A Superb Event on Churchill and Tanks

June 19, 2014

Churchill is often credited with the invention of the tank.  Although then (in 1914) First Lord of the Admiralty, he well understood the need for such a militarized vehicle.  As he wrote to Colonel Ollivant, the Director of Air Division in the Royal Naval Administration Division, on 23 September 1914,

The conclusion was forced naturally and obviously upon me, and no doubt upon others, that if the armoured car on which so much money and labour had been spent, could not move round the enemy'’s trenches and operate against an open flank of his army, some method should be devised which would enable it to traverse and pass over the trenches themselves.

SWCSO members had a most unusual opportunity to hear more about the relationship of the inventive Churchill with the "landship" on June 19, 2014.  Members and guests at the event hosted by General Dynamics Canada at their facilities in Bells Corners, learned from SWCSO member Ian Smillie about the primitive-looking, then 4 mph vehicle, the need for such a device (trenches, barbed wire, machine guns and mud), the reason for the attribution of the name "tank", its evolution by the British (its creating nation), the French and the Germans, and one of the first-ever tank battles (Cambrai, 1917), supplemented by rare movie footage of the first British, French and German tanks, photographs of the day, maps and other material illustrations.

Following Ian'’s presentation, SWCSO Board member Colin Smith, with his 30+ year expertise in modern tank weaponry, brought the attendees up-to-date on the modern tank in its various modern national configurations, with pictures, and, better still, with an actual M1A1 Abrams tank on the GDC campus.  It is in fact the only active United States Main Battle Tank situated outside of the United States (not in current military deployment).  Attendees were able to climb onto it and peer into the interior, and to have every question about its operation answered by Colin.

The event was conceived, driven and executed by SWCSO members Colin Smith and Ian Smillie, and hosted by General Dynamics Canada.  Simply stated, it was a huge success.