Watch the 100-year evolution of tank warfare

Tanks have changed a lot since 1916's Battle of the Somme

Tanks, perhaps the most identifiable piece of military machinery on the planet, got their start 100 years ago yesterday. Like most military technologies, tanks developed out of a need to combat an enemy tactic – World War I's trench warfare – but have since evolved into a versatile and necessary part of any country's armed forces.

The British deployed the vehicles we know as tanks on September 15, 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, a four-month catastrophe of a fight that left over a million British, French, and German soldiers dead or wounded. It remains one of the deadliest battles in human history. And the tanks weren't impressive, either. The Royal Army's first, the Mark I, was a slow, ungainly, heavily armored thing that bears little resemblance to its descendants.

But tank warfare, like every other sort of war, evolved rapidly. This video, provided by an unverified YouTube channel listed as British Army gives an idea of the rapid pace of advancement. From the lumbering Mark I and its puny 3.7-mile-per-hour top speed, tanks evolved quickly adding speed, armor, and fire power and turning into the weapons we know today.

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