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Remembered Today:

James Clarke VC - Lancashire Fusiliers


ericthornton

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I've recently seen the citation of CSM James Clarke VC of the 15th battalion Lancashire Fusiliers which has piqued my curiosity. He won the VC during an attack on the 2nd to 4th of Nov 1918 at Happegarbes, France, east of Le Cateau. In brief - he single handedly took four machine gun posts, led his company to take three more and many prisoners then when the attack stalled led a tank across open ground to break the German defence.......a remarkable man!!

I'm considering doing an illustration or painting of the action. In particular I'd like to show him directing the tank attack. However, i'm unsure of the details regarding the tank.

Could any tankers out there please help with some detail:

What mark of tank was involved?

Was it male/female?

Would it have been camouflage painted?

Would it have had the white/red/white stripes painted on the sides ?

When camouflged did they also have the stripes painted on?

Any other distiguishing points of note?

thanks, ET

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At that date it would have almost certainly have had the WRW stripes, but as for most of your remaining questions I can't say without knowing the tank battalion involved. Some of them can't be answered without knowing the individual tank.

Gwyn

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Thanks for the reply Gwyn

I didn't want to make a glaring error that could easily have been avoided and your response does help. If it had the strpies it seems to me it would probably not have been camouflaged.

ET

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Tanks were not painted with camouflage by this time; probably a Mark IV but might have been a mark V

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As well as these options (though at this date a Mark IV fighting tank would be only if 7th or 12th Battalion was involved) it might have been a Medium A or a Mark V*.

It also depends what you mean by camouflage. Is overall brown paint camouflage?

It is the case that tank markings and tank paint schemes have different and conflicting objectives. One is to make the tank less conspicuous and the other is to identify it. The conflict continues to this day, and the fact that a tank is painted to blend with its surroundings doesn't rule out the possibility it had markings, and vice versa.

Gwyn

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Gwyn,

I was thinking more of the large patchwork camouflage I've seen on some paintings and photographs. (the patchwork design can clearly be seen on a photograph I have of a knocked out tank in the Ypres mud 1917)

As there's little definitive reference I think i can, using the comments above, show a mark IV or V in plain colour, with W/R/W stripes without fear of being ridiculously inaccurate.

Thank you both for your assistance, ET

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Just to add to the uncertainties, by the date of this action Mk Vs in service outnumbered Mk IVs. It could have been male or female or composite (hermaphrodite) No painted camouflage appears to have been applied at this time the only camo'd ones being the Britannia (mk IV female) in the USA and a Mk V painted for use in a film

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Thanks guys,

I'm on a steep learning curve here. As a start, in order to understand the basics I've managed to get, but not yet read, the Osprey book of the mark IV and am awaiting delivery of the Mark I.

I've started to trawl through past tank related threads and found lots of information, photographs and inspiration for future illustrations. However, as is always the case once you start looking into these things more questions arise. I noticed in some photographs that there are irregular sections of track on some tanks that seem to be longer than others in that they protrude out several more inches. Was this a battlefield modification to try and get better purchase, weight distribution, if so why only some few sections of track? If it worked why not all the sections?

I also found comment on what seemed a particularly desperate action in the village of Fontaine-Notre-Dame during the Cambrai attack when C47 'Conquerer II' broke down and seemed done for until C48 'Caesar pulled alongside and took the crew onboard under fire....is that 16 men in one tank!!!

Looks like I'm going to be busy playing catch up on this subject for some time to come.

cheers, ET

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Don't panic, I've been at this for thirty years and I'm still learning.

The track extensions you refer to are generally known as spuds, though there are three different types. The most common are broadly as you describe them, i.e. track shoes with extensions fitted to them to widen them. The purpose seems to be for extra purchase. I can't believe they made a significant difference to the weight distribution. Whether they worked or not isn't really clear. There are reports they interfered with steering on hard surfaces. There doesn't seem to be a set pattern for how they were to be applied, though I have a slightly mad theory that you can tell some battalion's tanks from those of other battalions by the way the spuds are applied.

Gwyn

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Thanks again for the information Gwyn. I've got a Todger Jones VC piece to finish and then will hopefully produce a tank illustration.

regards, ET

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  • 5 years later...
Guest NickRichards

Dear ET

Did you paint the image of James Clarke VC? I'd be most interested as I'm his Great Grandson and a Teacher of the visual arts.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience via this forum or at nr@ticklestix.co.uk

Kind regards

Nick Richards

(son of Freda Clarke)

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