Once it has found a purpose, human creativity understands no limits. Properly funneled, ambition, craftsmanship, and intellect produce the most remarkable things. Be it the conquest of the moon or the exploration of the Sun by NASA; be it the conquest of the world’s oceans and skies; or be it the construction of a First World War tank with just wood.
In early January, Geoff Armstrong, a British a carpenter and model-maker from Brampton, Cumbria, UK, began an ambitious project: to build a life-sized replica of a First World War tank utilising just wood.
According to interviews with the local media, Armstrong’s passion for manufacturing things began when he was a child. He used to enjoy building miniature models of aircraft, cars, and tanks. And now he seeks to outperform his younger self by constructing the Mark IV tank. Weighing more than 32 tons and standing 26.5 feet long and almost 13 feet wide, the Mark IV was a combat behemoth in its time.
“It’s just getting your head around how you’re going to build it. Making sure it’s strong enough to hold it together and light enough to lift it,” said Armstrong.
Hitherto, Armstrong has spent more than 500 hours on the project. The British carpenter is using softwood, plywood, plaster, and some plastic for tank’s tube. He began the project by purchasing a Mark IV 1:35 scale model. He then multiplied all measurements by 35.
“Everything’s hand dressed and hand cut. We don’t have machines to laser cut everything and weld it together. It’s just me in a workshop with a few saws and a tape measure. There’s nothing hard about it,” he added.
The British-made Mark IV was used for the first time in 1917 at the Battle of Cambrai. On the early morning hours of November 20 1917, almost 500 Mark IVs charged through morning fog toward the German trenches.
A Mark IV tank; the absence of the 6-pounder suggests that it’s the female version (Facebook)
Today, only seven original Mark IVs survive. Mark IVs had two variants: a male and a female. The male versions had a six-pound gun and three machine guns and were designed to destroy bunkers and trench fortifications. The female versions, which were slightly smaller, were equipped with six machine guns and were designed to support the advancing infantry.
The Royal Air Force has allowed Armstrong to work on his project in the workshops of the RAF Spadeadam base, which is the largest RAF base in the UK.
His ultimate hope? To produce such a good enough replica that it would be displayed in a museum, so his grandchildren could marvel at it.
“They would go ‘Grandad built that!’ I think they’ll be quite impressed with it,” he added.