Mobility allowed it to cross the muddy terrain, trenches and barbed-wired of No-Man’s Land, armour made it invulnerable to the machine-gun fire that stopped infantry attacks, and the tank's weapons enabled it to destroy enemy positions.
A hundred years on, tanks still need the same three qualities, although the technology to provide them continues to improve.
There is also a new electronic jammer specifically designed to protect the tank from radio-controlled IEDs, a growing threat in counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This use of electronics reflects a growing tendency to use technology rather than armour plate for protection.
In particular, the Israelis have claimed that their Trophy protective system on their Merkava tanks is highly effective against guided missiles.
This type of system has a radar with 360-degree coverage to detect incoming missiles and rocket-propelled grenades and intercepts them with short-range explosive charges before they can hit the tank. The US military is now adapting the Trophy for its own Abrams M1A2s.
Meanwhile, rather than making minor improvements, the Russians have come up with a completely new design, the T-14 Armata. Prototypes of this unusual tank took part in the May Day parade in 2015.
It has an unmanned turret with a powerful new 125mm gun (also capable of launching missiles) and an automatic loader, while the three-person crew are all housed in the hull.
This arrangement makes the turret smaller and keeps the crew away from the exploding ammunition in the case of a hit.
The Armata has a suite of active protection systems and new composite armour.
Western analysts were highly sceptical of whether the Armata would ever be more than a prototype, given the experimental nature of so much of its technology.
While the tank is now being produced, it is extremely expensive compared to the traditional, cheap, rugged tanks like the T-72.
Plans for 2,000 of them have been scaled back and the Russian army is unlikely to acquire more than a hundred Armatas.
Instead, they are likely to be relying – like their Western rivals – on upgrading their fleets of existing tanks.
Analysts have repeatedly claimed that the day of the tank is over, and that they are dinosaurs in the age of guided missiles.
However, tanks have proven invaluable in recent conflicts, and their combination of mobility, firepower and protection is still unmatched.
They will continue to be the masters of the battlefield, so long as they can continue to stay ahead of the threats.