THE FIRST TANK CREWS

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


No 1 Section commanded by Capt Harold "Morty" Mortimore (pictured right)

D1 “Daredevil 1”  (No 765 - Male) was ordered to support f preliminary attack by 14th Div at 5.30 hrs to east of Delville Wood, with D5 attacking from the north; then to assist assault on Gueudecourt.   D1 started south of the Ginchy to Longueval Rd, following a white tape, led by a guide who was used luminous disks to signal to the crew.  The tank passed through the waiting infantry and crossed No Man’s Land, towards the German positions.  As it reached the edge of Delville Wood, where it joined Hop Alley, it fired its 6lb guns into the wood, at that point, which was the first target.   It then turned east, driving parallel to the Hop Alley trench; two infantry companies from 6 KOYLI emerged the wood and followed D1 to join in the attack.  D1 then turned north at the junction with Beer Trench and followed Ale Alley, clearing the remaining German defenders, firing at the enemy as they fled to the north east.  D1 advanced to the north, probably looking to join up with the other tanks attacking Flers, but strayed into the British barrage.  Two crew were injured Gnr Day wounded and Sgt Davies suffered shell-shock, when a shell hit the left hand rear track sprocket. D1 took no part in the rest of the action.  Afternote.  D1 was never recovered; pictures of her on the battlefield in 17 are held in the Australian War Memorial archives.   She was destroyed as part of the battlefield clearance in 1919. 

Capt Harold William Mortimore.  Born Chiswick 91, the eldest son of Harvey Mortimore (an engine driver on a steamship) and Anne Mortimore. Four years pre-war service with City of London Yeomanry.  Joined RN Div as an ordinary seaman clerk and served at Antwerp (awarded 14 star), Commissioned Flt Sub Lt RNAS 18 Sep 15 and later trained as a pilot. Commissioned into Army with the MGC on the suggestion of  D Coy Comd Frank Summers, with whom he had served in Belgium. Promoted t/Lt on 15 May 16 and t/Capt 11 Aug 16, he joined D Coy initially as a Tank Park officer and commanded a party of 25 men offloading tanks on arrival at Le Havre.  Sect Comd (D1, D3, D4 and D5) on 15 Sep 16 in support of the attack towards Gueudecourt. On 4 Oct accompanied Summers to Hebuterne to identify a new Coy HQ site and stores dump.  Later coordinated recces of locations prior to attacks near Beaumont Hamel and lead section of six tanks to Auchonvillers on 12 Nov when he was gassed. On 16 Nov Mortimore was gassed at Beaumont Hamel but did not stand down from duty.  On 1 Dec 16, he completed the final entry of the Coy War Diary as the unit arrived in its winter location at Blangy.  Mentioned In Despatches Jan 17.  Returned to the UK and appointed Adjt of the newly formed F Bn at Bovington (Summers was the CO).  He deployed to France on 20 May but on 30 Jun 17 he was relieved as Adjt (just before the Bn deployed to The Ypres salient) and returned to the UK due to ill-health. Admitted to 1st Eastern Gen Hosp in Cambridge then to a convalescent in Blackpool, in Dec 17 he was at a Convalescent Hosp at Summertown near Eastbourne.  In  Feb 19 it was recommended that he be discharged from the Army on grounds of ill-health,  The RAMC Colonel commanding the Eastbourne Convalescent Hospital sought his continuation in service to provide adminstration within the unit.  He served on until 22 Mar 20 when, on completion of service, he was granted the rank of Captain. Known as “Morty” he married twice; Dorothy Moorhouse on 12 Feb 18 in Eastbourne and on 20 Jan 1939 Mary Boning of Torquay their only daughter Tilly was born on 15 September 1950; the anniversary of Morty's first action in tanks.  He retired to Torquay in 1957 and, in 1962, was appointed the vice chairman of the newly formed  Devon Tank Corps Old Comrades Association,  Sadly he was too ill to attend meetings and died on 17 Jul 66 at Torquay. His daughter Tilly attended the Centenary celebrations and heard her father's battle report read for the first time since 1916.  .  

1409 Sgt H (Harry?) Davies starboard gunner – the oldest of the crew.  Davies is reported (by fellow crew member Gnr Smith, to have suffered from shell-shock and was removed from the tank to be cared for by the RAMC. Later discharged and awarded Silver war badge. 

2481 Gnr Arthur Day portside loader.  Born Oct 1892 and the son of Frederick Day, he lived at 141 Tulketh Brow Ashton on Ribble near Preston. Attested n 24 Oct 1915 at Preston and authorised the next day at Bisley. Initially served with 21 Bty MMGS on 4 Mar 16 and then transferred to HS MGC on 4 May.  Posted to D Coy on 27 May and deployed to France on 28 Aug. He joined D Bn, on its formation on 18 Nov 1916. Later renumbered 200782 he continued to serve with D Bn. On 11 Oct 1917, he was posted to the Receiving Depot at Bovington and on 5 Nov 17, Capt HR Pearsall (see D11) on 10 Coy, wrote a character reference on his return to the UK; he was described as a tank driver and trained on the 6lb gun, Vickers and Lewis Gun. He was posted from 2 Western General Hospital Manchester to the Command Depot Catterick on 26 Feb 18 and reclassified as medical condition B1. Demobilised on 26 Feb 19 with neither regimental or company conduct sheet entries, In Dec 19 he was awarded a 20% disability pension. 

Gnr Ewart Doodson was born in Elland Yorkshire in Nov 98. He worked as a junior clerk at the Yorkshire Electric Power Coy in Thornhill, but volunteered in Oct 15 aged just 16 joining the MGC.   On 15 Sept 16, Ewart was a gearsman and described the action in a letter to his family who lived in Ravensthorpe.   “We went over almost before it was first light on Friday morning, and our tank was out of action with a shell through our driving wheels within almost half an hour....It was supposed to be an exceptionally difficult position and hot too.....Fritz simply bunked and well he might to see this thing coming on him in the half light. We got through this redoubt and were well towards the German main trench when we got hit. There was plenty of flames and smoke but no one was hurt.”  Two weeks later on 1 Oct 16 Ewart received injuries to his leg and face resulting in treatment in the Australian General Hosp in France. During the Battle of Arras, Ewart was with 12 Coy of  D Bn. At 5.30 am on 9 Apr 17 - zero hour - four of the tanks moved forward with Canadian troops (6 Bde, 2nd Cdn Div) and four with 13 Bde (a British brigade which was on loan from the 5th Div). The terrain after the bombardment proved to be too difficult for the tanks and it was not until 7.15am that they managed to reach the German front line. All four of the tanks had become struck in a sunken track called Blenpense Ditch, the others in trenches.  Despite not engaging German troops, two officers and eight other ranks were killed with nearly forty men wounded. Ewart was one of those who lost their lives.   A letter was published in the Dewsbury Reporter on 27 Apr from one of Ewart’s comrades, Pte James Anderson (probably the same as the crewman of D22) describes how three of the crew of the tank hadgot outside to make a necessary adjustment and were working together when a shell dropped a yard behind us. Ewart and the sergeant were immediately unconscious. The sergeant died in a few minutes and Ewart lived for about half an hour but never regained consciousness and had no pain whatever....The wound was in his skull. I was with him till the end with his head on my knee. Every possible aid was given....I have his wristlet watch and some of his private things and will send them....”  Killed in Action aged 18 on 9 April 17 near Thelus, his grave site is unknown.  Commemorated on Arras Memorial and St Mary’s Church Ravensthorpe and Eland War Memorial. Information from David Tattersfield's book "A Village goes to war".

Gnr Fred Hobson - starboard 6lb gun loader.  Born Preston on 24 Feb 1893 and christened  at St Andrew’s Church Ashton on Ribble. His father was a grocers’ manager and Fred worked  as a furnishing company’s invoice clerk. Later injured (22 wounds) and evacuated for treatment. Survived and discharged from 28 Feb 18 as a result of his wounds. Possibly died in Stockport in 1932.  .

Gnr Henry Leat gearsman. Born Dorking c 95, the ninth of 10 children, his family soon moved to Aldershot where he was educated at the East End School.  He completed an apprenticeship with Gale and Potter in their letter press department. He enlisted at Bisley in the MMGS.. He died of wounds aged 22 on 11 Apr 17 received during 11 Coys attack at Bullecourt but his grave site is unknown. His great neice Sue Chifney is a member of the site.

Gnr Albert Smith – Portside gunner - awarded MM for action at  Beaucourt 16, For good work during operations on the right of Delville Wood on September 15 ‘16, when serving with D Coy. Note:  this probably refers to the recovery of D9’s guns undertaken with Lt Hastie later on 23 Sep 16. Remained serving with the Coy and transferred on its formation to D Bn.  Late Pte 200770 serving with 4th Bn - survived 

Pte Albert S Wateridge ASC Possibly born 27 Feb ‘84 at Cranham Essex, eldest son of Charles and Lucy Wateridge - originally of Alton. He enlisted into ASC on 11 Dec 15 and was attached to Heavy Branch MGC in Spring ‘16. After the action, he rebadged to the MGC (75071), remaining with D Bn and promoted LCpl. He was awarded the MM for his actions at the second Battle of Bullecourt (3 May 17) when driving Tank D41 (No 793; an un-armoured Mark II tank commanded by 2Lt CM Knight) - one other crewman being James Anderson (see D22). The tank was in support of 62 Div, who assaulted from the south west. The tank patrolled along the German trench but found no infantry to support. It was forced to retire as the crew were being injured by the armour piercing bullets.  On the way back, the tank stopped to pick up more injured crew and then returned to the south east of Bullecourt; both Wateridge and Anderson refusing to give up their roles. Having again patrolled the German trench, the tank returned to its rally point, its ammunition virtually expended. The MM citation states: When this driver’s tank was in a deep crater in Bullecourt, his skilful driving under heavy fire from armour-piercing bullets enabled the tank commander to extricate himself and continue in action. The tank, owing to casualties in personnel, was brought back to starting-point and the wounded crew were replaced. This driver, however, continued at his post.  Wateridge was later promoted Sgt and served on with the Tank Corps.  He was discharged on 2 May ‘19 under KR para 392 (XV) as “No longer physically fit for war service”.  Awarded an Army pension, his health deteriorated over the next decade. He died at St James Hospital Portsmouth, aged 46, on 15 Jul 1929

D2 (No 539 - Female). One of three tanks (E Gp) with D15 (Bagshaw) and D19 (Sellick) tasked in support of 41st Div. Tank ditched in shell holes in Delville Wood on route to the start point; the car was eventually recovered. Later action: Huffam states Bell was tasked on 16 Sep in support of attack from Flers but did not deploy.  Bell'screw was in action on 7 Oct during the assault on Le Sars; it was knocked out by German HE on the eastern side of the village and the crew were all injured.  

Lt Hugh Bell.  Born in Westminster on 7 May 79.  Hugh was a chorister St Paul's Cathedral, London, and later educated at St Paul's School, Kensington.  On 15 Dec 98 elected to fill an Academical Clerkship at Magdalen College, Oxford as an Alto and later gained his degree. He worked as a schoolmaster and was commissioned into Trent College Contingent of the OTC.  Commissioned into the MMGS on 2 Sep 15, he was promoted T/Lt in the MGC on 1 Jul 16. Was wounded whilst trying to extract his tank from Delville Wood on 15 Sep. Commanded a reserve tank for the assault on Beaumont Hamel on 14 Nov 16, which captured a German position as well as 400 prisoners.  MID in Jan 17.  Commanded No 2 Sect 10th Coy and attacked Telegraph Hill on the opening day of the battle of Arras (9 Apr 17); his section gained their objectives at Neuville Vitasse, Vitasse Mill and the Hindenburg Line. The next day, he commanded his section in support of 30th Div and on 12 Apr, in support of 62 Bde at Herinsur Cogul.  Promoted T/Capt wef 12 Apr 17, he later returned to England and joined 11 Bn. He was promoted A/Maj on 20 Apr 18 and took command of a tank company. On the evening of 28 Aug 18, he commanded 2 composite companies (consisting of only 9 tanks) in action at Neuville Vittasse .  On 2 Sept 18, he took forward a group of four tanks towards Dury which it was reported that the infantry had failed to hold.  Whilst passing through Haucourt at about 1300 hrs on 3 Sep, Hugh Bell was killed by a stray shell,  After the war, he medals were sent to his older brother Harold, who was a chaplain serving with 47th Division and whom he almost certainly met,just before going into action in France for the first time.  

Cpl William Loxton WaldenBorn in early 1887 at Chilcombe in Dorset.  Trained as a teacher and taught at Bramley in Surrey before settling in Erith.  After the war he returned to teaching.  He married Florence Harriet Grace Hall at Lichfield in 4th Qtr 1920,they settled in Erith in Kent where William died in the local hospital on 18 Nov 1945 

 Gnr Gilbert Adamson was born 9 Jun 98 in Cupar Fife. An apprentice motor mechanic, he was called up 15 Mar 1916 from Coventry. Posted to D Coy on 27 May and deployed overseas on 28 Aug 16. Posted to D Bn on formation, he was hospitalised with an ulcer in May 17.  Later 2000820 Pte Tank Corps, he was reported missing on 22 Mar 18. He was held POW in Dulmen Germany until 8 Dec 18. He was compulsorily retained on 1 Feb 1919 and transferred to Z Class Reserve 31 Mar 1920, returning to Cupar. Later settle din USA. 

Pte Walter Bell, born Aug 95 in Kings Norton Birmingham. A motor fitter / tester, he enlisted on 20 Oct 15 at Birmingham and trained at Bisley with E Coy HS MGC. Posted to D Bn on 27 May.  After the initial actions he was served with 10 Coy of D Bn and was wounded (GSW to right hand and right thigh) on 3 May 17.   He was regraded A1 and reached the rank of Sergeant in 19 Bn, serving at Wareham. He was discharged  in Mar 19 and returned to Edgbaston. He died in 1936. 

Gnr Arthur Branfield was born in May 1891 and was a Commercial Traveller employed by William Hoare and Co of Basinghill St London.  Married Dorothy  West at Wembley on 26 Dec 12. He joined MGC HS as 32095 at Bisley on 4 Apr 16 and deployed to France on 28 Aug 16.  Wounded by gunshot on 7 Oct  16, he was returned to the UK and treated at Western General Hosp Newport Wales.  Posted to 20th Coy G Bn on 2 Feb 17, he later served with Bn HQ 10th Tank Bn in France until the end of the war. Later 205384 - Discharged 24 Dec 18 having received an offer of re-employment with his old company

Gnr James Brunton was born 26 Oct 89 at Merchiston, Midlothian. Attested on 30 Oct 15, he joined at Bisley two days later.  He was posted to D Coy 25 May 16 and married Isabella Marshall on 5 Aug 16.  Deployed to France on 27 Aug, he was wounded at Le Sars on 7 Oct 16, he was admitted to 13 Cas Clearing Sect that day and then to 9th Gen Hosp Rouen on 10 Oct 16.  He was posted to D Bn on its formation. Appointed paid LCpl 10 Jul 17 and Tank mechanic Cl 1 (LCpl) from 6 Aug to 23 Nov 17. Appointed paid A/Cpl 24 Nov 17 and then Cpl 29 Nov 17 on death of Cpl Case. Granted leave to the UK to 18 to 30 Dec 17. Rejoined unit on 1 Jan 18 and promoted Sgt 29 April 18, he was injured when thrown from tank on 29 Sep 18. Admitted 72 General Hosp (Trouville) 22 Oct, he was posted back to D Bn 20 Dec 18. He found a job whilst on Christmas leave.  He became a pattern maker and lived in Loanhead. He died in 1953. 

Gnr John Letts was born May 1897, he was a shop assistant who lived at 42 Fore Street Plymouth. On 27 Sep 1915 enlisted into Devonshire Royal Garrison Artillery at Plymouth.  Immediately embodied into Regular Army and transferred to MGC as 32451. Initially posted to E Coy HS MGC then to D Coy on 27 May 1916.  Appears to have been a replacement for Pte Forward who did not go into action on 15 Sep.  Transferred to D Bn on its formation (18 Nov 1916); renumbered as 200921 Tank Corps and served with D Bn for the duration of service.  Granted UK leave following Battle of Cambrai from 26 to 30 Dec, he returned to duty on 1 Jan 18. Whilst serving with B Coy of 4 Bn, As Pte awarded MM whilst serving with 4th Bn during the German Offensive 18.  For gallantry and devotion to duty at Chapel Hill, south of Gouzeaucourt on March 21, 18. When all his crew, with the exception of the NCO, had become casualties, he went into action with his tank on two occasions. He combined the duties of second and third drivers in addition to instructing the infantrymen who were acting as Lewis gunners how to fire from a tank. Had it not been for this man’s assistance and keenness it would not have been possible for the NCO to have taken the tank into action and to have driven off the enemy infantry with casualties.”  He fought at the Battle of Amiens, when he was wounded in action with injuries to the back and chest.   For his actions, he was awarded a bar to the MM. “This man behaved in a most cool and collected manner when in action on the morning of August 8, 18. After several casualties had occurred and the officer was firing the gun himself, this man (under the directions of his officer) continued to act as first driver and crew NCO, maintaining most accurate direction. After the tank was knocked out near Lemaire Wood he rendered great assistance to his officer, though himself wounded by being blown in the air by the explosion of a second shellAfter some time recovering at the Reinforcement Depot on 23 Sep, was posted back to 4 Bn on 29 Sep and promoted Cpl; He fought with the Bn for the rest of the war and returned to the UK on 12 Jan 1919.  Declining to have his MM presented, the medal was received on 10 March and his other medals received on 29 Jun 1921.  He was married Dorothy Hooper in Plymouth  in summer 1923; their son John Frederick Charles was born in late 1924. John died in Plymouth on 9 Feb 52 (aged 55).

Cpl Ernest Keats ASC was born in Tincleton, Dorset on 31 Mar 87.  He was working as a chauffeur in Weymouth in 1911 and joined ASC as an MT driver.  Transferred to the MGC (77487) and  awarded MID in May 1917 (Linked to action in Arras). Later promoted Sgt in the Tank Corps and survived.  Married in 1931 in Weymouth to Agnes Churchill, he worked as a taxi driver, Ernest died in Weymouth in early 1968.

D3 (No 728 -Male). One of 4 tanks (with D1, D4, and D5) in support of 14th Div assault on Flers.  D3’s route was through Delville Wood, by night, which was slowed by unexploded mortar shells; the crew initially moving the duds out of the way but subsequently driving over them. It towed D5 out of a shell hole and, crossing the start line, and then followed the German Comms trench, known as Cocoa Lane, towards the east of Flers. The tank was then crippled by German arty fire, in the area of Tea Support and limped to a bank (Rideau de Filoires), approx 500m from Delville Wood.  The crew made their way back to the start point. Tank was later recovered. D3 (Lt. Head) was ordered to proceed to Flers on the evening of 25 Sep, to support D4 in the attack on Gueudecourt the next day. It broke a track en route and took no part in the action on 26 Sept.


2Lt Harold George Head was born on 12 Feb 95 at Holdenshurst in Hampshire.  Raised and educated in Bournemouth, he initially joined 1/9th Bn Hampshire Regt (Cyclists Bn) and was later commissioned into the Regt.  He was known by his comrades in D Company as "young father" having been married aged twenty and his son David being born on 5 May 1916, just after he joined D Company. Following his support to 39th Div on 18 Oct 16 he was awarded the MC “for conspicuous gallantry in action. He handled his Tank with great courage and skill, remaining out for over an hour under heavy fire, and accounting for many of the enemy.  He later served with D Bn and commanded no 10 Sect, during the Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge (9 April 17) when his tanks became ditched due to the poor ground conditions. He also commanded his section at Bullecourt on 3 May 17 where he lost over half of his tanks. He also commanded the sect during the assault at Flesquieres on 20 Nov on the opening day of the battle of Cambrai. On 26 Mar 18, he commanded twenty Lewis Guns teams, found from D Bn, under the command of 106 Bde, on the Bray to Albert Rd, in an action design to stem the German advance during the Kaiserslacht.  He was in position from 1000 to 1600 hrs, supported by 2 tanks even though he was outflanked but eventually was withdrawn.  He departed the Bn on 23 Aug 18, for the UK, on transfer to the RFC where he trained as a observer. He relinquished commission on completion of service, 31 May 19, and retained the rank of Capt. He worked as a hotelier in Cornwall and then as a tobacconist in Bournemouth During World War 2, he served with two RAF squadrons supporting covert actvity in Europe.  He then moved to Torbay where he ran a confectionayr shop and later was co-owner of a pleasure steamer.  He attended n 50th Anniversary dinner night in 1966 - he was the only officer from D Company present - and twenty years later visited the Tank Museum where he gave a clear description of events in 1916. He died at Torquay on 28 Nov 1989, aged 94. Note: there were two HG Heads in the Tank Corps - the other Initally commissioned 7th Bn London Regt).  Will Pyke, who is researching the puplis of Bournemouth School, where Harold was educated, has confirmed his date of birth as 12 Feb 1895; Harold was one of many ex-pupils from the school who joined the Hampshire Cyclists Battalion.  

Cpl William McNichol possibly 200781 Sgt William NcNichol Tank Corps

2715 Pte William Barrie MMGS. Born in April 97, a grocer’s assistant living at High St Melrose on Berwickshire.  Attested 22 Nov 15 in Edinburgh aged 18 years 222 days. 5 ft 7 inches tall 36 inch chest. Approved 2 Dec 15 at MMGS Centre Bisley.  Posted to D Coy HS MGC 24 May 16; deployed overseas 28 Aug 16, wounded on both 15 Sep and also on 17 Oct 16 probably during the attack on the Bayonet trench between Flers and Guedecourt. He was admitted to Edgehill CCS 18 Oct 16 but returned to duty three days later. He served on with D Bn, where he was promoted Cpl on 1 Dec 17, presumably to fill gaps caused by casualties during the  Battle of Cambrai, He then joined 4 Bn, later serving with C Coy, and was appointed (Paid) A/Sgt 5 Oct 18. Voluntarily reverted to Cpl on 3 Dec 18 (“not to escape court martial") and approved 4 Dec 18. Returned to UK 17 Feb ‘19. Transferred to Reserve 20 Mar 19 and settled back in Melrose. On 1 Oct 28, he married Margaret Lawson at the Royal Hotel in Galashiels where Margaret was living; by this time William was a grocer in his own right.  He later married in 1953 to Christine Steedman, in Morningside Edinburgh but sadly he died in Melrose, on 2 Sep 53 aged 57. 

Gnr Bentley wounded on 15 Sept. Note the war diary lists only one casualty, in the crew of D3, and reports injured by a HE splinter on the hand.

Gnr Cecil Chalfont. Born Willsden May 96 eldest son and second child of Sydney George and Selina Ann Chalfont, In 1901 living at 15 Wendover Rd, Willesdon. In ‘15 living at 37 London Rd Wembley. Enlisted at Coventry 3 Nov 15 into MMGS. A printer or clerk. CofE age on enlistment 19 years 6 months, 5 ft 7 ½ inches; weight 111 lbs, chest 35 inches. Authorised at Motor Machine Gun Training Centre at Bisley on 23 Nov 15. Posted to HS MGC 4 May 16. Posted to D Coy 25 May 16. Deployed to France 28 Aug 16 (with D Coy). Joined D Bn on 18 Nov 16. Posted to G Bn 11 Sep 17. Renumbered on transfer to Tank Corps 200787.  Posted to 11 Bn on 4 Apr 18 and served with C Coy.   Posted to Driving School 29 Nov 17. Posted to 1st HQ Tank Bde as a batman 16 Sep 18. Granted leave in the UK 20 to 24 Oct 18.  Transferred to Z reserve 18 Feb 19. 

Gnr Willie Shelton born Worcester on 25 Aug 16.  Married to Alice Jane Butcher; two children – Vera Gwendoline and Manfred William.  A cashier, he enlisted at Coventry on 10 Dec 15; mobilised on 23 Mar; authorised at Bisley on 28 Mar 1916; served with E Coy Armd Car Sect then allocated to D Coy 27 May; embarked for France 28 August.  Posted to D Bn on 18 Nov 16 and served with No 12 Coy. Wounded on 3 May 1917 during  Battle of Bullecourt but remained at duty; admitted to Fd Amb then No 45 CCS with GSW to back 6 May; returned to D Bn on 8 Jun. later 200837  Tank Corps.  Promoted LCpl on 28 March later ACpl on 2 Sep then Cpl on 19 Sep then A/Sgt on 20 November – serving with B Coy. To Uk (Chiseldon) on 31 Jan 1919; awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal with 16 Bn 13 Jun 1919; In Nov 1921 still living at 144 Tenby Rd Moseley. Died on 12th April 1964 at 19 Addenbrooke Street Walsall. Great grandson Tim Kelly is a member of the site

Gnr Frank Steer.  Born October 1895 near Sittingbourn; A fruiterer he enlisted into the MMGS in November 1915 at Coventry.  Originally trained at Bisley and posted to 21 Bty, he was posted to D Coy in May 1916.   Deployed to France on 28 August, he stayed with D Battalion on its formation and served with them until October 1917 when he was returned to Bovington. Initally posted to 14th Bn, he joined 16th Bn in January 1918 and retruend to France in Sep 1918.  Later promoted Cpl, he was demobilised in Mar 1919 and returned to Sittingbourn.  He died, aged at 92, at Hounslow.  

Pte George A Simpson ASC who drove the tank later re-badged to the Tank Corps (77490) and survived the war

D4 (No 516 - Female). In support of 14th Div assault. Ditched in Delville Wood en route to start point. Guns salvaged by a party under Lt Hastie. Tank 516 eventually recovered but only after one crewman killed  (Fred Horrocks) and three injured by German artillery on 25 Sep 16.  Replacement tank scuessfully cleared Gird Line trench on 26 Sep 16. 

2Lt Charles Ernest Storey.   Born 1877; educated Cranleigh School. Served with Imperial Light Horse in South Africa (1900 – 1902). Served with 18th Bn Royal Fusiliers  as a Private Soldier (no 2118). Entered France on 14 Nov ‘15.  Commissioned MGC 15 April 16. Injured during initial assault on 15 Sep ‘16.  Commanded replacement D4 during attack on 26 Sep 16, which breached the defences at Gueudecourt and captured 500 prisoners.  the war diary reports Storey and 4 others were wounded in this action.  Awarded DSO for gallantry and initiative in command of tank ‘D‘ 14 on September 26, when he was called upon by GOC. 110th Bde to clear up certain trenches SE of Gueudecourt which were holding up the infantry. Lieut. Storey took his car up and down each trench, working until all his petrol was exhausted and only two of the crew were unwounded. He is reported as having been responsible for the taking of between 200 and 300 prisoners. T/Lt 1 Oct ‘16.  A/Capt whilst comding a Sect 12 Apr 17 (LG 16 May ‘17); Served with F Bn; relinquished a/Capt on losing comd of a sect 8 Oct 17. Presented with the DSO at Buckingham Palace by the King 19 Oct 17.  Appointed A/Maj whilst comding a Coy – 12 Jan ‘18. Married Violet, widow of George Henry Knapp at St Georges Hannover Square, London April to Jun ‘18. T/Capt and retain rank of A/Maj 19 Oct ‘18 (LG 3 Feb ‘19).  T/Lt (A/Maj) relinquishes commission on account of ill-health resulting from wounds – 14 Mar ‘19 and awarded rank of Maj. Silver War Badge awarded.  Applied for medals 8 Dec ‘19 whilst living at 6 Queens Club Terrace, West Kensington, one daughter (Josephine Ann) married in September 1946. Address Linkside, Hindhead Surrey. Died 27 July 1943 address Firtree Cottage, Hazel Grove, Hindhead (Times). 

Gnr Thomas George Beardmore. Born Fenton (Stoke on Trent) in Sep 1893, later lived in Grey Friars in Stafford, Wounded on 28 Sep 16, he served with 7th Bn and was awarded the MM for his actions on the Hindenburg Line between 27 and 29 Sep 18. In 1919, he joined the Tank Corps as a Regular soldier and reached the rank of WO2. Discharged in 1935, at the end of hos contract, he was recalled in 1939 and served with 44 Bn RTC as an instructor. Died in Bristol in 1968 

Gnr Oswald Clayton born Apr to Jun ‘82, the son of James and Ellen Clayton; both cotton weavers. In 1901 the family were living at 50 Lomax St Great Harwood and Oswald (then 19) was also described as a cotton wenver. May have married in Jan to Mar 1906. Enlisted Great Harwood Lancs and joined MMGS in late Mar 16. Probably fought at the battle of Vimy Ridge in support of the assault on Thelus on 9 April ‘17.  He served with 12th Coy of D Bn and was KIA on 3 May 17 at the second battle of Bullecourt; Commemorated on the Arras memorial and Great Harwood memorial near Accrington, Lancs

LCpl Hawker - possibly LCpl James Hawkins

Pte Clement John Heath later LCpl Tank Corps served with both D and 5th Battalion Tank Corps

Gnr Morrison - poss Edward Cecil Merrison 40009 Tank Corps later labour corps born  late 1896 at Brundall in Norfolk

Gnr Albert Lacey Roberts. born 1895 in Leicester he joined the MMGS in the same week as Oswald Clayton..

M2/191254 Pte William J Shortland Rebadged to MGC then Tank Corps – remained Private 77489 – survived

 

D5 “Dolphin” (No 540 - Female). In support of preliminary attack by 14th Div to east of Delville Wood, with D1 attacking from the South, then tasked to move north east of Flers.  D5 ditched on route through Delville Wood and was not on time to support D1’s initial attack.  Recovered by D3 (Head), it followed up the infantry, parties clearing bodies in order that the tank did not run over them. It was well behind the first waves as it crossed its first objective (the German front line).  Slowed by the badly damaged ground, and its steering wheels which were being dragged uselessly behind, it reached the second objective at Gap Trench.  "Dolphin" then crossed diagonally from the west to east side of Watling St. Although tasked to advance 400 yards north eats along Gas Alley, Blowers followed Watling St.  In a sunken portion, he found abandoned two Germans guns and destroyed them before moving north.  At this point, the tank started to move ahead of the infantry, who had come under highly effective fire from machine guns, and reached the third objective (Bulls Rd), where it crossed Watling St.  Dolphin pushed on and reached the next German trench line (Gird trench). D5 was now well ahead of infantry; as the commander had been ordered not to let his tank fall into enemy hands, Lt Blowers turned his vehicle south.  Following Sunken Lane, he was met by an infantry runner (possibly 5 KSLI) somewhere south of Bulls Rd, who asked him to destroy a German strong point to the east of Flers.  Lt Blowers turned “Dolphin” west and crossed the sights of German artillery located in Gird Trench. A shell exploded inside the tank and it caught fire.  This was no later than 1000 hrs; the tank being located at T1B78.78.  Other shells hit the tank and the two of the crew were killed or died of wounds.   Lt Blowers and two other crewmen were injured but made their way back to their own lines. Dolphin travelled the furthest distance of all the tanks deployed on 15th Sept, more than 4,800 yards at an average speed of 24 yards a minute.


Lt Arthur Herbert Blowers.  Born on 5 Nov ‘91, in Knodishall, near Saxmundham in Suffolk, the 13th of 14 children. Arthur trained as a teacher at St Luke's College, Exeter (1911-13), during which time he player hockey for the College and served as a Territorial Soldier in 4th Devons being discharged on 30 Jul 1913.  Returning to Suffolk, he was employed by the local education board.   At the start of WW1, he enlisted again, being attested at Ipswich on 29 Aug ‘14 (at the age of 22 years 9 months; height 5 ft 6 inches, chest 37 inches when expanded) and was posted to 1st/4th SUFFOLKS (TF) as 2041 Pte. He volunteered for overseas service on 10th Sep, whilst serving with G Coy in Colchester, where he met his first wife, Rosa Fisher a nurse at Severalls’ Mental Hosp at Colchester. He was promoted LCpl on 10 Oct and deployed to France on 9 Nov (from his will, dated 14 Dec) he was serving with C Coy 4th SUFFOLKS. Promoted acting L/Sjt on 18 Feb ‘15 and Sgt on 16 Mar, he was wounded (probably by artillery fire) on 24 Apr and admitted to Hosp suffering from shock and deafness; he returned to his unit on 22 May.  On 1500 hrs on 25 Jul, the top of his second left finger was shot off as a result of an accidental discharge, when Blowers fell off the fire step, having engaged the enemy with three rounds.  Blowers was returned to Britain and treated at the Welsh Metropolitan War Hosp at Whitchurch near Cardiff from 29 Jul to 14 Sep.  In view of the prevalence of self inflected wounds, the matter was investigated but his CO recorded that no board of enquiry was necessary.  Whilst serving in 3rd/4th SUFFOLKS at Halton Park Camp near Tring, he applied for a commission (29 Dec) in 4th LINCS.  This was approved and, on 25 Feb ‘16, he was transferred to the Pembroke College Cadet Unit in Cambridge and served with B Coy No 2 Officer Cadet Bn.  He was commissioned into the MMGS on 15 Apr, trained at Elveden and deployed to France on 29 Aug.  For his action, commanding tank D5 on 15 Sep ‘16, Blowers was awarded MC for conspicuous gallantry in action. He fought his Tank with great gallantry, reaching his final objective. On several occasions he assisted the infantry and enabled them to advance (LG supplement 14 Nov ‘16.)  Blowers told his son Roger that he sat in the tank that day, firing his Webley revolver at German infantry. "I fired over a hundred rounds. None of the targets was more than about 10 yards away, so I didn't miss many”.  He sustained a gun shot wound to the head during the action and was evacuated back to England on 17 Sep; Arthur was sent on leave to recover. Promoted to Lt 1 Oct ‘16, he was eventually declared fit for home service duties in Mar and active service in April ‘17, despite continuing to suffer from severe headaches. On 18 Jul 17, he was appointed A/Capt and section commander in H Bn (the Bn arriving in France at the end of the month)  Following an accident when petrol exploded in a tank on 5 Sep at Wailly, the tank training location, he was unconscious for 15 minutes and sustained head injuries and contusions to his back.  He was evacuated on 17 Sep and Hospised at Hursley Park near Winchester, where his injuries were declared severe but not life threatening, Ashton Court near Bristol (Jan to Mar 18) and then at Craiglockhart War Hosp (May 18).  On 11 Jun ‘18, a special medical board declared he was unfit for further service and he relinquished commission on account of ill-health contracted during active service. He granted the honorary rank of Lt 25 July ‘18, awarded the silver wound badge (Badge no 383142) and a pension. He married Rosa Fisher soon after the war, they had a son (who served as a Sgt Pilot in WWII, and was MID – he died aged 73) and a daughter who is still alive aged 86. (She married an Army Captain, a POW of the Japanese for 3 years, but he survived to his 80th year). Rosa, or Ro, as she was known, died in the mid ‘20s, of TB. In 1920 Arthur was given 6 months to live, as a result of his wounds and offered a lump sum of £2000 in place of his pension rights (He refused). During subsequent treatment he was given morphine / heroin to which he became addicted and, according to his son Roger, had a vision of Death standing at the end of his bed, saying "I am coming for you!"  Having the personality that 'No-one tells me!" he determined to beat his addiction. Living in a tent, in the orchard of his father's farm, he weaned himself off heroin, replacing it with large amounts of beer! He was eventually able to get off the alcohol, too, and made an apparently complete recovery. He was never an alcoholic but would still drink in moderation.  He married again and had five more children. After the war, he worked for an oil Coy for a while but spent much of the rest of his working life as a teacher and headmaster at various schools around Suffolk (Oulton Broard, Ilketshall St Lawrence, Hollesley, Snape and Leiston). He rode for the Triumph works motorcycle trials team, and in ‘26 did a lap of the IoM TT course, on a borrowed bike, falling-off at the Ramsey hairpin.  He was a keen sportsman, having played hockey for Devon while at college and spent many years as chairman of Leiston Football Club, and as an official for Suffolk Amateur Athletic Association.  He played his last game of hockey on his 60th birthday.  He was also very keen on motor sport and, with the family, did much to revive motorcycle 'scrambling' in the Leiston area after WWII. He claimed to be pretty good at bowls. After retiring from teaching in 1954, he worked as a researcher for the Conservative Association, driving all over Suffolk. This was cut short when he had a burst stomach ulcer, from which he recovered, and he spent much of his remaining time as a gardener, tidying up others' gardens, for pocket and petrol money. In 1979 he was diagnosed with liver cancer and, after a very short illness, died on 10 Jan 1980.  (Family information provided by his son Roger Blowers

2447 Cpl Edward "Ted" Foden – Born Mar – Apr 1896 at Wolstanton, near Newcastle Under Lyme,  Staffs. Enlisted 4 Oct ‘15, aged 19 years 7 months; a butcher's assistant living at 42 Lord St, Etruria in Stoke on Trent. He weighed 10 stones exactly, height  5ft 11¼ ” and a 34 inch chest, his father was Edward Foden of 90 Park Rd, Burslem, Staffs. Joined MMGS at Bisley on 6 Oct; transferred to MGC on 1 Dec ‘15; transferred to 21 on 4 Mar, to Armd Car Sect on 1 Apr and to HS MGC on 4 May. Appointed LCpl on 5 May; and posted to D Coy on  25 Mar ‘16. Promoted Cpl on 5 Aug  embarked at Southampton for France 28 Aug and arrived Le Havre 29 Aug ‘16. claims to have driven Dolphin during the action. Wounded in ankle and right hand by shells, moved to 14th Main Dressing Station then to 1st Aus Gen Hosp at Rouen on 16 Sep. He was on evacuated to the UK on HS Asturia on 17 Sep  and admitted to the Southern Gen Hosp on 19 Sep; Awarded MM for bravery in the field (LG dated 9 Dec ‘16),  He was released from hospital on 11 Hon 1916 and sent to the Lancashire Mil Convalescent Hospital at Clifts Park Blackpool to remove the stiffness from his ankle. He recovered from wounding but suffered from a stiff ankle; this was shown by a permanent limp. (Despite this he did not claim a disability pension).  Deciding he would not be returned to France, a character reference was signed by Lt Col Summers on 9 Mar 1917, where Foden was recorded as sober, reliable, intelligent and “very level headed”.  Granted post hospital leave from 31 Mar to 10 Apr, Fit for appointment s at home but not overseas, he was posted to MGC Depot at Bovington on 16 Apr ‘17, as a Cpl, then to the Tank School of Instruction on 28 Jul he served as a Gunnery instructor.. Rebadged to Tank Corps as 205084. Posted to the Tank Depot on 17 Oct ‘17 at Wareham then back to the Tank School of Instruction at Bovington on 6 Mar 1018.  Appointed (paid) A/Sgt on 1 Sep ‘18 whilst on the strength of the Central Schools. Discharged 21 Feb ’19 through Clipstone to the Z Reserve; home address 52 Lord (?) St Burslem. Subsequently awarded BWM and Victory Medal in Jun ‘22. 

32489 Gnr Edgar Robert Barnsby born Chelmsford 1891, possible link to second son of William James Barney and Emma Elizabeth Barnsby.  The 1901 census shows living in Moulsham St John near Chelmsford) Commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.  He enlisted at Birmingham and married Edith May Phasey between Jun – Sep 1916 at Kings Norton Birmingham. He was KIA on 15 Sep ‘16; his legs being shattered during artillery fire within the tank.  On 30 Sep 1916, a party returned to the scene of the action and buried his body next to Gutsell – the grave has since been lost.  No family details on CWGC site.   

2518 Gnr Leslie Robert Gutsell, born Dorchester ‘96, the eldest son of Robert Gutsell, a house furnisher and Mary Godley.  Assistant Scoutmaster for Shaftesbury Boy Scout troop.  Machine Gun Corps (Motors) then HB MGC. KIA 15 Sep ‘16 in the tank; body recovered and buried on 30 Sep next to Barnsby; grave subsequently lost. Commemorated on the Thiepval memorial; parents presented a bookcase to the scouts in his memory

Gnr Hodgson – helped Blowers get Barnsby out of the tank and put him in a shell hole, returned to own lines

Gnr Plant.

Gnr Faraday Sladdin.   Born in Brighouse, on 1 Nov 1888, he was the son of a shoulderpad manufacturer.  He enlisted in Dec 1915 but was not mobilsied until May 1916 when he reported to Bisley.  He deployed to France less than four months later and served with D Company, then D Battalion and then 4th Battalion until February 1919.  Never promoted, he returned to Yorkshire and married a local girl Edith Gaudin in 1922.  They settled in Cornwall but sadly Edith died in 1946.  Faraday remarried in 1948, to Eleanor Denham, but he died on 16 Sep 53.

M2/181493 Pte George Henry Thomas. Probably born born Royston ‘91and married to Miinie Poulter on 18 November 1911;they had two children daughter Lily M Thomas born Royston in Jan to Mar 1912 and Edmund G Thomas born Jul - Sep 1913 at Royston.   Enlisted Hitchen; Wounded and awarded MM for action on 15th Sep. Rebadged to MGC (75068) and served with 12th Coy of D Bn.  He probably fought at Thelus, during the opening day of the Battle of Arras. He was KIA aged 27 on 3 May ‘17 during the second battle of Bullecourt. Grave unknown; commemorated on Arras memorial. 

D6 (No 747 - Male) Only tank in C Gp supporting 41st Div attack on Flers. D6 followed main Rd to Flers until it reached German Switch Trench, where it passed Sgt Carmichael, of 21 KRRC, who was taking part on the assault.  He described the sight of the tank lumbering past of my left, belching forth yellow flames from her Vickers gun and making for the gap where the Flers Rd cut through the enemy trench! The tank then turned east and north again to move down eastern side of the village. He supported the infantry as they fought their way to their third objective (the Bull’s Rd at the northeast of the village); his role being recognised by CO 26 Bn Royal Fusiliers: This tank was of the greatest material use and the party in charge of it distinguished themselves considerably. Despite the obvious dangers from German artillery, the tank pressed on north, away from the protection of the infantry who were falling back onto Flers.  His tank was hit and burnt out.


Lt Reginald Charles Legge was born 18 Feb 82.  Educated at Brighton Grammar School, he first work in London as a draper's assistant,  Prior to the outbreak of war, he was overseas, working as a merchant. He returned in Jan 1915 from the Gold Coast and served in 2/1 Bucks Yeomanry (Royal Bucks Hussars) until 4 Mar 16, when he attended six weeks officer cadet training at No 5 Offr Cadet Bn.  Commissioned 15 Apr 16, his will was written at John O’Groats Camp near Thetford on 25 Aug and  witnessed by Harold Mortimore and Hugh Bell.  After the tank was hit, Legge ensured that his crew got out and was last seen by Herbert Clears in a shell hole.  The Roll of Honour website for Lindfield War Memorial states he was captured and DOW 16 Sep 16The CWGC website agrees date as 16 Sep. His body was buried by the Germans, his will and possessions being returned to his mother, but the location of his grave are not known.  He was considered to be a fire eater, by his comrades. “Good old Legge” recalled Blowers “He came so close to being great”.  He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and at Lindfield (Sussex).  A memorial notice was printed in the London Times on 16 Sep 18 which confirmed he died of wounds whilst a POW.  

LCpl Wilfred da Cunha Brookes was born and enlisted Sale in Cheshire, in 1891; his father Arthur Brookes being a manager in a shipping merchant’s office. The family were living in Barcombe Lodge, Broad Rd in ‘91.  He was the second oldest son but fourth child. In 1901 he was living at Morning side, Prince’s Rd, Sale. Cheshire. He enlisted at Sale, having been educated at Manchester Grammar School and the local university.  He was in action again on 1 Oct and was wounded so badly he was evacuated to the UK. He was later awarded the MM.   Died on 2 Feb ‘18 whilst serving with the Tank Depot; Buried in Weymouth Cemetery.  see .http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22225%2Csale%22%3B&letter=&place=sale&war=I&soldier=Brookes++MM

Gnr Robert Beesley was born c 8 Feb 90 in Coventry. Enlisted 28 Mar 16 in Coventry whilst he was a plumber and painter. Only 5’ 1½“ tall, he embarked Southampton 28 Aug 16.  Claimed to be wounded in face at Flers but no record found.   Wounded on 11 Apr 17 whilst in action with No 11 Coy during the 1st Battle of Bullecourt.   Evacuated to UK on 22 April, he was admitted Tooting Military Hospital with GSW to the left arm and foreign bodies (removed by surgery) and slight wounds to left hand and under left armpit.  Rejoined for duty at Depot Bn at Wool on 14 Jun 17, he was posted to 17 AC Bn and returned to France on 27 Apr 18. Wounded on 8 Aug 1918 during the attack at Villers Brettoneux, he served with the Bn for the rest of the war. Never promoted, he was awarded the MM for great gallantry and devotion to duty during the continuous fighting from 10June up to the cessation of hostilities. This soldier acted as despatched rider to the armoured cars. Without the protection which the armoured cars possess, he has taken despatches to them in the most exposed positions, having on one occasion on 9 August being wounded and still carrying on.  His determination of getting to his objective is most marked, He was never failed to deliver his dispatch under any circumstances.   After serving with the occupation force in Cologne, he was sent to Ireland on peacekeeping duties on 26 Jan 1919.  Whilst serving at Limerick, he sought his discharge as he had been wounded three times.  Dispersed from Fovant 20 Sep 1919, he returned to his home at Spon End. He was possibly married in Nuneaton to Winifred Lole in early 1920 and had three children - Robert; Veronica and Peter.  He possibly died, aged 65, at Meriden Apr to Jun 1955.

Gnr Fred Bardsley, born Oldham c1892. His father was the manager of a Grocer's shop. Enlisted Chadderton, Lancs KIA aged 24 years on 15 Sep 16. Commemorated on the Thiepval memorial; CWGC site states family were then living at 186 Copster Hill Rd, Oldham; no obituary in the local papers.

Gnr Herbert H Clearsmachine gunner and mechanic; received head injuries during action and was captured by Germans on 15 Sep 16. Details of interrogation provided in Tanks at Flers. Remained PoW for the remainder of the war, visited at Friedrichsfeld POW camp (near Wesel) in Aug 1917 by the Red Cross..

Gnr George Goodwin Cook; Born Westminster c’88 and enlisted Camberwell.  KIA aged 28 years on 15 Sep 16; son of Mrs. Sarah Ann Cook of Bowden Cottage, Lacock, Chippenham, Wilts. Commemorated on the Thiepval memorial and also at Bowden Hill church, near Lacock, as “G Goodwin-Cook”.

Gnr John Harry Garner born Long Eaton Sep 91. Enlisted Ilkeston. KIA on 15 Sep 16. Brother of George H Garner, of 3 George Ave, Long Eaton, Notts. Grave unknown; Commemorated on the Thiepval memorial

·Pte A/Sgt Herbert Lane Thacker. Born 5 March 83 in Tonbridge; his father was a bank manager  Educated at Whitgift Grammar sch in Croydon, was a partner in the East Kent Motor companyArmy Special Enlistment (Mechanical  Specialist) he deployed to France on 13 Aug 14 with 2 (Div) Ammo Park and was a despatch rider. He took part in the retreat from Mons and served in France until March 1916.  Posted to 711 MT Coy and later attached to D Comapny, Thacker suffered shock, after the tank had been hit on 15 Sep but made his way back to his own lines. Awarded MM for his action.  Sent for officer training at The Grove Park MT Depot in Jan, he was commissioned into ASC on 4 Mar 17. Drowned when HT "Arcadian" was torpedoed and sunk on 15 Apr 17,whilst carrying reinforcements for Egypt.  After his death there was copious correspondence as to the whereabouts’ of his MM and the will. The Medal was eventually located and presented to his father by the Duke of Connaught.  


The tank was left where it was abandoned; it was blown up with explosives after the war during the battlefield clearances.  The right hand track adjuster was subsequently located by Philippe Gorczynski whilst he (with Trevor Pidgeon and J-L Gibot) were visiting the area.  Part of the tank superstructure were also later recovered and both presented to the tank museum