THE FIRST TANK CREWS

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


Pictured (right) is Lt Stuart Hastie; skipper of crew D17 and commander of  "Dinnaken"

Reserve Tank D13

D13 in Delilah.  No 548 (Female) was the Company Reserve Park tank but was deployed, with a scratch crew, in support of 47th Div attack on High Wood.  Most successful of 4 tanks, it made its way through High Wood, almost to its centre. There it enfiladed the German trench but was hit by a shell and caught fire. The crew, albeit some wounded, bailed out but captured 15 Germans. 

2Lt Bill Sampson. Born 1 Jan 90 at Wytheville VA of British parents, Bill later moved to Canada and worked as a Bank clerk in Regina where he also served in the local militia. He enlisted on 23 Oct 14 into the Canadian Expeditionary Force serving as a Pte soldier in 28th Cdn Inf Bn.   After initial training and deployment to the UK, he was commissioned into Northumberland Fusiliers on 15 Oct 15.  The following day, he married Hilda Pennycuick at St Paul’s Church Frimley.  He was gazetted to the MMGS on 21 Oct 15.  Initially a member of E Coy HS MGC, he was transferred to D Coy.   During the move of the Coy to France, he was responsible for taking tanks and drivers, through Avonmouth on SS Hungate. He was selected, over Wakley, to command D13 and the rest of the section at High Wood. He was wounded on 15 Sep 16 during the action and awarded the MC. He remained with D Coy as it reformed into D Bn, he lead a section at the attack on the Harp feature at Telegraph Hill on 9 Apr 17 in support of the DCLI.  Appointed T/Capt 12 Apr 17, he also fought at Heininech on 17 Apr.  He also appears to have lead a section at Bullecourt and also fought at Poelcappelle in Aug 17.  Posted to the Central Driving at Maintenance School at Bovington in Aug 17, he was presented with the MC at Windsor Castle on 6 Sep 17.  In Nov 17 he was part of the Special Service section of N Bn which was sent to Ireland – his tank (possibly Scotch and Soda) based at Limerick. He returned to France with 12th Tank Bn and took part in delaying action during the Kaiserslacht, commanding Lewis gun teams. On 21 Aug he fought at Courcelle-le- Comte in support of the Gds Div attack   A son was born on 11 Sep 18 whilst Hilda was living at 54 Falconer Rd in Bushey.  Bill commanded a coy at the Canal de l’Escaut on 4 Oct 18, in support of the New Zealand Div and was wounded by a bullet in the hand, and he returned to the UK. Appointed asst instructor 17 Jan 20 at Bovington; he joined the Regular Army amd was appointed Assistant instructor at the Armoured Motor Centre in Ahmednagar.  Seconded to the Indian ASC on 14 May 26, he was promoted Capt on 21 Jul 26 then Maj 20 Jul 1934. At the start of the Second World War, he was sent back to the UK and took part in the Norwegian campaign.  In Sep 40 he was torpedoed on 18 Sep whilst sailing on the City of Simla. In Dec 41, he was sent to Rangoon to receive MT units who were to support the Burma army.  He then took part in the British retreat through Burma leaving Rangoon on 7 Mar and reaching Kohima in Jun 42.  The next month he was appointed Comdt of the MT Training Centre and retired (well over age) having reached the rank of Lt Col in 1944.  He settled at Saltwood in Kent and died on 12 Oct 1984.   

Cpl JE Harper

Gnr William Phipps Chandler.  Born Dec 91 at Wandsworth. Enlisted at age of 22 years 4 months, height 6ft and 1/2 inch. Wounded during action at High Wood; awarded MM for replacing sponsor door which had been lifted off hinges by tree stump. He later served with No 10 Coy (D Bn) and was wounded on 29 Sep 18. He was admitted to Netley Hospital on 8 Oct 18, with burns to face and hands. His Military Medal was issued (and not awarded publicly as Chandler's request) by post in Mar 1919. Died on 3 Sep 1965 at Isle of Thanet Hospital at Ramsgate

Gnr Edwin Frank Dival wounded and survived.  Born in Feb 87 near Tonbridge Wells, Frank Divall was a chauffeur and electrician. He joined D Coy in late May 6 and married Winifred Maybanks four days before he deployed to France. Injured in the legs as he made his way to safety through High Wood, he was evacuated to Oxford and then to Chipping Norton where metalfragments were removed from his legs.  A letter to his sister Edith published in newspapers gives a lengthy description of the attack at High Wood.  During the summer of 1917, he retrained as a driver and then joined 12th battalion where he served in the same company as his firmer skipper Bill Samspon.  Frank fought with the unit until the end of the war, eventually reaching the rank of sergeant. After the war he moved to Rugely and later remarrried. He and his new wife Alice Samuel had three children; sadly their duaghter Joan did not survive infancy.  Frank moved to Bovingdon in Hertfordshire in the early 1930s and ran the local stores and sub postoffice until his death in Hemel Hempstead in early 1965.

Gnr Mayo or Mays  – wounded with burns to eyes. Possibly 205470 Pte Frederick C Mays.

Gnr Peck – wounded

Gnr Yates - possibly Harry Ironfield Yates.  Born in Preston in 1886, where he worked as a postman. Later moved to Blackpool, where he married Christine Heppanstall on 25 Jun 1913. In 1918, whilst serving with 4th Bn, he was awarded both the MM and DCM. After the war, he returned to Blackpool

LCpl Alfred P Bloomfield ASC; a “diminutive Geordie staff car driver” according to Bill Sampson.   Third son of George and Isabella Bloomfield, born in Willington in 1877 and living in Wallsend.   Rebadged to Tank Corps, he died on 31 Jan 19 whilst serving with the Central Tank Wksps and buried at St Pol Military Cemetery. Recorded as being a resident at Rosehill, Willington Quay, Northumberland.

No 3 Section

Section Commander - Capt Stephen Scott Sellick

 

D14 (No 534 Female). D14 failed to reach the start line on 15 Sep as it ditched in a support trench; it was recovered after a great deal of effort.  On 16 Sep the crew were tasked to support 21st Div as they fought from Flers towards Gueudecourt.   Court advanced some 1,100m before his tank was forced to stop at Grid Trench, a site which was to be the scene of continuous fighting for the next week. As two crew (the sergeant and driver) got out, to work out how to cross the obstacle, D14 was hit by artillery fire. In the subsequent explosion, all those in the tank were killed and those outside mortally wounded. 

2Lt Gordon Frederick Court was born 9 May 89 at Milton near Sittingbourne near Kent. A motor mechanic, Gordon served in the British South Africa Police as a trooper from 2 Oct 09 and left on 16 May 14.  He joined the 1st Rhodesia Regt on 20 Oct 1914 and served during the German SW Africa Campaign – his mother stating he served under Gen Botha.  He returned from South Africa arriving in London on 16 Feb 1916. Attested at No 5 Offr Cadet Bn at Trinity College Cambridge on 9 Mar 16, he became friends with Blowers and Legge. Commissioned into Hy Sect MGC 15 Apr 16, he was KIA aged 27 on 16 Sep 16. No known grave – commemorated on Thiepval memorial.   

Sgt Robert Baden Pebody; born in Warwick in 1896, lived with uncle post office clerk John Thomas in Rugby in 1901 at 58 Oxford St. He enlisted at Coventry in early 1915. DoW on 16 Sep 16 aged 21 years, he is buried at the AIF Burial Gd near Flers.

Gnr William Henty Barber. Born in Mar 81 at Harborne, in 1901 he was working as a music teacher and living at Smethwick.  In 1911, he was still in Smethwick but now was an ornamental wrought iron manufacturer  He enlisted at Birmingham and was KIA on 16 Sep 16 aged 35 years.  Body not recovered, he is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial.

LCpl Thomas Cromack B South Hackney 1879, probably the son of Edwin Cromack, a carpenter and Charlotte. In ‘81 he was living with both parents at 39 Eaton place Hackney; by 91 his father was dead; the 1901 census shows he was a bus conductor and the family were living in 26 Elsdale St. In 1911, he was employed as an insurance collector whilst he was boarding at 88 Bentham Rd in Homerton.  Enlisted South Hackney KIA aged 37 years on 16 Sep 16.  

Gnr Joseph Elliot Crowe was born Jul to Sep 92 in Towlaw, County Durham the son of George and Jane Ann Crowe  (1901 census shows this as Low West House) The 1901 census shows him living with his grandmother at 23 Bridge St Towlaw; in 1911 he was working as a rope guider at a colliery. He initially served with MGC (Infantry) and was KIA on 16 Sep 16 aged 29 years.  Body not found, commemorated on Thiepval Memorial

 32486 Pte Andrew Charles Lawson. Born 18955 in Kingsland Middx eldest son of fancy box manufacturer Andrew Thomas and Eliza Lawson; in 1901 living at 42 Park Hall Road Finchley. Enlisted into MGC at Wood Green Essex.  KIA on 16 Sep 16 aged 21 years.  

 40019 Pte George Monro Mann. born at Burn Farm at Avoch in Ross on 13 Mar 92, the son of Christine Mann - a farmer’s daughter. In 1901 they were living with her mother at Burn Farm. He studied to become a chartered engineer at the Royal Technical College at Glasgow university from 1913-1915; he was supported by a Royal Highland Society bursary but he volunteered ebfore he took his exams. Enlisted at  Manchester into the MGC in April 1916. (service number agrees) . KIA aged 24 years on 16 Sep 16.commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, the Avoch War Memorial and the Glasgow University Roll of Honour - http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/ww1-biography/?id=3456 

 M2/178194 LCpl Lawrence William Upton ASC. Born Chesterfield in 1893 resided Bradford enlisted DoncasterHe was the son of a postman William Upton and his wife of Mary. In 1911 Lawrence and his mother had moved to Doncaster and Lawrence had become a postman.  He enlisted in the ASC and trained as a driver.  He married his sweetheart, Bertha Smith on 27 Aug 1916, the weekend before he deployed to France. He DofW aged 23 years after tank exploded during attack on Guedecourt on 16 Sep. Initially recorded as missing, his body was later recovered and he is buried at the AIF Burial Ground near Flers.

D15 (No 537 Female). D15 was one of 3 tanks (with D19 Capt Sellick and D2 (Lt Bell) were tasked to move through the centre of Flers. Sellick and Bell’s tanks ditched in shell holes on route to the start point. D15 was hit by German artillery as it crossed the German front line en route for Flers; as its crew abandoned the burning vehicle, two were killed and the remainder were wounded by enemy small arms fire.  The tank was subsequently recovered., Tank D15 was named "Donner Blitzen" but there is no evidence that Tank 537 was named thus at the first action)


Lt Jack Bagshaw. Born in Uttoxeter in 1896; the youngest child (fourth son) son of William Bagshaw an auctioneer and valuer (who also ran the Red Lion pub in the Market Place) and his wife Mary Ann (William was later Chairman of Uttoxeter Urban District Council).  Jack initially joined the MMGS as a private (No 1395) and was commissioned into MMGS 10 Oct 15. Bagshaw was wounded in the action on 15 Sep. Later served with E Bn and promoted captain. Wilfred Bion's section commander. Returned to France on 26 Jun 17; after training they deploy to Hazebrouk arriving on 31 Jul – the day the Third Battle of Ypres began. On 20 Sep he directed Bion to lead the section forward; Bagshaw was in the rear tank. On 28 Sep, he was well forward leading his section on foot and led survivors from a knocked out tank to safety.  Jack was also section commander at Cambrai; he came through the first day uninjured.  Bion says he was not deployed during the actions on 30 Nov. Relinquished a/capt on 22 Mar 18 on ceasing to comd a sect, this was the opening day of the German advance or Kaiserslacht.  Jack relinquished commission on completion of service 19 Sep 20 and awarded the rank of Capt. Home address was Heath Lodge Uttoxeter in Staffs.  In 1927 Jack became a partner in Bagshaws, the year he married Anne G Willeter in Steyning Sussex. He died on 13 Mar 62. 

LCpl Charles Frederick Jung MGC later Cpl Tank Corps. Possibly born Parkstone Poole in April to Jun 89. the youngest of five children (third son) of Frederick Jung, a Silesiean brickmaker and his wife Sarah. In 1891 living in Cranborne.  Married Bridget E Enright at Alverstoke, Hants in early 18. Awarded emblem (MID?) Their son Terence CE Jung was killed whilst serving in the RAF during WW2. 

Gnr Charles Edward Bond.  Born Sep 1888 and registered at Bridgewater Somerset. Possibly from Wembdon, he was working as a jeweller in Bournmouth when he enlisted into the MMGS. Mobilised on 10 Mar and deployed 1 Sep 16; Wounded in action and returned to UK on 22 Oct 1916. Posted to G Bn on 8 Jan 17; then posted to Depot Bn 3 Mar 17. Medical Board record dated 23 Aug 17 shows suffering from TB -having suffered from measles. Discharged as no longer physically fit for war service 15 Dec 1917 and not to be compulsorily posted for war service under Military Service Act 1917. SWB awarded.  Probable death Sep 1918 at Bridgewater.

Gnr Cyril William Coles born at Canford Dorset Apr to Jun 1893 the son of a corn miller; Five generations of the Coles family were corn millers in the New Forest area. Cyril's grandfather originally set up in business at Creekmoor Mill at Canford Magna in Dorset in the 1850s. The family business was still in operation there in 1915 but by the early 1930s the mill was disused. Cyril was born at Creekmoor Mill in June 1893 and was working in the mill with his father in the 1911 census.  Enlisted Wimborne.  KIA by SAA fire aged 23 on 15 Sep 16; buried at Bull Rd Cemetery near Flers. Son of Mr William C Coles of "Stoneleigh" Wimborne Rd at Poole. Recorded on the War memorial near the Recreation Ground at Broadstone  The roll of honour website states he was awarded a MM but I can find no record of this medal being awarded.  Site member Caroline Gurney is related to Cyril; he was her paternal grandfather's second cousin. Her father, born in 1919, was given the middle name Cyril, and she believes this was in memory of Cyril William Coles

Gnr Charles William Hoban, born Leamington Spa Oct – Dec 1887 son of Charles and Kate Hoban. An outfitter's assistant, he married Caroline Collins in 1912; their infant son died in 1915enlisted Warwick. KIA on 15 Sep 1916 by SAA fire and commemorated at Thiepval memorial.

Gnr Arthur Smith later served as Pte Tank Corps (same number)

Gnr Tom Fleming Wilson born near Grasmere on 17 Sep 88. He was the eldest son of a joiner handyman Tom Wilson and his wife Annie Hamblin; he had three younger brothers.  Enlisted into the MMGS at Coventry. DoW 22 Sept 16 presumably as a result of injuries sustained in action; buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L'abbe. No age of family details.

Albert George Rowe ASC.   Born C 1889 in Kensington.  Enlisted as an ASC special reservist as a motor mechanic.  Home was 1 Kincaid Rd, Meeting House Lane, Peckham. Called up on 10 Aug 14; married in 1915 and deployed to France 1 Sep 16 (shown as part of 711 MT Coy ASC the tank's support unit. On 15 Sep 16, whilst driving D15, he was wounded. On 19 Sep admitted to 11 Stationary Hospital suffering from shell shock, evacuated back to the UK on 22 Sep and taken on strength 621 Coy ASC  (Reception Depot),   Remained in ASC with HQ Coy HAMT at Bulford on 1  Jul 1917 when he was appointed ACpl.  On 21 Jul he embarked on Husgrove and disembarked 3 days later at Le Havre, he was attached to I Bn Tank Corps.  On 31 Aug 17 attached to HQ Tank Corps and remained with them until 27 Jan when he returned to the UK for leave.  On 25 Feb 18 he returned to the Tank Corps HQ and then on 26 May was attached to HQ 3 Bde Tank Corps.  On 31 Jan 19 he deployed to Ireland with 17 Armd Car Bn.  In Feb 19 he caught influenza whilst serving in Dublin with 614 MT Coy ASC.  He was hospitalised but suffered no long term ill effects. He was discharged from the ASC in Mar 1919. 

D16 “Dracula” (No 538 – Female).  Dracula was tasked to take part in the assault on the German position to NW of Flers in concert with D18; the tank successfully made way to the objective and used machine guns to chase the defenders away. During a lull in the battle, both crews were able to cook breakfast but this calm was interrupted as the tanks were spotted by a German observation balloon, located to the north of Flers, who directed artillery fire upon them.  They then moved along the edge of the village, where Arnold and Pearsall (D11 – Die Hard) helped Nixon’s crew put out the fire in his tank (D12).  At noon, they lead an assault at the NW of the village where there was a substantial German defensive position.  They provided close fire support to infantry, causing significant casualties amongst the Germans who were unable to respond, and the position was over-run.  The tanks then assisted in beating off the inevitable German counter attack, using their machine guns to destroy the German infantry as they advanced from Factory Corner.  Later Arnold left his tank to rescue a wounded New Zealander. Arnold was wounded in the leg and, one of his crew, Gnr Jacob Glaister took charge of the tank and manoeuvred it so that Arnold could be rescued. Glaister was awarded the MM for his action.   Despite artillery fire, the tank got back to British lines, returning to Green Dump.  The tank was again in acion on 2 Oct when it fought through the German dfences near Eaucourt.  The tank became ditched as it got near the farm complex and the crew had to get back to British lines. The tank commander, Lt Jefferson Wakley who was badly injured as was Jacob Glaister who stayed to protect him.    

Lt Arthur Edmund Arnold. Born Llandudno. North Wales Apr - Jun 1892 the second son of William and Ellen Arnold; his father established a most successful drapery business in the town which was developing as a major seaside resort. Arthur worked as an engineer in Belfast with Harland and Woolf.the builders of SS Titanic. Served in Inns Of Court OTC then commissioned into Liverpool Regt 20 Jan 16 and transferred to MGC 17 April 16.  Awarded MC for his action at Flers for conspicuous gallantry in action. He fought his tank with great gallantry and went to the assistance of another tank. Later he rescued a wounded man, and although himself wounded (in the knee), he brought his Tank safely out of action. He was evacuated to the UK due to his wounds. Later joined F Bn and served again with Frank Summers and several other officers from D Coy.  Appointed. T/Capt and section commander on 12 Apr 17. He was in command of 10 Sect of 18 Coy for the 61st Div assault to the north east of St Julian on 29 July. Shot in the lung and taken prisoner whilst leading his section on 22 Aug 17.  During his time as a POW at Freiburg, he met his younger brother Clement who had been captured following the successful action at Villers-Brettonaux on 8 Aug 1918 and for which Clement was awarded the DSO.  Repatriated on 6 Dec 18. Relinquished his commission on  account of ill health caused by wounds. Returned to his family in Llandudno, he was treated for TB, resulting from his wounds, in Leysin Switzerland, he moved to Rhodesia to join eldest brother William who was awarded the DSO in Jun 19 for service with 2nd Tank Bde.  Eventually settled in South Africa where he married his fiancee, Margaretta who was from Belfast, and they had one daughter (Nell). Farmed near Bloemfontein where he met up with Victor Huffam who made regular visits to Natal. Later wrote article in 1963 (in French) on Flers-Courcelette  Died in South Africa in 1967 - family photo and information provided by his nephew Mike Arnold from Oxford. 

Second in command Cpl E A White who did not go into action on 15 Sep.  Could it be Ernest A White Tank Corps 206212 commissioned 26 Jun 17 later Captain Tank Corps 27 Dec 18; not listed in 1920 Army List. Address 52 Berners St W1 – applied for Medals on 11 Nov 24

Gnr Collett

Gnr Douglas

32468 Pte Cecil J(?) Frost born Oct – Nov 1886 at Tiverton Devon; in 1891 lving at the Boards’ head pub in Bampton St Tiverton . A theatrical manager from Plymouth employed by S J Heal of Alma Road Plymouth. Attested aged 29 years on 15 Nov 15; address given as 6 Devonshire Villas Pennycomequick Plymouth – home of father and mother William and Elizabeth Frost. Mobilised 25 Apr 16, Deployed to France on 2 Sep, arrive at Le Havre on 3 Sep 16.  Transferred to D Bn on its formation.  Hospitalised on 11 Jan 1917 with tonsillitis and remained at 12 Stny Hospital until 3 Feb when he returned to duty with D Bn.  Later 200891 Pte Tank Corps classified  2nd Class Tank Mechanist 1 Sep 17. Granted UK leave from 11 – 25 Dec; rejoined on 27 Dec. Classified 1st Class tank machinist on 7 Mar 18. Admitted to hospital with PUO (influenza?) 29 May 17 – rejoined 4 Bn on 6 Jun.  Granted UK leave from 29 Oct to 12 Nov.  Claimed pension to catarrhal deafness due to persistent inability to get dry when wet; follow-up found ears to be heavily waxed.  Returned to the UK 17 Feb 19 and demobilised on 13 Mar 19, he went back to Plymouth and returned to the entertainment business. In 1922 he was managing the Theatre De Luxe cinema at 116 Union Street. He was possibly married in Tiverton, in the summer of 1926, to Elsie I Parsons and they had a son, Kenneth, in the summer 1927. A daughter Monica I Frost was born in Tiverton in early 1932. Then we lose track of him but his elder brother Harry was killed, during the German bombing of Plymouth, on 20 Mar 41, both parents were still living 6 Devonshire Villas in Pennycomequick.

Gnr Jacob Glaister Jnr was born at Whitehaven in Cumberland about 20 Feb 86. He worked with his father as a self employed building contractor, whillst living at 88 George Street Whitehaven. A keen motorcyclist, who had his own machine from the age of 18, he first joined for Army duty at Coventry on 2 Feb 16; this means he must have been recruited through the Motorcycle magazine.  Attested at Whitehaven, he was mobilised on 29 Mar and arrived at Bisley the same day.  During the action on 15 Sep, as Dracula stopped to rescue a wounded New Zealander, Lt Arthur Arnold was wounded in the leg.  Jacob took charge of the tank and maneuvered it in order to rescue him - for this he was awarded the MM.  On 1 Oct 1916, Glaister was again in action; the tank was hit and the crew had to make their way back to the British Lines; Jacob stayed with his wounded skipper and was shot in the chest on the following day. It resulted in Jacob being awarded the DCM; he was also awarded a gold watch by the Whitehaven Town Council; his father being a member for many years. On 11 Oct Jacob was transferred to 9 Gen Hosp at Rouen then evacuated to King George Hospital and then the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin.  After post hospital and Christmas leave, Jacob was taken on strength wih the newly formed G Bn on 29 Dec 16. He slowly recovered but did not deploy overseas again, he was however sufficently fit to be fully employed at the Depot at Bovington and to take up motorcycling again.  Jacob was promoted as A/Sgt on 13 Apr 18 and later was attached from 14 to 29 Oct with Cameron Highlanders at Inverness.  Released from service in Feb 19, he took over his father’s building and sculpturing business, and built Whitehaven Bus Station - only the second covered Bus Station in England when it was built (Workington was the first and is almost identical). He married teacher Lydia Jackson in the summer of 1931 when they were both in their fifties. After a long illess, Jacob died on 23 Oct 50 and is buried in the family plot at Whitehaven Preston Quarter Cemetery. Lydia lived until she was 99; she died on 28 Apr 1978 and is buried with her husband.  Jacob's medals are held by the Tank Museum - Family and Whitehaven details provided by Shaun Corkerry, whose wife is related to Jacob Glaister.    

Gnr J Mackenzie Born in Carlisle Jan to Mar 1889, the son of Railway shunter Francis McKenzie and his wife Mary. By 1901 the family had moved to Tranmere in Birkenhead. Enlisted MGC and posted to D Coy. Remained with D Bn on its formed and served with No 10 Coy, probably at the attack on the Harp feature near Beaurains (9 Apr 17).  Later renumbered as 206169 (Tank Corps) he died of wounds on 5 Aug 17, probably received during No 10 actions on 31 Jul, and buried at Lijssenthoek Mil Cemetery

Gnr F J Roberts  was awarded the MM for his action on 2 Oct 1916

Pte Samuel Workman ASC who was the youngest son of Samuel H and Rosanne Workman, and who was born in Nailsworth, Glos, in Oct to Dec 1892. He remained in ASC.  Married Miss Winifred Florence Bird in Stroud in Summer 28. Possibly a son Jeffrey R Workman born in 1931 and married Adrienne Aldum in 1956,  Died on 14 Feb 41 whilst living at Hill Cott Hayes Rd Forest Green in  Nailsea. Probate granted to winow value £1000/15/6

Later:  D16 was destroyed during an attack at Eaucourt l'Abbaye on 1 Oct 16

D17 Dinnaken (No 759 male). D17 Dinnaken which was tasked to enter the village of Flers. Hastie initially followed D6 up the road to Switch Trench and then went straight on towards the village of Flers.  As the attacking infantry were unable to get through the German protective wire, in front of the village  Hastie smashed through it and then placed his tank across the main German trench (Flers line), using his machine guns to enfilade the defenders.  Resistance collapsed and the infantry followed up. Dinnaken then drove on, through the village, using the  6lb guns to destroy German strong points; parties of infantry following him. It was Dinnaken which was later seen by an observer of the RFC aircraft who sent back the famous message which lead to a headline in British newspapers as A tank is walking down the High Street of Flers with the British Army cheering behind". Having reached the tiny square, in the north of the village, Hastie turned his vehicle and withdrew, as ordered, towards his start point.  The engine started to fail and the tank was abandoned close to Head's tank at the Rideau des Filoires", close to Delville Wood. 

Stuart Henderson Hastie was born in Edinburgh on 7 Sep 89. He was the son of Thomas Hastie, a Tool Manufacturers Assistant, and Flora Henderson.  Educated at George Heriot's School and Edinburgh University, Stuart served for four years in Edinburgh University OTC. He applied for a commission on 22 Mar 15; his preference being service with 4th Bn HLI. He was seconded to the MMGS on 16 Oct 15 and then to Heavy Branch MGC. For his actions on 15 Sep 16, he was awarded the MC: “for conspicuous gallantry in action. He fought his Tank with great gallantry, reaching the third objective. Later, he rendered valuable service in salving a Tank lying out under very heavy fire.” He was involved in the attack on 26 Sep and later salved Storey’s tank.  In early 1917, he was one of the first tank instructors and then wassenior instructor at the tank drivng school at Wailly. He commanded the tank sections, which were manned by driving instructors, and used to rip away wire entanglements during the Battle of Cambrai.  Appointed A/Maj and Chief Inst of Driving & Maint School at Bovington on 15 Mar 18 until 8 Feb 19.  Awarded MBE for this work in the Honours List June 1919.  Subsequently a member of the Board and Managing Director of Distillers Company Ltd (1935 to 1955). Corresponded with Liddell Hart in 1963 his voice can be heard on the IWM recording of veterans, recalling their service. Died 1981 in Elgin.  

Cpl Edward J Sheldon (Sgt 205193); no RofH record

Gnr Eric Blake was born in early 1889 in Putney. Educated in London he became a clerk, working for the London branch of the Canadian Bank Of Commerce (CBC). He married Dorothy Thompson on 22 Nov 1913 and their only child Betty Blake was born 8 Aug 14. Eric enlisted into the MMGS on 16 Jan 1916. He went into action for the first time on 15 Sep and afterwards wrote a letter to his colleagues at the CBC which was later published. The letter mentions a soldier being killed around 25 Sep 16 by shell-fire; this was Gnr Fred Horrocks who is now buried near Montauban. The medal rolls confirm Eric was eventually promoted sergeant; the CBC Roll of Honour also states he was wounded twice during the war.  After the war, he re-enlisted in Tank Corps as a Regular soldier and was not discharged until 26 Nov 46 when he would have been 57. He settled at 1 Duncan Crescent at Bovington Camp and on his death, aged 67 years old, was buried at Wool Church on 20 Jul 1954

Gnr Percy Boult possibly born 1897 in Stoke on Trent, he was the left hand gunner. He was later commissioned as 2Lt on Tank Corps 25 Mar 18. Awarded MC for action whilst serving with 9 Bn. During the operations near Joncourt on October 1, 1918, when his tank was stopped and under heavy shell fire, 2nd Lieut. Boult put out a smoke bomb to cover the tank. The bomb, however, stuck, and burst partly inside the tank. Thinking that the tank was on fire, 2nd Lieut. Boult ordered his crew to evacuate it. This he was able to do, but not seeing his crew, who were in a shell-hole close by, he drove on into the fight. He was stopped by the infantry, who asked for his support. He explained he was alone and asked for a volunteer crew. An officer and two privates of the 2nd Manchester Regt volunteered to go with him; he then drove the tank on into action. As the infantry did not understand the Hotchkiss gun, he continually had to leave the driver's seat and help to load and explain it. During the fight he noticed a signal from another tank (I. 29) which had been hit and was under heavy fire, so drove his tank alongside and took off three gunners. As the infantry had retired, he drove back to their line, when the three infantry volunteers rejoined their unit. I cannot speak too highly of this officer's resourcefulness and courage. Bar to MC awarded "During the action near Mormal Forest on 4th November, 1918, his Tank broke a track near the front line before zero, but he got it into action up to time. He directed his Tank on foot during the greater part of the action, showing marked gallantry and disregard of danger, and in a thick fog thus kept direction to an important objective. He fought his Tank with four guns out of action later in the day, with two of his crew wounded, and undoubtedly by his devotion to duty saved the infantry many casualties. Address shown as Stanley House, Cranborne Ter, Ashton under Lyne. Commissioned RAOC 8 April 40; relinquished commission in RAOC on account of ill-health 5 Mar 41.  The London Times 24 Sep 54 reported the engagement is announced between Beryl Maureen, daughter of Mr Percy Boult, MC and bar, and Mrs Boult of Trelawn Park, Mill Hill London and Dr Loran M Bittman of Long Island NY. 

Gnr Fred Gomersall. born May 1894. An accountant, he enlisted, aged 21 years on 22 Oct 15 at Coventry. Like Ewart Doodson (D1) who he knew and Neville Tattersfield of C Coy Fred came from Ravensthorpe in Yorkshire. On 16 Sep salved equipment from D1. "Dewsbury Reporter” dated 7 Oct 16 states his family lived at Craven Street, Raventhorpe, Later 200780 Pte Tank Corps, he survived the war and was transferred to the Z Reserve on 25 April 1919.

Gnr Roy Reiffer born Oct to Dec 96 Lewisham.  No 2 on the tank starboard 6lb gun.  He was awarded the MM for helping to remove the machine guns from the wrecked tank D9, on 23 Sept 09; the local Bde Comd fearing the hulk had been converted to a defensive position.  He continued to serve with D Bn and fought at Arras, attacking the Harp feature in the tank commanded by Lt Rankin.Later he became an instructor at Wailly, was promoted corporal by Stuart Hastie  and fought at Cambrai – being one of the crew of the wire pullers commanded by Hastie.  During the Kaiserslacht he was again instructing at Wailly and drove a sponsonless tank back to Beauvais without any crew).  After the war, he settled at Bovington and, with two friends (one Cpl Rowe ho served in D20), worked as a taxi driver.  Later he ran a garage – amongst his regular customers was "TE Shaw" who loaned him a motor cycle combination to court his wife.  Married in Wareham to Nora Gould in 1925, they had three sons Michael, Donald and David. In 1939 he was still at Bovington, working as a motor engineer at Red Garage and living at Broadmayne near Dorchester.  In 1957 he produced manuscript on the first action.  From 1951 to 1961, he was living as an engineer at Green Pit Llyswen. he then moved to Weymouth where he ran a boarding house. He died in the summer of 1970. His grand-daughter Jane Smith is a member of the site.

Gnr Sugden operating on the port side wounded (blinded) by flakes from interior of tank hull from German gunfire.  This was probably Gnr William Sugden who later served with the Tanks as a sergeant and who commissioned in October 1918. He lived in Wilmslow in Cheshire.  

Pte Charles A Wescomb was the son of lighthouse keeper. Born on the Isle of Wight, his family later moved to County Kerry but later returned to Bembridge where Charles worked a as a gardener   After the war, in 1922, Charles married Lilly Tourle and they had a son named Peter in 1926,  Sadly Charles did not see his son become a teenager; he died aged fifty, on 30 October 1937 at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill .

Afternote:  Until she was recovered, “Dinnaken” was used by various Infantry Brigades HQs during the continued fighting north of Flers

D18 (No 743 Male).  D18; attacked area to NW of Flers in concert with D16 (Arnold) using their machine guns to chase the defenders away. During a lull in the battle, both crews were able to cook breakfast but this calm was interrupted as the tanks were spotted by a German observation balloon, located to the north of Flers, who directed artillery fire upon them.  At noon, they lead an assault at the northwest of the village where there was a substantial German defensive position.  They provided close fire support to infantry, causing significant casualties amongst the Germans who were unable to respond, and the position was over-run.  The tanks then assisted in beating off the inevitable German counter attack, using their machine guns to destroy the German infantry as they advanced from Factory Corner.  Despite artillery fire,which damaged D18 steering tail.  both tanks reached to British lines, eventually returning to Green Dump.  The tank was reallocated, with half her crew, to No 4 Section and was destroyed at Martinpuich on 25 Sep 16

2Lt Len Bond.  Born 1892 or 1895 and born in Gravesend; the second son (and third child) of Alfred James Bond and Charlotte Augusta Bond. 1901 census shows the family living in 54 Cobham St, Gravesend Kent, Alfred Bond being in the oil colour trade as an employer; the family had one servant living in.  Commissioned in MGC 15 Apr 1916.  Awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry in action. He fought his Tank with great gallantry, putting a machine gun out of action and capturing the team. Later, he went to the support of a party of infantry, and finally safely brought his Tank out if action.  He was injured and did not command the tank in later actions.  Promoted T/Lt on 1 Oct 1916, he returned to the UK and was posted to F Bn where he served again under Frank Summers. Promoted T/Capt, whilst comding a sect 12 Apr 1917 at Bovington. he deployed with the Bn on 20 May to France, where it established its base to Auchy-Les-Hesdin.  On 1 Jun the Bn moved to Wailly (the Corps Driving School) for two weeks then to the Corps Gunnery School at Merlimont for live firing; tanks were then drawn and taken back to Auchy before deploying to the Ypres Salient on 2 Jul.  Wounded by enemy fire whilst moving with his section from Westhoek Wood to Essex Farm on night of 29 Jul 1917, in preparation for 3rd Ypres, he relinquished A/Capt on 30 Jul 17.  He then disappears from sight until he is appointed as Asst Instr Class FF at Tank Driving & Maint School at Bovington from 1 Sep to 13 Dec 1920.  Assistant Instr Class GG from 14 Dec 1920. To be Lt 14th Dec 1920 N Staffs Regt with seniority 15 July 1918 to be seconded, as an Exec Offr with the Tank Corps. (LG 8 Mar 1921). Married Muriel and qualified in the senior course at the Training Centre, Chaklala as an officer in the Indian Army Oct to Dec 1934. Later service in the RIASC – Feb 1935 promotion to Major.  Died, aged 50 years, 16 Dec 1942 and buried in the Karachi War Cemetery.

Cpl John Paul – wounded in action

Gnr Edwin Morgan.  Born 22 Apr 93 in Ludham, Norfolk, he won a county council scholarship and attended King's Lynn Grammar school before settling  at Blofield where he worked for his father on their market gardem.  He joined the MGC (Motors) at Coventry in early May.  He was badly wounded at Martinpouich, on 25 Sep 16, when a bullet smashed the top of his left humerus.  The bullet fragments were removed and he was evacuated to the War Hospital in Reading.  Although he recovered , his shoulder was compromised and he was discharged as no longer fit for war service. He returned  home to Blofield where he lived with his parents and, as far as I can ascertain, never married. He died, aged only 56 in 1949.      

Gnr Wilfred Perkins. Born at Wellingborough, in the summer of 1886, Wilfred was a shoemaker, He joined the MGC (Motors) in the middle of Apr 16 and fought at Flers and Martinpuich.  Hr remaiend with D Battalion and fought with the unit throughout the rest of the war.  He was probably a member of No 11 Coy and, in Jul 18, was serving in Male Mark V tank 9176 in No 5 sect.     

Gnr Arthur Race.  Born in Jun 1893 Barnsley, the youngest son (7 of 8 children) of clog and boot maker Frank and Sarah Race.  A boot repairer, he enlisted on 21 Jan 1916 and was mobiised 29 March 1916. Posted to D Coy on 27 May and arrived Le Havre on 3 Sep, He contiued to serve with D Bn from 18 Nov 1916 and was granted UK leave from 11 to 25  Dec 1917 which indicates he fought at Cambrai .He served on with 4th Bn  Granted post-Armistice leave, he married Jessie Micklethwaite on 21 Nov 1918 at Salem Chapel in Barnsley.  He was 6 days late back from his honeymoon and was charged but not punished although forfeited 6 days pay. Given that the officer who took the necessary action was the Adjt Capt A J Enoch, Arthur  was probably serving in Bn HQ. Returned to UK on 17 Feb 19 for demobilisation; his home address being 69 Honeywell St in Barnsley.  Two children: Stephen born Jul – Sep 1922 and Kathleen born Julk to Sep 1926. Arthur possibly died in Barnsley area, aged 38 in Jan to Mar 1932

Gnr George Thornton who enlisted 12 Dec 1915.  Later renumbered 200895, he served in 11 Coy (Watsons) and may have fought at the 1st Battle of Bullecourt. He was a member of the crew of Damon II (skipper - Lt John Coghlan) and was injured on 9th Oct 1917 during an attack IN Poelcapelle. Coghlan wrote an article after the war which says that Thornton lost his arm when the tank was hit by an enemy shell.  (Close to the site of the new Tank Memorial at Poelkapelle - Dudley White, Henry Hiscott/Hiscox and Edward Williams were  KIA in the same action).  Coghlan's daughter Mary told Vince McGarry that George Thornton retrained as a technician after being invalided out of the Army (discharged as a Pte on 25 Mar 1919 and awarded a Silver War Badge) - and that he made a 10” model of Damon II and gave it to John Coghlan at some point after the war

Gnr Sydney Wenmoth.  Born in 1879 in Launceston, he was a self employed electrician and telephone engineer.  Injured at Thiepval on 25 Sep, he as treated at Rouen where he caught influenza and was evacuated to Cork for treatment.  Later served in the workshop Coy of E Bn, he was transferred to the Central Wksps at Erin in Jan 18 then latrer with 1st Adv Wksps. Transferred to the Sch of Engineering in Oct 18, he was demolished in Spring 1919.  Married in 1939 to Gwenllian Rhys. he died in Tenby in Feb 1953; his wife dying 10 months later.  Website member Geoff Martin identified Sydney - he holds a book by Phillip Gibbs in which Sydney records he was in action at High Wood on 20 Sep and was wounded four times at Thiepval.        

M2/191132 Pte Frederick  Burrows ASC Rebadged MGC then Tank Corps (Private 75057); Tank Corps RoH shows he was KIA/DoW and lived in Liverpool. However there is no CWGC record or mention in Soldiers who died in the Great War.

D19 (No 753 - Male). One of three tanks: D19, D2 (Lt Harold Bell) and D15 (Lt Jack Bagshaw) tasked to move through the centre of the village of Flers. However Sellick and Bell’s tanks ditched in shell holes on route to the start point


Capt Stephen Sellick was born on 6 July 73 in Kings Lynn,.  The son of an Income Tax supervisor, Stephen left England as a young man and worked in China probably as an engineer.  On 23 Oct 03, he married Madge Thomas in Hong Kong; sadly she died and he married Helen Wade in Honolulu two years later.  Stephen was returned to England, via New York, in 1908 but initially commissioned into Shanghai Volunteer Corps but returning to the UK, he transferred into MMGS on 18 Mar 16. As one of the more experienced officers, he was appointed as section commander as the tanks deployed to France. Having been unsuccessful on 15 Sep, he was next tasked to go into action with Harold Head on 24 Sep; the tanks were not however called for. Stephen was wounded on 26 Sep. As the new battalions formed he returned to the UK and was appointed t/Capt and Staff Capt at MGC Training Centre on 14 Apr 17, in succession to the Hon EE Charteris who went to France to join Brigadier Hugh Elles’ HQ.  Stephen was the appointed Major (Technical training) at the Training Centre and then served in a variety of technical staff appointments within the Engineer Branch of the Tank Corps. He relinquished his commission on completion of service  9 Nov 20 and granted the rank of major. He left the UK and worked overseas as an engineer for many years.  In October 1923, he arrived from New York with his wife Helen and whilst staying in London claimed his medals.  He then worked in China and Japan.  In 1933, the couple returned to the UK.  They initially lived near the Roehampton course for two years but then lived at Belvedere Court on the Upper Richmond Road during the 1940s.  Stephen died in London on 14 Oct 47.


Gnr James Blackmore MGC (M). Born Broadclyst, NE of Exeter Devon at Nov 89. Married in Williton on 1 Sep 10 to Winifred Ley; two daughters Winifred born 11 Mar 1911 and Una 18 Feb 1913  both born at Williton. James was attested at Minehead on 11 Dec 1915 age 26 years and 3 weeks and employed as a motor engineer.  Address given as High Street Porlock. Indicated a wish to serve with ASC MT but allocated to MGC (M). Mobilised to Bisley on 22 Mar 1916; transferred to MGC on 1 Apr and to HS on 4 May 1916. Embarked for France with D Coy 2 Sept 1916, Casualty Form active service details illegible. Transferred to D Bn when formed in Nov 1916; remained throughout the war with  4 Bn). Reported absent on leave 28 Sep 1918, having been due to return 21st Sep - address shown as Motor Works Porlock Somerset. Rejoined on 3 Oct 1918.  Returned to the UK (Fovant) on 3 Feb 1919 for demobilisation; transferred to Z Class reserve on 22 Feb 1919.  Awarded British War Medal and the Victory Medals. He owned the central garage at Porlock and also ran a cycle shop.  He died in Minehead hospital in 1942.


Gnr John Watson Brown who served in the MMGS, then served in Tank Corps and in Nov 18, was later commissioned into the RAF; John Watson Brown was born on 12 Sep 1896; registered in West Ashford in Kent and died in Dover Jan 1985.


Gnr Henry Chapman was born in York in Mar 1889; he married Frances Scott on 27 Nov 09 at Hatton Parish Church Lincs.  When he was attested on 11 Dec 15 at Coleshill, Henry was the head gamekeeper living at The Old Hall in Packington Park in Warwickshire. He was then sent to the Army Reserve until 1 May 15 when he was mobilised; by this time his wife was living at 10 Norris St in Lincoln. Four months later, he left Elveden having received what can only be considered as scant training.  Two days later he was in France and 12 days later in action.  We do not know if he fought again in the later actions of 1916 but he stayed with D Coy as they prepare to attack on the attacks near Beaumont Hamel. He was hospitalised, having scalded his left foot on 25 Oct at Auchonvillers.  The wound was considered trivial by the medical officer, making the report, and he was back with D Coy three days later.  In the subsequent report by the Adjt, Henry was reportedly helping two cooks when a Dixie of boiling water was tipped on his foot. He then served on with D Bn and almost certainly fought at the battle of Cambrai as he was awarded UK leave between 16 - 30 Dec 17.  Henry joined 4 Bn Tank Corps and fought with them throughout the Battle of Amiens and the final advance, being promoted Cpl on 26 Oct. Three days later, he was sent on Uk leave. This was due to end of 12 November but the leave was extended by one week, presumably because of the Armistice.  Back with 4th Bn, Henry served  on until 6 Feb 19 when he returned to Grantham for demobilisation. He settled back at Norris St In Lincoln 


John C Tolson  His birth was registered at Cockermouth Oct to Dec 1894;  He married Christina E Barton just before he deployed to France in Sep Dec 1916 at Cockermouth; three children: John born Spring 17 at Cockermouth; William born in summer 1920 and Gordon born in early 1922.   Enlisted at Coventry and joined ACS MGC (i.e. after 1 Apr 1916). Twice wounded.  Continued to serve with D Bn in 11 Coy under Maj WHL Watson; he fought at Bullecourt under Field and Telfer. He fought at 3 Ypres in Dop Doctor ; his commander was 2LT GV Butler and then again at Flesquieres in Dop Doctor II which was destroyed on the SW approaches to Flesquieres by direct enemy fire Awarded MM. For conspicuous gallantry near Flesquieres on November 20, 1917. When his tank had been put out of action by two direct hits, and three of his crew were wounded, displayed marked gallantry and initiative in organising parties to bring in wounded from several tanks which had been knocked out. On three separate occasions he went back under extremely heavy and practically point-blank machine-gun fire to dress and carry in the wounded. With utter disregard for personal safety, and entirely on his own initiative, he undoubtedly saved several lives. Later Corporal Tank Corps, he settled at Dykelands, 106 Main Road, Seaton, Workington and was living there in Oct 1956.   Medals held in Tank Museum


Gnr Westmacott – probably 38012 Pte James Westmacott MGC who later served with the Labour Corps.


Cpl Charles Walter Lucklater promoted he continued to serve with D Bn . he fought at Arras in April 1917, Awarded MM. During the action on the Hindenburg Line on April 23 drove his tank with great skill and judgment from 4.45 A.M. until 12 noon under severe shell and machine-gun fire, thereby setting a fine example of gallantry and devotion to duty. Later renumber as Cpl 205398.  Commissioned Tank Corps 29 Mar 1918 and served with 15th Bn. Awarded MC For conspicuous gallantry, good work, and devotion to duty during the operations on August 8 and 9, 1918. On August 8, alter attaining his objective and dropping his machine-gun personnel on the Blue Line north of Harbonnières, he went almost a mile ahead of the British Line, clearing the ground for the cavalry, who were held up by machine-gun fire, thus enabling them to advance. On August 9, during the attack on the village of Framerville, he handled his tank in such a masterful way that his men were able to inflict many casualties on the enemy and destroy several hostile machine-guns. His skilfull manoeuvring and careful watching of enemy shell fire saved his tank from getting hit during the heavy shelling to which he was subjected. On his way back to rallying point, after attaining his objective, on receiving a message that a hostile counter-attack was imminent, he at once returned and patrolled the line for another half hour, engaging the enemy with effect. When 400 yards from our front line on his journey back to rallying point he met a disabled tank. Under direct observation of the enemy and considerable machine-gun and shell fire he got this tank into tow, refilled with petrol, and towed the former back to rallying point. He set a great example to his crew and inspired them with confidence and enthusiasm under very arduous conditions. To be A/capt whilst comding a section 22 Nov 1918. Relinquished A/Capt on ceasing to command a section 1 Feb 1919. Home address shown as Lyndhurst, Earlsdon Coventry.


Pte Thomas Hinds ASC was born in Liverpool in April 1896 and later lived at 34 Clint Street in Edge Hill.  Attested 15 Apr 1915 at Liverpool, he enlisted into ASC (MT) Service Number M2/077826 aged 19 years and no months, Occupation Motorist Height 5 ft 2 inch, chest 34½ inches (fully expanded), weight 114 lbs. Approved 27 Apr 15 at Grove Park MT Depot near London. Posted to 52 MT Coy ASC (Caterpillars) on 29 Apr 1915.  Deployed to France 3 August 1915. Transferred to 344 Coy ASC then returned to UK on 25 Jun 1916 and redeployed back to France 31 Aug 1916. Attached 711 MT Coy but served with D Coy. Transferred to MGC Heavy Branch 18 Nov 1918, then posted to D Bn same date.  New number 75060 issued whilst serving with 711 MT Coy. Posted on 22 Jun 1917 to MGC BQ as a Pte soldier (73819). Later attached 50 Bn MGC (Infantry). Reported KIA on 27 May 1918 but later recorded as POW 27 May 1918 to 20 Dec 1918.  Post card received from No 1 Camp Hospital Gemmersheim dated 12 Jun 1918. German record shows injury to chest and GSW to upper Left arm. Arrived Dover 15 Dec 1918; transited through No 5 Repatriated POW camp at Dover, through London where he arranged allotment of pay to mother 16 Dec 1918. Discharged 20 Dec under KR 392 XVI no longer physically fir for war service. Injuries GSW to upper left arm (40% disablement) initial award of 11/- per week for one year. Silver War Badge issued 26 Feb 1919.