Churchil the innovator: the invention of "water tanks"

(To Alessandro Rugolo)

Churchill was one of the greatest politicians of the 20th century. As acclaimed as he is mistreated, we owe the world to him as it is today, for better or for worse and, whatever people say, we still owe the Americans' entry into war alongside the British.

Accused by his detractors of having been a great opportunist and a turnaround to be passed with apparent ease by Tory ai Whig and then again ai Toryin my opinion he was simply a great statesman, able to understand the trends and ride them, always keeping an eye on his interests that probably for the most part coincided with those of the British Crown and the Empire.

Churchill has been called brave, bloodthirsty, rash, but also cowardly, passionate, traitor, but perhaps not everyone knows that Churchill was, in some respects, an incredible innovator. At the beginning of World War I Churchill occupied the uncomfortable position of First Lord of the Admiralty, a position of great importance for an empire that based its size on the power of its naval fleet. In this position, in fact, he had the opportunity to deal with projects not really related to the navy, among which the construction of a prototype tank deserves a certain attention.

Churchill was basically a leader. A leader with almost infinite energy and able to use, or perhaps it is appropriate to say "bend" everything and everyone in order to achieve its purpose. The son of this energy is, precisely, the tank.

As we all know, the First World War was a war of position. Land armies challenged behind trench lines. The artillery and machine-guns carried out their daily massacre and the soldiers' torn bodies were piled one on top of the other without being able to claim to have conquered a yard of enemy territory.
Churchill was a soldier and immediately realized what was happening but in his position he was not able to directly help the Army. However, he had enormous resources and it was difficult to say no.
One day he called his technicians and asked to create a prototype of a futuristic project. A tractor that was able to "navigate" on the trench lines and on the barbed wire protecting inside a handful of armed soldiers. Armored hulls of disused ships could be used. In a few weeks his best minds were at work.

The first problem to overcome was that of movement on muddy and uneven ground. Problem brilliantly overcome with the adoption of tracks able to adhere to each surface.
Another big problem was identified in the possibility of leakage of news related to the project. Churchill gave orders to refer to the tractors in preparation, calling them "water tanks" or "water containers".
Over time and for the sake of brevity, the workers involved in the work ended up calling them simply "Tank", as even today the tanks are called in the English-speaking languages.
The first prototype was ready at the end of the 1915 and became famous with the name of Little Willie. The initial idea of ​​using it to cut the barbed wire was then improved and the tank thus became the weapon of the armies of the Second World War.

Of course, Churchill was not the designer or creator of the prototype but there is no doubt that the success of the company is due to him: he believed in the validity of the idea and carried it forward with all his strength, as he did a few years later, during the of the Second World War, with the project led by Alan Turing for the decryption of the secret messages of the Germans encrypted with "Enigma", but that's another story ...

To learn more:
- Biography "The Churchill factor", by Boris Johnson, 2014, Riverhead