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

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More details about Jack Stagg

Posted by firsttankcrews on February 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

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, participating in local motor cycle events in 1920s and organising them in 1930s. In 1927, he married Alice Dorothy Hann and their son Denis was born in 1930 in the Yeovil area. Sadly I can't find any details of  Jack's later life but Denis married in 1955 and Alice death in 1975 was registered in Yeovil.

if you can help me learn more, please contact me


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Reply Geoffrey Churcher
10:03 AM on July 8, 2017 
The Coventry offices of the enthusiasts magazine "Motor Cycle" was listed as a recruiting office for the Motor Machine Gun Service and it may have been the advertisments the magazine ran for recruitment of young Motor Mechanics such as himself that prompted Jack to enlist.

He travelled from his home to Coventry and attested for the MMGS on the 24th November 1915, recieving a rail warrant to take him to Bisley to start his training.

Jack was initially trained on motorcycle combinations mounting a machine gun, these batteries were intended to increase mobility and firepower in France and Belgium however due to the increasingly static conditions a reduction in numbers meant there was a pool of recruits for the tanks to choose from. Jack appears to have been a perfect candidate, a physically fit, 5 Feet 6 Inch Motor Mechanic.
Jack was officially transferred to the Armoured Car Section of the MMGS given the rank of Gunner and moved to Siberia Camp where the initial tank companies structures were formed.
An interesting point to note is that Jacks service records provide a complete overview of the evolution, for security reasons in the name from MMGS to Armoured Car Service, Motor Machine Gun Corps S Detachment, Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps Heavy Branch and finally the Tank Corps.

After extensive training Jack became a founder Crewmember of B Company. With the recent deliverey of the new ?Landships? Jack became one of the very first men in history to see a Tank. The crews spent the next months getting to grips with the new machines before they finally recieved the order that they were to move to France.

Following C and D Companies example B Company moved across the channel under complete secrecy and arrived at Boulogne on the 18th September 1916 where Jack was posted to join the MGC Base Depot at Camiers. A few days later he joined 14th Corps and D Company in the field as part of the first batch of replacements after the losses they had suffered during the very first tank action at Flers.

From September 1916 to January / February 1917 Jack remained as a Gunner with D Company taking part in minor operations. As a trained mechanic, Jack became a founding member of D Companys Workshop and would have been extremely busy providing forward, on the ground mechanical support to keep the Mark I tanks available for training and to make them ready for the Battle of Arras.

Throughout the action and post Jack is with 10th Company of D Battalion, possibly as a reserve Crewman but certainly functioning in his immediate role as an on the ground mechanic, possibly attempting to repair stricken tanks during the battle.
A major refit followed Arras in anticipation of future actions during the Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Cambrai.

The men of the Company and Battalion workshops are largely forgotten but without them there would have been no tanks to be crewed, the company mechanics were often under heavy shell fire and were certainly on occasion under full view of the enemy and close enough to recieve contact from MG?s.

Tanks Crews and the Workshop men were issued leave after Cambrai and Jack took his just after Christmas 1917. Whilst on leave, he was posted to the Central Stores at Erin, the Battalions' Workshop Companies having been disbanded and a new depth repair system introduced, This made for a much more effecient system of keeping the tanks in operation as it grouped men with specialist skills together. Jack served with the Central Stores at Erin until he was demobilsised in January 1919.

Jack returned to civilian life and resumed his career as a Motor Mechanic, but made his name in professional Motorcycle Racing as a well known rider of his day.

Motorcycle Racing

Jack had been a pre war member of the ?The MotorCycling Club? known as the MCC and went back to Motorcycle racing in 1921. He regularly took part in Trials from London to Edinburgh, London to Lands End and London to Exeter with the occasional Trial from John O?Groats to Lands End.
A winner of the Grosvenor Cup Trial, Yeo Cup and Gold Medal for his performance on his 350cc Douglas, Sparrow Cup and Silver Medal and numerous Gold Medals and prize money for winning long distance Trials as mentioned before.

A fantastic photograph of Jack riding his 250cc Triumph during the Lands End Trial at Beggars Hill.
Jack continued to ride his motorcycles until the Second World War, post war he went back to Motor Mechanics until his death in 1984. An original Brigand and early Motorcycle Rider he has been a pleasure to research and present his story.
Reply Geoffrey Churcher
10:03 AM on July 8, 2017 
From a BMF post by a guy who has his Victory Medal. Couple of photos of him also. I bought is BWM some years ago !

Jack Stagg was born in 1893 to Henry and Helen in East Coker, Somerset. A keen Boy Scout Leader he was, in 1913, awarded the winners silver cup, which was the highest award in the Cyclists Section. The competition was open to the whole country and was a great achievement.
The fact that Jack was awarded his trophy for Cycling is a real glimpse into the future, motor mechanics and Motorcycles would become Jacks career and in 1911 we see for the first time him making a living as a Cycle Repairer.

As with many young Edwardian men with an interest in fledgling Motorcycle racing Jack was an avid ?Motor Cycle? magazine reader , a magazine that was soon to alter his life dramatically, not that he knew it yet.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Jack was turning 21, he didnt rush to the recruiting office as many did but chose to wait before enlisting. He clearly had an adventurous nature and there may not be a singular reason for the delay but in November 1915 he too joined the Army.