Little Willie was the first working tank in the world. It proved that a vehicle encompassing armoured protection, an internal combustion engine, and tracks was a possibility for the battlefield.
In 1915 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, created a Landships Committee to tackle the problems of trench warfare. After many experiments and false starts an agricultural firm, William Foster & Co. of Lincoln, was contracted to build a prototype machine. Its designers, William Tritton and Walter Wilson came up with a set of workable tracks which were fitted to the ‘Landship’ now known as ‘Little Willie,’ said to be an irreverent nickname for the German Crown Prince, Kaiser Wilhelm.
By the time ‘Little Willie’ was built, Wilson and Tritton had already come up with an improved idea of a machine with tracks running all the way around the vehicle, which would be able to cross trenches. This would become the classic British tank design of the Great War. Thus, ‘Little Willie’ was redundant almost as soon as it was built.