It is a known fact that there was one significant confrontation between tanks during the First World War (at the Second battle of villers-bretonneux) between British and German armour, but in the aftermath (and in the interwar period) there seems to have been a distinct lack of effort to create doctrine for tanks-vs-tank combat, until the advent of BlitzKrieg in the late 1930s, which to me seems misleading as I have not come across any literature/studies to show research into armored warfare - unless you’re including the experiments performed by the British with the Vickers Independent in the late 1920s.

When was the earliest mention of doctrine/writings, by military for military, on the use of tanks as a weapon against tanks?


2 Answers 2


Time: right after WW1

A "good antitank capacity" was important in tank design already in 1920-ies.

A duck can fly, walk, and swim, and does all these poorly

A tank is a compromise between weapons, armor and mobility. It is thus relatively expensive to make and operate.

Therefore you don't want to fight enemy tanks with your own.

You would rather kill the enemy tanks with anti-tank artillery or rifles and leave your tanks to destroy softer targets like infantry.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

The main reason to use your tank against the enemy tanks is when the enemy achieved a breakthrough and you need to stop them using mobile reserves (or vice versa, when you achieved a breakthrough and the enemy tries to stop you with their tanks).

In such a situation neither side has much choice about what to do, so doctrine cannot say much more than

On contact, commanders quickly act to gain the advantage. Speed of action and movement, coupled with both direct and indirect fire, are essential...

Either way, a good commander will always try to use his tanks against softer targets.

Even though U.S. Army Tank Doctrine does say

The best anti-tank weapon on the battlefield is the tank.

it does not mean that you want to use it like that.


Tank to tank combat on an engagement level had always been taken into account because this was supposed to occur. In fact, this occured so often that there is your example of Villers Bretonneux.

So it was always taken into consideration in the conception of a tank, because anti-tank guns were the weapons of tanks. One of the earliest mention I think is the doctrine emitted for the French Army, when it developped its Somua S-35 cavalry tank that was designed to fight ennemy armour.

  • 1
    Do you have any link/reference?
    – user41672
    Sep 1, 2021 at 19:45

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