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- 16th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 17th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 18th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 19th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 20th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 21st Battalion, Tank Corps
- 22nd Battalion, Tank Corps
- 23rd Battalion, Tank Corps
- 24th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 25th Battalion, Tank Corps
- 26th Battalion, Tank Corps
- A Company MGC (H) - 1st Battalion, Tank Corps
- B Company MGC (H) - 2nd Battalion, Tank Corps
- C Company MGC (H) - 3rd Battalion, Tank Corps
- D Company MGC (H) - 4th Battalion, Tank Corps
- E Company MGC (H) - 5th Battalion, Tank Corps
- F Company MGC (H) - 6th Battlion, Tank Corps
- G Company MGC (H) - 7th Battlion, Tank Corps
- H Company MGC (H) - 8th Battalion, Tank Corps
- I Company MGC (H) - 9th Battalion, Tank Corps
- J Company MGC (H) - 10th Battalion, Tank Corps
- K Company MGC (H) - 11th Battalion, Tank Corps
- L Company MGC (H) - 12th Battalion, Tank Corps
- M Company MGC (H) - 13th Battalion, Tank Corps
- N Company MGC (H) - 14th Battalion, Tank Corps
- O Company MGC (H) - 15th Battalion, Tank Corps
Want to know more about Tank Corps?There are:15 articles tagged Tank Corps available in our Library
Those known to have served with
during the Great War 1914-1918.
- Alexander A.. Sgt.
- Allen Cyril Sheldon. Pte. (d.20th Nov 1917)
- Ashworth Alfred Edward. 2/Lt.
- Bell Anthony M.. Lt.
- Bullock Frank. (d.9th Aug 1918)
- Bullock Frank. Pte. (d.9th August 1918)
- Cotton Thomas. Pte. (d.23rd July 1918)
- Cruickshank S. C.W.. Capt.
- Dorgan James. Cpl (d.23rd Aug 1918)
- Farrell Thomas. Sjt.
- Graham Andrew. Pte.
- Keegans John. Pte.
- Kendall Robert. Cpl.
- Kirkham Joseph. Pte.
- Neal Josiah. Pte.
- Nelson Robert. Pte.
- Newsam Harry Brighstone. 2nd Lt. (d.8th Aug1918)
- Powell Ernest John. Fus.
- Richardson Alexander John. Cpl.
- Sewell Cecil Howell. Lt. (d.29th August 1918)
- Short John James.
- Smith Henry Thomas Bayard. 2nd Lt. (d.25th March 1918)
- Spencer Randolph Churchill. Sgt.
- Vans-Agnew Frank. Capt.
- Wain Richard William Leslie. Capt. (d.20th Nov 1917)
- Wain Richard William Leslie. Capt. (d.20th Nov 1917)
- Walmsley John. Corporal
- Watkins James. Pte. (d.23rd Sep 1918)
- Webster James. Sgt. (d.4th April 1918)
- West Richard Annesley. Lt/Col. (d.2nd September 1918)
- Williams William. Sgt.
All names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Sgt. William Williams 19th Btn. Tank CorpsFrom the age of 12, William Williams went down the mines, leading the pit ponies. Trained as a Male Nurse then enlisted in Royal Welsh Fusilliers. Selected to join the Heavy Machine Gun section which became the Tank Corps ; as mechanic/driver/gunner. Later became Sgt. 5/11/18 and Tank commander. Returned to nursing at The Priory with many famous patients 'Grandad Bill' wrote his memoirs which included a significant amount of detail of his time in the Tank Corps. This is his account of being signed up and trained:
The army at this time were stopping men at the railway stations and asking for their papers. I had none so thought I would take a chance and wrote for some. The result was, I got my calling up papers to join the army. I reported and was asked if there was a regiment I would like to join. I said the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, there was a London battalion, so I joined that in 1916. I was sent to Kinnock Park, Rhyl. I found some old school pals in other battalions there. I got through my recruits drill after two months. Then one day coming off parade I got the call, '24477 Williams report to the company office'. I reported and was given a pass for four days. Still in the dark of what it was about, on reporting back I was sent with 10 others to be transferred to the Machine Gun Corp (Heavy Section) at Wool in Dorset. The train was full of men going to the same place. When we arrived we were put in huts for the night, all wondering what it was, there were men from every regiment in the British Army there. We found out that it was for what was to be known later as the Tank Corps.
After a success on the Somme with a few tanks it had been decided to raise four battalions and we were the lot. It was a little while before things were settled down, as there was only one doctor there. No medical examinations were given, instead we were taken to what was an old crater on a hillside, and seven men at a time were put on it to run round, up and down. That was the test, if they pulled a man out he was sent back. I got through it so that was my corp for the rest of the war. I met some very nice men there and formed a friendship with Cliff Baldwin, a Yorkshire lad. We were pals for the whole time.
We were soon put into a new kind of training with machine guns, six pounder guns for the gunners, and driving and maintenance tests for drivers, also signalling, Morse code and pigeon training. So we were kept busy. We were put into crews of seven men and one officer. It was all interesting. I was first gunner and Cliff was the first driver. The gunners were sent to Whale Island, Portsmouth for a course with the Navy, as the Army had not any schools to try us, we would be firing from a moving tank at a moving object.
Lt. Cecil Howell Sewell VC 3rd (Light) Tank Bn. Tank Corps (d.29th August 1918)Cecil Sewell was killed in action on 29th August 1918 aged 23 and is buried in the Vaux Hill Cemetery in France. He was the son of Harry Bolton Sewell and Mary Ann Sewell, of 26 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London. His brothers Harry Kemp Sewell and Herbert Victor Sewell also fell.
An extract from The London Gazette, No. 30982, dated 29th Oct., 1918, records the following:- "When in command of a section of Whippet Light Tanks in action this officer displayed most conspicuous bravery and initiative in getting out of his own Tank and crossing open ground under heavy shell and machine-gun fire to rescue the crew of another Whippet of his section which had side slipped into a large shell-hole, overturned and taken fire. The door of the Tank having become jammed against the side of the shell-hole, Lt. Sewell, by his own unaided efforts, dug away the entrance to the door and released the crew. In so doing he undoubtedly saved the lives of the officer and men inside the Tank as they could not have got out without his assistance. After having extricated the crew, seeing one of his own crew lying wounded behind his Tank, he again dashed across the open ground to his assistance. He was hit in doing so, but succeeded in reaching the Tank when a few minutes later he was again hit, fatally, in the act of dressing his wounded driver. During the whole of this period he was within full view and short range of the enemy machine guns and rifle-pits, and throughout, by his prompt and heroic action, showed an utter disregard for his own personal safety."s flynn
Lt/Col. Richard Annesley West VC DSO MC attd. Tank Corps North Irish Horse (d.2nd September 1918)Richard West was killed in action on 2nd September 1918 aged 40. He had also served in the South African War and was the son of Augustus E. and Sarah West, of Whitepark, Co. Fermanagh; husband of Maude E. West, of 14, Trafalgar Square, Chelsea, London.
An extract from the Second Supplement to The London Gazette, No. 30982, dated 29th Oct., 1918, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery, leadership and self-sacrifice. During an attack, the infantry having lost their bearings in the dense fog, this officer at once collected and re-organised any men he could find and led them to their objective in face of heavy machine-gun fire. Throughout the whole action he displayed the most utter disregard of danger, and the capture of the objective was in a great part due to his initiative and gallantry."s flynn
Capt. Richard William Leslie Wain VC. 25th Btn. att. A Bn. Tank Corps Manchester Regiment (d.20th Nov 1917)Richard Wain was killed in action on the 20th of November 1917, aged 20 and commemorated on The Cambrai Memorial in France. He was the son of Florence E. Wain, of Woodside, The Avenue, Llandaff, Cardiff, and the late Harris Wain.
An extract from The London Gazette, dated 13th Feb., 1918, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery in command of a section of Tanks. During an attack the Tank in which he was, was disabled by a direct hit near an enemy strong point which was holding up the attack. Capt. Wain and one man, both seriously wounded, were the only survivors. Though bleeding profusely from his wounds, he refused the attention of stretcher-bearers, rushed from behind the Tank with a Lewis gun, and captured the strong point, taking about half the garrison prisoners. Although his wounds were very serious he picked up a rifle and continued to fire at the retiring enemy until he received a fatal wound in the head. It was due to the valour displayed by Capt. Wain that the infantry were able to advance."s flynn
Fus. Ernest John Powell 26th Btn. Royal FusiliersFusilier Powell was my father. In 1953, he gave a short talk about his career to his Rotary Club (West Wickham, Kent). In this talk he referred to his Service in WW1, as follows: "I volunteered for the Army in 1914, but Head Office said we could not be released until sufficient women had been trained to replace us…. In September 1915 I volunteered at Ammanford, Carmarthenshire (being the nearest recruiting centre to Llandeilo where I was a Junior Clerk in the London and Provincial Bank). I was assigned to the 26th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Bankers) raised by Col. Pitt of the London and South Western Bank, and we were 80% Bank chaps. We went to France in May 1916, supposed to be tough infantry men, which I rather doubt. I transferred to the Tank Corps in France". The first photo shows Fusilier Powell as one of "The Boys of Tent No 7, High Beech, 1915". He is 2nd from right in back row, as you look at the photo.
The second photo is the All Ranks photo, 26th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Bankers). Aldershot, 1915. Fusilier Powell is 2nd from the left in the fourth row of the photo. It was taken (presumably) before the Battalion embarked for France.
The third photo is of the 1936 Reunion of the Banker’s Battalion. My father attended these Reunions in London – at least until the mid 1950’s (excluding years of World War 2). He was then Manager, Barclays Bank, West Wickham, Kent, a London suburb. These reunions were always preceded by a Church Service at the Royal Fusiliers Church in the City. The cost of the Reunions (always at the Connaught Rooms) were reportedly heavily subsidized, so my father said, by a Maj. Clutterbuck, a Board Director of Martin’s (or was it District?) Bank. My father is the nearest person at the nearest side of the 2nd table from the right (looking over left shoulder and in a lighter colored jacket - probably as befits a suburban Manager, compared with all the "City types"!).Graham Powell
Sgt. A. Alexander Tank CorpsI have somehow acquired the war medal of Sgt. Alexander of the Tanks Corps. I think it may have been put into a Poppy Appeal collecting tin which I counted. I have tried to trace him to no avail. By putting his name on this website, at least there is some small acknowledgment of his existance and the hope that someone will have more success than I in tracing him and possibly his descendants who may be able to have his medal back.John Hawthornthwaite
Pte. Thomas Cotton 4th Btn. Royal Tank Corps (d.23rd July 1918)Thomas Cotton was killed in action, France and Flanders, 23rd July 1918 aged 29. He is ommemorated on the Arras Memorial and also on the Glascote and Poleworth War Memorials in North Warwickshire. Thomas was the son of Henry Cotton. He was a market gardener before the war.Ian Shuter
Pte. Andrew Graham MM. Machine Gun Section Seaforth HighlandersAndrew Graham of the Seaforth Highlanders was a member of the first tank Crews in 1915-1916, and a machine gunnery instructor at Bovington Camp, Dorset 1917 where he met his wife, Margaret Palmer, a cook from Bovington Camp. A copy of Margaret Palmer's diary from Bovington Camp was provided to Bovington camp Military Museum, Dorset along with her Bovington service discharge papers. Also provided are photos of Andrew Graham (Sergeant) and Margaret Palmer (cook), taken at Wool, Dorset.
Andrew was the son of Alexander Graham, whilst serving with the Machine Gun section Seaforth Highlanders he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty. He recaptured a Lewis gun which had temporarily fallen into enemy hands, turned it on them, held them at bay and finally brought the gun safely within British lines.
Andrew and Margaret emigrated to New Zealand in 1920s and had two daughters who have many descendants in New Zealand, USA and Canada.Peter Stevens
Pte. Josiah Neal Machine Gun Corps (Heavy)I believe my grandfather, Josiah Neal, was taken prisoner of war in the 2nd Battle of Gaza and held at Afion in Turkey.Teresa Murphy
2nd Lt. Henry Thomas Bayard "Bay" Smith 4th Queen's Own Hussars (d.25th March 1918)Thomas Smith started his military carer in the RN and at some time went to Sandhurst where he passed out as a 2nd Lieutenant. At some point he was attached to the 9th Tank Battalion in Whippet tanks. He was killed in action on 25th March 1918 (sniping at the enemy at Pozieres). His body was never recovered, but he is remembered by his great nephews and nieces every year at Pozieres Memorial.
Capt. S. C.W. Cruickshank Royal Tank Corps7423 Pte S.C.W. Cruickshank served with the 8th Royal Scots. He entered the War early and fought in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. I have the 1914-1918 Medal trio for Capt. S.C.W. Cruickshank. His medal index card shows him with two different numbers, for 8 R Scots. They are: 7423 and 335090. The number 7423 appears on the rear of his 1914 Star. The BWM and the AVM both show him as an officer, therefore there are no numbers.
His medal index card shows him as a 2/Lt Tank Corps. But he was later promoted to A/Captain, and then to Captain. The actual medals are engraved as follows:
1914 Star: 7423 Pte. S.C.W. Cruickshank 8/R.Scots BWM: Capt S.C.W. Cruickshank AVM: Capt S.C.W. Cruickshank
There is no "Mons" Bar on the 1914 Star. This is because, I am reliably informed by another correspondent of mine, Cruickshank was with the 8th Battalion, Royal Scots, who were a Territorial Force battalion at the time and that they arrived in France (as the first Scottish battalion to do so) on 5th November, joining the 22nd Brigade of the 7th Division on 11th November. That they did not qualify for the "Mons" bar (5th August-22nd November) was very probably because they only saw action much later, that is, only on 10th to 13th March 1915 at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
Cruickshank transferred from the Royal Scots to the Royal Tank Corps in 1917. There are a number of London Gazette entries showing his promotion from temporary 2nd Lt through to A/Captain and Captain. His Great War medal trio are part of the David Bennett Collection.David Bennett
Pte. Joseph Kirkham MM 8 Bn TC 5 Tank Bde Tank CorpsPrivate Joseph Kirkham was my grandfather and throughout my life I was aware of a large picture frame hanging in his home. It contained a small piece of paper with the following text "I have read with great pleasure the report of your Commanding Officer on your energy and good work against the enemy near Morcourt on 8th August 1918. This reflects credit on yourself and the whole Tank Corps".
Granddad died in 1958 when I was still in primary school and never spoke of his experiences in the war.
When grandma downsized in the late 1970s she asked if I would like to have this and of course I accepted and I always wondered what Graddad had done that merited such praise. In those days, before the internet, and being a busy working mum I didn't know where to go to find anything out about it.
A couple of years ago a friend suggested contacting the Tank Museum at Bovington and to my surprise they passed on the citation report from the commanding officer himself.
The citation reads "For devotion to duty during the operation of 8 August 1918 against MORCOURT. Private Kirkham rendered invaluable assistance when his tank was ditched. By his energy in assisting to dig out the tank, when the unditching gear was ineffective, it was able to proceed with the action. Later he kept his guns continuously working and was greatly responsible for demoralising the enemy. Throughout he displayed courage and spared himself in no way".
It is signed by LtCol J Bingham, cmdg 8 Bn TC and with a recommendation for an immediate award of the MM.
It goes without saying that granddad was a hero to me even before my discovery but my task now is to find out more about his military history and to see if he ever collected his award, which I suspect he didn't.Sybil Turner
Pte. James Watkins 1st Battalion Tank Corps (d.23rd Sep 1918)James Watkins was my Nana's older brother and I remember her telling me about 'Jimmy' and how he was the next sibling up from herself, they were therefore close and she was very upset when he died a few weeks before the end of the war.
He joined the Suffolk Regiment on 30/05/1915 but somewhere along the way, probably in 1916, he moved into the Tank Corps and was in the 1st Battalion. I have no idea how or why he changed regiments. I have tried to find out but with no luck. He spent three and a half years fighting in the war and it seems very sad that he was injured and died of his injuries a couple of days later, with only a few weeks of the war left. He is buried in Wavans British Cemetery in France, on the site of what would have been a field hospital and where he was taken when he was injured.
He is also honoured on the WW1 Memorial in Christchurch Park in Ipswich, where he was born. I sadly have no knowledge of the whereabouts of his medals and no photo's to share.Mandy Goodwin
Sgt. James Webster Motor Machine Gun Corps (d.4th April 1918)James Webster was deployed to France as a Sergeant in the Motor Machine Gun Corps (1136). He later became Sergeant in the Tank Corps (200262). He died of Tetanus in Glasgow in April 1918 and is buried in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, I have not managed to find any information about which battalions he served with or where he saw action.Kate
Pte. John Keegans 7th Btn. South Lancashire RegimentJack Keegans, a labourer gardener enlisted on 12th Aug 1915, his service number being 31101, with the 21st Battalion, King's Liverpool City Regiment John says his age is 19 yrs old and 1 mth though his actual age was 17 yrs old and 1 mth. He was the son of John & Jane Keegans, of 85 Kingswood Avenue, Aintree, Liverpoool his father was a potter printer in Melling. John was born July 1898 in Glasgow. John transfers to 3rd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment on 4th May 1916.
On 21st May 1916 John was posted to 6th Bn, SLR who were in Mesopotamia though returned 6th Nov 1916 back to 3rd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment due to contracting malaria. On 29th Apr 1917 John got posted to BEF, France initially to the depot then on 2nd May 1917 11th Bn, (Pioneer) SLR followed by a posting to 7th Bn, SLR on 23rd May 1917.
John was involved in the Battle of Messines as part of 56th Inf Bde, 19th (Western) Div who were facing 2nd (East Prussian) Div. John came through the battle unscathed though I don't know what company he was in. John was involved in the 3rd Battle of Ypres being wounded in action with a wound to his left leg (either a gun shot wound 31st Jul 1917 or a sharpnel wound 1st Aug 1917 as I have two pieces of information that dispute this). John was evacuated back to the UK 5th Aug 1917.
John transfers on 21st Dec 1917 to the Royal Tank Corps for the good and benefit of the army service. He was posted to 12th(L)Bn, RTC on 28th Dec 1917 and was involved in the 100 days offensive, being promoted to L/Cpl on 10th Sep 1918. He was demobbed from service 31st Mar 1920.Peter Keegan
John James ShortJack Short served in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Tank Corps.Dawn Foster
2/Lt. Alfred Edward "Ted" Ashworth CdeG. Tank CorpsMy Grandfather was 2nd Lieutenant A E Ashworth of the 1st Battalion Tank Corps during WW1. I have the Croix de Guerre which he was awarded by the French and two original photographs of the Tank Elfriede, taken after it was captured south of the Somme in 1918.
I had always wanted to confirm my grandfather's involvement in the capture of Elfriede and in 2012 paid a visit to the British National Archives at Kew where I read the war diaries of the 1st Battalion and also of the 5th Brigade, under whose temporary command the 1st Battalion was on the date in question. What I discovered makes the capture of Elfriede all the more memorable. It is clear that the tank was captured by the British with the help of a French guide and that the expedition took two nights, not one as had been previously reported.
1st Battalion Tank Corps received an order from 5th Brigade Tank Corps on 14th May 1918 to send out two tanks to tow out an abandoned German tank from No Man's Land. At 23.00 two tanks left Querrieu Wood, and reached the location of the German tank Elfriede, which was lying on its side in a quarry, some 50 yards in front of the French front line below Villers Bretonneux. It had been jacked up by the French Tank Corps but they needed British help to tow it out.
At 04.00 the next morning the two British female Mark IV tanks, commanded by 2nd Lts A E Ashworth and E Gibbings, under the overall command of Lt (later Captain) E Hawthorn, reached the German tank but had to lay up for the entire day, until 21.00 when they proceeded to tow the tank out a distance of some 9000 yards. Amazingly they do not seem to have come under German fire, no one was injured and the three British Officers were highly praised in the orders of French General Bebeney, Commander of the First French Army. 10 of the 13 British involved were awarded the Croix de Guerre and the trophy was handed over to the French Engineers who subsequently put Elfriede on public display in Paris. Sadly the tank was scrapped in 1919. It seems a miracle that the two British tanks were not attacked in No Man's Land during the daylight hours of 15th May 1918, and the bravery of their crews who waited inside them for a whole day for darkness to fall is immense.Bethan Waite
Lt. Anthony M. Bell 15 Btn. Tank CorpsAnthony Bell enlisted on the 23rd of April 1917 and appears to have been wounded in July 1917, in France. His name appears both in Oxford University's Roll of Service (BA Christ Church, c. 1915/16, after matriculating 1912) and in the Roll of Service for Wheatley village, Oxfordshire, 1914-18. His father was possibly a clergyman.John Fox
2nd Lt. Harry Brighstone Newsam 3rd Battalion (Light) Tank Corps (d.8th Aug1918)Second Lieutenant Harry Brighstone Newsam served in the 3rd Light Btn. Tank Corps and died on the 8th August 1918. He is remembered on the Triptych at St Paul's Church Jarrow and is buried in Le Quesnel Communal Cemetery Extension. He had previous service as a Corporal No. 1984 in the Northern Cyclist Battalion. His medal card shows an award of the British War and Victory Medals and a note marked "Comm for MGC" (Commission for Machine Gun Corps) The Tank Corps was originally classified as the Heavy part of the Machine Gun Corps.
The 1911 census shows him living alone at Thornton Villa, Surrey Street, Jarrow, single, age 24, Occupation: Elementary School Teacher for the Borough Council and taught at Ellison N.S. School in Jarrow. His place of birth was Andover, Hampshire. He was born in 1886 the son of Mr and Mrs William Newsam of Andover, Hampshire and was married to Catherine Anne Maxwell (formerly Newsam nee Smith) of Belfield, Kenton Road, Newcastle.Vin Mullen
Capt. Frank Vans-Agnew MC B. Btn. Tank CorpsFrank Vans Agnew, my great uncle, was a remarkable man: He was 46 when he travelled from America in 1914 to enlist, having been a veterinary surgeon, a farrier in Roosevelt’s Roughriders, an assayer at gold and copper mines in Western Canada and Kazakhstan, and an orange grower in Florida. Posted to the front in May 1915 Frank was soon in the thick of the action and in 1917 was transferred to the Tank Corps, winning an MC at Messines. He was wounded and captured in November and spent 13 months in POW camps before a spell in Copenhagen helping to repatriate British soldiers.
His later career saw him in Belize, prospecting for chicle trees, ranching in New Mexico and growing daffodils in Cornwall before his retirement, which was interrupted by two years in the Home Guard and three in the Royal Observer Corps. He died in 1955. I only met him once, about a year before that. Veteran Volunteer. Memoir of the Trenches, Tanks and Captivity 1914 – 1919 by Frank Vans Agnew (Ed. Jamie Vans) is to be published in about April 2014 by Pen & Sword Books.Jamie Vans
Sgt. Randolph Churchill Spencer MID 1st Battalion Scots Guards/Tank CorpsMy grandfather Randolph Spencer was born 11.4.1894 in Auchenflower, Queensland. His parents had emigrated in 1883. He came to the UK and joined the Scots Guards. He saw action at Ypres, Festubert and Loos. He was made up to Acting Sgt 22.6.1915 1st Battalion Scots Guards (London Gazette). He married at the Parish Church, Willesden having met my grandmother (I believe she was a nurse during WW1) on 10.6.1916. A photo shows him centre with a couple of his men at his wedding. He was Mentioned in Dispatches a couple of times having rescued his men whilst wounded. His first son Paul was born in December 1917 in Wareham (I assume as he was now part of the Tank Corps his wife was living near Wareham where they were training men). He was commissioned after the war but retired 28.10.1921.Gol
Pte. Robert Nelson Tank CorpsGrowing up, I remember my mother's stories of my grandfather Robert Nelson (born 19 Oct 1890 in Hetton le Hole, Durham, England), and how he fought in the trenches in France and Belgium during WWI. Other family members have said that he was assigned to the Tank Corps and trained in Wareham, Dorset. My aunt has in her possession a small tin box (possibly to hold tobacco and papers for rolling cigarettes) that was given to my grandfather at the conclusion of the war by a German POW that he had met while in France. All family members agreed that the war was not something my grandfather liked to talk about, so there is very little additional information to be had from family sources.
With these family stories as a guide, as well as a photograph of my grandfather in his WWI uniform, I sought to further verify what I had learned, and to find additional information that might add more depth to the story. I decided to start by using Google to search for information on the Tanks Corps and came across a number of websites dealing with Tank Corps History and research. Wikipedia, proved quite useful, as well as the Tank Museum website. Another valuable website dealing exclusively with British Army History during WWI entitled The Long, Long, Trail, provided a wealth of information. Other websites that proved extremely useful were the National Archives and Ancestry.com.
Through information I gathered from these websites, I was able to determine that my grandfather's uniform was consistent with those worn by British Soldiers during WWI, and the arm bade, cap badge and regimental badge were those of the Tank Corps. The following was information was gleaned from a Wikipedia Article which describes the uniform: “The British soldier went to war.........wearing the 1902 Pattern Service Dress tunic and trousers. This was a thick woollen tunic, dyed khaki. There were two breast pockets for personal items and the soldier's AB64 Pay Book, two smaller pockets for other items, and an internal pocket sewn under the right flap of the lower tunic where the First Field Dressing was kept. Rifle patches were sewn above the breast pockets, to prevent wear from the webbing equipment and rifle. Shoulder straps were sewn on and fastened with brass buttons, with enough space for a brass regimental shoulder title. Rank insignia was sewn onto the upper tunic sleeves, while trade badges and Long Service and Good Conduct stripes were placed on the lower sleeves. A stiffened peak cap was worn, made of the same material, with a leather strap, brass fitting and secured with two small brass buttons. Puttees were worn round the ankles, and ammunition boots with hobnail soles on the feet. Normally brown, they were made of reversed hide and had steel toe-caps and a steel plate on the heel.”
The history of the Royal Tank Regiment began following the invention of the tank in 1916. At that time the six existing tank companies were part of the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps. On 28 July 1917 the Heavy Branch was separated from the rest of the Machine Gun Corps and given official status as the Tank Corps and “a request was made for the Tank Corp's own metal cap badge.” A close inspection of the cap badge on my grandfather’s uniform confirmed that it was indeed the official Tank Corp cap badge. While waiting for the new official cap badge to be manufactured and delivered, a provisional worsted arm badge became part of the Tank Corps uniform. This arm badge continues to be worn today and is believed to be the only badge of its kind to survive the years of WWI. A closer crop shows that the badge on my grandfather’s uniform is indeed the Tanks Corps arm badge.
The first page of my grandfather's service record was an Attestation Form, dated 11 Dec 1915. This date is significant in that it was just three days before the deadline for registration under the Derby Scheme. Britain entered the Great War in 1914. By the early part of 1915, the number of recruits had gone down significantly. The government struggled with the idea of conscription, and so decided to try a different scheme to raise enlistment numbers. In October of 1915, Edward Stanley, the 17th Lord Derby, was appointed Director-General of Recruiting and came up with idea that was dubbed “The Derby Scheme”. The scheme appealed to men between the ages of 18 to 40 to either enlist voluntarily or to attest with an obligation to come if called up. The deadline to register for voluntary enlistment was 15 December 1915. I believe that my grandfather was one of the 2,185,000 who attested for later enlistment under the Derby Scheme. A war pension was introduced at the same time, which may have helped entice him to sign up, as he had a wife and three children and would have had concern about supporting them on the chance that he did not survive. Robert was assigned to the Army reserve and sent back to his home and job until he was called up for service.
The next step in my research was a visit to the National Archives website to search for the index card of my grandfather’s service records. My search for “Robert Nelson, Tank Corps” brought up two entries. On closer look I discovered that one of the Robert Nelson’s was an officer who died in action, so I was fairly confident that the other Robert Nelson was my man. (I should note that I paid to view the Index Card on the National Archives website, but later learned that these same Index Cards are available on Ancestry.com, to which I already had a subscription). The next step was to search Ancestry.com for the actual service records. Not all of these records have survived, so imagine my delight when I found them! There were fourteen pages!
On August 19, 1918, Robert was mobilized and posted to the Tank Corps Depot in Wareham, Dorset for training. On the 24 of August, he was posted to a Reserve Unit. In September of 1918, his wife Margaret had a son, Joseph, who lived only two days. This must have been a very difficult time for the young father who had just left his home, and equally difficult for his wife who had to deal with her grief alone. On Oct, 25, 1918, Robert was transferred to the B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force), which was the term referring to those who served in France on the Western Front during WWI. He was given the Medical Category of A1, which meant that he was in good health, and assigned to the 5th battalion. He embarked from Folkestone, on the southern coast of England, and Disembarked at Boulogne, France on the 28 October, 1918.
The 5th battalion , formerly named “E Battalion”, was involved in a number of battles in the months leading up to the Armistace on 11 November 1918, including the Battle of Amiens, 2nd Battle of Bapaume, Battle of Arras, Epehy, St-Quentin, and the Hindenburg Line and were part of the Allied 100 Days Offensive which led to the end of the war. Most of the major battles on the Western Front had been fought by the time my grandfather arrived, so I’m not sure how much action he saw. The German armies continued to retreat as the Allied Forces recaptured villages one by one, so he must have been involved in this effort in some way. Between October 17 and November 11, the British advanced to the Sambre and Schledt rivers, taking many German prisoners. Britain and France held about 720,000 German POWs, mostly gained in the period just before the Armistice in 1918. My grandfather's battalion may have had a role with these prisoners, as our family stories suggest. According to his service records, Robert served a total of 204 days active duty, and was demobilized on 20 Feb 1919. He received the British War Medal and Victory medal on 11 Aug 1921.
The next step in my research will be a visit to the National Archives next time I am in London, to view the war diaries of the 5th battalion. These records will probably not mention my grandfather by name, but should give me more clues as to what specific operations his battalion was involved in. I may never find out the details of where my grandfather served or what he may have seen, but I know that even for the brief time he was there, it must have been a life changing experience for him. This Remembrance Day, I am once again reminded of those brave souls who have sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedom and I am grateful for the part that my grandfather played, however small. May we never forget!Judi Lee
Cpl. Alexander John Richardson 1st Battalion, D Company Notts & Derby RegimentAlexander, originally from Paddington, England, was employed as a motor driver at Welbeck for at least a year before the outbreak of the first World War. At 18 yrs old, he enlisted at Worksop on Sept. 2, 1914 and was posted to the 4th Battalion Notts & Derby for his basic training, which I believe was at Sunderland. Alec landed in France on Jan 4th, 1915 and was posted to the 1st Battalion Notts & Derby, joining the battalion on Jan. 22, 1915. He was wounded in the abdomen by shrapnel on Feb 25, 1915 while in the line, but stayed in France and returned to the battalion. It is unknown how long he was recovering, but I assume he luckily missed the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
Alexander joined the Tank Corps on Dec. 28, 1916 because of his mechanical abilities, originally with "A" battalion, 77047. He was a driver in action during the June 7th, 1917 Battle of Messines. Shortly after, he became part of the "Hush Operation", a plan to land on the Belgium coast with troops and tanks. According to my grandfather's notes this plan was "duly washed out" and his group returned to England to become the core of the 16th battalion, Tank Corps. He was an instructor (including bayonet and physical training) during The Tank Corps build up in the first half of 1918.
The 16th battalion, Tank Corps landed in Sept. 1918 and took part in the Battle of the Selle, driving the Germans back. Alexander was wounded when his tank was hit by a shell on October 5/6, 1918 in the Ramicourt valley during the Battle of Montbrehain. He stayed in France and rejoined his battalion after recovering, promoted to Sgt. on Nov. 30, 1918. He survived the flu in late Dec. 1918 and was sent to the UK on Jan 30, 1919 for demobilization.
His notes state the he worked with the Air Ministry, assisting in the return of parts to Leyland motors for a year. Alexander sailed to Canada in April 1920, started a family, and lived until 1981.
I remember him talking about his war experiences around the dinner table only when asked. He remembered mostly being "cold and wet". My father told me he saw many horrible things, lost close friends and would wake up at night screaming.
I ask my teenage children, who watch their TV's, chat and text on their phones, listening to the Ipod's and wear the name brand clothing, "can you imagine going to war at 18 years old, living in water filled trenches all year round with lice and rats, always hungry, being shot at, shelled, bombed, watching your comrades be blown apart or shot, dieing in front of you for almost 5 years".
They can't.John Douglas Richardson
Sjt. Thomas Farrell Loyal North Lancashire Regt.This is a picture of my grandad, Sgt Thomas Farrell (on the right). He was born in Bootle, Liverpool in 1886, a week after his dad was killed in an accident at the docks. The man in the middle is L/Cpl John William "Jack" Potts (d.26th September 1917) Thomas was a long-standing military man who joined the Loyal North Lancs Regiment around 1904 and went on to the Machine Gun Corps in Feb 1917 and the Tank Corps in 1918. He was a 2nd Lieut from 19th December 1917. He was wounded 3 times (September 1914, June 1915 and October 1918) and was still removing shrapnel from his back in the 1930s.
He spent some time in 'A' Ward at Red House Auxiliary Hospital, this photo was taken in September 1916, Tom is 1st left at the back. I don't know where this hospital was.
In this photo Grandad Thomas Farrell is on the right. Obviously taken when in hospital around 1916. I have no idea where the hospital was or who the other 3 people are.
This picture was found in the papers of Thomas Farrell but he doesn't appear to be one of the soldiers.
Update: It is possible that Red House Auxiliary Hospital was in Leatherhead.Jackie Dunn
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