The Land Ironclads
Written by H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

, "The Land Ironclads" is a short story that originally appeared in the December 1903 issue of the Strand Magazine
Strand Magazine
The Strand Magazine was a monthly magazine composed of fictional stories and factual articles founded by George Newnes. It was first published in the United Kingdom from January 1891 to March 1950 running to 711 issues, though the first issue was on sale well before Christmas 1890.Its immediate...

 and set in a war similar to 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...

. The Ironclads are 100 feet (30.5 m) machines with remote control
Remote control
A remote control is a component of an electronics device, most commonly a television set, used for operating the television device wirelessly from a short line-of-sight distance.The remote control is usually contracted to remote...

led guns and accommodation for 42 soldiers, including 7 officers.

The story is one of those responsible for Wells' reputation as a "prophet of the future", as the eponymous machines seem to anticipate the tanks of World War I
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...

. His rather sketchy battle between countrymen and townsmen also carries echoes of the Boer War
Boer War
The Boer Wars were two wars fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics, the Oranje Vrijstaat and the Republiek van Transvaal ....

 and his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds is an 1898 science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells.The War of the Worlds may also refer to:- Radio broadcasts :* The War of the Worlds , the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles...

, which also features a struggle between technologically uneven protagonists.

Plot summary

The story opens with a war correspondent and a young lieutenant surveying the calm of the
battlefield and reflecting upon the war. The two opposing sides are dug into trenches, each waiting for the other to attack, and the men on the war correspondent's side are confident in their coming victory. They believe that they will win because they are all strong outdoor-types - men who know how to use a rifle and fight - while their enemies are towns people ... "a crowd of devitalized townsmen ... They're clerks, they're factory hands, they're students, they're civilized men. They can write, they can talk, they can make and do all sorts of things, but they're poor amateurs at war." The men agree that their "open air life" produces men better suited to war than their opponents' "decent civilization".

In the end, however, it is shown that the "decent civilization", with its men of science and engineers, triumphs over the "better soldiers" who, instead of developing land ironclads of their own, had been practicing shooting their rifles from horseback, a tactic which became obsolete the second the land ironclads appeared on the battlefield. Wells foreshadows this eventual outcome in the conversation of the two men in the first part, when the correspondent tells the lieutenant "Civilization has science, you know, it invented and it made the rifles and guns and things you use", to which the lieutenant responds "Which our nice healthy hunters and stockmen and so on, rowdy-dowdy cowpunchers and nigger-whackers, can use ten times better".

The story ends with the entire army captured by a dozen or so of the land ironclads, and the last scene is of the correspondent comparing his countrymen's "sturdy proportions with those of their lightly built captors", and thinking of the story he is going to write about the experience, noting both that the captured officers are thinking of ways they will defeat what they call the enemy's "ironmongery" with their already-existing weaponry, rather than developing their own land ironclads to counter the new threat, and also noting that the "half-dozen comparatively slender young men in blue pajamas who were standing about their victorious land ironclad, drinking coffee and eating biscuits, had also in their eyes and carriage something not altogether degraded below the level of a man."


Although Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 had designed a proto-tank, Wells's chief inspiration seems to have been ironclad warship
Ironclad warship
An ironclad was a steam-propelled warship in the early part of the second half of the 19th century, protected by iron or steel armor plates. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, La Gloire,...

s, which also feature significantly in one incident from The War of the Worlds. In War and the Future, H. G. Wells specifically acknowledged M. Diplock
Bramah Joseph Diplock
Bramah Joseph Diplock was an English inventor who invented the pedrail wheel in 1903.He also invented the pedrail locomotive which was featured in the 7 February 1904 New York Times....

's pedrail as the origin for his idea of an all-terrain armoured vehicle in The Land Ironclads :

External links

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