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Sir William Tritton And The Tank

June 10, 2009

As I think I mentioned in a previous blog, there were ideas of erecting a statue of a tank as a memorial to Lincoln’s industrial past, and to those who served in the Great War, on the large roundabout on Tritton Road.

Tritton Road was named after Sir William Tritton who designed and built the first tanks at William Foster & Co Ltd. The company’s Wellington Foundry was situated where Morrisons supermarket now stands…not far from the roundabout.

Sir William Tritton was officially asked ‘to design a machine,File0043 strongly armoured, carrying powerful guns, capable of negotiating all reasonable impediments of the battle area and crossing the opposing trenches.’ He set to work, and ‘motivated by the impelling urgency of solving the trench warfare impasse’ designed and built the first machine, known as Little Willie, in the record time of thirty-seven days.

At its first trial, Little Willie failed because it kept coming off of its tracks, so improvements had to be implemented, and new tracks were built onto it. This time it was deemed to be a success.

To deal with the changes to conditions at the Front, a new machine had to be designed that was longer and more manoeuvrable. The result was Big Willie, later re-christened Mother. Complete secrecy surrounded the official unveiling and trial at Hatfield, and six days later King George V saw for himself this innovation in land warfare.


An official order for a fleet of twenty-five of these machines was soon increased to 150, and as production increased so too did the need to expand the works. The Landships Committee decided to invite the co-operation of other engineering firms, so Fosters prepared many copies of their designs.

As a steady stream of tanks rolled off the production lines, the first Tank Training Camp was founded in Norfolk to train the crews who were to man them, and on September 15, 1916 the tanks went into action.

The rest, as they say, is history.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandi permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:59 pm

    I forgot to add this link to yesterday\’s Echo story…

  2. Sandi permalink
    June 10, 2009 3:18 pm

    I didn\’t put Flirt on here because she has already been featured in the Museum blog….so this time it\’s Little Willie and Big Willie\’s turn….!

  3. Curiosity permalink
    June 10, 2009 5:22 pm

    Soz Sandi……….Tanks! hardly cute and fluffy, not even got windows to hang pretty net curtains from, or did they have pink fluffy steering wheel covers or even a make-up mirror?! Ingenious engineering I admit but it is \’man stuff\’ innit!! Now, put The Stig in one and you\’re talking!!

  4. Curiosity permalink
    June 10, 2009 5:28 pm

    All this talk of Little Willie and Big Willie has hushed the menfolk from commenting and your dear lady friends must be so overcome that they have the vapours!

  5. Sandi permalink
    June 10, 2009 8:16 pm

    I don\’t consider it \’man stuff\’…I consider it history. But you have a point about the Stig…I\’d like to see him do a lap of the crcuit in one o\’ dem der tank fings, innit…he\’d never get round in less than three minutes though…or would he…?!!

  6. Mike permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:27 pm

    Interesting stuff Sandi!Think Rachel must be \’vapoured\’ out by now! 🙂 xxx

  7. Cornish permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:24 am

    And I\’ve been driving the car just like it\’s been one of those tanks ever since!I\’m a tad worried about that Little Willie in the background of the first photo. It looks as though it\’s got stuck in the ditch. And it weren\’t me that put it there this time!Hehe Curiosity, there\’s always somewhere for the fluffy dice to hang! All those useless buttons and switches they put in those machines would accommodate one, I\’m sure.I can also see why they re-named the second one \’Mother\’, it looks at lot like mine and she\’s a bit of a battle-axe (taught me to be one too).We\’ve got a little steam engine on one of our roundabouts. Not the typical train type but one that looks more like one of the first cars. It sits on rails and is a regular spot for the vandals. I don\’t tend to pay much attention to it now the novelty has worn off. Shame on me!Now then, I\’m curious. Were they thinking of erecting a Big Willie or a Little Willie? What???? Someone had to ask and you just knew it would be me, didn\’t you?Still steaming Mike, still steaming ………………..Good stuff Sandi, you\’ve made me think about that little engine now. I\’ll have to see what I can find out about it as you\’ve put me to shame. xx

  8. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:59 am

    Now if I had thought about it, when I read the article, I could have commented and asked that very question, couldn\’t I! Hehehehe…I might still do so… ;-DI can\’t see you as a battle-axe, Rachel…not when you post such demure pics of yourself…! Or is that a ploy, I wonder…?! I had better watch my step, hadn\’t I!A little steam engine…not a train, but on tracks…sounds like something used in the mines that would pull the loads of ore up steep inclines, being as your region is littered with old mines. Fascinating stuff, innit!

  9. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:07 pm

    Ha! I dun did it! I suggested that they errect a Big Willie, rather than a Little Willie…!!

  10. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:08 pm

    OOPS!!! I wasn\’t going to do that!!

  11. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:08 pm

    Anne\’s fault!!

  12. Andrew permalink
    June 11, 2009 5:11 pm

    AAAaarrrhhhh, but did you know that there was a male tank and a female tank…> The difference being that only the male Tank had the big guns in the side sponsoons, the Female had four Machine Guns on the sides , two facing fo\’ard and two to the rear….Why who knows.Apparently the drivers in them were deak withing a few days cause they were sitting right infront of an open engine…….Ill get my coat………..Hood Up….Gone……..

  13. Andrew permalink
    June 11, 2009 5:12 pm

    deak should read deaf…………………….sorry

  14. Andrew permalink
    June 11, 2009 5:12 pm

    no mention of rabbits yet then…….

  15. Curiosity permalink
    June 11, 2009 8:19 pm

    \’Whats up Doc?!\’Sort of sums up the whole conversation does Bugs Bunny! U got rabbit and inuendo in one go.

  16. Andrew permalink
    June 11, 2009 8:20 pm

    its gone very quiet again…………………

  17. Natalia permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:03 pm

    This reminds me of a visit to Bovington Tank museum during the fifth year at secondary school. Fascinating!! Think I remember the Big Willie down there. Odd how our history teacher never included it\’s name don\’t you think?? Maybe he did rather discreetly……… Ehem!! 20 + pubescent children with rampant hormones. Little wonder I think……. there would have been a riot if he kept pointing it out!! :oD xx

  18. Natalia permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:06 pm

    P.s Andrew, perhaps it like the white one in Alice in wonderland? Very late for an important date and dissappeared down a hole??

  19. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:32 pm

    Rabbits? Holes? Ahem! I\’ll go away then come back again, shall I?!

  20. Cornish permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:45 pm

    Elmer Fudd said it better "Be vewy vewy qwuiet, I\’m huntun wabbit!"We\’ve got a big hill down here called Brown Willy. Highest point in Cornwall!!!

  21. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:03 pm

    As the tanks were constantly being improved and updated, there were new names and uses….The Whippet, The Hornet, a gun-carrying tank, a supply tank, etc. Big Willie was re-christened Mother, Natalia, so maybe your teacher called it by that name?I have heard something about male and female tanks, Andrew, but haven\’t actually read anything about it, here…if I do, I\’ll be sure to mention it. Thanks.

  22. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:05 pm

    Oooooh, Rachel…sounds like the perfect place for a*** bandits to hide out!!! Sorry…bad taste!! (Slaps wrist!)

  23. Sandi permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:57 pm this link takes you to Wikipedias history of the tank.I\’m actually reading \’The Tank – Its Birth & Development\’ a facimile of the book that was first published in 1920.

  24. Cornish permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:50 pm

    You know why the female tanks had guns pointing backwards don\’t you? Not only was it because women multi task better (so I\’m told) and can shoot in mulitple directions at the same time. But also because we\’re having to get the men off our backsides all the time, so having guns pointing there seemed like the perfect solution. "Touch my a** again and I\’ll shoot ya!!" Fair exchange I think.Oh yeah, I can see the men arming their weapons at that comment. Anybody for an online imaginary battle? :-))))

  25. Cornish permalink
    June 12, 2009 1:50 pm

    Now there\’s an interesting fact! Sorry if you already told us this Sandi.A tank is called a tank because when it was first used it was disguised as a water carrier so that the enemy wouldn\’t know what was coming at them. "Ah there you go Mr Hitler sir, another one of them daft water tanks coming our way."BOOM"Oops."(My oops if you\’ve already told us Sandi – I was just taking a gander over on Wiki and obviously couldn\’t remember if it had been mentioned or not)

  26. Eileen permalink
    June 12, 2009 1:57 pm

    LOL!I don\’t know! All this talk of Big Willies, Little Willies, Rabbits… Brown Willies… it\’s not fair!!!! Maybe it\’s because us women like to cover all options where as men tend to charge straight in big guns blazing and then think about the consequences? :-)))

  27. Cornish permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:02 pm

    *sigh* And there was I trying to get things back on track!Geddit??? Back on track??? Tanks and tracks???Take care Sandi and have a great weekend. xx

  28. Sandi permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:06 pm

    The need for secrecy went down to the very men, and women, building these machines, so the workforce at Fosters was told that they were building \’water carriers for Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq!) This got shortened to tank, and it stuck. Rachel, you\’re getting your history in a twist…we are talking WW1 here, not WW2, so it would have been Kaiser Willie. I wonder if that is why they were called Little Willie and Big Willie…?And can we forget about Brown Willies, please Eileen…not nice…not nice, Rachel…not nice…!! LOL!

  29. Eileen permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:07 pm

    Yes Sandi have a great weekend xx << goes off wondering what happened to Bob.. he\’s been far too quiet >>

  30. Eileen permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:09 pm

    Lol.. and what\’s wrong with Brown Willies Sandie?????

  31. Cornish permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:14 pm

    It\’s a hill in Cornwall. That\’s all I\’m saying. I hadn\’t even thought about anything other than the \’willy\’ reference to it. (And it\’s height of course!)

  32. Sandi permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:18 pm

    Working nights, and sleeping days…that\’s Robert at the moment. When online he is playing his games…maybe he should be told to check in now and then…?!

  33. Eileen permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:27 pm

    No!! It\’s best if he stays away from \’some\’ of our conversations.. I was just thinking maybe you\’d left him tied up xxSay hello to him

  34. Curiosity permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:49 pm

    Seem to recall you saying that Bob sticks his finger in your ear, annoyingly. Well if it is with a wet finger it is called \’giving you a wet willie\’!And Sweet Williams…the flower is called Stinking Willy in Scotland.

  35. Sandi permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:56 pm

    I know about wet willies, Anne….Robert told me about our ex-boss, when he still lived with his ex and her two kids. The boy walked up to him and stuck his wet finger in his ear saying "Wet willy!!" If you knew our ex-boss you\’d know why that is just so-o-o-o-o hilarious!!!Robert is out delivering curries tonight…looking forward to my biriyani tonight…yummy, scrummy, rub my tummy!!!

  36. Eileen permalink
    June 12, 2009 8:02 pm

    Mmmm… food! May be forced to order out

  37. Kayley and Phil permalink
    June 13, 2009 9:51 am

    We are impressed with the tank stuff…as for wet willies……….mmmmmmmmmmmm

  38. Sandi permalink
    June 13, 2009 9:58 am

    LOL!! I know…! It\’s crazy how \’serious\’ blogs can quickly degenerate into…well…you know…!!

  39. Chris Gresham permalink
    March 3, 2012 9:52 pm

    Sandi, the Fosters Factory was where the Tritton retail park is, Morrisons is where the tank testing grounds were.

    In the sixties I flew model planes where Morrisons are, the area was called ‘the tankies’ at the time I didn’t know why 🙂

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