Mark IV tank
The British Mark IV tank was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefitted from significant developments on the first British tank
Mark I tank
The British Mark I was a tracked vehicle developed by the British Army during the First World War and the world's first combat tank. The Mark I entered service in August 1916, and was first used in action on the morning of 15 September 1916 during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, of the Somme...

 the intervening designs being small batches used for training. The major improvements were in armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

, the re-siting of the fuel tank and easier transportation.
A total of 1,220 were built: 420 "Males", 595 "Females"
Female tank
The "Female" tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I, which featured multiple machine guns instead of the heavier armament seen on the much more common "male" tanks. As such, female tanks were normally cast in an anti-infantry role...

 and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies).

The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the battle of Messines Ridge. They remained in service to the end of the war.


The director of the Tank Supply Department, Albert Gerald Stern
Albert Gerald Stern
Sir Albert Gerald Stern was a banker who became the Secretary of the Landships Committee during World War I, where his organisational ability and influence in financial circles assisted the Committee in creating the first British tank....

, first intended to fit the Mark IV with a new engine and transmission. Production of battle tanks was halted until the new design was ready, necessitating the use of the Mark II and III as interim training tanks. He failed however to complete development soon enough to start production in time to have 200 tanks ready for the promised date of 1 April 1917. He was ultimately forced to take a Mark IV into production in May 1917 that was only slightly different from the Mark I.

The Mark IV Male carried three Lewis machine guns - one in the hull front and two in the sponsonsA spare Lewis gun was carried on board - as well as the two sponson guns (now shorter barrelled QF 6 pdr 6 cwt
QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss
The Ordnance QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss Mk 1 and Mk 2 was a shortened version of the original QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss, and was developed specifically for use in the sponsons of the later Marks of British tanks in World War I, from Mark IV onwards.-History:...

 guns). The Female had five machine guns. Two of the machine guns were operated by the gun loaders.

The decision to standardize on the Lewis gun was due to the space available within the tanks. Despite its vulnerable barrel and a tendency to overheat or foul after prolonged firing, the Lewis used compact drum magazines which could hold up to 96 rounds. The Hotchkiss was fed from a rigid strip which was trimmed down to only 14 rounds for tank use; no sooner had the machine gunner guided the fall of shot onto the target then it was time to change the strip and the process repeated. It was not until a flexible 50 round strip was fully developed in May 1917 that the Hotchkiss would become the standard machine gun for tanks again. The changes caused delays - adapting the design for the bulky Lewis cooling barrel - and later problems when the Hotchkiss strips had to be stored in positions designed for Lewis gun magazines.

This tank introduced the use of the fascine
A fascine is a rough bundle of brushwood used for strengthening an earthen structure, or making a path across uneven or wet terrain. Typical uses are protecting the banks of streams from erosion, covering marshy ground and so on.-Early military use:...

, a bundle of brushwood, bound with chains, about 10 ft (3 m) long and 4.5 ft (1.4 m) in diameter carried on the front. It was dropped into trenches to allow the tank to more easily cross over.

A large number of these tanks were also used for development work. In an attempt to improve trench-crossing capability, the tadpole tail was introduced, an extension to the rear track horns. However, it proved insufficiently rigid and does not appear to have been used in combat. Other experimental versions tested radios, mortars placed between the rear horns, and recovery cranes. Some of these devices were later used on operational tanks. Mark IVs were also the first tanks fitted with unditching beams by field workshops. A large wooden beam, reinforced with sheet metal, was stored across the top of the tank on a set of parallel rails. If the tank became stuck, the beam was attached to the tracks (often under fire) and then dragged beneath the vehicle, providing grip.

  • Crew: 8
  • Combat Weight: Male: 28 tons (28.4 tonnes) - Female: 27 tons (27.4 tonnes)
  • Armour: .25–.47 in (6.1–12 mm)
  • Armament
    • Three MG and two 6-pdrs (Male), Five .303 Lewis MG (Female)
  • Ammo storage
    • 6 pounder: 180 HE rounds and remainder Case


The Mark IV was built by six different manufacturers: Metropolitan (the majority builder), Fosters of Lincoln, Armstrong-Whitworth, Coventry Ordnance Works
Coventry Ordnance Works
Coventry Ordnance Works was a British manufacturer of heavy guns, particularly naval artillery. The firm was based in the English city of Coventry.-History:...

, William Beardmore and Company
William Beardmore and Company
William Beardmore and Company was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding conglomerate based in Glasgow and the surrounding Clydeside area. It was active between about 1890 and 1930 and at its peak employed about 40,000 people...

 and Mirrlees, Watson & Co., with the main production being in 1917.

The first order was placed for 1,000 tanks with Metropolitan in August 1916. It was subsequently cancelled, and reinstated, and then modified between August and December 1916. The other manufacturers, contracted for no more than 100 tanks each, were largely immune to the conflict between Stern and the War Office.


The Mark IV was used at the Messines Ridge when 62 tanks were used on 7 June 1917. They outran their infantry on the broken up but dry terrain. By comparison, in the Third Ypres from the 31 July when the preliminary 24-day long barrage destroyed all drainage and there was heavy rain, the tanks found it heavy going and contributed little; those that sank into the swampy ground, were immobilized and easy targets for enemy artillery.

Nearly 460 Mark IV tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, showing that a large concentration of tanks could quickly overcome even the most sophisticated trench system.

In the aftermath of the German Spring Offensive
Spring Offensive
The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht , also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during World War I, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914...

 on the western front, the first tank-to-tank battle was between Mk IV tanks and German A7V
The A7V was a tank introduced by Germany in 1918, near the end of World War I. One hundred vehicles were ordered during the spring of 1918, but only 21 were delivered. It was nicknamed "The Moving Fortress" by the British because of the shape of the hull...

s in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux
Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux
The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux came during the period of the battle of Lys, 24–27 April 1918, but was launched against the British lines in front of Amiens.The Germans developed a small number of tanks, and used them in this offensive...

 in April 1918. part of the Battle of the Lys

About forty captured Mark IVs were employed by the Germans as Beutepanzer with a crew of twelve. (The German word Beute means "loot" or "booty".) Some of these had their six pounders replaced by a German equivalent.

The last Mark IV to see service was Excellent, a Mark IV male retained by the naval gunnery school on Whale Island, HMS Excellent. In the early years of the Second World War it was restored to operational status and driven to the mainland, where its new career was allegedly brought to an early end after a number of cars were damaged.

Surviving vehicles

Seven Mark IVs survive.
  • A Mark IV Female, F4: Flirt II, which fought at the Battle of Cambrai, is at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life
    Museum of Lincolnshire Life
    The Museum of Lincolnshire Life is a museum in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, in the UK. The museum collection is a varied social history that reflects and celebrates the culture of Lincolnshire and its people from 1750 to the present day...

    , Lincoln, England. A local company, William Foster & Co.
    William Foster & Co.
    William Foster & Co Ltd was an agricultural machinery company based in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England and usually just called "Fosters of Lincoln." The company can be traced back to 1846, when William Foster purchased a flour mill in Lincoln. William Foster then proceeded to start small scale...

    , manufactured the first tanks.
  • A Mark IV Female is preserved at Ashford
    Ashford, Kent
    Ashford is a town in the borough of Ashford in Kent, England. In 2005 it was voted the fourth best place to live in the United Kingdom. It lies on the Great Stour river, the M20 motorway, and the South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1 railways. Its agricultural market is one of the most...

     in Kent
    Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

    . This is one of many that were presented for display to towns and cities in Britain after the war; most were scrapped in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • The Royal Museum of the Army in Brussels
    Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

     has a Male Mark IV tank, the Lodestar III, still in original colours.
  • A Mark IV Female, Grit, is displayed in the ANZAC hall at the Australian War Memorial
    Australian War Memorial
    The Australian War Memorial is Australia's national memorial to the members of all its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia...

  • In 1999, a Mark IV Female, D51: Deborah, was excavated at the village of Flesquières
    Flesquières is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.-Heraldry:-References:*...

     in France. It had been knocked out by shell-fire at the Battle of Cambrai (1917) and subsequently buried when used to fill a crater. Work is underway on its restoration.
  • A Mark IV Male, Excellent, is displayed at Bovington. After World War I, this tank was presented by the army to HMS Excellent, a Royal Navy shore establishment where some tank crewmen were trained. During World War II, it was made operational again for service with the Home Guard when German invasion threatened in 1940. It is still maintained in working order.
  • Mark IV Female Liberty: displayed at United States Army Ordnance Museum
    United States Army Ordnance Museum
    The U.S. Army Ordnance Museum is a museum that is in the process of being re-located to Fort Lee, in Fort Lee, Virginia. Its previous building—at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland—was closed in September 2010, although many outdoor exhibits are still accessible to the...

    , Aberdeen, Maryland
    Aberdeen, Maryland
    As of the census of 2000, there were 13,842 people, 5,475 households, and 3,712 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,166.2 people per square mile . There were 5,894 housing units at an average density of 922.4 per square mile...

    . Originally named Britannia, this tank took part in the Battle of Arras
    Battle of Arras (1917)
    The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British, Canadian, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front....

     where it penetrated the German trench lines, destroyed four machine gun positions, helped take 395 prisoners and repulse two German counter-attacks. The tank and her crew were afterwards sent to the US to help sell War bond
    War bond
    War bonds are debt securities issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during times of war. War bonds generate capital for the government and make civilians feel involved in their national militaries...

    s. Renamed Liberty, the tank joined the Ordnance Museum collection in 1919. After decades of exposure to the elements it is in poor condition, but about to undergo restoration.

External links

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