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Hello,

I am really hoping that someone can help me in my search for the activities of the 2nd Battalion Tank Corp. My great grandfather was "Killed in Action" on 22-Mar-1918 (one year after my grandmother was born). She knew nothing about her father and I am trying to put together a little summary so that my mother will know a little about her grandfather as a special gift. I have been trying to figure out exactly where his unit, company, etc. were at the time of his death as well as his time in the MGC. I have ordered his personal military records, but it has been well over 6 months now so I'm assuming I may never see them. I searched the NA in the UK but lack the knowledge of how the documents are organized. I do have the following information about him from death certificate, war memorials, and medal cards:

Pvt. James Henry Leys

Royal Field Artillery 1739 Gunner

2nd Battalion - Tank Corps 200283 Gunner (formerly MGC)

I know it is probably impossible to find the crew that he served with or his tank number, but I would like to try and find out what happened to him as his body was never recovered. I would also like an idea of how the enlistments worked at that time. He was born in Aberdeen and I know that his first child was born out of wedlock thus probably due to his military training as he was married shortly after her birth. I know he was stationed at the Hutment Barracks in Fleetwood at the time of the 1901 census. Is anyone familiar with this Barracks and are there any records about it?

Any and all help is greatly appreciated

Vickie

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Vickie, from 'Tanks in the Great War', by JC Fuller (a free download):

"On March 22 [1918], an Advanced Tank Corps

Headquarters was opened at Hamencourt, a mile east of

Doullens, in order to facilitate the battle liaison duties of the

staff.

"On this day a most successful and gallant action was

fought by the 2nd Tank Battalion in the neighbourhood of

Vaux Vraucourt and Morchies. At 2.45 p.m. orders were

issued for the 2nd Tank Battalion to advance and counterattack

the enemy, who had broken through the line Vaux

Vraucourt-Morchies and was pushing forward towards

Beugny.

"Two companies of infantry were detailed to support

the tanks, but as eventually these could not be spared

the tanks went into action alone. The counter-attack began

to develop around Beugny at about 4.30 p.m. Concentrated

artillery fire was brought to bear on the tanks, but in spite

of this they advanced amongst the enemy, put a field battery

out of action, and by enfilading several trenches full of Germans

inflicted heavy casualties on them. The enemy was

eventually driven back behind the Vaux Vraucourt-Morchies

position, which was then reoccupied by our infantry. Thirty

tanks took part in this action ; seventeen of these were hit

and 70 per cent, of casualties suffered by their crews. Heavy

though these losses were the enemy had suffered severely,

and more important still his plan of action was upset."

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Vickie

I have looked on Ancestry UK with no success and it seems likely that your GGFs record has been lost,along with over 70% of others,when the storage was bombed in London in 1940.This might account for why you have received no service papers.Any papers concerning his initial enlistment,presumably 1901 or earlier would have been linked to any other papers that might have been raised for him for subsequent service with either the MGC or the Tank Corps.

There are a few bits on Ancestry UK where someone has been researching his Family tree (Glenn Locke) it shows birth in 1882,marriage to Susan Sinkins on 29.6.1901 in Aberdeen,and death in Pozieres,France, on 22.3.1918.but no further military details.

He seems to have been a regular soldier as you have found him at Barracks in the 1901 Census. It is possible that he left and then re-joined the Army for WW1 as he is shown as a trawl fisherman on the Family Tree details.

The database Soldiers Died in the Great War confirms his death date and place, shows born in Holbron,Aberdeen and enlisted in Aberdeen.

There is at least one Tank Corps specialist here,I can't recall his title,maybe someone else can,and you can make contact as there has been some study on tanks and tank numbers which might yield crew matters. The 2 Bn Tank Corps War Diary may have some detail of the action in which he died,and for periods leading up to that time.It is stored at our National Archives under the ref WO95/113,covering the period May 1917 to Mar 1919, but is not yet digital so would need to be read on the premises.

Sotonmate

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Hi Vickie, good luck with your search and as Sotonmate suggests, the War Diary is the best starting point. I would also recommend this book which focuses on B Battalion in 1917 - I'm not sure when your grandfather transferred from the artillery to the Tank Corps, but he may have taken part in the battle of Cambrai: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tank-Action-Great-War-Fontaine/dp/1848840802/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342010214&sr=1-1 I believe the author, Ian Verrinder, is sometimes to be found on this website.

The other potentially important source of information is local newspapers, which sometimes carried photographs and quite detailed accounts when soldiers were killed or injured. If you're lucky the newspaper may quote from letters written by the tank commander or other officers, which may enable you to find out which tank your grandfather served in. For more details, see the website of the British Library (Newspapers) at Colindale in north London.

All the best, John

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WhiteStarLine,

Thank you so much for the engagement details. It lets me know where he was during his last few hours of life which is important for a sentimental pushover like myself. I had originally thought he would have been involved with the Kaiserschlacht incident. I will see if I can get my hands on a copy of the book.

Sotonmate,

Thank you for attempting to locate more information. I had hoped that maybe his records survived the bombing, but it doesn't look like it. My grandmother was born in Scotland the year before his death. In 1919, Susan left and sailed to Canada along with all 7 children and her father (who served with the BEF as well). I have not begun research on her father as of yet. My grandmother always said that I had cousins in the land of Oz and I finally made contact with them 2 1/2 years ago. That would be the Glenn Locke that you refer to. He travelled to the southern U.S. and spent a week here. His great grandmother is half-sibling to my James Leys. Very wonderful to have found a new cousin and we still keep in touch. I suppose I will have to wait some time in order to see the War Diary as I am unable to fly to the UK at this time. Once again, thank you greatly for all your effort.

John,

Thank you for all the additional information. I will certainly do some research in regards to the Battle of Cambrai. I tried to search a few of the newspapers online for obituaries, but the search results return very vague. It is hard to know what to purchase when you are unable to see the content. I will check the British Library and see what I can find. It sounds as though the War Diary is my best lead at the moment. Unfortunately, as I said to Sotonmate, I am unable to obtain access to it from the U.S. so I suppose I will have to wait for now. Thanks again for all your help. Now off to see if someone can identify a few uniforms.

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Vickie

I hope you'll find this link helpful: https://sites.google...30th-march-1918

Gwyn

Excellent!!! Thank you so much. It would be hard to say which tank he was in since there were so many missing crewmen. Though I do know he was killed that day, it would be inappropriate to tie him directly to the one tank that did have casualties. Am I correct in assuming that he would have been in a Mark IV tank? From what I have read, that seems to be the major vehicle used until December 1918.

Thanks again

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Vickie/Sidearm

Just the info I suspected might be forthcoming !

It might be that you no longer need to see the War Diary after this fine piece of info from Sidearm.I am due to go to Kew but not until September,and would look on your behalf if Sidearm thinks there is any more to impart.

Sotonmate

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Vickie/Sidearm

Just the info I suspected might be forthcoming !

It might be that you no longer need to see the War Diary after this fine piece of info from Sidearm.I am due to go to Kew but not until September,and would look on your behalf if Sidearm thinks there is any more to impart.

Sotonmate

Would the War Diaries reflect names of the casualties during their engagements or would that have been handled by another means? In any case, I would love to see the Diaries and would be more than willing to compensate you for your time and effort. I am very excited will all the help and information that everyone has provided. Many, many thanks.

Vickie

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Vickie

I will see what I can find,but it won't be until September now as there are holidays to fit in and the London Olympics to avoid (traffic-wise !).

You may or may not get full detail of casualties,most Diaires don't go down to that detail with ordinary ranks,but will surely be persuaded to tell us that an Officer had visited the dentist,or ridden his horse to a distant village. But you never know a new-ish org like the Tankees might just be meticulous in that regard.

Sotonmate

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Hi, further to the last answer, it is very hard to predict what information might be in the War Diary - sometimes they have full lists of the tanks that went into action and casualty lists showing dead and wounded of all ranks. In one or two cases you may even find copies of the Battle History Sheets compiled by each tank commander following the action. However in most cases the records are much less detailed and in my experience (particularly relating to D Battalion), they became much less detailed as the war dragged on into 1918.

If the War Diary doesn't help, I'm afraid the only real chance is local newspapers, but sadly there's no way of doing this online (unless and until a lot more papers are digitised). I didn't realise you lived overseas Vicky, but these are only available at the Newspaper Library in Colindale, or possibly at a local records office in Aberdeen. I'm afraid it's a frustrating business, but all the more rewarding when you get results!

All the best, John

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Hi, further to the last answer, it is very hard to predict what information might be in the War Diary - sometimes they have full lists of the tanks that went into action and casualty lists showing dead and wounded of all ranks. In one or two cases you may even find copies of the Battle History Sheets compiled by each tank commander following the action. However in most cases the records are much less detailed and in my experience (particularly relating to D Battalion), they became much less detailed as the war dragged on into 1918.

If the War Diary doesn't help, I'm afraid the only real chance is local newspapers, but sadly there's no way of doing this online (unless and until a lot more papers are digitised). I didn't realise you lived overseas Vicky, but these are only available at the Newspaper Library in Colindale, or possibly at a local records office in Aberdeen. I'm afraid it's a frustrating business, but all the more rewarding when you get results!

All the best, John

Thank you, John. I have spent the last two evenings searching the internet for any other information I can find on the 2nd Battalion. Though I have only reached the tip of the ice berg, I am thrilled to have found a digital copy of a book titled "The Tank Corps" by Major Clough Williams-Ellis, M.C. and Amabel Williams-Ellis. It includes an introduction by Major-General H.J. Elles, C.B., D.S.O. Commander of the Tank Corps. It was published in 1919 and tells of the original formation of the Tank Corps as well as all the engagements. I am finding it very informative as well as intriguing. You may have already seen this, but here's the link if you would like to take a peek.

http://books.google.com/books?id=TeBmAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+tank+corps&source=bl&ots=yoIEChZyRQ&sig=uTBCmT3TTb_WDyzu34Mmz41xcDM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bYkAUKGLEMWq2gX-laC0BA&ved=0CDcQ6wEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20tank%20corps&f=false

Also, I know most of you are really tired of my questions, but I have one more that I need a little help understanding. I have a sketch of my g grandfather's dog tags (which my cousin has in his possession). The tags are obviously from when he was in the MGC. They have his regiment number and the letters H.B.M.G.O. on them (and were made of red and brown colored plastic). I'm a little confused because I have never seen these intials anywhere. In addition, his medal card lists his MGC Regiment number with RFA. So I'm assuming the MGC was considered under the title of the RFA, is that correct?

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Vickie

I will see what I can find,but it won't be until September now as there are holidays to fit in and the London Olympics to avoid (traffic-wise !).

You may or may not get full detail of casualties,most Diaires don't go down to that detail with ordinary ranks,but will surely be persuaded to tell us that an Officer had visited the dentist,or ridden his horse to a distant village. But you never know a new-ish org like the Tankees might just be meticulous in that regard.

Sotonmate

You are probably right. With his rank being a Pvt. at the time of death, there may not be any details about him, but on the other hand...it would seem to me that they would have kept a better journal with it being a new "type" of warfare and needing to know where improvements should be made in production. It had to be recorded at some point since they have a definite date of death on his memorial and death certificate. I will remain optimistic in my search evening knowing most of the records were destroyed in 1940. In any case, I am proud of his service and honored to carry his blood line.

And I will be watching the Olympics from the comfort of my sofa. I remember years back when it was here in Atlanta the traffic was crazy. That's not something I would brave either. :-)

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Vickie

I would say that the 1739 was his RFA number as MGC series was much larger than that. Also that the number 200283 MGC may also have stayed that way if he was in a Heavy MGC unit,some of which I seem to remember went to Tanks. Whilst there were three units on his MIC there were only two numbers,so this might bear out mmy view.

I would also say that HBMGO would mean certainly His Brittanic Majesty's Government but the O ? Maybe Office ?

I remember that the Atlanta traffic was a big downside to the overall success of the Games in that city,and quite how we will manage in a much denser and potentially much-enhanced visitor element,I await with interest !

Sotonmate

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Hi, I have jumped in on this at the end without reading all the rest of the info so risk getting this all wrong, but in the post above by Sotonmate they mention

'HBMGO would mean certainly His Brittanic Majesty's Government but the O ? Maybe Office ?'

If this is to do with the Tank Corps I would suggest the initials would probably be HBMGC and it would stand for Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps - normally abreviated as (HB)MGC - which was what the tank formation was called before it was renamed the Tank Corps on 28 July 1917.

Apologies if this is wrong, good luck with your search, Steve

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I suggest that HBMGO is actually HBMGC - Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps - the name was changed to the Tank Corps on 28 July 1917.

Yes, 2nd Battalion would have been using Mark IVs in March 1918. The Mark V didn't make its debut until July 1918 and even then two battalions continued to use the Mark IV until the war's end.

I can't tell you what you'll find in the War Diary. I don't have a copy of it here, worse luck. In my view no matter how good the work of the researcher the original documents are always worth looking at.

Gwyn

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