The life stories of those who crewed the first tanks in September 1916

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Willie Shelton of tank crew D3 is pictured right.  Willie was awarded the Distinguished Combat Medal for “great coolness and skill in driving his tank in action on 17th October 1918. When his tank was ditched, he worked under heavy fire for three hours and subsequently drove his tank for 6 hours, showing excellent skills in manoeuiring, so that many machine gun nests holding up the infantry were destroyed. This photo was provided by his great grandson Tim Kelly who is a member of the website.

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B Company tank crews detailed

Posted by firsttankcrews on May 18, 2017 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On 30 September 1916, five tank crews from B Company were allocated to D Company and sent north to Acheux.  The names of the crewmen have been found in the D Company Adjutant's correspondance book and these are now available on the B Company element of this site, accessible on the side bar  

If, at first, you don't succeed..(Ernest Alfred White)

Posted by firsttankcrews on April 27, 2017 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)


According to D Company's records, 32441 Cpl Ernest Alfred White was the NCO in the D16 crew in early September 1916. However he is not listed amongst Dracula's crew, which fought at Flers on 15 September which is rather odd. Three weeks later, his OC sought to have him reduced to the ranks as being unlikely to become an efficient NCO.

This sort of event would normally be the death knell for most careers but not always, Ernest must have proved his leadership skills in ...

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D7 tank crewman Edwin Morgan identified

Posted by firsttankcrews on March 25, 2017 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)


Born 22 Apr 93 in Ludham, Norfolk,Edwin won a county council scholarship and attended King's Lynn Grammar school before settling at Blofield where he worked for his father on their market gardem. He joined the MGC (Motors) at Coventry in early May and was part of the D7 crew at Flers on 15 Sep 16.

Edwin was wounded at Martinpouich on 25 Sep 16, when a bullet hit his left shoulder which smashed the top of his humerus. The bullet fragments were removed and he was evacuate...

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Local paper published Robert Hillhouse's picture

Posted by firsttankcrews on March 3, 2017 at 5:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The Falkirk Herald provides more information and a photograph about Sgt Robert Hillhouse.  Robert who served in C Company and was killed on 11 April 1917 at Monchy le Preux during the Battle of Arras.

The paper confirms that Robert was a motor cyclist as a young man and collided with butcher's horse and cart in his home town of Denny on 23 August 1910. The bike was badly damaged and the horse severely cut as a result of the accident. 

Two years later, Robert married Jane...

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Ernest Thornton MM - Whippet tank commander

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 19, 2017 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Ernest Thornton was not one of the First Tank Crewmen as he did not serve in one of the four tank companies sent to France in the Autumn of 1916. He was already in France serving with No 2 Battery MMGS when the call for volunteers was made to increase C Company to C Battalion in November 1916 and was one of the first to join the new unit. Ernest later won the Military Medal (MM) as a tank commander at the Bat...

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Tank Crew pictures added and details updated

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 13, 2017 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have added a photo of Harold Darby and the D10 crew to the Photo Gallery. It was provided by the relatives of Gnr Lionel Britt who became missing in action during the German offensive in Mar 18.   

I have also updated the details of crews in the light of recent research  

More details about Jack Stagg

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Jack was named John Henry Stagg.  

He was born at East Coker near Yeovil in Devon on 13 Jan 1893. He was the son of a bootmaker Henry (Harry) Stagg (born in 1851 in East Coker) and Emma Jane Stagg (born 1852 died 1899).

By 1901 fhe family was living in North Coker and was living in the same village ten years later when Jack worked as a cycle repairer.  He was a member of the local Boy Scout troop.

Like most of the crewmen, Jack was a keen motorcyclist, participati...

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Jack Stagg was a member of D Company

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 10, 2017 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I have recently been given information about Gnr Jack Stagg who joined D Company in France on 30 September 1916.

Jack enlisted, through the Motor Cycle,  at Coventry in December 1915 and, having undertaken the standard training package at Bisley, deployed to Boulogne on 18 September travelling via Folkstone.  He then spent four days at the MGC Depot at Camiers before being sent to 14th Corps under whose command D Company was operating. He formally joined D Company on 30 Septe...

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A Company crewman Gnr Bert Day MM

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 7, 2017 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

There is little information about A Company crewmen on this site as I can find no extant unit records.  However, I am pleased to say that Jeremy Banning has recently put me in contact with Pauline Gurling whose father Bert Day was a member of A Company. Not only that but his service record survived the Blitz, so we should be able to tell the story of his time with the tanks as well as his home life.  

Bert won a Military Medal (MM) for his actions on the opening day of the Bat...

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Gnr James McPartlin was in Daredevil's crew

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 6, 2017 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

James, who was from Galashiels, was born on 6 Feb 1895, He joined the Army in 1915 and was allocated to D Coy. He was a member of D1 crew on 15 Sep 16, acording to the Adjt's notebook, and then his name is struck through so he may not have seen action on that day.  A Vickers machine gunner, James was allocated to C Crew on 25 Sep which supported the Reserve Army,  His diary shows he later served with No 11 Coy, part of D Battalion Tank Corps. From Jan - Oct 1918 James was in two hos...

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