Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Churchill Series - Feb. 20, 2008

(One of a series of weekday post about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

On Jan. 5, 1915, with stalemate and trench warfare dominating the Western front, Churchill sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Asquith.

It would be simple, Churchill said, to "fit up a number of steam tractors with small armored shelters, in which men and machine guns could be placed, which would be bullet-proof. [A] caterpillar system would enable trenches to be crossed quite easily, and the weight of the machine would destroy all wire entanglements."

The Army was not interested but Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, got permission for the Navy to press ahead with designs and prototypes of the new contraptions which he called "land ships."

The project was secret lest the Germens learn of it. For the few people working on the project, a cover story was needed.

It was agreed that if questions were asked, the Navy personnel working on the project would say they were designing a new kind of vehicle. It would operate in Russia and bring water to the Czar's troops fighting on the Eastern front.

The water, of course, would be in the tanks.
William Manchester, The Last Lion: Visions of Glory. (p. 510)