Tank Mk V Heavy Tank / Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV)
The Tank Mk V was the last in the long line of the ever-evolving rhomboidal-shaped British heavy tanks of World War 1.
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The Tank Mk V was a further evolution of the British "tank" - then known as "landship" - which began with the original Tank Mk I of 1916. The Mk I was followed by the trainer-minded Tank Mk II which was pressed into combat and the dedicated trainer Tank Mk III models before arrival of the definitive Tank Mk IV combat-centric landship. Such vehicles were critical in breaking the trench warfare stalemates that arose along the Western Front during World War 1 and would become the centerpiece of national armies in the decades following the conflict.
The Tank Mk V incorporated several improvements over previous British landships yet it retained the general rhomboidal shape common to many of these early engineering efforts. The vehicle was crewed by no fewer than eight personnel and main armament was managed through two side sponson assemblies as in earlier marks. Armor protection was 16mm at its thickest (front) with 12mm allocated to the sides. The Tank Mk V was more or less a direct improved form of the preceding Tank Mk IV line of 1917 with an integrated communications system, commander's cupola and drive controls to managed by one person (as opposed to the four required of earlier types). As in the Tank Mk IV series, the Tank Mk V line was also produced in two distinct forms - "Male" and "Female". Male versions carrier cannon armament and machine guns while Female versions were given solely machine guns for the defense of the Males - this in line with armored warfare doctrine of the day.
Manufacture of Tank Mk V systems produced some 400 examples of which 200 were built exclusively as males and 200 as females. As with previous British tanks, there also existed half-male/half-female conversions of these variants that incorporated a cannon-armed sponson on one hull side and a machine gun-only-armed sponson on the other. Manufacture was handled by the Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon company beginning in late-1917. The initial production batch tanks arrived at the frontlines in May of 1918.
With Tank Mk Vs now available in number for 1918, they were put into combat at the Battle of Hamel on July 4th, 1918. Hamel lay in northern German-held France and the battle brought about use of Tank V tanks. A combined force of Australians and Americans attacked German defensive positions with rather modern tactics which helped to ensure an Allied victory. 2,000 Germans were killed and 1,600 taken prisoner against 976 Allied service members killed and 338 wounded. The battle showcased the tank as a centerpiece instrument with extensive support from Australian artillery and British bombers. The battle also served to streamline the usefulness of tanks in modern warfare whereas in previous encounters, commanders were still deciding on the maximum value of the "landship" in the grand scope of the war. Incidentally, the Tank Mk V became the first landship to be made available to American forces in the European theater.
A typical "Male" Tank Mk V was armed with 2 x QF 57mm (6-pounder) main guns held in side sponsons. The side sponson approach (as opposed to use of a more conventional "turret") was selected due to the attack angles needed to engage targets down in a trench (a turret would have had limited downward attack angles). Males were also fielded with up to 4 x 7.7mm (.303) Hotchkiss Mk 1 machine guns. Females were simply armed with 6 x 7.7mm Hotchkiss machine guns and their role was to defend the Male tanks from infantry attack. As such, two females were typically fielded with every one male so all engagement arcs could be covered from enemy attack.