Tank Medium, Mark A (E1949.328)
While the heavy tanks were designed for direct attacks against enemy trenches the Tank Corps also wanted a lighter, faster tank to work with the cavalry over open country. Designed by Sir William Tritton and built by Fosters of Lincoln the Medium A, or Whippet, was the only such tank to see service with the Tank Corps, starting in 1918.
The Whippet was a difficult tank to drive; it had two engines, two clutches and two gearboxes but it was fast, by 1918 standards and very manoeuvrable in skilled hands. Even so experience soon showed that it was incapable of working with the cavalry and, in truth, should have been seen as an alternative.
The Whippet was powered by a pair of Tylor four-cylinder engines, the same type that would be found in London buses of that period. Our exhibit is the tank from which Lieutenant Cecil Sewell dismounted to save the crew of another tank, was killed in the process and awarded the Victoria Cross. (Fremicourt, France - 29th August 1918)
Only type of medium tank to see action in World War I. Bronze plaque on front giving details of Lt. H.C. Sewell's bravery.
In the summer of 1956 this tank went to London for an exhibition marking 100 years of the Victoria Cross. The exact location has not been identified but there is a photograph and some details in THE TANK, July 1956 (Vol. 38 No. 447.
Design Commenced : December 1916
Tank in Service : 1918
Crew : Three - Commander (who also acted as a Gunner), Gunner and Driver
The two engines were mounted in the front of the vehicle and there was a separate flywheel, clutch, gearbox, chain drive, etc., from each engine to the track to which it was coupled, and a clutch mounted on a cross shaft by which the two sides could be coupled. Each engine drove one track and by varying the speed of one engine relative to the other it was possible to steer the vehicle.
This type of tank was first in action in the vicinity of Hebuterne on 26th March 1918. Although other medium tanks were designed and produced, none saw action.