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H. G. Well's ‘THE LAND IRONCLADS’ and Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton's tank.

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  • H. G. Well's ‘THE LAND IRONCLADS’ and Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton's tank.

    An interesting read for those who didn't know about it. Wells accused Swinton of stealing his idea of the 'tank' which eventually led to Swinton suing Wells for libel.

    H. G. Wells’s 1903 short story, ‘The Land Ironclads’, is the first popular and widely cited fictional account of the modern armoured, cross-country fighting platform, known today as the tank. Wells’s ‘land ironclad’ idea was, at that time, the most fully realised concept of a land-based, mobile war machine, but it was nonetheless a fictional depiction of what-could-be and not what-is. Some years later when the battlefield tank made its debut in the First World War, Wells claimed authority over its invention, and in doing so, rankled the man most war historians consider the person responsible for making the tank possible: Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton.
    The link is a PDF download, an extract from a book.

    https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&r...3x1F3ltB_LCTBE
    "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
    Ernest Hemingway.

  • #2
    Wells land ironclads use the Diplock Wheel - they are not tracked and would be classed as very large armoured cars rather than tanks. The Diplock wheel gave rise to the Pedrail which was further developed into a form of track and Swinton's tank designs were based on this. In reality it proved to be a dead end. The term Land Iron Clad or Landship for short was used by Commander Hetherington (RNAS) in conversations with Winston Churchill at a dinner party in late 1914 which led to the setting up of the Landships committee to examine the concept and through a series of complicated convolutions to the first true tanks. Hetherington had had success using RNAS armoured cars against the Germans in Belgium when the war was still fluid. However Hetherington's concept was a very different vehicle to that described by Wells. It was to have been a huge armoured tricycle on 40 foot diameter wheels and mounting naval guns -either four or six inch. Motive power was likely to have been a submarine diesel engine. Well's contribution to the first tank was in fact very small, however he had a large ego.

    Swinton's claims are somewhat exaggerated however they were supported by Holt who was claiming that his track system had given rise to the tank and used this in advertising for his tractors. Holt's system was never used on British tanks. The first true tank - the Lincoln No.1 was fitted with Bullock Creeping Grip tracks - a product made by an entirely different American company. These kept slipping off their rollers (possibly because they had been incorrectly assembled) and Tritton had them replaced with a simpler system of his own design. In this form the Lincoln No 1 became Little Willy and this was the track system adapted for the first tanks. Holt's system was used on the first French tanks and on the German A7V - its trench crossing and vertical obstacle capability proved inadequate.

    A number of people (including myself) have attempted to produce drawings based on Well's description of the Land Iron Clads. It is impossible as Well's description in inconsistent and doesn't work so that compromises have to be made to produce a logical drawing. However for what it's worth I attach my version.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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    • #3
      Are there any good drawings/pictures of the Sueter-Diplock machine? From what I understand a dozen were approved to be built.
      "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
      Ernest Hemingway.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Achtung Baby View Post
        Are there any good drawings/pictures of the Sueter-Diplock machine? From what I understand a dozen were approved to be built.
        This does not appear to have been the case. Sueter came up with a design that involved using a shortened Holland Class submarine hull mounted between two Pedrail tracks (not Diplock wheels) and mounting a couple of turrets. Sueter claimed in his memoires that Churchill gave permission for 18 to be built but there is no official record to back up this claim. Sueter was anther person who after the war claimed to be the originator of the tank. There were quite a number.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          Swinton's [ correction Crompton's - yet another claimant) last design (attached) was articulated. The idea may have been that it could use its length to facilitate trench crossing but once through the trench line it could split in two and spread out to harry the rear areas. The track design however would still have limited its vertical obstacle capability. The French tried out the concept and designed a three section articulated tank. This was not intended to disconnect itself however as the central section contained a generator that powered electric motors in front and rear sections. A proof of concept prototype was made of two Schneider tanks and worked quite well. However the armistice came before further work could be completed. The idea was revived by the French in 1938 but work stopped in 1940 for obvious reasons
          Last edited by MarkV; 27 Jun 19, 13:41.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MarkV View Post

            This does not appear to have been the case. Sueter came up with a design that involved using a shortened Holland Class submarine hull mounted between two Pedrail tracks (not Diplock wheels) and mounting a couple of turrets. Sueter claimed in his memoires that Churchill gave permission for 18 to be built but there is no official record to back up this claim. Sueter was anther person who after the war claimed to be the originator of the tank. There were quite a number.
            would THAT mean that all of them, including H g wells, owe royalties to Leonardo da Vinci?
            The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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            • #7
              Originally posted by marktwain View Post

              would THAT mean that all of them, including H g wells, owe royalties to Leonardo da Vinci?
              No, da Vinci's design was so far from a tank as to be a non contender. Wheeled not tracked and muscle powered. In any case there were already examples of the use of protected guns propelled by muscle power (albeit horse muscle) before Leonards time
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

              Comment

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