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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Double Britannia


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Quite some time ago I posted on Landships that I hoped to produce an item on the Tank Britannia that toured North America in 1917 and 18.. However it did not materialise as I kept getting stuck. Parts of the jigsaw refused to fit whilst others began to look 'wrong'. I think I now have, if not the whole scene, at least a recognisable picture of the story of Britannia. There are still bits missing but unless something extraordinary is lurking waiting to reveal itself they are unlikely to change the gist of the tale, merely flesh out some more detail. However before I finalise the whole thing I thought I'd post a synopsis on both GWF and Landships just to see if any one out there can flesh out the holes.

Firstly there were, as I mentioned before, two British Mk IV female tanks involved. These are both on occasion referred to as Britannia. Britannia seems to have been a bit like Father Christmas and able to appear in two places at the same time, thus, for example, being in Philadelphia and New York simultaneously (in the same way that Father Christmas can be in Selfridge's and Hamley's at the same time) Britannia One (B1) was painted in a plain colour and had no distinguishing markings whilst Britannia Two (B2) was camouflaged and had the name Britannia stencilled on the front plate. Interestingly enough both Britannias had hatches in the cab roof which, given that they both arrived in North America in October 1917, indicates that this feature was available on the Mk IV before the Mk V design had been finalised. It also means that the tank now named Liberty that appears at Aberdeen is not the former Britannia despite the museum's claims (I have written to the museum but got zilch in return).

B1 arrived in New York on or before the 18th of October 1917 to be displayed in Central Park with the captured German submarine UC5. B2 arrived at “a port in America” on a British liner on the 23rd of October accompanied by Captain Richard Haigh and eight crewmen. It would appear that Captain Haigh had suffered from severe sea sickness on the voyage.

On the 25th of October 1917 a delayed Liberty Day parade was held in New York and B1 participated in this. A number of photos of this exist showing the tank in front of the Flat Iron Building. Many (including myself) have erroneously attributed these to the parade in New York on the 27th September 1918 in which a Britannia also took part. However by comparing the photos of the parade with a detailed descriptions in the New York Times it is clear that most of the photos are of the Liberty Day Parade.

Both Tanks then participated in a number of events in Canada, B1 Visiting Montreal and B2 Hamilton and Toronto. Both tanks appear to have been back in New York by the 24th November 1917 for an Exposition called Heroland.

From the 19th December1917 through until the end of February 1918 a number of demonstrations were given to American troops at Camp Dix (Long Island), Fort Upton and Fort Sheriden. Photos suggest that B1 was used for most if not all of these.

It was decided in February 1918 that a US wide tour for Britannia would follow. Between then and October 1918 a Britannia appeared in a number of US towns and cities including Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Syracuse and Washington DC. A number of events were held in New York over this period. What photo graphic evidence there is suggests that B2 took part in most (if not all) of the events outside New York whilst B1 covered the Big Apple. However Haigh certainly appeared with both B1 and B2 in this period. At some time during this period a Britannia participated in extensive trials and demonstrations near Washington DC. Given the peripatetic nature of B2's appearances I would suspect that this was B1

The last known appearance of a Britannia is at Camp Polk in S Carolina in early January 1919 when the camp was being closed down.

If any one has anything useful can he please speak up.

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