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Tank Mk II

Medium Tank

United Kingdom | 1917

"The Tank Mk II was intended as an improved Tank Mk I series though production was limited to 50 vehicles and these used primarily for training."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/16/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The breaking of the stalemate of Trench Warfare during World War 1 would not have been made possible without the contributions of the "tank" - then known as "landships". The British led the way in practical tank designs during the war with the French following and the Germans a distant third. The British method involved a rhomboidal shape with long-running tracks set about the hull sides, straddling the hull superstructure to create a sort of armadillo-type vehicle. Armor protection was barely adequate, less so after the Germans developed armor-piercing machine gun ammunition and artillery was the landship's greatest enemy threat. Its larger general threat, however, was poor engine reliability and uneven, soft terrain types which often doomed these early systems.

The Tank Mk I (known as "Mother" or "Big Willie") was developed from the lessons garnered through the one-off "Little Willie" prototype combat vehicle. Though hardly designed to tackle the enemy head-on, Little Willie was intended to cross 5-foot trenches and carry a modest passenger load of battle-ready infantry across all manner of enemy terrain and obstacles (defense was through machine guns and boiler-plate riveted armor panels). Little Willie disappointed in this respect but was an evolutionary step forward for armored warfare; much of its automotive components would be utilized in several upcoming British tank designs including the Tank Mk I.

Big Willie (Tank Mk I) was the first true British combat tank and produced in usable numbers where it could be used in force. The tank participated in the famous Battle of the Somme of 1916 though it was largely hampered by the terrain. Nevertheless, progress was assured and the stalemate of trench warfare soon gave way under the mass of coordinated infantry charges, artillery salvos and aircraft strikes spearheaded by the landship. The Tank Mk I was certainly limited in many respects but it proved the concept of armored warfare sound for the most part. Its greatest threat remained general unreliability and terrain.

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The "Tank Mk II" then appeared and was intended as an improved version of the Tank Mk I. However, it was largely the same creature with only subtle changes noted and the British Army was not entirely sold on the Tank Mk I as a primary combat tool, therefore limiting procurement of the Tank Mk II series to just 50 examples. As in the Tank Mk I series, the Tank Mk II was produced in two distinct versions - "Male" and "Female". The Male version was the primary cannon-armed variant while the Female was the machine gun-armed vehicle - intended to protect the Male versions while approaching enemy-held ground. Usually two females were assigned to every one male for this purpose and, thusly, all blind spots could be covered by the available machine gun fire arcs. Of the batch of 50, 25 were represented by Males and25 by Females. Production was undertaken by Foster & Company and Metropolitan from late December of 1916 until January of the following year.

As the Tank Mk Is proved rather lackluster in whatever action they saw, a bulk of Tank Mk II production would be reserved for training purposes. Tanks were wholly new implements for the time and training was a dire requirement for obvious reasons to learn the nuances of armored warfare. However, delays to the much-improved Tank Mk IV series forced the Tank Mk IIs to be shipped to the frontlines where they were used in combat alongside existing Tank Mk Is during the Battle of Arras (April 9th-May 16th, 1917). The Tank Mk IIs inevitably showcased the same limitations as the preceding Tank Mk I series concerning reliability and thin armor protection though they still proved of some value to a desperate British Army and Allied cause.

The upcoming Tank Mk III proved to be 50 examples of another trainer variant. These were never shipped to the frontlines and thusly never saw combat in World War 1. The Tank Mk IV finally entered production in May of 1917 and went on to see production peak at 1,220 vehicles. The Tank Mk IV went on to become the primary British Army tank of the war while the Tank Mk II fell to history.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Tank Mk II Medium Tank.
1 x Daimler 6-cylinder gasoline engine developing 105 horsepower at 1,000rpm.
Installed Power
4 mph
6 kph
Road Speed
24 miles
38 km
The physical qualities of the Tank Mk II Medium Tank.
32.5 ft
9.91 meters
O/A Length
13.7 ft
4.19 meters
O/A Width
8.0 ft
2.45 meters
O/A Height
62,722 lb
28,450 kg | 31.4 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Tank Mk II Medium Tank.
1 x QF 6-pounder gun in left-side sponson
1 x QF 6-pounder gun in right-side sponson
3 x 8mm Hotchkiss machine guns

5 x 7.7mm machine guns
180 x 57mm projectiles
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Notable series variants as part of the Tank Mk II family line.
Tank Mk II (Male) - Primary Cannon/Machine Gun-armed variant.
Tank Mk II (Female) - Machine Gun-armed variant
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Tank Mk II. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 50 Units

Contractor(s): Foster & Company / Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Company - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom ]
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Image of the Tank Mk II
Captured male Tank Mk II in German hands; note long guns in sponsons; public domain

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Tank Mk II Medium Tank appears in the following collections:
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