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Names of Tanks - personal

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Lancashire Fusilier

Tank Commander - Lt. Harry Drader - D20 " Daphne ".

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Lancashire Fusilier

Tank F4 " Flirt 2 " - Battle of Cambrai - November 1917.

Officers left to right - Capt. A. Darby M.C. - Major Inglis D.S.O. Commanding 16 CO Tank Corps - 2nd Lt. Lennard.

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centurion

Tank F4 " Flirt 2 " - Battle of Cambrai - November 1917.

Officers left to right - Capt. A. Darby M.C. - Major Inglis D.S.O. Commanding 16 CO Tank Corps - 2nd Lt. Lennard.

No No no. The tank is not F4 that's the crew number and would also have been carried by Flirt as well as Flirt II

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Lancashire Fusilier

No No no. The tank is not F4 that's the crew number and would also have been carried by Flirt as well as Flirt II

Go back to post #4 - and explain.

Is it not that each tank had a " Call Sign " - " F's " listed - Tank F4 was Flirt, are you saying there were several F4's ?

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Lancashire Fusilier

Captain Alfred Arnold M.C. - Commander tank D16 " Dracula "

Capt. Arnold was awarded the MC for his action on 15 September; He later served with F Bn as a section commander; he was shot through the lung before being captured on 22 August 1917. He survived but spent the rest of the war as a POW.

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centurion

Go back to post #4 - and explain.

Is it not that each tank had a " Call Sign " - " F's " listed - Tank F4 was Flirt, are you saying there were several F4's ?

It was not a call sign (there was no way of calling the tanks) it was a crew number and they took it with them when they changed tanks. Thus Flirt had F4 on it, but so did Flirt II so yes there was more than one tank bore the number F4 There are plenty of other examples of the same number being transferred from one tank to another. The number was used for contact patrol and ground observers to report back on progress

The only number that was unique to a tank was the serial number. This was not always visible out side the tank

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spconnolly007

It was not a call sign (there was no way of calling the tanks)

Hence:

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centurion

Hence:

Tanks could despatch a pigeon - they couldn't receive one - there was no way of calling the tank.

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Lancashire Fusilier

It was not a call sign (there was no way of calling the tanks) it was a crew number and they took it with them when they changed tanks. Thus Flirt had F4 on it, but so did Flirt II so yes there was more than one tank bore the number F4 There are plenty of other examples of the same number being transferred from one tank to another. The number was used for contact patrol and ground observers to report back on progress

The only number that was unique to a tank was the serial number. This was not always visible out side the tank

I referred to the " Call Sign " meaning the tank Identification Number - I appreciate there was no way of " calling the tanks ".

In all the lists I have seen, I can see no instance where a tank has shared it's alphabetical number with another named tank, at the same time

For example - C1 was " Champagne " and C2 was " Cognac ", yet you are saying that F4 was not solely related to " Flirt ". The fact that " Flirt 11 " may also have used F4 was possibly because " Flirt 11 " replaced " Flirt ", and in that instance retained the No. F4.

I can see no logic in tanks running around all with the same large painted numbers on their sides, that defeats the object of having specific Identification Numbers on the sides of tanks!

What you are saying is very, very confusing.

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centurion

Let me use a simple explanation using fictitious tanks and crews.

Crew number R6 are in a tank named Rupert by its commander. R6 is stencilled on the outside. Rupert suffers a catastrophic gearbox failure and has to be abandoned. It is recovered and sent off to Central Workshops. Crew R6 are allocated a new tank. Conventionally it would be named Rupert II but R6s commander broke his leg abandoning the tank and has been sent home to recover so the crew have a new commander who names the new tank Rachell after his mistress (a big girl). This tank also has R6 stencilled on the outside. In the meantime the original Rupert is repaired and returned and allocated to S battalion - crew S9 whose tank Sanctimonious II still lies ditched in the German line. They all made it back so Rupert is renamed Sanctimonious III and has S9 stencilled on it.

Clear?

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Lancashire Fusilier

Not sure about the official line but there is a tale as follows.

The tank had a Scottish crew member to whom a reporter asked, " what is the name of this tank"? His reply was Ah Dinnaken, (I don't know). The reporter in his article named the tank as Dinnaken. The result is part of the village of Flers history.

Regards

John

John,

Tank " Dinnaken " was Tank D17 - Commanded by Lt. Stuart Hastie.

Stuart Henderson Hastie was born at 6 North Merchiston Ave, Edinburgh on 7 Sep 1889. Son of Thomas Hastie, a Tool Manufacturers Assistant, and Flora Henderson. Educated at George Heriot's School and Edinburgh University (BSc), he served for four years in Edinburgh University OTC. He applied for a commission on 22 March; his preference being 4th Bn HLI. Medically examined 23 March 1915, he was 6 ft 1½ in tall. Commissioned into 4th HLI; he was seconded to the MMGS on 16 Oct 15 and then to Hy Branch MGC.

For his actions on 16 Sep 1916, he was awarded the MC: “for conspicuous gallantry in action. He fought his Tank with great gallantry, reaching the third objective. Later, he rendered valuable service in salving a Tank lying out under very heavy fire.” He was involved in the attack on 26 Sep and later salved Storey’s tank.

In early 1917, he was one of the first tank instructors; he commanded the tank sections, used to rip away wire entanglements during the Battle of Cambrai.

Appointed A/Maj and Chief Inst of Driving & Maint School at Bovington on 15 Mar 18 until 8 Feb 19. Awarded MBE for this work in the Honours List June 1919. Subsequently a member of the Board and Managing Director of Distillers Company Ltd (1935 to 1955) and living at 5 Oswald Road, Edinburgh. Corresponded with Liddell Hart in 1963 his voice can be heard on the IWM recording of veterans, recalling their service. Died 1981.

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spconnolly007

Let me use a simple explanation using fictitious tanks and crews.

Crew number R6 are in a tank named Rupert by its commander. R6 is stencilled on the outside. Rupert suffers a catastrophic gearbox failure and has to be abandoned. It is recovered and sent off to Central Workshops. Crew R6 are allocated a new tank. Conventionally it would be named Rupert II but R6s commander broke his leg abandoning the tank and has been sent home to recover so the crew have a new commander who names the new tank Rachell after his mistress (a big girl). This tank also has R6 stencilled on the outside. In the meantime the original Rupert is repaired and returned and allocated to S battalion - crew S9 whose tank Sanctimonious II still lies ditched in the German line. They all made it back so Rupert is renamed Sanctimonious III and has S9 stencilled on it.

Clear?

Sort of, but how did you know his mistress was a big girl?:D

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Lancashire Fusilier

Let me use a simple explanation using fictitious tanks and crews.

Crew number R6 are in a tank named Rupert by its commander. R6 is stencilled on the outside. Rupert suffers a catastrophic gearbox failure and has to be abandoned. It is recovered and sent off to Central Workshops. Crew R6 are allocated a new tank. Conventionally it would be named Rupert II but R6s commander broke his leg abandoning the tank and has been sent home to recover so the crew have a new commander who names the new tank Rachell after his mistress (a big girl). This tank also has R6 stencilled on the outside. In the meantime the original Rupert is repaired and returned and allocated to S battalion - crew S9 whose tank Sanctimonious II still lies ditched in the German line. They all made it back so Rupert is renamed Sanctimonious III and has S9 stencilled on it.

Clear?

This is clearly very hypothetical, and as yet I have not seen any such occurrences.

Those tanks with names followed by " 11 " seem to be those tanks using the same name of a tank they have replaced, probably due to the original named tank being destroyed.

In the photograph posted of F4 at Cambrai, F4 was clearly " Flirt 11 ", and I am sure no other tank was involved bearing the number F4 on it's side. I also doubt very much that there were any two tanks in service at the same time, with the same numbers painted on their side, that would be illogical, and would have made positive identification impossible. I assume that is why those big painted I/D letters and numbers are on the tank - i.e to positively identify an individual tank in battle.

There was an original F4 " Flirt ", which was probably destroyed, and was replaced by F4 " Flirt 11 ".

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centurion

This is clearly very hypothetical,

No its what happened

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Lancashire Fusilier

More named tanks -

C1 - Champagne. C2 - Cognac. C3 - Chartreuse. C4 - Chablis. C5 - Creme de Menthe. C6 - Cordon Rouge.

D1 - Daredevil. D13 - Delilah. D16 - Dracula. D17 - Dinnaken. D20 - Daphne. D50 - Dandy Dinmont.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Brigadier-General Hugh Elles - Commander of the Tank Corps at Cambrai - November 20, 1917.

The day before the battle, General Elles issued a Special Order to his Tank Corps -

Special Order No.6

1. Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance for which it has been waiting for many months, to operate on good going in th van of the battle.

2. All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve, has been done in the way of preparation.

3. It remains for unit commanders and for tank crews to complete the work by judgment and pluck in the battle itself.

4. In the light of past experience, I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in their hands.

5. I propose leading the attack of the centre division.

Hugh Elles

Commanding Tank Corps

19th November 1917

Distribution to Tank Commanders.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Cambrai - November 20, 1917

" At 0620 hours on November 20, 1917, 381 tanks moved forward from their last assembly points, lead by their Commander Gen. Hugh Elles, riding aboard tank " Hilda " flying the improvised brown, red and green battle-standard, these colours signifying - ' from mud through blood to green fields beyond '.

The Commander's tank " Hilda ", taking a position towards the 6th Division's front.

A precisely 0620 hours the guns crashed out, and the first wave of tanks surged forwards into No-Man's Land, each main body vehicle being followed at 25 to 50 yards by the infantry platoons. As the guns successively raised their sights to keep the shell-line 300 yards ahead of the advance, a two mile smoke-screen soon blinded the defenders of the Flesquieres sector, and a half mile screen filled Nine Wood, supplementing the prevailing autumn mists. Good progress was soon being signalled on all sectors. The German outposts, dazed or annihilated by the sudden deluge of shells, were overrun in an instant. The triple belts of wire were crossed as if they were beds of nettles, and 350 pathways were sheared through them for the infantry. Reaching the German fire-trench, the tanks carried through their drill, passing over fascines to attack the support trench in similar fashion while the infantry poured into the German positions to clear them with grenade, bullet and bayonet. The blue line was occupied by 1000 hours.

Progress was astoundingly rapid for officers and men used to measuring progress in yards. For the tank crews, the advance was exhilerating but far from comfortable. ' When it lurched it threw its crews about like so many peanuts ' recalled Captain D. E. Hickey, ' and you had to clutch on to whatever you could when we were going over uneven ground '. The rattle of the tracked machinery produced the illusion of tremendous speed, in fact an average speed of 2 mph was considered good going, but the lurches, restricted view, appalling din and the fumes of the roaring engines placed a heavy strain on the tank crews, all wearing chain-mail masks as protection against metal splinters from inside the hulls.

These apparitions crawling out of the mists of a November morning in such numbers terrifed the leading German formations, many turned to flee. ' Without exaggeration ', wrote a German officer of the scenes behind the lines, ' some of the infantry seemed to be off their heads with fright '. It seemed as if the entire front was collapsing, as the tank second wave passsed to the front through their rallying comrades, and ahead the Brown Line - the Hindenburg support positions. On many sectors the rate of the advance was maintained unchecked. Away to the distant right, 12th Division had reached the Blue Line as early as 0830 hours, and within an hour all 111 Corp's initial tasks had been achieved. In front of Ribecourt, however, ' Hilda ' had become firmly ditched, and a frustrated Elles had to return to his Headquarters, where he found time to send a telegram to Colonel Ernest Swinton ( the creator of the Tank Corps ) in London: ' All ranks thank you. Your show. Elles. "

Purnell's History of WW1 - pages 2413/2419.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Brigadier-General Hugh Elles with King George V.

Lieutenant General Sir Hugh Jamieson Elles KCB KCMG KCVO DSO (1880–1945) was a British General and the first commander of the newly formed Tank Corps in the First World War.

Born in British India on 27 May 1880, Hugh Elles was the younger son of Lt Gen Sir Edmond Elles. He was educated at Clifton College, and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, after which he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in June 1899. He served in South Africa during the latter part of the Second Boer War and then undertook regimental duty in Aldershot. In 1913 he attended the Army Staff College at Camberley.

On the outbreak of the First World War, posted to the staff of 4th Infantry Division. He served at Le Cateau, then took part in the Retreat to the Seine and the battle of the Aisne, where the German Army was halted. He then moved north with the British Expeditionary Force to Flanders, taking part in the Battle of Armienteres in October 1914. In February 1915, he was promoted to brevet major and served as the Brigade Major with 10th Infantry Brigade. He was wounded during their counter-attack, on 25 April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres.

In August 1915, he was one of three officers specially selected by Sir William Robertson to liaise with troops at the front and pass the information directly to the British General Headquarters. In January 1916, as a General Staff officer, he was sent by General Haig to investigate the first tanks or "caterpillars" being built in England. He attended the first trials of "Mother" and reported back to Haig on its success. During the summer of 1916, he was tasked to report back from the Somme, where the tanks were first used. He was appointed to head the Heavy Branch (the first tank units) of the Machine Gun Corps in France on 29 September 1916 in the temporary rank of Colonel. His responsibilities included its advanced training and tactical employment. He also commanded the large central depot and workshops established near Bermicourt.

Having seen the tanks fail at the Battle of Ypres (also known as the Battle of Passchendaele), due to the dreadful ground and weather conditions of the Autumn 1917, he pressed Haig to use massed tanks on the open ground at Cambrai. On 20 November 1917 he personally led 350 tanks into battle at Cambrai in a Mark IV tank called Hilda. He designed the Corps flag of brown, red and green silk, which he flew from his tank. He is also credited with inventing the fascine which allowed tanks to cross deep ditches.

Elles continued to command the Tank Corps as it played its full part in the defeat of the German Army in the Summer and Autumn of 1918.

After the war, he commanded the Tank Corps Training Centre at Bovington from 1919–1923 and was Inspector of Tank Corps at the War Office. He then commanded the 9th Infantry Brigade being posted to HQ Eastern Command as Chief of Staff in August 1926. In 1930 he was appointed Director of Military Training at the War Office and then, in 1933, commanded 42nd (Territorial) Division for a few months. In April 1934, he was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the rank of Lieutenant General; he was also the head of the Mechanisation Branch for which his previous service made him particularly suitable. He retired in 1938 and in the early years of the Second World War, was chief of Civil Defence operational staff (June 1940). Later he was appointed South West Regional Commissioner based in Bristol and would have taken regional command of the resistance in the event of a German invasion and occupation of Britain.

Elles was married three times, his first two wives dying before him. He died in London on 11 July 1945

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Lancashire Fusilier

Battle of Cambrai - 20th November, 1917

Tank " Hyacinth " from H Division ' ditched ' near Ribecourt.

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Sidearm

I would have certainly thought that Fifinella - Deborah - Flirt - Our Emma - Fay - Rumblebelly, would come under the heading of " Pet Names " for a tank, or indeed anything else ! That would make more sense, than any other possible reason for the Tank Commander to name his tank " Fifinella ".

Fifinella is a perfectly reasonable name for a tank, because like many other WW1 tank names (for example Bayardo, Ballyhackle, Flying Fox, Bloodstone, Amulet, Diadem, Eclipse and Highflyer and those are just a few examples) it's the name of a contemporary racehorse. To quote from an article I wrote on tanks named after racehorses published not so long ago in "The Dragon", the South Wales MAFVA newsletter:

"The original Flying Fox was a British Thoroughbred that won the 1899 English Triple Crown Races and was the top sire in France three times. After it died in 1911 the horse’s skeleton was preserved at the horse museum at Chateau de Saumur and there’s even a memorial at Eaton Stud, Cheshire. Ballyhackle was a steeplechaser, and won the Grand Sefton Chase in Liverpool in 1913. Bloodstone was another steeplechaser and I have found an account of the horse racing against Ballyhackle. Bayardo was a Thoroughbred with an impressive record of wins, including the Ascot Gold Cup in 1910 and the St Leger Stakes the previous year. He was the leading sire in the UK and Ireland in 1917."

The nice thing, I think, about tank names is that they give an insight into what interested the men who used them. All it takes is a little research to reveal what the names meant at the time.

Gwyn

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Sidearm

One needs to bear in mind that the systematic use of the Battalion letter for tank names did not start until June/July 1917, just before Third Ypres. Names prior to that are really just random. "Our Emma" and "Rumblebelly" are names used for Mark IVs at Messines in early June 1917 before the new system was adopted. Mark Is and IIs did not have names beginning with the company letters except for those few survivors that had been converted to supply or wireless tanks and were employed at the start of Third Ypres.

Gwyn

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Lancashire Fusilier

One needs to bear in mind that the systematic use of the Battalion letter for tank names did not start until June/July 1917, just before Third Ypres. Names prior to that are really just random. "Our Emma" and "Rumblebelly" are names used for Mark IVs at Messines in early June 1917 before the new system was adopted. Mark Is and IIs did not have names beginning with the company letters except for those few survivors that had been converted to supply or wireless tanks and were employed at the start of Third Ypres.

Gwyn

Gwyn,

Many thanks for the extremely interesting post.

I had suspected that the tank names had " hidden " meanings, which you have now confirmed. You have now informed us of the sequence of names related to famous racehorses, we know that there was a " C " sequence of tank names which were all related to the names of wines & spirits, and I am sure others will come to light.

Although I had seen the names on tanks before, it was only when this thread started that I began to research the subjects of the tank names, and the tank Commanders, all of which is a very interesting subject matter.

Do you have any other information on named tanks and their Commanders ?

Regards,

Leo

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delta

Leo

I suggest that you spend a few hours scanning https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home

It is a wonderful resource, which results from many hours of research.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Leo

I suggest that you spend a few hours scanning https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home

It is a wonderful resource, which results from many hours of research.

I just took a quick look at the link, and you have kindly just saved me hours of rummaging around the internet and browsing through reference books, it all seems to be there on that one website.

I shall still try and purchase White's book on the subject.

Again many thanks for the information.

Regards,

Leo

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delta

Robert Martin's website is indeed superb but it is not all inclusive.

That said, if I have a general query, it's my first point of call

Stephen

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