THE FIRST TANK CREWS

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


D Company reserves and other personnel

We have found a number of D Company reserves and other  crewmen, through Capt Graham Wood's notebooks and also from service records held on Ancestry. Sadly we cannot link them to specific vehicles on 15th September 1916

·         32337 Charles W P Aggis was born March 1897 at West Hartlepool Co Durham. He was the second son of insurance agent Carlo Giuseppe and Aurelia MG Aggis. He enlisted into the MGC on 10 Dec 1915 at West Hartlepool, aged 18 years 8 Months a chauffeur and mechanic. Service reckons from 4 Apr 16; authorised 20 Apr 16 at Bisley. Army trade recorded as cyclist / orderly.  Wounded (GSW hand and chin) in Sep 1916. Admitted at 12 Stat Hosp St Pol on 15 Feb 17 with mild rheumatism; transferred to the Cdn Gen Hosp at Etaples on 24 Feb then to UK on SS Dieppe on 25 Feb.  Treated at Bradford War Hospital from 28 Feb to 31 Mar 17. Posted to Depot Bn at Bovington and embarked back to BEF on 22 Jun 1917 with 2 Salvage Coy. Granted Class 1 pay on 29 Sep 17  Appointed paid LCpl on 14 Oct 17, wounded (GS wound to the knee) on duty 12 Nov 17. Granted UK leave from 2 Tank Field Coy (renamed therefore) from 8 to 22 Jan 1918. Appointed a/Cpl (paid) and second class mechanist on 1 Apr 18, he was hospitalised 16 to 21 May 18.  Promoted Cpl and appointed second class TM Cpl on 1 Jun 18. Proceeded to UK on 29 Jun as an RAF cadet posted back to A Coy Tank Depot by 21 Jan 19. Dispersed from Ripon on 26 Jan.  Transferred to Z Reserve 23 Feb 19 – home address the Furze West Hartlepool.  No further details on Ancestry but possibly a son Charles W Aggis (mother Poole) born 1941 in Hartlepool.

·         2951 Gnr A Barrett – no obvious contender perhaps Pte Alfred Barrett 205640.

·         33232 Gnr John Joseph Coles. Probably born on 13 Apr 94 at Westgate on Sea. A motor cycle mechanic, he enlisted 19 Feb 16, attested at Herne Bay Kent with a preference for the Royal Flying Corps.NOK was his Father John Joseph Coles of 3 Alpha Villas, Belmont Rd, Westcliffe on Sea. Listed as CofE, he first joined for duty at Coventry on 15 Mar 16 and accepted for MMGS at Bisley on 27 Mar 16.  He was admitted to Woking Military Hosp 29 Mar to 27 Apr 16 with diaphragmatic pleurisy. He married Dorothy Frances Marion Webb at the Registry Office Thanet on 3 May 16. He was posted to HS MGC the next day; posted to B Coy on 27 May; to the "Park" on 9 Jun 16 and finally to D Coy on 24 Jun 16.  He proceeded overseas on 28 August and continued to serve with D Bn on its formation.  On 29 Dec 16 he was admitted to Hosp and was treated at 53 Fd Amb until 10 Jan ‘17.  On 12 Jun 17 when he was posted to the Reinforcement Depot and then on 25 Jul joined the HSMGC HQ (later Tank Corps HQ).  He was granted UK leave from 4 to 14 Aug 17, and then returned to the Tank HQ.  On 12 Oct 18, he was posted to HQ 6 Tank Bde on its formation. Admitted to 125 Hospital at St Pol with influenza from 18 Nov to 5 Dec 18 then granted UK from 12 to 26 Dec; reported as absent returning from leave to HQ 6 Tk Bde on 20 Jan 19; he returned to the Tank Depot on 10 May 19 in the UK; demobilised from Crystal Palace on 29 Aug and transferred to the Reserve 29 Sep 19.   No children found.  Possibly died in Fulham 1973.  Victory Medal bought by Tim Payne in 2010.

·         2852 Gnr Samuel Ernest Cotton. Born on 19 Nov 96 at Loughborough; the son of William Geary Cotton (a retired grocer) and Harriet Emma Cotton. Home address at Gysebourn in Ashby Rd. A clerk he enlisted on 9 Dec 15 and mobilised on 3 Mar 16. Deployed to Le Havre with D Coy on 28 Aug 16.  6lb gunner in Crew A on Reserve Army on 25 Sep 16. Continued to serve with D Bn. Later 200813 Tank Corps. Awarded first class proficiency pay on 9 Dec 17 and UK leave from 21 Dec 17 to 4 Jan 18,Was serving with 4 Bn where Captured by Germans on 22 Mar 18; repatriated to the UK 1 Dec 18.  Compulsorily retained but transferred to Z Reserve on 17 Jul 19.  In Feb 22, he was living at 25 St Stephens Rd in Bayswater and in 1934 he was living at 19 Edith Villas, West Kensington. Died at Hastings in Jul to Sep 1975.

·        Gnr William Sowden Cressy Born 17 Jul 1887 at Skirlaugh – father was a dock labourer George Cressy; mother was Ann – five younger siblings.  Married on 21 Dec 12 at St Mary Church Revesby Hull to Florence Stringer, their daughter Eileen born  12 Jul 14.  Attested 6 Dec 15 in Hull. An ironmonger’s assistant, aged 28 yrs 5 months,   Home address 2 The Elms Melrose St, Anlaby Road Hull.   Proceeded overseas on 1 Sep 16 therefore must have travelled with tanks on SS Ilston). Was allocated to crew A as a Vickers gunner on 25 Sep 16 . Remained with D Bn then with 4 Bn until 10 Jun 18 when sent to hosp at Etaples with PUO then on 25 Jun 18 to Reinforcement Depot at Le Treport until 9 Jul then returned to o 4 Bn. To UK for home establishment  on 17 Oct 18.  Joined C coy of 23 Bn which was forming, Proceeded to Clipstone on 23 Jan 19. Possibly a daughter Vera born in 1920. In 1925 living at 76 Beckett Rd in Doncaster with wife. In 1935 operating a motor garage at 6 Duesbury Street Hull (Kelly’s dir). Died 23 Nov 1966 aged 79 in Yorkshire.

·         40254 Wilfred Harold Dyer youngest son (fourth child) of Silas and Fanny Dyer; born in Cirencester c1886.  Silas was a draper and the family was employed in the business. In 1901 they were living in Bristol House, Highdale Rd; later in Belvedere Highdale Road, Clevedon in Somerset.  Possibly married in Long Ashton in Autumn 1912. Attested at Coventry in April 1916, he was asked if he wished to serve with the MGC Heavy Branch; he agreed as he did not want to serve with a line regiment.  Sent to Bisley and thence to Siberia Ranges, where he undertook recruit training as well as initial training on the Vickers.  Posted to D Coy and then sent to Elveden.  Records that D Coy provided infantry to support C Coy’s training; at that time C Coy only having four tanks.  D Company was initially given eight tanks and all crews were required to complete both driving and weapon tests. He reports that he was in the assault that took Flers; only getting on the other side of the village, a shell exploded under the tank and blew out the bottom; only one crewman was hurt and the rest got back. He records he supported the New Zealanders and several tanks were burnt out (this appears to be a second attack).  He was also the spare crewman for the three tanks detached to the Reserve Army on 25 September.   He later served with No 1 Fd Coy and was in action at Fampeaux (battle of Arras), at Messines where he was promoted Sgt and at 3 Ypres where he was in support of A and B Bns, At this point he became exhausted and sent for three days rest, In September 1917 he was granted ten days UK leave.  He was also at Cambrai reporting that he was not withdrawn until 23 Dece after the Tank Bns were bought back.  In Jan 1918 he was sent to Vlamertinge to salvage tanks from the Salient.  Whilst attempting to recover a tank from Glencorse Wood, he was injured by mustard gas and was sent to hospital to recover from the blisters for two weeks. He then was sent to the Tank Depot for eight weeks recuperation.  In Jul 1918, he was tasked to support the Australian attack at Hamel who were supported by 8 Bn.  He was awarded the MM for his actions in salving a tank under heavy fire. He then went forward into Hamel and rounded up 15 prisoners. He was next in support of 9 Bn, who were supporting the French near Sauviller Wood.  During the battle of Amiens he was in support of 10 Bn and served throughout the final advance; he claimed to have been in 14 decisive battles.  On 12 April 1919, he was the subject of an article, about the East Clevedon Debating Society, in the Clevedon Mercury and Courier.  In 1938 to 1943, he was living in Norward East Clevedon. Possibly died, aged 81, in summer 1966 – registered in Weston Super Mare. (Bovington TM holds a manuscript written by son in law AH Bell on Kings Charles Cottage Monnington on Wye Herefordshire.

·        2809 Gnr Eric Forward was born on 11 Dec 97 at Aylestone in Leicestershire and educated at Quorn Grammar School.  A member of the D2 crew, he did not get into action on 15 September. On 25 Sep he was wounded in the arm whilst trying to extract Tank D4 near Delville Wood. He served on with the Tank Corps and was discharged in 1919, due to his wounds. He died aged on 25 on 14 Dec 22.

·         2866 Gnr Walter Player Gammon; born Ilfracombe spring 86, the ninth child of hairdresser William and Hilda S Gammon. William was a hairdresser. Attended Wallingbrook Boarding School at Chumleigh in Devon (1901 census) and in 1911 was working at Sparkbrook as a hair dresser.  Residence 51 North St Exeter and enlisted Exeter – continued to serve in D Bn then 4th Bn, He was KIA aged 32 on 26 Mar 18 whilst serving with a dismounted Lewis gun team during German offensive under Capt HG Head. His body was later buried at Bray Hill Cemetery.

·         40010 Gnr Claude Godfrey MGC (probably served with MGC (Cavalry) later 510015 Pte Labour Corps

·         38227 Gnr Fred Horrocks MGC born c 1885 in Bury Lancs; the son of Jeptha and Alice Horrocks. Living at Bacup and employed by the Refuge Assurance Company.  He joined the army in March 1916 as he was a Motor Cyclist and had technical knowledge he was assigned to the Motor Machine Gun Section.  He was KIA on 25 Sep 16 whilst trying to extract Storey's tank near Delville Wood. He was initially buried at Green Dump but, in 1919, his body was moved to the Quarry Cemetery near Montauban. Commemorated at Christ Church Bacup and at the Refuge Assurance Company War Memorial in the grounds of Fulshaw Hall in Wilmslow, Cheshire.  

·        38021 Gnr Wilfred Jacques Born Cirencester, in 1892, he was KIA on 21 March 1918 whilst serving with 4th Bn as they fought to hold back the advancing Germans. He is commemorated at Pozieres and on St John the Baptist Cirencester Parish Church War memorial and Roll of Honour Cirencester Memorial Hospital. .

·         2972 Gnr Horace Stanley Jeffrey. Born c May 89 at Wisbech Cambs. Married at Kings Lynn on 12 Jan 10 to Louisa Miller; three children Leonard; Gwendoline and Harold.  Enlisted Northampton 15 Nov 15, he was a hardware assistant working with JT Jeffery at 32 Sheep St, Northampton. Living at 35 Bective Road, Kingsthorpe near Northampton. Height 5’ 4”; mobilised 22 Mar and reported to Bisley on 23 March. Standard allocation dates then deployed on 1 Sep to France. Later 200828 Tank Corps, he served with No 11 Coy as a Mess waiter.  Hospitalised from PUO in Jun 1918, he was evacuated to the UK on 21 Sep 1917; treated at No 4 Northern Hosp at Lincoln. Granted post hospital leave from 28 Nov to 7 Dec at his home address. He was granted leave from 3 to 10 Sep 1918 whilst on strength of the Catterick Depot. He served with 2 Bn Reserve Unit at Wareham from 2 Nov 18; then H Coy Tank Corps at Wareham in early 1919.  Offered re-employment by JT Jeffrey of Nottingham on 31 Dec 18 Recorded on Northampton Roll of Honour. Possible death in Bournemouth Jan to Mar 1978 - dob 22 May 1889)

·         32481 Gnr Meyrick (Meurig) Gordon Jones. Born April to Jun 1896 at Llanfyllin or Llanfaircarn, Montgomery; enlisted Welshpool. Will signed at Cann Office hotel at LLangadfan near Welshpool.  Served in D Coy.  Died on 2 Nov 1916 at 24 General Hospital at Etaples; buried at Etaples military cemetery.  Probate granted to his fiancee Gertrude Mary Jones on 19 Feb 17, his effects were valued at Ł304/10/ 2.

·         2872 Gnr J Johnson

·         38145 Gnr Bernard Harry Kingham was born Small Heath Birmingham 2 Dec 1897. First medical undertaken at RFA Bks, Stoney Park Lane Birmingham on 12 Jan 16; attested in 26 Jan.  Address 102 The Avenue Acocks Green, near Birmingham, his father was Herbert Edwards Kingham. Stamp shows the attestment was staffed through the Administrative Centre of the 3 South Midland Bde RFA. Stoney Lane Birmingham. Mobilised, posted to Armd Car Sect and reexamined at W Coventry on 4 Apr aged 18 years 150 days.  Transferred to HS 4 May then posted to D Coy on 29 May.  Approved by Capt AG Woods Adjt D Bn HSMGC at Bisley on 13 Jun 16 (but this may have been backdated). Deployed 26 Aug 1916.  Served with D Coy and D Bn for the duration of his service, no records of charges or hospitalization. Later 200913 Tank Corps Granted UK leave 16 to 30 Dec 1917. Promoted CSgt 8 Nov 18 and appointed CQMS. Granted UK leave 18 Nov to 2 Dec – rejoining unit on 4 Dec 18.  Appointed NCO Educational Instructor 7 Apr 19.  and granted ASC rates of pay 15 May; granted leave in UK 31 May to 14 Jun.  Sent to Lendersdorf Concentration Centre (West of Koln) on 6 Sep for dispersal; demobilised at Fovant 18 Sep; transferred to Z Reserve 11 Oct 19. Address now shown as Yardley Arms Hotel near Birmingham. Married in summer 1924 to Martha Clowes  in Birmingham. their daughter Pamela was born in Spring 1926 and Iris in late 1930. From 1932 to 1936 living in Amblecote Heath Lane West Bromwich and from 1937 onwards, at 15 Yateley Road Edgbaston.  Possibly became an auctioneer in Birmingham with two outlets (one Birmingham, one West Bromwich) until 1971. Died Jul to Sep 1970 in Birmingham.

·         38342 Alfred Lawrence Kitching. Born Jun / Sep 1890 (1891?) in Darlington, the son of John William Kitching (1916 address 85 Dovecot St Stockton). A master butcher from Stockton on tees. Enlisted 9 Dec 1915 aged 24 years and 5 months.  Married to Elsie Brittain in Stockton upon Tees Parish Church on 27 April 1916. Listed in “The Motorcycle” as joining MMGS Heavy Section on 18 May 1916. Authorised at Bisley on 6 Jun 1916. Initially served with E Coy. Deployed to France on 28 August 1916 with D Coy.  On 25 Sep he was a Vickers gunner of the C Crew attached to the Reserve Army; attached from 24 April 1917 as a/LCpl then transferred to 1 Salvage Coy from 12 May 1917. Renumbered as 201974 Tank Corps. Promoted aCpl February and promoted Cpl on 16 Jun 1918.  Promoted Sergeant 16 August 1918. Joined A Coy Tank Field Bn on 16 November 1918.  UK leave from 26 November to 10 December; returned to unit on 13 December.  Returned to Uk from release 28 March 1919.  Cleared through North Camp on 30 March 1919.  Address for correspondence Havelock Hotel Bath Lane Stockton. Daughters Beryl born Summer 1921, Maureen Kitching in early 1923 and Audrey in Summer 1926.

·         Gnr Mawson; on 25th Sep he was a member of the A Crew attached to the Reserve Army. Possibly 40162 Pte James Mawson.

·         32008 Pte Francis Norman Moysey born in (late March?) 1879 in Longcombe near Totnes, Devon  (registered Apr to Jun). Son of P Moysey later lived at Holly Mount Avonwick Brent.    An accoutant, he was boarding at 5 Torbay Park, Paignton at the time of the 1901 census. Enlisted at Plymouth on 26 November 1915, aged 36 years and 8 months. Living at 28 Headland Park Plymouth, he was the son of Philip Moysey (same address). Height 5’ 4˝” and 119 lbs. Mobilised 22 March 1916.  Approved at Bisley on 28 March 1916 and posted to D Coy on 27 May 1916. Deployed to France on 28 August 1916. Later 200838 Pte Tank Corps.  On 30th November 1917, Mrs BS (J?)  Morrell of Hollymount (?), Avonwick near South Brent, Devon sought details of Moysey as she had not heard from him for some time. She believed he was serving with 19th Coy, D Bn.  Later served with 5th Bn; admitted 3rd Northern General Hospital at Sheffield on 23 October 1918 until 22 November with myalgia when declared fit for duty. Granted leave from 23 Nov to 2 Dec at Holly Oak.  Later posted to Tank Depot; Proection certificate issued 8 February 1919. Rank shown as Pte, same contact address. (service record found).  Arrived at Quebec on 3 May 1920, (Canadian shipping records); he is recorded as a 41 year old clerk, seeking to join his brother in law in farming Mr Wallis Park Hill Ranch at Priddis 15 kms south of Calgary. He was cremated at Calgary on 21 December 1970.

·         Gnr McPartlen? on 25th Sep he was a Vickers gunner of the C Crew attached to the Reserve Army. Poss Pte James McPartlin 200722 SWB list Tank Corps. Enlisted 6 Aug 1915; discharged 18 Oct 1918 – served overseas – badge no 36062.

·         2687 Gnr Arthur Nichol; born May 1896 in Sculcoates Hull.  Eldest son of Henry Ernest Nichol; mother was Annie Gert – father was a musical composer and publisher living by his own means in 1901 (address was 99 Westbourne Ave in Hull). In 1915; address was 68 Westbourne Avenue Hull; enlisted aged 19 years and 191 days at Coventry on 24 November – an engine fitter and tester.  Height 5’ 7”; weight 108 lbs and 33 inch chest.  Approved at Bisley on 30 November; deployed overseas in Aug 1916 with D MGC HS; employed as a fitter. Diagnosed with a right internal hernia on 2 Nov and evacuated to No 3 Western Hospital at Cardiff in Nov 1916; granted UK leave from 3 to 13 January 1917.   Posted to 21 Coy of G Bn on 19 January 1917 and then transferred to Depot on 27 March 1917; four entries on company conduct sheet in next six months. Suffered from abscess in the mouth requiring hospitalization in Jul 1917. Later 205472 Tank Corps.  Married Winifred Anita Richardson at the Church of the Holy Sacrement, Coventry 8 December 1917.  Her address was 9 Shaftesbury Rd, Earlsdon in Coventry, two entires on conduct sheet in 1918; one regimental for being in an out of bounds area of Bournemouth in Sep 1918.  Posted to Central Workshops and Classified TM Class II on 30 November 1918;    Demobilised on 18th Feb 1919 from Chiseldon.  Home address shown as 63 Cross Roads, Edgewick in Coventry; possibly had a son – Anthony R Nichol born Coventry in early 1920.

·         2444 Gnr Arthur James Adams Pearce MMGS – born Willesden in Aug 1890.  Father was a labourer Alfred Pearce; mother was Lucy – two older children. A motor mechanic, living at 2 Gladstone Place Brondesbury in Kilburn NW London.  Enlisted aged 25 years and one month on 29th September 1915 at Kilburn; authorised at MMGS TC on 11 Oct; height 5’ 5˝” – chest 35˝”.  Authorised on 25 Oct 1915 at Bisley and initially transferred to 21 Bty MMGS on 3 Mar 1916 and then transferred to HS MGC on 4 May.  He was posted to D Coy on 27 May and deployed to France on 28 Aug. Later 200766 Tank Corps – served with A Coy D Bn. Married to Elizabeth Mary Phizackley at Christchurch Brondesbury on 25th December 1917, awarded 7days FP No2 for overstaying leave by one day – returned to duty on 31 December 1917. Continued to serve with 4th Bn until 15 January 1919 (leave in the UK at Christmas) and demobilised as a Pte in 18 Jan 1919.  Home address 55 Iverson Rd, West Hampstead; a son also Arthur J A Pearce born in Summer 1924 at Willesdon.   Probably died in Paddington, aged 71, in Summer 1962. 

·         40420 Gnr Frank Puddicombe MGC  possibly born Dorking ‘82, lived in Dorking ’91; in 1901 he was shown as a carpneter’s labourer and his mother is Eliza was widowed. 82 Orchard Street in Dorking.  later Cpl Tank Corps

·         Gnr Stennett - leg broken on 25th September 1916, possibly 38067 Gnr J Stennett – enlisted 11 Dec 1915; later Tank Corps. Discharged 1 November 1917 and SWB awarded.  Or Pte George H Stennett 206276.  Sgt Stennett recorded on James MacGregor’s records on 26 Oct 2010.

·         2502 Charles Samuel Smedley. Born March 1893 at Balsall Heath near Birmingham. He was a bootmaker from Birmingham; whilst living at 45 Institution Road, Kings Heath Birmingham, he enlisted on 28th Oct 1915, aged 22 years 184 days; height 5’ 5”; weight 126 lbs and chest 34 His NOK was his brother James Clifford Smedley of same address. Posted to 21 Coy in Mat and then usual dates for transfer to D Doy; appointed A/LCpl unpaid from Jul 1916; deployed on 28 August,  Later 200784 Tank Corps. Wounded in action 29 September 1918; possibly at Rollincourt; returned to the Depot 18 Oct 1918;  discharged through Chiseldon 25th Jan 1919; living at 616 Warwick Rd, Great Hill  – found by Simon Payne who holds his medal.  Service record found.   

·         2796 Gnr Louis William Vince MMGS; born August 1887 third son of seven children to farmer Benjamin Vince and his wife Ellen; in 1901 of Sheel Farm; Whatfield Suffolk; Louis was a unmarried motor agent who was attested at Ipswich 8 Feb 1916 aged 28 years 6 months; 5’  4”; brown eyes and black hair. Transferred to the Army Reserve.  Joined MMGS through the Motor Cycle Magazine on 18th March.  Mobilised at Bury St Edmunds on 20 March 1916, authorised at Bisley March 1916, in Woking military hospital from 4 to 25 April with tonsilitus, Posted to D Coy on May 1916; deployed to France on 28 Aug. On 25th Sep he was a 6lb gunner of the C Crew attached to the Reserve Army. Remained with D Bn on its formation; Pte Tank Corps 200827.  Granted leave in the UK 10 to 24 November 1917.  Married Hilda Beatrice Cousins on 14th November 1917 at St Peter’s Church Ipswich, her address given as 2 Great Whip St in Ipswich. He rejoined the Bn on 28th November. Daughter Gwendoline Beatrice born 16 August 1918 – address 2 great Whip St Ipswich. Granted UK leave from 10 to 24 November 1918 and returned to his unit on 28 October. Never promoted, he remained with 4th Bn, serving with C Coy, until returned to the UK on 31 Jan 1919. Demoblised from Thetford – service ended on 3 March 1919 (service record found). In 1931 and 1932 he is shown as a motor engineer in Whatfield.  Died in Ipswich in Summer 1955.  Family tree found on Ancestry – one child still living.

·         38040 Gnr Ernest George Wyatt born at Marylebone December 1896, the sixth child of eight (third son) of Arthur and Rachel Wyatt.  A motor driver living at 67 Waverly Road Paddington; height 5’ 1”.  Enlisted aged 19 years 3 months at Paddington on 1 Mar 1916, authorised at Bisley at 26 May 1916.   Embarked with D Bn from Southampton on 28 August 1916; machine gunner on Tank Crew C in support of Reserve Army on 25th September.  Sentenced to 7 days No 2 FP for failing to obey an order from the Military Policeman – January 1917. Later 200906 Tank Corps UK leave from 2 to 16 November 1917; returned to his unit on 18th November. UK leave also on 23 Oct to 6 November; returned to unit on 11 November. Served with C Coy at 4th Bn eventually at Lendersdorf in 1919; final leave 5 to 19 May. Protected Certificate issued at Crystal Palace on 16 Sep 1919. Transferred to Z reserve on 14 October 1919. (service record found).