In this instalment of our 12 part series on Military blueprints, we look at the British Mk V Tank.
The Mark V tank was originally intended to have been a completely new tank design. However, in December 1917, a new engine and transmission for the Mk IV became available, and so to avoid disrupting production, the new design was dropped and the Mk V essentially became a greatly improved Mk IV. The new engine gave the tank 150 hp and the new transmission meant that only one driver was required. The engine was also installed in the centre of the tank, allowing an extra machine gun port to the rear.
Production began in late 1917 and like all British heavy tanks of the First World War, the Mk V came in Male and Female configurations. The Male had two 57 mm, 6-pounder cannons in side mounted sponsons (a projection on the side) and 4 machine guns. The Female was armed with 6 machine guns. Some were converted to Hermaphrodites (also known as “Mk V Composite”), which had one Male and one Female sponson. This measure was intended to ensure that Female tanks would not be outgunned when faced with captured British Male tanks in German use, or the Germans’ own A7V.
The Mk V first saw combat during the Battle of Hamel on 4th July 1918. They successfully supported the Australian troops. Like the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, Hamel was proving ground for early combined arms tactics. Using infantry, armour and air power in conjunction.
At the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, the Mk V carried infantry in one of the earliest armoured assaults in warfare. Alongside Whippet tanks, a massive breakthrough of German lines was achieved. 11 miles of territory was gained and 50,000 German prisoners were taken. The Mk V would play a considerable role in the subsequent Hundred Days Offensive which would ultimately lead to the collapse of the Western Front, and victory in the First World War.
Approximately 70 Mk V’s were given to the White Russian Forces in the Russian Civil War. These were subsequently captured by the Red Army and would contribute to their victory in the civil war. Several Mk V tanks also made their way into the hands of the Estonian military. These were used successfully in the defence of their nation against the Soviets. These same tanks were put to use 20 years later to defend Tallinn against German forces.
In 1945 two badly damaged Mk V tanks were discovered in Berlin. Photographic evidence suggests that they were survivors of the Russian Civil War, which were subsequently later turned into monuments in Smolensk, Russia. During the German invasion these were taken to Berlin as war trophies. It is unclear if they were used in the defence of Berlin, or were simply caught in the crossfire.