At the launch for World of Tanks' season of #Tank100 celebrations - celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation of the tank - one of the projects they launched was something a little bit different. Known quite simply as Tank 100, the app is an augmented reality project, probably best described as Pokemon GO, just with tanks - in it, you'll be able to travel up and down the country, and use the app to take photos of virtual reality tanks at certain spots in the country. Of course, as with everything Wargaming do, it's more than just a gimmick - there's a real historical reason for the app to exist, too, as TV historian Dan Snow explained to us at the event.
"Tanks were popular from the beginning. The British public went nuts about tanks, people speculated about what they were, they'd heard that these existed, but they didn't know what they looked like. There were all sorts of crazy cartoons in the papers, people speculating they'd have legs like a spider, but the first photographs came out in November 1916. And then a film, the most popular film in British history, even bigger than Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was the film Battle of Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks (1917), and audiences cheered and laughed when tanks were seen on screen - it was the first time they'd seen them, and Brits realised they were on to a winner.
Earlier in the day, Wargaming and the Tank Museum had arranged to display their replica WW1 tank in the middle of Trafalgar Square, recreating a scene that first happened some 99 years ago, and providing the inspiration for the new app. "[The Government soon decided that] tanks could be used to generate support for the war effort and boost morale, and that's why the tank in Trafalgar Square was very important - because they could sell war bonds out the back of them. They parked a tank in Trafalgar Square in 1917, they recreated those battlefields, and the British public flocked to them. They looked at the tank, clambered on it, talked to the guys who served in tanks, but most importantly, they donated money, sometimes using the tank as a literal piggy bank. Tanks then went out to towns and cities in the UK, and each town would fall over itself to try and donate more money than the others. There are some big numbers here - £14 million in Glasgow, £3 million in Newcastle, £2 million in Swansea, £2 million in West Hartlepool. That equals something like £40 for every single man, woman and child in that small city.
"After the war, something interesting happened as well. Much like any piece of innovation, almost immediately after the war, tanks were obsolete. They weren't much use to the army, and so they were given to towns [that had paid for them] - 265 tanks went out to towns and cities across the UK. Sadly, only one of those is left, in Kent. Tragic. They were chopped up for scrap, they were removed to make shopping centres, would you believe... One was even taken apart by two men with blow torches, who didn't realise there was still fuel left in it, and it blew up and destroyed a big chunk of the town. A lot were scrapped for their parts."
And it's this that provided the basis for Tank 100. Having spent an awfully long time doing their research, the team have tracked down the locations these 265 tanks were eventually put on display - and now, thanks to the magic of your phone, you can stroll to these locations, whip out your phone, and take a picture of a virtual tank there, just like it would have been nigh on 100 years ago. Or, as Dan Snow put it, it's "like Pokemon Go for people with an IQ higher than 75"
If you fancy going tank hunting yourself, all you have to do is download the app on iOS or Android, and fire up the Hunt the Tank mode. You'll be able to find at least one tank to photograph in the following locations:
Barrow in Furness
Brighton Preston Park Run
Bury St Edmonds
Newcastle under Lyme
Newcastle upon Tyne
Stoke on Trent
Llandudno Happy Valley Road