The Tank


This 1916 poster shows an early tank; below the image, a lengthy text in Chinese explains the purpose of a tank, the history of its invention, and its role in "the European war." Tanks were first developed by the British during World War I as a way to break the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western front. The vehicles first saw action in the Battle of the Somme in France in September 1916. Early tanks had limited mobility and suffered frequent mechanical breakdowns, but they heralded a revolution in land warfare. By the end of World War I, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States all were using tanks in their armies. To an audience clearly unfamiliar with this new form of warfare, the Chinese text on this poster explains: "Wooden enclosures of a fort cannot match this vehicle. Machine guns are built inside. Its outside is protected by outer shell. So the soldier can sit inside the vehicle to attack the enemy, with a free movement. This is the goal of the inventor. However, the battlefields are bumpy, with a complicated network of trenches. That is why it is equipped with rubber wheels. These are not ordinary ones, but circulating wheels, commonly known as ‘centipede wheels’, like a centipede that has many feet, in other words, many wheels.”

Last updated: February 10, 2014