Mark V tank

The British Mark V tank was an upgraded version of the Mark IV tank, deployed in 1918 and used in action in the closing months of World War I, in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War on the White Russian side, and by the Red Army. Thanks to Walter Wilson's epicyclic gear steering system, it was the first British heavy tank that required only one man to steer it; the gearsmen needed in earlier Marks were thus released to man the armament.

Mark V tank
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Metro Cammell Weymann (MCW)
Production Period 1917 - 1918
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1918
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1918 1941 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Metro Cammell Weymann (MCW) 1917 1918 400 View

The Mark V was, at first, intended to be a completely new design of tank, of which a wooden mock-up had been completed; however, when the new engine and transmission originally planned for the Mark IV became available in December 1917, the first, more advanced Mark V design was abandoned to avoid disrupting production. The designation "Mark V" was switched to an improved version of the Mark IV, equipped with the new systems. The original design of the Mark IV was to have been a large improvement on the Mark III, but had been scaled back due to technical delays. The Mark V thus turned out very similar to the original design of the Mark IV – i.e. a greatly modified Mark III.

In early 1917, some British tanks were tested with experimental powerplant and transmissions ordered by Albert Stern. These included petrol-electric schemes, hydraulic systems, a multiple clutch system, and an epicyclic gearbox from Major W.G. Wilson. Though the petrol-electrics had advantages, Wilson's design was capable of production and was selected for use in future tanks. Wilson then worked on the design of the tank that would use his gearbox.

The Mark V had more power (150 bhp) from a new Ricardo engine (also ordered by Stern). Use of Wilson's epicyclic steering gear meant that only a single driver was needed. On the roof towards the rear of the tank, behind the engine, was a second raised cabin, with hinged sides that allowed the crew to attach the unditching beam without exiting the vehicle. An additional machine-gun mount was fitted at the rear of the hull.

Production of the Mark V started at Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon at the end of 1917; the first tanks arrived in France in May 1918. Four hundred were built, 200 each of Males and Females; the 'Males' armed with 6-pounder (57 mm) guns and machine guns, the 'Females' with machine guns only. Several were converted to Hermaphrodites (sometimes known as "Mark V Composite") by fitting one male and one female sponson. This measure was intended to ensure that female tanks would not be outgunned when faced with captured British male tanks in German use or the Germans' own A7V.

The Mark V was first used in the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, when 60 tanks contributed to a successful assault by Australian units on the German lines. It went on to take part in eight major offensives before the end of the War. Canadian and American troops trained on Mk Vs in England in 1918, and the American Heavy Tank Battalion (the 301st) took part in three actions on the British Sector of the Western Front in late 1918. The Canadian Tank Corps, however, did not see action and was disbanded after the war's end. Approximately 70 were sent to support the White Russian forces in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and in the British North Russia Campaign. Most were subsequently captured by the Red Army. Four were retained by Estonian forces, and two by Latvia.

The Mk V made its combat debut at the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, successfully supporting Australian troops in an action that repaired the Australians' confidence in tanks, which had been badly damaged at Bullecourt. Thereafter Mk Vs were used in eight major actions before the end of the War.

During the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, 288 Mark V tanks, along with the new Whippet and Mk V*, penetrated the German lines in a foretaste of modern armoured warfare. This battle was also the Mk V*'s combat debut.

The American 301st Heavy Tank Battalion was equipped with 19 Mark V and 21 Mark V* tanks in their first heavy tank action against the Hindenburg Line on 27 September 1918. Of the 21 Mark V* tanks, 9 were hit by artillery rounds (one totally destroyed), 2 hit British mines, 5 had mechanical problems, and 2 ditched in trenches. The battalion, however, did reach its objective.

Mark V tanks supplied by Great Britain to the White Russian Army and subsequently captured by the Red Army in the course of the Russian Civil War were used in 1921 during the Red Army invasion of Georgia and contributed to the Soviet victory in the battle for Tbilisi.

The last known use of the Mk V in battle was by units of the Red Army during the defence of Tallin against German forces in August 1941. The four Mk Vs previously operated by Estonia were used as dug-in fortifications. It is believed that they were subsequently scrapped.

In 1945, occupying troops came across two badly damaged Mk V tanks in Berlin. Photographic evidence indicates that these were survivors of the Russian Civil War and had previously been displayed as a monument in Smolensk, Russia, before being brought to Berlin after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Accounts of their active involvement in the Battle of Berlin have not been verified.

Type Tank
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1918 – (last known)1941
Wars First World War
Russian Civil War
Second World War (minimal)
Production history
Designer Major Walter Gordon Wilson
Designed 1917
Manufacturer Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Ltd., Birmingham, UK.
Produced 1917 – June 1918
Number built 400
Weight Male: 29 tons "battle weight"
Female: 28 tons
Length 26 ft 5 in (8.5 m)
Width Male: 12 ft 10 inch
Female: 10 ft 6 in
Height 2.64 m (8 ft 8 in)
Crew 8 (commander, driver, and six gunners)
Armour 16 mm (0.63 in) maximum front
12 mm sides
8 mm roof and "belly"
Two 6-pounder (57-mm) 6 cwt QF guns with 207 rounds;
four .303 in (7.7-mm) Hotchkiss Mk 1 Machine Gun
Six .303 in Hotchkiss Mk 1 Machine Gun
Engine 19 litre six cylinder in-line Ricardopetrol engine
150 hp (110 kW) at 1200 rpm
Power/weight Male: 5.2 hp/ton
Transmission 4 forward 1 reverse, Wilson epicyclic in final drive
Fuel capacity 93 imperial gallons (420 l)
45 mi (72 km) radius of action about 10 hours endurance
Speed 5 mph (8.0 km/h) maximum
Wilson epicyclic steering

End notes