Historian Builds Replica American Tank from WW1

    Replica FT

    Stephen Wisdom's replica WWI FT tank

    British historian Stephen Wisdom has built a full-scale replica of a World War One tank from fibreglass and wood.

    The recreation of a French Renault FT light tank has been built for the American Museum in Bath, UK. Wisdom built the fibreglass tank around a wooden frame and fabricated plastic moulded parts to create a faithful model which is lightweight and easy to transport. He moulded over 1,000 plastic rivets fixing them to the replica with glue before hand painting the tank to match the correct camouflage colours and even the colour of the French mud of the Western Front.

    fibreglass tank replica

    Wisdom’s replica tank during the early stages of construction (BBC)

    The replica tank will be part of the museum’s upcoming exhibit: Side by Side: America and World War I, which is going to run from the end of March to the 28th October 2018. The exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of America’s first major military engagement during World War One.

    Wisdom, also a trained artist, explained the idea behind the ambitious project:

    Everything we do is targeted towards big historical stories. They’re done just to tell these great stories. If we have these great props that kids can climb all over and see the size of, that’s brilliant. That’s why we built the tank, for that wow factor.

    Patton with an FT

    George S. Patton standing next to a FT tank, summer 1918

    The French Renault FT was a small two-man light tank and was the first tank to incorporate a turret which could rotate 360-degrees. It was armed with either a 37mm cannon or an 8mm machine gun. The FT was designed to support infantry attacks and reached speeds of around 6mph. It was fielded not just by the French but also the US Army. They were put to good use by a young George S. Patton and the 1st Light Tank Battalion during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the later Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September 1918.

    replica tank turret

    Wisdom and a friend removing the replica tank’s fibreglass turret (BBC)

    Wisdom has worked on large historical props before, in the past building a full-size replica of a World War One bi-plane and early racing cars. Wisdom combines his two loves, history and art, to create the models. He feels passionate that “they are really important focal points for history teaching because people just appreciate seeing stuff that they can hold, look at, touch, see and learn.”

    You can check out a video from the BBC showing the replica tank here

    Matthew Moss

    Matthew Moss – Assistant Editor.

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written for a variety of publications in both the US and UK he also runs www.historicalfirearms.info, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of www.armourersbench.com, a new video series on historically significant small arms.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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