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Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Little Willie, the world's first modern tank
Little Willie
The world's first tank, Little Willie, is now housed at the Tank Museum in Bovington

Little Willie is one of 10 objects selected from Dorset's museums as part of the History of the World project.

It aims to tell the stories of the world through objects found in museums.

Little Willie was chosen because it was the first modern day tank to be built, in response to the horrific number of front line British casualties during World War I.

Today, it is on display at the Tank Museum in Bovington and remains an important part of its collection.

Little Willie was significant because it had innovative features so it could cope with difficult terrain, including armour plates, a petrol engine, and, most significantly, a new design of caterpillar tracks, as well as being equipped with a machine gun.

Its development would help enable front line troops to push forward through enemy gun fire and barbed wire.

"It's our Mona Lisa"

Audio: the origins of the tank
Bovington's Tank Museum curator David Willey

The Tank Museum's curator David Willie said: "In our terms this is our Mona Lisa, so we make a big fuss of it.

"Little Willie wasn't made in Dorset, but soon after its invention, Bovington was selected as a training ground for the new tank force.

"The Army and its tracked vehicles have remained in Dorset ever since.

"As a British invention the tank was quickly developed and its uses expanded - and of course it has been emulated and developed by countries all around the world."

David believes the Army's presence in Dorset has helped preserved the landscape.

He said: "The landscape in this part of Dorset has remained unspoilt - ironically because of the tanks' presence and the need for training areas, and the industry that services the vehicles has become a low key but important employer in the region."


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