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

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

Posted by firsttankcrews on April 27, 2017 at 12:35 AM

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 leadership skills in the next six months as he was sent for officer training at Pirbright and commissioned on 26 June 1917. Ernest was then posted to Bovington for tank commander training and, in January 1918, deployed with 12th Battalion back to France.

He must have also proved his effectiveness as an officer for Ernest was promoted temporary captain in December 1918. Sadly his service record does not exist but a good friend of the First Tank Crews recently discovered a clue to his employment.

Alwyn Killingworth, who has been researching tank crews for many years, recently purchased a bracelet engraved with Ernest's details. The bracelet, made in sterling silver by TBros (probably Turnball Brothers, was assayed in Birmingham in 1917.

These bracelets were not pieces of jewellery but designed to ensure officers could be identified in the event of becoming seriously wounded or killed. That Ernest bought one indicates that he had a field role as a captain, probably as a section commander or perhaps a reconnaissance officer, and was not out of danger despite his promotion.

Ernest survived and returned to civilian employment after the war. He did not however turn his back on military life but remained in the Reserve of Army Officers until 18 April 1933 which was probably his 55th birthday

Sadly that is all we know about Ernest so, if you can add anything to the story, please make contact.     


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