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


Sgt Fred Saker and two unknown crewmen; Fred is on the left. The picture was probably taken in the Auchonvillers area when the tank crews were waiting for a break in the weather to continue their attacks in October and November 1916. 


Welcome to the guest book. 


My name is Stephen Pope and I have been seeking to learn more about the men who served in the first tank action since 2003.  In that time I have managed to find out about 500 men but I am still trying to learn more about their lives/


I would be most interested  to hear of any more details of the crews - or of your interest in them.  If you have any questions about the First Tanks Crews, or others who served with Tanks in the Great War, please post them here.



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Reply firsttankcrews
5:42 PM on August 6, 2013 


I have found the details of their daughter birth and christening dates on Ancestry, so have added little more detail in the comments. 

Reply Martin Miles
8:05 AM on August 2, 2013 

Have discovered 2 photographs of William J Miles. We now find he had a daughter born in October 1915 so this dates the photograph to around January 1916.  

Reply Martin Miles
7:18 AM on August 2, 2013 


What a superb web site this is

Stumbled across it when researching family history specifically my great uncle William J Miles. He was one of three brothers who fought in the war and he was Gunner Miles of tank crew A13. He and his tank commander Lt Hitchcock are buried together in the Mill Road Cemetery at Thiepval.

Finding the account on this site of how he died was utterly amazing and brought home just how brave these men were.

Still researching, but William Joseph Miles was born in Birmingham in 1886 and was the son of William Joseph Miles and Mary Miles. One of 5 brothers and 2 sisters. They moved to Smethwick in around 1892 and William moved to Coventry sometime before 1911. He was the 1st window cleaner in Coventry.

His 2 younger brothers Arthur and Frank joined him in Coventry and become window cleaners too. They all joined up with Frank (My grandfather) being the first as a Driver in the RHA (landed France Nov 5th 1914) and Arthur (a gunner in the RFA) who joined up on 6th Dec 1915. Arthur’s war records are in the ‘burnt’ records but William’s and Frank’s were lost.

William married May Gertrude Troop in early 1914 and they lived at 190 Clay Lane, Coventry.

William and May had no children but both Arthur and Frank did and I am trying to find more history from within the family. Unfortunately Arthur and Frank would never talk about their wartime experiences so any verbal history has been lost forever.

Interesting to see the motor bike and Coventry connection. Prior to me the family has always been keen motorcyclists so you can see the link.

Trips to the tank museum and Theipval now pencilled in and further research under way.


Reply David Gedye
5:07 AM on July 25, 2013 

firsttankcrews says...

Dear Stephen

That's immensly helpful and extends our knowledge by a giant leap.  Arnold had two brothers and a cousin who also signed up for DoW.  I have obtained their full military records from ancestry, they were artillery and other areas of activity, but for both my tank Corps relations JA Wayte and J Whitehouse there are no records, so I presume tank Corps surnames begining with a 'W' are among the records lost during the second WW.  

Looks like we can't say Arnold took part at Flers (at least as a tank Corps man) but he was still an early participant in the new weapons of war.

Yours gratefully


Hello David

Without sight of John's service record, I cannot be definite about when he joined the tanks but, from other research, I think I can hazard a reasonable guess about hwo he came to serve with the tanks in 1917. 

C Battalion was formally established on 18 Nov 1916 around Erin; the men coming from the remains of C Company who fought at Flers-Courcelette in September, as well as volunteers from other units who were already in France.   9 Company was formed in December 1916 and was mainly made up of men from other units.

From his original MGC number (60382) , I would imagine that he joined the Machine Gun Corps in England from the Yeomanry and would have trained at Grantham before deploying to France.  He would have joined C Battalion around Christmas 1916.  

He would probably have fought at the attack near Beaurains to the south east of Arras on 9 April 1917; his injuries were probably recived during the follow-on attack near Monchy-le-Preux, Sadly C Battalion's war history, for this period, does not list the names of casualties,    


Reply firsttankcrews
9:42 AM on March 27, 2013 

Photos received with thanks - will add them to the photo gallery over the weekend

Reply David S
10:25 PM on March 25, 2013 

Thanks, Stephen. If you can email me, I'll send along the photos.

Reply firsttankcrews
5:46 AM on March 25, 2013 

Hello David

Thanks for the confirmation that Mauruce was at Gaza. 

Sadly I have little more to tell you as Harry;s service record has not survived. His enlistment location (Coventry) is confirmed in "Soldters who died in the Great War" which also confirms hi service number in the Motor Machine Gun Service. His date of arrival in France is taken from the consolidated list  of landing dates for C company which is held in the Tank Museum.

"Following the tanks" includes acopy of a memorial document showing Harry;  I suggest you contact Philippe Gorczynski about how he came by the picture - his website address is

I would certainly be proud to display their photos on this website.


Reply David S
6:00 PM on March 24, 2013 

Hello Stephen,

I read with interest your entry for C Coy Crewman for Henry (Harry) James Tiffin. Harry was my great-uncle, and I'd searched many times for more information on his service history but not been able to find much beyond his date of death. Can you tell me where the information came from? Also, what was the reference to him in 'Following The Tanks' ? His younger brother,  Maurice, did serve in the tanks, and was deployed to Gaza. If you'd like a couple of photo's to add to your collection, let me know.

Reply firsttankcrews
3:57 AM on March 15, 2013 

There is  small amount of information on Ancestry.  He joined the TA in 1908 and served as a driver in the Royal Engineers.   Details of his annual training in the Uk are shown and then one entry that shows him working as a drivedr at Wool in 1917; Wool is close to Bovington Camp.

His service number ould indicate that he did not join the Tanks until late 1917.

Sorry I can't find more than that

Reply Robert Winchester
12:40 AM on March 15, 2013 

Looking for any information about my grandfather, Victor Hugh Winchester. Joined the Tank Corps and went to France in 1916. Based at Le Treport. Saw no enemy action at all and returned to England about 1918. He was a nurseryman in civilian life.