‘I will make covered chariots which, when they enter among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men-at-arms so great but they will shatter it. And behind, infantry will be able to follow quite unharmed and unhindered.’
Da Vinci’s tactics and design for armoured vehicles carrying guns or armed troops through enemy lines had precedents in the war elephants of India, Mesopotamia and the Classical World but also prefigured the modern military tank.
Da Vinci’s tank had wheels powered by men turning crank handles. It would have been defeated by hills or rough terrain, a problem that persisted until the invention of the internal combustion engine and continuous track.
Almost simultaneously in the lead up to World War I, Austrian Gunter Burstyn, and Australian Lancelot ‘Lance’ de Mole CBE submitted designs for armoured, armed, continuous track vehicles to their respective military commands. Both were rejected. The original model of Lance de Mole’s tank is in the collection of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The first modern tanks were deployed by the British Army in the battle of the Somme, France in 1916.
Left: Australian designed and built Bushmaster armoured vehicle.
Courtesy Thales Australia
Right: Military tank track
painted wood, brass and aluminium