the concrete driveway.

Take a ride on the Renault FT

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Use your mouse, trackpad or arrow buttons to look left, right, up and down.

Its pace is still pedestrian, but still the FT could travel twice as fast as some of its bigger contemporaries. The Weald’s FT negotiates its way around the farm buildings with a growl, before demonstrating its cross-country ability across one of the farm’s paddocks.

“Because it’s so slow, you don’t have to react like when you’re in a car and you’re expecting people to run out in front of you,” says Trowsdale later. “This just sort of chunters along. It gets boring after a while!

“Physically it’s not difficult, there’s nothing heavy about it, although the gear shift is rather prone to catching your knuckles when you’re changing gears, because there’s a bracket that sticks out by the gearknob, and it takes the skin off every time.” He holds up his hands to show the damage.

But, he says, with two levers for turning left and right, a throttle, a clutch and a brake, “it’s basically a simple thing to drive”.

What it's like to drive the FT

Trowsdale spent nine months rebuilding the engines for the two tanks. “All the bearings and things on the main crankshaft, you can’t go down the shop and buy new shells for the bearings – they don’t exist. We had to make them. We had to pour white metal bearings into the shells, machine them and then scrape them in. That’s a long, slow process. It’s not a skill that still exists.

“Funnily enough, I used to do it when I was an apprentice many, many years ago. But they don’t teach kids to do these things anymore.”

The crew even rebuilt the original gearbox – which had some of the gears still working. “Top gear seemed to survive better than most, because they didn’t use it that much!” says Trowsdale with a laugh.

And the radiator is a Victorian contraption comprised of some 1,300 tubes. Each tube had to be welded by hand.

With the first FT fully restored, now the team is starting work on the radio version, which they hope will be driving around the farm in a few weeks.

If it does rumble back to life, the Weald team will have been responsible for two of only seven FTs still in running condition. But, Gibb says, they’ll have shown others that the task isn’t an impossible one – and that Louis Renault’s tiny, pioneering tank can live on.


The Cartier Tank: Modern-Day Models

The modern-day Tank comes in a variety of models and price-points. There are currently six different collections, all with multiple models available.

The Tank Anglaise is the largest of these collections. Its alignment is a recreation of the original publicly-offered Tank. This watch features a case-incorporated winding mechanism and a quartz movement. It comes in a variety of price points and materials.

The Tank Louis Cartier gets its name from the brand’s founder. It features rounded lugs and a couple of the models have a skeleton case. This allows you to see the movement inside.

The Tank Americaine is an elongated version of the classic. It has a slight curve, wrapping around the wearer’s wrist. Yet, even with the longer, narrower case, the proportions are just right.

The Tank Francaise is the sportiest of the Tank collection. It has the most modern feel, and comes on a two-tone bracelet. It’s a bit larger than some of the other models, but is a perfect combination of sport and dress.

The Tank MC is the most masculine version of this timepiece. It has a larger case and an exhibition back. Each version in the collection also has a small subdial for seconds.

The Tank Solo is a modernist’s dream. It has both curved and square angles and a crisp, clean dial. This Tank is designed for the 21st century, but showcases the best of the model.

The Cartier Tank has been in production longer than most watches. It is easy to see why. It is an iconic masterpiece, that manages to marry classic design and modern principles. The current collection is expansive, ensuring there is a size, style, and price point for everyone. It’s likely the best unisex watch ever made.


Whippet Tank - History

Danny Grossfeld has spent six years and $2 million building a company with no sales. Mark Cuban is intrigued.

On last week's episode of Shark Tank, after all five Sharks passed on investing in Grossfeld's hot coffee-in-a can business Hotshot, Cuban said he would give the product a test run in one of his Landmark Cinemas movie theaters. Why?

Hotshot's canned coffee and "Hot Boxes" that keep it warm are technically untested products. Grossfeld has been perfecting the formula since 2009. Both the cans and Hot Boxes are available only for preorder, with shipping scheduled for January. Grossfeld says he's received more than 200 preorders for the cans and Hot Boxes since his episode of Shark Tank aired.

In addition to Cuban, three movie theater chains have agreed to conduct tests of the product during the first quarter of 2016: AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, according to Grossfeld. He says he plans to contact Cuban about a test in Landmark Cinemas in January.

"Mark was super sweet to me and very receptive," Grossfeld says. "He's the one person I'd want to partner with." Cuban did not respond to a request for comment.

Where did the idea for hot coffee in a can come from? Grossfeld came up with the concept after seeing a similar product in Japan, where he says consumers will spend $15 billion on ready-to-drink coffee in 2016. (Data from the Trefis says ready-to-drink coffee in Japan is a $9.5 billion annual market.) One difference between Grossfeld's product and the Japanese version is that Hotshot is hotter--140 degrees compared with 110 degrees, according to Grossfeld, who says his cans have a shelf life of about three months.

By at least one measure, Hotshot is the weakest pitch in Shark Tank history: Grossfeld is the only contestant to have spent six years and $2 million on a business with no sales. He says he invested around $700,000 of his own money, $500,000 from friends and family, and the rest from loans from friends and family. Grossfeld's professional experience consists primarily of working at his family's bankruptcy and liquidation business--useful experience for an entrepreneur.

So what made him think he'd get a deal on Shark Tank? It's worth noting that Grossfeld didn't apply to be on the show. The show invited him.

"We liked his passion, drive, and his company," says Clay Newbill, Shark Tank's executive producer. He says the show's producers don't intentionally cast weak businesses to illicit overly critical responses from the Sharks. Instead, they look only for companies they hope the Sharks will be excited about. A Shark Tank producer spotted Grossfeld after seeing a Los Angeles Times article about the company.

While Grossfeld failed to attract an investment on Shark Tank, all of the Sharks professed to like the taste of the coffee. Grossfeld says the product is also a hit with college students who've tasted samples. In addition to selling directly through his website, his initial strategy is to sell Hotshot in and around college campuses.

So has Grossfeld just been drinking his own Kool-Aid for six years? According to him, not at all.

"I'm not overly optimistic," he says. "I've been in business my whole life."