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First use of tanks in battle


This Mark I 'Male' Tank broke down crossing a British trench on its way to attack Thiepval on 25 September 1916.

Tanks were used in battle for the first time, by the British, on 15 September 1916 at Flers-Courcelette during the Battle of the Somme. Two of the four tanks attached to the New Zealand Division were knocked out by German artillery fire during the day. 

Still mechanically unreliable, the tanks were rushed into action in small groups. Many broke down, and the Germans soon found ways to stop them. Some senior officers had advised keeping them under wraps until large numbers could be assembled to strike a decisive blow.

See also ‘Tanks of the First World War’ on Ngā Tapuwae.


Imperial War Museum, Q 2486

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First use of tanks in battle, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated