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Crew: Three
Weight: 14 tons
Length: 20 feet
Width: 8 feet 7 inches
Height: 9 feet
Engines: Two four-cylinder water-cooled 45 hp Tylor JB4s, revving at 1,250 rpm
Transmission: Cone clutch to four-speed and reverse gearbox to worm reduction and bevel drive, chain loop to drive sprocket, one for each track
Maximum speed: 8.3 mph
Fuel capacity: 70 gallons
Range: 80 miles
Trench crossing capability: 8 feet 6 inches
Armament: Four Hotchkiss .303-inch air-cooled machine guns
Ammunition stowage: 5,400 rounds

The heavy, lozenge-shaped mechanized juggernaut the British code-named a “tank” had scarcely made its combat debut in September 1916 when engineer William Tritton, while visiting the Somme front, was asked to design a lighter armored vehicle. Working in concert with fellow engineers, Tritton developed a working prototype by February 1917. Dubbed the “Tritton Chaser,” the fighting vehicle was initially fitted with an offset, rotating turret mounting a .303-inch Lewis machine gun. As the design evolved, the rotating turret gave way to an angular, fixed superstructure with gunports covering all four points of the compass. Replacing the Lewis gun were four .303-inch Hotchkiss Mark I machine guns. The resulting Medium Mark A was nicknamed the “Whippet”—a nod to its top speed of 8.3 mph, as compared to the lumbering Mark I tank’s 3.7 mph, though the Whippet’s canine namesake could easily outrun both mechanical monsters.

Whippets arrived on the Western Front in December 1917 and helped counter the massive German offensive between March and July 1918. While the Whippet was faster and nimbler than its tank cousins, its steering system—requiring the driver to manipulate the clutches of two separate engines in cramped quarters to regulate the speed of each track—made maneuvering the vehicle a living hell. Although deemed a wartime success, particularly for its ability to break through into the enemy rear areas, the Whippet was soon eclipsed by a postwar generation of armor designed to correct its shortcomings. The British shipped a number of Whippets north to support White forces during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, but most ended up in Red hands, helping lay the foundations of Soviet tank development. MH