The Tank Museum | Little Willie Honoured with Award

Little Willie Honoured with Award

World’s first tank, Little Willie, is presented with an award from the Royal Institute of Mechanical Engineering.

13th December 2013

Little Willie, displayed in The Tank Story Hall at the Museum, has been honoured by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at a special ceremony today.

The tank will stand alongside previous award winners like E-Type Jaguar, Tower Bridge and the Vulcan Bomber as an example of exceptional British engineering.

Weighing 18 tons, with an intended crew of two plus four gunners, Little Willie – built by William Foster and Co in Lincoln - was the first completed tank prototype in history. However, although the completed vehicle was running by the end of 1915, a new design was already under construction, meaning Little Willie never saw combat.

Nevertheless, its design represented a huge advance in military engineering and provided the blueprint for almost every tank that followed it.

John Wood, Chairman of the Institution’s Engineering Heritage Committee, said, “Little Willie is an example of British engineering at its finest.

"Despite it never seeing combat, Little Willie’s design was hugely innovative and designers and engineers used it as a starting point for many of the tanks which followed later. It really did change the face of modern warfare.

This award celebrates the Little Willie’s status as the world’s first tank, but is also in recognition of the excellent work of The Tank Museum in preserving this vehicle for generations to come."

David Willey, Curator of The Tank Museum, said:

"As the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the invention of the tank approaches, this seems a very apt moment to look at this incredibly influential piece of British innovation.

Little Willie was designed to save British lives on the battlefield by helping our soldiers break into the German trench systems and not get held up on barbed wire and caught by machine gun fire.

The tanks that were produced from the lessons learned from Little Willie undoubtedly played a major role in defeating Germany and liberating France and Belgium. It is truly a great British first."

This will be the 89th Engineering Heritage Award to be presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The awards, established in 1984, aim to promote artefacts, sites or landmarks of significant engineering importance – past and present.