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Crusty C 23 no 2021 M & 2nd Lieut Henry Wilson Ashforth


Neilash
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If anyone has any further information on Tank "Crusty" C23 I would love to hear from you - the reason being that this was my Grandfather's Tank and this is his story as I know it.

The story as I have been told and borne out by a copy of a letter sent to my Grandfather's parent's by F. Firth (Lieut) No. 8 Company, C Battalion Tank Corp and published in the Whitley Seaside Chronicle & Visitors Gazette dated Sat 15th Dec 1917 is as follows:

My Grandfather's tank, Crusty, took a direct hit on the 20th Nov 1917 at Cambrai. The direct hit wounded all the crew inside and I believe the tank caught fire and may have been blown onto it's side. I know they had trouble getting out of the tank and some were badly burnt. However all the crew did get out and scrambled to a German trench. My Grandfather on seeing the Germans advancing down the trench drew his service revolver and started shooting at the Germans, who turned and ran. He ran after them to give his men a chance to make it across no-man's land to the British trenches. The last that was seen or heard of him by his crew was Henry swearing profusely firing the revolver until he'd emptied it, at which he point he threw it a the still retreating Germans and continued to chase them, now unarmed, still shouting and swearing!!

The Germans on rounding a corner and meeting up with more of their kin, lay in wait and knocked him unconscious with a shell case. He was captured, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war at Frankfurt-am-Main.

I have a number of photos of him with other officers whilst a POW. I also have a Dinner menu for Christmas 1917 signed by a number of fellow Officers, their rank and Company or Regiment.

My Grandfather rose to the rank of Captain in the Essex regiment Home Guard for the Second World War. After the second World War ended he left the army and together with my father set up a Poultry Farm called Ellingham Chick Growers in an old Land Army hostel in Ellingham, north of Alnwick in Northumberland.

Sadly he ended his days in St George's Sanitorium at Morpeth and died 4th March 1969. Annis his wife had died the year previous. He never really recovered from the blow he received after being ambushed by the Germans that day in a trench in Cambrai.

If anyone else has any further details about Crusty or my Grandfather I'd love to hear from you.

I've just bought Bryn Hammond's Book Cambrai 1917 and l believe that on the front cover of that Book is Crusty. I don't recognize the Officer "holding" the Tank aloft as my Grandfather but he may have taken the picture as my father and now me, has perhaps the original Black & White Photo. I also have another Photo of Tank C 24, I was told my Grandfather had three tanks under his command, his own and two others.

Thanks Neil

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Neil,

Thanks for your fascinating post. Tank 2021 C23 Crusty was a Mark IV Male of 5th Section, 8th Company C Battalion of the Tank Corps at Cambrai, but I guess you knew that! The tank was well photographed after its capture (I have seven photos of it but some are too large to post) and I'll post some photos for you. I also have two earlier photos from the time that 2021 was C24, but this may have been before your Grandfather took its command (or maybe not, as you have a C24 photo). The tank seems to have received a hit to the starboard sponson, the roof of which is very bent, and the unditching beam rail is broken. But contrary to the information you've been given, it didn't turn on its side. As you'll see from the photos, Crusty was quite unusually marked, with a peculiar (unique?) camouflage to the sponson and an emblem of a little boy to the side. At least two other C Battalion tanks from this period carried similar caricature figures in this position.

I for one would be very interested in seeing any photos you might have. Would you be able to scan and post them?

Thanks again for the post.

Gwyn

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Just noticed some other damage to this tank. There's a shell hole to the rear of the port track adjuster and another in the port side of the cab. I suspect the latter must have happened after the tank was evacuated, otherwise I would have feared for the worst for your grandfather!

Gwyn

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Thanks for the repies Gwyn - I can remember my Dad telling me that the men had to evacuate the tank by crawling out the escape hatch in the bottom? of the tank. This may make sense because of the damage to one of the sponsons and the Germans still firing at the disabled tank.

I can remember a story of my Grandfather either on a training exercise or in action deciding to ram through the ruins of a house only to end up crashing into the cellar. Fortunately they did manage to extract themselves from the cellar as they'd pushed a wall over and that fell into the cellar filling it up a little, allowing them to crawl their way out.

I've got a scanner so will be able to scan some of the many photo's I have - but most of them are small in size - being 2" x 3". There are some funny ones - some of the officers dressed up as cannibals and as women for the plays or skits they used to put on for the rest of the camp inmates and even the German Camp Officers and guards.

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Neil,

Not sure about the story of a escape hatch in the floor. Some post war designs had them, but not in WW1. I have come across a couple of accounts of tanks falling into cellars though.

Looking forward to seeing some of your photos

Gwyn

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I've just bought Bryn Hammond's Book Cambrai 1917 and l believe that on the front cover of that Book is Crusty. I don't recognize the Officer "holding" the Tank aloft as my Grandfather but he may have taken the picture as my father and now me, has perhaps the original Black & White Photo. I also have another Photo of Tank C 24, I was told my Grandfather had three tanks under his command, his own and two others.

Neil

The cover picture for Cambrai 1917 was selected by the publisher and was, according to the IWM, actually taken in September 1917 in the Ypres Salient - Oosthoek Wood, near Elverdinghe. (There is a sequence of photos). Hence perhaps the reason the chap is wearing shorts in the drier and sunnier weather of Sep 1917.

I could do this myself but others may have more time and sources more readily to hand so perhaps they can say if 'C' Battalion were at Oosthoek Wood in Sep 1917.

As I have learned, the publishers choose the cover and do the indexes - that's why I can only point out 'issues' with both. (OK, I may have said '6-inch howitzer' at one point in the text when I meant (I think) '8-inch' but I did my best to check all the text over and over!).

Bryn

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Oh, and the very interesting story of Crusty's fate is great. It mirrors the experience of several tank crews - as yopu'll see in the book! I hope you enjoy it and I welcome feedback.

Bryn

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As I have learned, the publishers choose the cover and do the indexes ...

This is a recurrent issue, almost always in connection with incorrectly-captioned/inappropriate/downright wrong cover photographs. About time, perhaps, that WW1 authors banded together and ganged up on their publishers to demand at least a right of comment (at an early enough stage to make a difference) on the choice of cover photos.

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post-44566-1237071240.jpgThanks to everyone whose replied to my original post. Bryn I'll be reading your Book shortly - the wife's keeping it for my birthday in a couple of weeks time! Booo!!

I have now scanned a few photo's, etc and will attach them here. Seems I'll have to upload the photo's one at a time or re-size so I can attach them. This one is of Henry Wilson Ashforth himself....

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This is a recurrent issue, almost always in connection with incorrectly-captioned/inappropriate/downright wrong cover photographs. About time, perhaps, that WW1 authors banded together and ganged up on their publishers to demand at least a right of comment (at an early enough stage to make a difference) on the choice of cover photos.

Just saw this. I got the right to make the point but "it's such a *striking image*, lovey!!!" might be how to characterise the response. However, to be fair to my publishers, it's a well put-together book otherwise. And it will be the same image on the paperback!!

Bryn

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They got younger as the war went on.

The crewmen got older

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Neil,

what a fantastic story and yes, he does look very young in the picture. Almost worth an MC for his actions in the German trenches. I trust you're very proud of your grandfather -and rightly so as he certainly did his bit.

Cheers,

David

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Well finally managed to scan an old photo taken in the POW camp showing five Gentlemen. Some of the names I can decipher; the signatures on the bottom line up with the men in the picture. The first signature on the left I'm not sure about, second from the left is Lewis then Hamilton-Tooby, H.W. Ashforth & Wilfrid S. Nairn.

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Going to have to scan these photo's and letters at a low resolution to ensure they attach OK.

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Second item scanned - letter from King George welcoming my Grandfather home after his release.

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Interesting menu this as it's signed by 57 Officers who would have all been POW's at Frankfurt-am-Main.

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I can't fit the last page on this reply so I'll have to add it to the next one.

Interestingly the Menu is Soup, Fish Cakes, Meat Pies, Potatoes, Beans, Spaghetti, then Apple Tarts, Jam Tarts, Rice & Jam, Chocolate Pudding, Sardines on Toast & Coffee. The Dinner date is 1st April 1918.

I'll try and list the names of those Officer's I can make out.

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Final page of the menu attached.

My grandfather Henry Ashforth would have been 22 years old in 1917.

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Officers names include:

1st Page.

A.E. Smith 2/Lt The Tank Corp

Geo Bell 2/Lt ? Fusiliers

Dupree Capt Tank corp

R.B. Evans Capt

R.S.? Whiteley Lt D.C.L.I.

R. Hamilton-Tooby 2/Lt 1/5 The Kings Own

Lt Beardmore D.H. R.N.V.R.

A. Shearer 2/Lt D.L.I.

H.W. Ashforth Tank Corp - My Grandfather.

2nd Page.

W.H. Rodger 2/Lt 10th Rifle Brigade

Chas D. Taylor 2/Lt 12th ? L.R.

W.W. Line 2/Lt 2nd R.F.

J.W. Howe or Lowe? 2/Lt 6th Royal West Kent Regt

H.R. Pooley 2/Lt 7th Royal Fusiliers

H. Whincup 2/Lt 18th Manchesters

J. Hunter 2/Lt 10th Kings Royal Rifle Corps

J.H. Walmsby Lt 11 U.G. Squadron

S.H. Whitehouse ii Lt R.F.C.

W.E.Teager 2/Lt 7th Suffolk Regt

Gerald Gay 2/Lt 217 M.G.C.

?Watt 2/Lt 5th Northamptonshire Regt

? Andrew Bryan 2/Lt 1/5 Royal Lancers

G.R. Goldingham Capt R.M.

S.W. Gibbons Sub Lieut R.N.V.R. Hood Batt. R.N.W.

E.? Lt W. Yorks

? Capt 9th ?

J.D. Julick? Lt Liverpool Scottish

W.R. Sricker 2/Lt &th R.F.

J.L. Rose 2/Lt 1/5 Lincs.

L.M.C.B. Collins 2/Lt Duke of Wellingtons

? S.J. Lewis 2/Lt 17th Welch Regt

M.J. Winder Lieut R.F.A.

J. Adam? 2/Lt ? Fusiliers

Last Page

C.P. Jamieson A & S Highlanders

B.S. Hargreaves Capt South Lancs

? Capt The Royal Scots

A? 2/Lt K.R.R.

E.R. ? Lt R.N.V.R. R.N Beveridge

W.R. Mc? 2/Lt R.N.D.

V.R. Hart 2/Lt 1st The Kings Own

H. Thomson 2/Lt Norfolk Regt

G. Marcus Love Sub Lt R.N.V.R. R.N.D.

E.K. Jones 2/Lt 3rd Worcester Regt

G.W. Marples 2/Lt 7th Royal Fusiliers

? Harrison Lt R.N.R & R.F.C.

F.R. Morgan 2/Lt R.F.C (South Africa)

W.R. Hutchings Capt 7th Bn. Devon Regt.

H. Forbes 2/Lt 14th Durham Light Infantry

A. J. ? Lieut R.E.

Wilfred ? Cap (Lisbon Ohio USA)

S.S Henry 2/Lt R.F.C.

A.W. Barnard Lieut 31st Alta Bn Canadians

C.R. Relitt Capt K.S.L.I.

A.S Fryer 2/Lt Worc Regt.

C.S.N. Park 2/Lt 1/Artists

R.H. Smith Capt W.Y.

I've tried to decipher the names, ranks and services these officers served in but I'm not sure about some so if you've any corrections please add them as a reply say?

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