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Building Little Willie

Little Willie was first ready for trials on December 3rd, 1915. It has perhaps the best claim of any machine to the title of "first tank  in the world".

The body was that of the No 1 Lincoln Machine, built at William Fosterís works and first tested  in September 1915.  This, however, had failed, because it was unable to cross obstacles without shedding its tracks.  It was then that perhaps the most significant development of all was made: the tracks for Little Willie were invented by Lieutenant Walter Wilson  and William Tritton, Fosterís managing director. 

The design was simple and effective.  It required an external frame. As a result, when the specifications for the tank were altered to increase trench-crossing ability, it was possible to enlarge these to create the rhomboidal shape of Mother, the Mk I and subsequent vehicles.

the kit built straight from the box. Nothing added, not even the tensioning cable for the steering wheels.  See front view in the

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Although this rendered Little Willie obsolete, the machine soldiered on through the war as a driver training vehicle, as modelled below.  Note the tarpaulin over the turret aperture.  This had been plated over as in the kit, but later after various experiments, the hole was left open as it is today.  The steering wheels were removed as Little Willie, like the Mk I, was found to be entirely able to cope without them. The hull may still be seen at Bovington Tank Museum.

The kit instructions take the form of an exploded diagram.  Some hints may help:  

Tensioning spring in steering assembly: it may be found easier to drill out a locating hole in the hull rear and also right through the steering frame, so that the chain may pass through.  When the correct position has been found, the end of the chain may be removed easily, and the hole made good.  It is much easier than guessing and cutting.

Tensioning cables: these has not been fitted in the top picture, which is "straight from the box".  They should run from the top of the upper wheels in the hydraulic assembly to the  top plate of the three-sided piece atop the rear beam.  They run parallel, 4mm apart, and offset 1mm to the right, when seen from the rear.  Finer(!) support wires ran down from these at right angles to the large front plate of the assembly.

Little Willie as it appeared later. The turret aperture is covered by a tarpaulin.  Sometimes weights were carried in the track assemblies, to simulate the weight of the turret.

The attachment for the steering gear is clearly visible.  To the left can just be seen an exit door: the only one in the sides. It is to be hoped there was a floor hatch, for the driver was thee other side of the engine and fuel! Today there Little Willie has no floor, just chassis girders, and we do not know.

 Additional detailing:  Ideally, the front lamp brackets should be rebuilt, as the metal version is rather heavy.  Similarly, the semicircular piece on the nose is in fact a shackle.  An attaching pin slots down through it.  In this scale the top horizontal bar is about 1mm long.  Photographs also show what appears to be a horseshoe at the centre top of the front plate.  That is up to the modeller.  Some sources state that a lamp was fixed high on the rear plate on the off (driver's) side, though there is now no visible evidence, and that a vice was fixed to the rear axle beam on the near side.

Colour: grey - though there is no proof.  Fosters painted their machinery grey, and Admiralty Grey was used for early tanks.

 

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