Mark V
Author: P Kempf, Edited: P Radley

The worst fault in the early Tanks, Marks I-IV, lay in the clumsy and inefficient driving system, which required the services of no less than four men - the driver, the tank commander (who acted as brakesman) and two other men, one on each side, who engaged the secondary gears for steering, on the instructions of the driver. Steering for turns of around 50 meters radius in good conditions could be managed by use of the tail wheels alone, but these were omitted after the Mark I because of failures in the mud of France. Otherwise, turns were made by the use of the brakes on one or the other side or the use of high or low gear on either side or by a combination of brakes and gears.

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Even before the Mark IV was built, it was realized that a better form of transmission was necessary and experiments were put in hand to determine the best of alternative systems. The most likely of these were demonstrated at Oldbury on 3 March 1917 - when the Mark IV was already in production - before a large audience of interested parties. The competing transmission systems for the heavy tank shown were the Williams-Janney Hydraulic, Wilson Epicyclic, Daimler Petrol-Electric, Westinghouse Petrol-Electric and Wilkin’s Multiple Clutch. All were linked with the Daimler six-cylinder engine; although in the case of the Daimler Petrol-Electric it had aluminium pistons, a lighter flywheel and ran at 1400 r.p.m. instead of 1000 r.p.m. The engine with the Westinghouse transmission ran at 1200 r.p.m.

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All the systems could be operated by one man but Major Wilson’s epicyclic was the most successful and it was adopted for Mark V, the heavy tank to follow Mark IV. The Mark V was little changed in external aspect, but internally in addition to the new transmission it had a new engine specially designed for tank use by Mr H. Ricardo. This was a six-cylinder unit, developing 150 b.h.p. at 1250 r.p.m. It proved very reliable in service and was used for most of the other British tanks built during the war.

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The increased power gave the Mark V a higher speed of 4.6 m.p.h. The average speed of the Mark V was, however, even greater than the average of the Marks I-IV because the difficulty of changing gear in the earlier tanks meant that often this was neglected and an inferior performance resulted. Although performance was better and driving easier and the armour thickness increased to 14 mm not all progress is upwards and the Mark V was less well ventilated than earlier tanks. The louvres on the hull sides near the rear are a feature which, together with the addition of a fixed conning tower in the centre of the hull, most readily distinguishes the Mark V from the Mark IV. All Mark Vs used Hotchkiss machine-guns, but, otherwise the armament corresponded with that of Mark IV Male and Female respectively.

Four hundred Mark Vs – equally divided between Male and Female – were built during 1918 and the first time they were in action was in July of that year. To help Mark Vs tackle the wide trenches of the Hindenburg Line in the attack at the end of September 1918, "cribs" were carried. This was a braced cylindrical framework which, dropped in the trench from the nose of the tank as a form of stepping stone, helped the machine to cross it. Cribs served the same purpose as the fascines (large bundles of chestnut palings) which had been used in the same fashion at Cambrai in 1917. However, whereas the fascine weighed 30 cwt. the crib weighed only 12 cwt.

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During the war, the Mk V was used by the British, and, in small numbers, by the Americans. After the war, some Mk V tanks were used in the British sector, in the vicinity of Cologne, as part of the Allies’ occupying forces in Germany. Mk Vs were also employed in the Russian Civil War, where they were first given to the "Whites" as military aid. Many of these were captured by the Soviets, and used well into the 20s by them.

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Six Mk V Composite heavy tanks were sent to Estonia in 1919 from the UK. They were named "Brown Bear", "Brown Bear II", "Captain Cromie", "Deliverance", "First Aid" and "White Soldier". Estonians transferred and renamed 5 of them; Päälik, Rae, Uku, Wahtula, Waldaja. (The Estonian names do not relate to the British ones.) Estonia kept 4 tanks ("Uku", "Vahtula", "Valdaja" and "Päälik"), while the 2 remaining vehicles were handed over to Latvia. Latvia gained one more Mk V tank, so that in late 1919 they had 3, all of them composites; #9116, "Minstr. Pres. Ulmanis", #9369 "Generalis Balodis" and #9147 "Generalis Burt’s". Some of these tanks were obviously still running at the outset of WW2 and were taken over by the Soviets when they occupied the Baltic States in 1939, and at least one of these were put to the road when the Germans attacked in 1941 - to what use is doubtful.

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There are some recurring rumours of the Germans in their desperation using Mk Vs during the final battle in Berlin, but the true story seems to have been, that there were one or two museum tanks in Berlin at this time (actually taken from from the Soviet Union) and these static objects were shot up by suspicious Soviet Tankers.

The video below comes courtesy of PDA:


B.T. White. 1970. Tanks and and other Armored Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918. Blandford Press, London, England.
D. Bullock and A. Deryabin. 2003. Armoured Units of the Russian Civil War: White and Allied. Osprey Publishing, England.
D. Bullock. 2006. Armoured Units of the Russian Civil War: Red Army. Osprey Publishing, England.
Bodlosh. Landships Forum. May 18, 2006.
Bigtank. Landships Forum. May 1, 2006.
Unidentified article by Thorleiff Ohlsen, quoted by Michel Boer in Landships Forum. Feb 6, 2006

How To Model This Tank

Emhar make a nice one (male, female, or composite, all in one kit) in 1/35 scale. Interus make an ambitious (over 400 parts) kit of a composite in 1/35. Brigade Games make male, female, and composite ones in 28mm size. Wayne McCullough has a 1/72 card model available for free (low resolution) or to buy (high resolution) on the Paper Panzers site.