The Medium Mark A was the first fast tank and was intended to use speed to break through the German defences.
The first British tanks were very slow. Their job was to fight a way through the mud and wire of No-Man’s Land, with the infantry following on foot behind. The tanks only needed to go at the walking pace of an infantry man. The Army then decided that a faster tank was required to take advantage of gaps created by the heavy tanks and the infantry. This was the role of the Medium Mark A.
It had a top speed of 8 mph, more than twice as fast as a heavy tank like the Mark II, so it was nicknamed the Whippet. It has two bus engines. It was designed in 1917, and first went into battle in March 1918.
The Tank Museum’s Whippet
Known as ‘Caesar II’, this tank went into action on 29 August 1918 commanded by Lieutenant Cecil Sewell. During the battle, Sewell jumped out of his tank to help some soldiers who were trapped in an overturned tank. He saved them, but was shot and died almost at once. Sewell was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery. You can see a replica of Sewell’s Victoria Cross in the For Valour medals exhibition in the Discovery Centre.