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Lincolnshire's War-time Industries

The First World War is often referred to as an ‘industrial war.’ Warfare was becoming more mechanised and success started to depend on technological developments rather than the tactics employed or the heroic actions of particular soldiers. At the start of the twentieth century there were several large engineering companies in Lincolnshire involved chiefly in the production of agricultural machinery. In 1914 the engineering works in Gainsborough, Grantham and Lincoln and some factories in Grimsby changed their manufacture to the production of munitions. ‘Between 1915 and 1919 Lincoln became one of the largest centres of aircraft production in the world’ (Neil Wright).

Lincoln and the Tank

By early 1915 the Western Front was characterised by trenches and barbed wire, with neither side being able to advance far. Many desperate campaigns resulted in 1000’s of men being mown down by machine guns. A protected way of moving across the ground was needed. In 1915 William Foster & Co of Lincoln designed and tested the world’s first track-driven armoured vehicle, “Little Willie”. Over the following months the firm made further developments to the design of the “tank”, as the machine was now called, to produce a much larger vehicle that could cross the trenches and boggy ground of the Western Front. This new machine was tested in early months of 1916 and was subsequently put into production as the Mark I tank. The Mark I tanks first saw action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916.They were described in one newspaper article ‘Like toads with no wheels or legs.’ (Daily Mail 22/09/1916).

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Last updated: 4 November 2015

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