Landships Committee
The Landships Committee was a small British war cabinet committee established in February 1915 to deal with the design and construction of what would turn out to be tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s during the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Headed by First Lord of the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, the Landships Committee was composed mainly of naval officers, politicians and engineers.

The committee came about when Colonel Maurice Hankey took Colonel Ernest Swinton
Ernest Dunlop Swinton
Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, KBE, CB, DSO, RE was a military writer and British Army officer. Swinton is credited with influencing the development and adoption of the tank by the British during the First World War. He is also known for popularising the term "no-mans land".-Early life...

's proposals for an armoured trench-crossing vehicle to Churchill after they had been discounted by General French and other senior staff in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...


The committee was chaired by Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt, the Director of Naval Construction
Director of Naval Construction
The Director of Naval Construction was a senior British civil servant post in the Admiralty, that part of the British Civil Service that oversaw the Royal Navy. The post existed from 1860 to 1966....

 (and also responsible for airships) at the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

. Among those who attended were Thomas Hetherington, Robert Francis Macfie and Colonel Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton.

Many had been inspired by early ideas for from pre-war years. Among these would be the armoured "war car" built in the early 1890s in Eastern Europe. The armoured car was already in use with the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 on the continent. Another inspiration was a 1903 short story by HG Wells, The Land Ironclads
The Land Ironclads
Written by H. G. Wells, "The Land Ironclads" is a short story that originally appeared in the December 1903 issue of the Strand Magazine and set in a war similar to the First World War...

, and all but Winston Churchill were willing to borrow Wells' creation despite it being restricted under copyright law.

The Landships Committee was effectively responsible for creating the first tank corps. A small battery of the Motor Machine Gun Corps in Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 was used as a cover before the Tank Corps
Royal Tank Regiment
The Royal Tank Regiment is an armoured regiment of the British Army. It was formerly known as the Tank Corps and the Royal Tank Corps. It is part of the Royal Armoured Corps and is made up of two operational regiments, the 1st Royal Tank Regiment and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment...

 was established in 1916. Both battalions were replaced by the Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...

 and the Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery
The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery , is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.-History:...

 after the war. Today, the tank's naval lineage can be traced directly back to its naval designers by some of its past and present terminology: the hull, deck, sponsons, bow, turret, and hatches. Prior to the tank, armies used horses and field guns (cannon), and possessed no gun designed to fire within a confined space. Consequently, the first army tank guns were borrowed from the navy.


The committee was formed at Churchill's request in February 1915. It started with only three: d’Eyncourt, as President, Thomas Hetherington
Thomas Hetherington
Major Sir Thomas Chalmers Hetherington, KCB, CBE, QC, TD , better known as Sir Tony Hetherington, was a British barrister. He was Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales from 1977 to 1987, and was the first head of the Crown Prosecution Service for the year after it was founded in...

 and Col Wilfred Dumble of the Naval Brigade. Heatherington had proposed a large wheeled landship (some 300 tons) and this was Churchill's initial interest.
A former Royal Engineer, Dumble had managed the London Omnibus Co. and brought back to service in response to the urgent need for transport by the Brigade in Antwerp - he had been an adjutant to Colonel Crompton
R. E. B. Crompton
Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton FRS was a British electrical engineer, industrialist and inventor. He was a pioneer of electric lighting and public electricity supply systems. The company he formed, Crompton & Co., was one of the world's first large-scale manufactures of electrical equipment...

 who was trying to develop cross-country vehicles for the Army. Dumble recommended Crompton to the committee as an expert on heavy traction. The committee's activities were concealed from Kitchener at the War Office, the Board of the Admiralty and the Treasury - all of whom were expected to block the project.
The committee was introduced to tracked designs and Crompton was made technical adviser. Tritton of Foster's was introduced to the committee. Heatherington, accompanied by his assistant Albert Stern, travelled to the front to inspect German trench design. Ironically they missed meeting Swinton. The committee considered numerous designs including articulated and wheeled. A display of the Killen Strait tractor before the Ministry of Munitions and others in mid 1915 led to an Army specification for a fighting machine based on Swinton's earlier memorandum.
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