Page 3664

3664 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

"Imagine a narrow cabin some nine

or ten feet wide, thirteen feet long, and

four feet high, into which had to be

crammed an engine of over 100 horse

power, two guns, and three or four machine guns, provisions for three days,

ammunition and equipment, besides a

crew of several men. The noise made

by the engine made it impossible to hear

an order, consequently every communication had to be made by signs; the armor

plating was so effective that one could

only see for steering or for aiming the

guns through the narrowest chinks; the

motion, too, of the tank over rough ground

was not unlike that of a ship in a heavy

sea, and this motion, combined with the

smell of oil, the close atmosphere, the heat

and the noise, was at first apt to induce

the same symptoms as sometimes afflict

those uninured to sea voyages."

In the summer of 1916, some of the

tanks were assembled at a secret camp

in England and were tried out before

officers of the General Staff and the King.

The trial showed that the tanks were

capable of answering the purpose for which

they were designed, and it was decided

that they should be given a trial in actual

battle. Toward the end of August, fifty

were loaded at night on the railway at

the camp's siding and were shipped to

France. Every possible precaution was

taken to secure secrecy. They were landed

at Havre, on August 29, and were sent

up to the front, some by railway, others

by road.

The tanks had been camouflaged with

weird patches of colors, and these added

to their grotesque appearance. The

British soldiers who saw them were usually

moved to laughter. They made beholders

think of antediluvian monsters. One correspondent wrote: "Unquestionably, the

tank resembles an armadillo, a caterpillar,

a diplodocus, a motor car, and a traveling

circus." Fanciful names were given the

monsters by the men, and these names

were sometimes illustrated by rough heraldic symbols on the body. Among the

names bestowed were Cyclops, Chaos, Cafe

au Lait, Champagne, Cognac, Crime de

Menthe, Dreadnought, Daredevil, and Deadwood Dick.

There was much interest in the experiment among those who were in the secret.

Like Ericksson's Monitor at Hampton

Roads, the tanks were now to receive their

first trial, their baptism of fire.

The object of the offensive in which

they were to participate was designed to

drive the Germans out of the high ground

running east and south of Thiepval. The

German positions were strongly entrenched

and had hundreds of hornets' nests scattered

about in the shape of concrete emplacements for machine guns. Bitter experience had shown that even under cover

of artillery barrage an infantry attack was

often doomed to fail because of concerted

fire from these hornets' nests, and it was

the chief purpose of the tank to help the

infantry by destroying the nests.

The infantry attack made progress at

almost every point, and, at the proper

time, the tanks moved forward. Their

appearance flabbergasted the Germans,

who found that their rifle bullets had no

more effect upon the monsters than do

rain drops on a tin roof. The German

big guns had all been silenced or destroyed

near the front trenches, and it was, of

course, difficult for the guns far in the

rear to strike a moving object-all the

more so because the tanks had been painted

a mottled color that helped to render them

difficult to see at a long distance. Furthermore, as a tank was immune against

shrapnel, only a direct hit with a shell

would disable it. Silencing machine guns

was the particular province of a tank.

Wherever one of these deadly instruments

of death was active there a tank got busy,

and reports said that if no other remedy

was effective, the tank would proceed to

"sit" on the gun. Moving or standing

astride a trench, a tank could easily enfilade a long line of Germans, and it is

little wonder that the Boches would exclaim: "Mein Gott! This is not war! This

is butchery!" Whereupon they would take

to their heels or would throw up their hands.

At the rear the greatest eagerness

existed to learn the results. Finally an