|Posted by Neil Ashforth on February 17, 2012 at 6:05 PM|
The story as I have been told and borne out by a copy of a letter sent to my Grandfather's parent's by F. Firth (Lieut) No. 8 Company, C Battalion Tank Corp and published in the Whitley Seaside Chronicle & Visitors Gazette dated Sat 15th Dec 1917 is as follows:
My Grandfather's tank, Crusty, took a direct hit on the 20th Nov 1917 at Cambrai. The direct hit wounded all the crew inside and I believe the tank caught fire. I know they had trouble getting out of the tank and some were badly burnt. However apparently all the crew did get out and scrambled to a German trench. My Grandfather on seeing the Germans advancing down the trench drew his service revolver and started shooting at the Germans, who turned and ran. He ran after them to give his men a chance to make it across no-man's land to the British trenches. The last that was seen or heard of him by his crew was Henry swearing profusely firing the revolver until he'd emptied it, at which he point he threw it a the still retreating Germans and continued to chase them, now unarmed, still shouting and swearing!!
The Germans on rounding a corner and meeting up with more of their kin, lay in wait and knocked him unconscious with a shell case. He was captured, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war at Frankfurt-am-Main.
I have a number of photos of him with other officers whilst a POW. I also have a Dinner menu for Christmas 1917 signed by a number of fellow Officers, their rank and Company or Regiment.
My Grandfather rose to the rank of Captain in the Essex regiment Home Guard for the Second World War. After the second World War ended he left the army and together with my father set up a Poultry Farm called Ellingham Chick Growers in an old Land Army hostel in Ellingham, north of Alnwick in Northumberland.
Sadly he ended his days in St George's Sanitorium at Morpeth and died 4th March 1969. Annis his wife had died the year previous. He never really recovered from the blow he received after being ambushed by the Germans that day in a trench in Cambrai.
Gwyn replied to my post on the Great War Form
Thanks for your fascinating post. Tank 2021 C23 Crusty was a Mark IV Male of 5th Section, 8th Company C Battalion of the Tank Corps at Cambrai, but I guess you knew that! The tank was well photographed after its capture (I have seven photos of it but some are too large to post) and I'll post some photos for you. I also have two earlier photos from the time that 2021 was C24, but this may have been before your Grandfather took its command (or maybe not, as you have a C24 photo). The tank seems to have received a hit to the starboard sponson, the roof of which is very bent, and the unditching beam rail is broken. But contrary to the information you've been given, it didn't turn on its side. As you'll see from the photos, Crusty was quite unusually marked, with a peculiar (unique?) camouflage to the sponson and an emblem of a little boy to the side. At least two other C Battalion tanks from this period carried similar caricature figures in this position.