Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Tank Corps - Repairs 1920-ish


trsp62
 Share

Recommended Posts

Any answer I could give would be based on speculation on my part. No doubt there are figures on how many tanks the British Army had in its inventory in 1920-21, as well as the number of active tank battalions (and tanks per battalion) then in service. By the 1920s most tanks would most likely have been placed in storage at depots. The forum probably has people who could explain the Tank Corps' procedures for the repair of tanks; a new thread inquiring about the subject on the weapons and equipment forum might draw more of a response than this one.

Am following up Pete's suggestion - any tank experts out there can give a glimpse of manpower and expertise required to service tanks in the immediate post war period?

TimP

[other thread refers: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...mp;#entry992263 ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In George Forty's "Royal Tank Regiment: A Pictorial History" he describes the reduction of strength in the Tank Corps in the immediate post-war period.

"The remaining battalions in France were reduced to cadre strength as demobilisation took its toll and were brought back to Bovington and Wareham camps, where they eventually became the basis of the regular battalions formed as follows:

1st Depot Battalion formed at Wareham, 26 July 1919

5th Battalion formed at Bovington, 3 September 1919

2nd Battalion formed at Bovington, 4 October 1919

3rd Battalion formed as a cadre only at Bovington during November 1919

4th Battalion formed at Wareham, 28 February 1920

"On 7 August, Sir Hugh Elles, now ... reduced in rank (to Brigadier-General) took over command of the Tank Corps Centre, which then included the Central Schools, the Tank Corps Depot and the Workshops Training Battalion at Bovington and the Gunnery School at Lulworth."

At this time there were also Tank Corps detachments overseas, in particular the Armoured Car Companies but also the Army of Occupation and the Russian Civil War, although I believe that British involvement in the last had ended by the period you're interested in (1920-21).

Unfortunately I can't tell you from my references how many tanks these units had, or what the workshop arrangements were. It is interesting that there is no reference in Forty's book to anything equivalent to the Central Workshops, Central Stores, Advanced Workshops or Tank Field Companies as existed during the War - or was that the "Tank Corps Depot" that Forty refers to?

Gwyn

P.S. It is amazing that sometimes I try to answer a question for someone, and as here either fail or only partially succeed, yet in doing so have a blinding flash of inspiration to answer a question for myself. Post war heavy tanks are sometimes seen with CS painted in white on their front horns, though the meaning had always eluded me. Now it seems obvious that it must surely be a reference to "Central Schools"!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello,

The topic of mechanical equipment repair during the war does not seem to have been recorded in an easily accessible form. I used to know about this subject from 1950 to 1980 and am aware that there were organisational changes in 1942. I assume that between the wars the principles established during the Great War continued, i.e. that Tank Corps mechanics would carry out running repairs and servicing and that Ordnace tradesmen would do major repairs. But I do not know if there was an RAOC workshop at Bovington after the war. There was, until about 1980, a REME workshop at Bovington housed in an old building with a wood block floor which could well have been there since 1920 or so.The Workshop Training Battalion's existence suggests that provsion existed at Bovington for the training of Tank Corps mechanics. The RAC Museum may be able to help.

Old Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks both.

Gwyn - that does give me another piece of the puzzle because one child to my GF born in Wareham in '21 the next in Bovington in '22; so I guess safe to assume he was posted to Wareham with the Tank Workshop; and then moved with them 9 or transferred between tank units) to Bovington, every little bit helps build up the picture of his life.

TimP

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is interesting that there is no reference in Forty's book to anything equivalent to the Central Workshops, Central Stores, Advanced Workshops or Tank Field Companies....

Could you describe these entities in more detail? Tracked vehicles break down frequently and I'm curious how the Tank Corps repaired them. As Old Tom pointed out, vehicle repair seems to be one of the undocumented mysteries of the British army in the Great War. Until the founding of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1942, it seems as though Ordnance, Engineers, Service Corps, and Tanks all repaired their own stuff.

There was a minor scandal in the early 1920s in the U.S. when Fort Holabird near the port of Baltimore, Maryland, an installation used to ship and receive army vehicles to and from Europe, turned into a collosal junkyard with nobody taking care of thousands of vehicles parked there rusting in the rain. Some of the vehicles had been sent back from Europe; others had been awaiting shipment at the time of the Armistice. The U.S. Congress held hearings which resulted in changes in U.S. Army Ordnance Department vehicle maintenance policy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello,

I have had a very quick reply from the RAC Museum at Bovington. It appears that there was a workshop facility at Bovington from about 1917, and according to the history of REME (Craftsmen of the Army by Kennett and Tatman – Leo Cooper 1970) the arrangement in the twenties was that at Bovington the workshop was manned by Royal Tank Corps fitters under the command of an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME). They think that this situation persisted until well into the 30's.

OME's were officers of the Army Ordnace Corps - by 1920 the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. In 1942, largely because of experience in the North African campaign, REME was formed and many OMEs transfered to the new Corps.

An earlier thread on artillery equipment repair showed the role of Ordnace Workshops in that field. I guess one must not forget that in 1914 armament was almost the only army equipment subject to repair and that units had some tradesmen - armourers, limber gunners, pioneers and the like. I don't know how they were trained, probably on the job; watch and learn. Of course many qualified tradesmen volunteered for service.

Old Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could you describe these entities in more detail?

I'll give you my understanding, and perhaps others will correct me if I don't get something quite right. First thing to say is that the system seems to have evolved during the Great War. At first each Company had its own workshops, a system that was abandoned in winter 1916/1917 when Battalion workshops were formed. By autumn 1917 the Battalion workshops were centralised again into Brigade workshops until eventually early in 1918 Central Workshops were formed, initially at Erin and later at Teneur .

The principle was that damaged parts were replaced in the field by new parts, with the damaged parts sent back to Central (etc) Workshops for repair. The new parts would be held by an Advanced Store, run by a Tank Salvage (or Field) Company. These units were also responsible for recovering tanks abandoned in action. The term seen in War Diaries "handed over to salvage" means that a tank has been ditched in action and the crew has been unable to recover it, perhaps because it needed repair beyond the ability of the crew. Such tanks were struck off the strength of the fighting unit, and "handed to salvage", i.e. taken on strength of the Tank Field Company whose job it then was to recover it and convey it to Central Workshops for repair. I'll be honest and say that I don't quite understand myself where Advanced Workshops fit in, as these seem to be late war inventions, perhaps a reaction to minor repairs having to be sent back to a distant Central Workshops?

Central Stores at Erin was responsible for receiving tanks from Central Workshops (either brand new with CW added unditching beam rails, or repaired) and would then issue tanks to the fighting battalions.

The best thing I know written on this is in "The Tank Corps" by Williams-Ellis. Unfortunately he doesn't describe the post-war arrangements.

Gwyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gwyn, thanks for your answer. It appears that the Tank Corps developed a system with echelons of maintenance support similar to the system used by U.S. Army Ordnance since World War II. Our companies and battalions, regardless of their branch of service or specialty, have their own organic organizational maintenance sections composed of Ordnance personnel. For jobs too complex for these organizational maintenance sections the equipment is sent back to Ordnance direct support maintenance companies. Located farther to the rear are Ordnance general support maintenance companies that do work of even greater complexity. The last line of support are the arsenals and depots back in the continental U.S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...