Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_developing the ta

Who deserves the credit for developing the tank?

Source 6

Proposed letter to the press, re origins of the tank, by C B Hardman


CHAR 15/97/17

Simplified Transcript


In order to help clear up the mystery of the origins of the tank, I have decided to publish a letter which was sent to me by Mr William Strait, an American engineer, and Colonel Crompton in April 1915. In my view these were the first two men to invent the tank and make the government aware of its potential use in trench warfare.

In paragraph five of the letter there is a reference to experiments with Mr Strait’s machines. I am sure the public will be interested to find out that Mr Churchill and Mr Lloyd George viewed one of these machines being tested in April 1915. They immediately realised the possibilities of the machine and agreed to provide the funds to develop it. It proved to be one of the main factors in the great victory.

I am aware other people have also been working on this since early 1915, and they should be given credit for this.

The complete history of the tank will be very interesting and it is now time to give the credit to the people who deserve it.

Original Transcript


In order to assist in clearing up the mystery of the origin of the tank, I have decided to publish the enclosed letter which was written on April 20th 1915 by an American engineer - Mr Wm. Strait - in collaboration with Colonel Crompton of the British Admiralty, and I have every reason to believe that these two men were the first to invent and bring before the notice of the British Government practical mechanical means for dealing with Trench Warfare.

In paragraph five it will be noted that experiments had been made with one of Mr Strait's machines, and I am sure it will be of political interest at the present moment for the Public to know that the Right Hon. S. Winston Churchill and the Right Hon. Lloyd George had one of these machines demonstrated to them at Wormwood Scrubbs early in 1915, and immediately realised its far-reaching possibilities, so much so that a grant was promptly arranged in order to carry forward this work which proved eventually to be one of the main factors in the great Victory.

I am aware of the great work which others have done in this connection since of the early months of 1915, and to them great credit is due, and should be given.

The complete history of the tank will be a most interesting study, and the time has now arrived for all to give publicity to the part which they have filled, in the same manner as I have claimed that the inception was due to four men.

Mr. Wm. Strait
Colonel Crampton
The Right Hon. S. Winston Churchill [sic]
The Right Hon. D. Lloyd George.

What is this source?

This is a letter sent to Winston Churchill by C B Hardman on 6th December 1918, containing a letter he proposes to send to the press about the origins of the tank.

Background to this source

All the previous sources you have studied follow on from Churchill's letter to Asquith in January 1915 about how to use new tactics to break through on the Western Front. This proposed letter was written in December 1918, after the Armistice has been signed. By this time most people were fully aware of the significance of the tank following its first major success at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, and the changed nature of warfare in the latter stages of the war.

Additional information

By December 1918 the war was well and truly over. However, there were still difficult issues at home and also in terms of reaching a peace settlement with Germany. Churchill and Lloyd George, like all other MPs, were about to go into an election. They would have been pleased to see a letter in the press linking them to the development of the tank.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating who deserves credit for developing the tank. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level: details, facts and figures

  1. What does C B Hardman intend to do with the letter he is sending Churchill?
  2. What does C B Hardman claim in his letter?
  3. Why is he writing this letter now, in December 1918?

Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
C B Hardman thinks Churchill invented the tank

C B Hardman thinks Wm Strait and Colonel Crompton invented the tank

Churchill deserves some credit for the development of the tank

Without the tank Britain would not have beaten Germany

Lots of other [un-named] people deserve the praise for inventing and developing the tank

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Need help interpreting the source?

This source is interesting to historians in that there is a contrast between the secrecy of the sources from 1915 and the desire to tell the public about the tank in December 1918. To a great extent this is a case of people wanting their due credit for a great achievement. Even though the war was over, however, it seems likely that the British authorities didn’t feel ready to release complete information about the development of this new and important weapon.

Source 7

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