Mark V tank

Mark V tank

A British Mark V (Male) tank
Type Tank
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1918 – (last known)1945[1][2]
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[3]
Length 26 ft 5 in (8.5 m)[3]
Width Male: 12 ft 10 inch[3]
Female: 10 ft 6 in
Height 2.64 m (8 ft 8 in)[4]
Crew 8 (commander, driver, and six gunners)

Armour 16 mm (0.63 in) maximum front
12 mm sides
8 mm roof and "belly"[3]

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 Ricardo petrol engine
150 hp (110 kW) at 1200 rpm
Power/weight Male: 5.2 hp/ton[3]
Transmission 4 forward 1 reverse, Wilson epicyclic in final drive
Fuel capacity 93 imperial gallons (420 l)[3]
45 mi (72 km) radius of action[3] about 10 hours endurance
Speed 5 mph (8.0 km/h) maximum
Wilson epicyclic steering

The British Mark V tank[note 1] 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.


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 Mark V was to be followed by the more advanced Tank Mark VI, but this was abandoned in December, 1917, to ensure sufficient production by British, American and French factories of the Tank Mark VIII for a planned 1919 offensive. The war ended in November, 1918, and few Mark VIIIs would be built (most of those completed in Britain were immediately scrapped). The Mark V was also the basis of the Mk IX Troop Carrier, a dedicated Armoured Personnel Carrier, but only 34 were completed by the end of the war. After the war most of the British Army's tank units were disbanded, leaving five tank battalions equipped with either the Mark V or the Medium Mark C. The British Army's interest focused more on lighter tanks, and the Mark V was partially replaced by the Vickers Medium Mark I during the mid-1920s. Although the heavier Vickers A1E1 Independent reached prototype stage in 1926, it was abandoned for lack of funds. The remaining Mark Vs appear to have been replaced by medium tanks by the end of the decade. [5]


Mark V*

In an attempt to stop the tanks, the Germans began making their trenches too wide to be crossed. For example, trenches in the Hindenburg Line were widened to 11 or 12 feet, more than the British tanks' 10 feet trench-crossing ability. To counter this, Sir William Tritton developed the Tadpole Tail, an extension of the tracks to be fitted to the back of a tank and lengthen it by about 9 feet. However, it proved to be insufficiently rigid, and although several hundred were manufactured, the idea was abandoned. Then a Major Philip Johnson of the Central Tank Corps Workshops heard of this project and devised a plan of his own. He cut a Mark IV in half and inserted three extra panels, lengthening the hull by six feet. (It was believed for a long time that most Mark V* had been field conversions made by Johnson. It is now known that they were all new, factory-built to a new design). The V* had a reshaped rear cupola, incorporating 2 extra machine-gun mounts, and a door in each side of the hull, also with an extra machine-gun mount. The weight was 33 tons. Of orders for 500 Males and 200 Females, 579 had been built by the Armistice – the order was completed by Metropolitan Carriage in March 1919.[6]

A British Mark V* tank—on the roof the tank carries an unditching beam on rails, that could be attached to the tracks and used to extricate the vehicle from difficult muddy trenches and shell craters

It was also hoped that this longer tank might carry a squad of infantry with Vickers or Lewis machine guns, but the conditions inside were so extreme that the men became ill, and after some early experiments, the idea was abandoned.

Shortly before the end of the War, Britain supplied France with 90 Mk V*. They were not used in action, but remained in French service throughout the 1920s and 30s.

Note: the asterisk (*) in early British tank designations was usually pronounced as "star" when spoken, e.g., Mark Five-star, or Mark Five-star-star, etc.

Mark V**

A British Mark V** tank

Because the Mark V* had been lengthened, its original length-width ratio had been spoiled. Lateral forces in a turn now became unacceptably high causing thrown tracks and an enormous turn circle. Therefore, Major Wilson redesigned the track in May 1918, with a stronger curve to the lower run reducing ground contact (but increasing ground pressure as a trade-off) and the tracks widened to 26.5 inches. The Mark V engine was bored out to give 225 hp and sited further back in the hull. The cabin for the driver was combined with the commander's cabin; there now was a separate machine gun position in the back. Of a revised order for 700 tanks (150 Females and 550 Males) only 25 were built and only one of those by the end of 1918.[6]

Mark V***

See: Mark X.

Combat history

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.[7] 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.[8]

The last known use of the Mk V in battle was by units of the Red Army during the defence of Tallinn 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.[9]

In 1945, Allied 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.[1] Accounts of their active involvement in the Battle of Berlin have not been verified.[2]

Surviving vehicles

Eleven Mark V tanks survive. The majority are in Russia or Ukraine and are survivors of the tanks sent there to aid the White forces during the Russian Civil War.

The driving and forward gunner position of Ol'Faithful

See also


  1. Mark V = Mark 5 : Britain used Roman numerals to designate successive models of early heavy tanks
  1. 1 2 Fletcher (2011) p.47
  2. 1 2 "WW1 MK V tanks in Berlin 1945.". Archived from the original on 5 January 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 AFV Profile No. 3 Tanks Marks I to V
  4. Tank, Mark V (Male), Bovington Tank Museum
  5. British Tanks of the Inter-war Decades. Alternative Finland
  6. 1 2 Glanfield, Devil's Chariots
  8. Aksenov, A., Bullok, D (2006), Armored Units of the Russian Civil War: Red Army, p. Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-84176-545-7
  9. Estonian Armoured Vehicles 1918–1940. Tiit Noormets & Mati Õun. Tammiskilp 1999. Page 94" ISBN 9789985606926
  10. "Tank, Mark V (Male) (E1949.327)". Bovington Tank Museum. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  11. Fletcher (2013), p.153
  13. "Tank, Mark V** (Female) (E1949.325)". Bovington Tank Museum. Retrieved 28 October 2012.


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