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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Darnley McCaig family details updated

Posted by firsttankcrews on August 16, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Australia based Talieh Williams, who is Darnley McCaig's great granddaughter, has made contact and let me know about his two children as well as other family information. She has also agreed to see if she can get some photos from her Scottish and New Zealand familes. 

I have updated his record which you can find in the C Coy H-M Crewman page.


Laurie Rowntree's death site confirmed

Posted by firsttankcrews on August 14, 2017 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Creme de Menthe crewman Laurie Rowtree was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in January 1917 and returned to the Western Front in the summer. He was killed on 25 November in the closing stages of the Battle for Passendaele, probably as a result of counter-battery fire.

An exhibition about his life is currently under way at the York Castle Museum.  As you would expect, a lot of research has been undertaken aboiut his life and, as part of this...

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Gnr John McKenzie - We Do Remember Him

Posted by firsttankcrews on August 5, 2017 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Gnr John McKenzie, from Birkenhead, was killed on 5 August 1917 and his body was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

Born in Carlisle in 1890, John was the eldest son of Railway shunter Francis McKenzie and his wife Mary. By 1901 the family had moved to Tranmere in Birkenhead and were living in Peel Street. .

John probably enlisted at Coventry in early May 16; his home being recorded as Liverpool in Motor Cycle published on 4 May 1916. Posted to D Company, he fought in...

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Frank Bull may not have died on 28 Sep 16

Posted by firsttankcrews on July 16, 2017 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

In preparation for our next trip to France, when we will visit graves of the First Tank Crewmen buried on the Somme including Frank Bull, I have been reviewing my notes. Coincidentally I have also been in contact with Greg Lewin who has been researching the War Memorial at Bridgnorth.

When FC Bull joined the MMGS in late March 1916, his home town is recorded as Bridgnorth, The local Bridgnorth records FC Bull as a lance corporal.  The burial record, recently added to the CWGC websi...

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New information about Gnr James Anderson of D22

Posted by firsttankcrews on July 6, 2017 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Just discovered that Gnr James Anderson DCM was born on 15 May 1893 at 35 Cambridge Gardens in South Leith,.  

His parents were Margaret Whitson and James Couper Anderson MA who had married in Edinburgh in 1890.  James' father was a school teacher who later became Headmaster of Albion Street School.  

James' father died on 27 July 1916 shortly before D Company deployed to France.,  James was recommended for a gallantry award following the capture of High Wood b...

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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 the B Company Advance Party were allocated to D Company and sent north to establish a new tankdorome at 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, However Ernest must have proved his leadershi...

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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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