Jump to content

Remembered Today:

Tank camp at Belah


Philip Wilson
 Share

Recommended Posts

I found the enclosed picture in an old brown envelope in our Archives in the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum with no supporting details other than the caption on the back which reads ‘’Tank camp at Belah type of donkeys issued to officers servants in lieu of horses. They are marvellous little animals.’’

post-48147-0-85232200-1404235049_thumb.j

Second Battle of Gaza, fought from 17 to 19 April 1917, involved an infantry frontal attack across open ground against well prepared entrenchments, with mounted troops in a supporting role. The infantry were strengthened by a detachment of eight tanks. This photograph was taken at Belah possibly prior to Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917. Are these 2 tanks part of that detachment.

Our Museum re-opens on 9 August 2014 at 11am. It is our intention to mark the 100th Anniversary of WW1 with a series of different exhibitions each year between August 2014 and November 2018, commencing with ‘Mobilisation August 1914.’

Philip

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Phil

There were 8 Mk I tanks in Palestine in April 1917, 4 male and 4 female. Some people will try and say that there were a mixture of Mk Is and Mk IIs but thanks to Centurion's eagle eye for detail in photographs and Gwyn's list of serial numbers and locations, I am certain that they were all Mk Is.

My knowledge of the rear end of a tank is nowhere near that of other forum members but I am pretty certain that they are Mk Is (but I can't tell if they are male or female). The Palestine Tank Detachment was based at Deir El Belah from 1 Apr 17 (they moved there from Gilban via Khan Yunis) until at least Apr 18 (which is when entries in the War Diary end). So I would say yes, they are part of that detachment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hesitate to describe myself as knowledgeable about rear ends... :blush:

The tank on the left is a Mark IV, of that I'm certain. I can see the exhaust and the radiator armour that is missing from the Mark I so there's no doubt. The tank on the right is very obscured by man, donkey and shadow, but I think it's a Mark I.

Has this photo been posted here before? It seems familiar somehow.

Gwyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I said I wasn't the rear end expert!

If it is a Mk IV on the left it dates the photo after the 2nd Battle of Gaza.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definitely after 2nd Gaza then.

Gwyn

Thanks.

Philip

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The East Riding Yeomanry received 21 donkeys "allotted to the regiment for officers servants" on the 26th September 1917 which would support the post 2nd Gaza dating.

Cheers,

Neil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks.

Philip

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

Hi

There were some Mark IVs sent out to make up the losses after the 2nd Battle of Gaza, and they were used for the 3rd Battle in early November 1917.

After that one use, the tanks were left behind as being too slow to keep up with the advance. Some of the unit ('E' Company') were sent to France to investigate Whippets for potential use in Palestine, but they arrived at GHQ on 21 March 1918, and became somewhat lost in the confusion.

'Tank camps' were also briefly known as 'tankadromes', which personally I still like the sound of.

Regards

Stuart

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome aboard Stuart.

I too have read the story that the team from the Palestine Detachment Tank Corps (which they became on 1 Aug 17, 5 days after the Tank Corps was formed on 27 Jul 17) arriving in France on 21 Mar 18 but I haven't seen anything authoritative to substantiate the story. It is one of just a couple of facts I am still trying to prove (or disprove) for my book on the subject. I don't think that the term tankadrome was used in Egypt/Palestine, they stuck with the traditional word camp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Gareth.

My source for the 21 March 1918 story is Fuller's 'Tanks in the Great War', pp. 133-4. I've not looked for any documentary evidence at TNA yet, as recently I've been concentrating on the 1917 campaigns. However, 1918 is next, so if I find anything I'll let you know.

Fuller also uses the term 'tankadrome' in relation to the detachment in Palestine. I don't know if it was actually used in theatre, but I just think it's a great word.

All the best

Stuart

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote from Stuart's post No.9 - There were some Mark IVs sent out to make up the losses after the 2nd Battle of Gaza, and they were used for the 3rd Battle in early November 1917.

After that one use, the tanks were left behind as being too slow to keep up with the advance. Some of the unit ('E' Company') were sent to France to investigate Whippets for potential use in Palestine, but they arrived at GHQ on 21 March 1918, and became somewhat lost in the confusion.

The British OH June 1917 to the end Part I, on p.72/3 describes the tanks as

“... with three exceptions, worn out and obsolete Mark I machines, survivors of the Second Battle of Gaza.”

Presumably the three exception would be the Mark IVs

Whippets were still on Allenby's shopping list in June; see his letter to Wilson of 11th June 1918 [iWM: Wilson Papers HHW 2/33A/5 per Matthew Hughes 'Allenby in Palestine – the Middle East correspondence of FM Viscount Allenby']

Hughes has a note that one of Wilson's staff wrote in reply on 1st July 1918 that his request was noted, however there was a shortage in France. [HHW: 2/33A/9]

I don't think that Allenby ever got any

regards

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote from Stuart's post No.9 - There were some Mark IVs sent out to make up the losses after the 2nd Battle of Gaza, and they were used for the 3rd Battle in early November 1917.

After that one use, the tanks were left behind as being too slow to keep up with the advance. Some of the unit ('E' Company') were sent to France to investigate Whippets for potential use in Palestine, but they arrived at GHQ on 21 March 1918, and became somewhat lost in the confusion.

The British OH June 1917 to the end Part I, on p.72/3 describes the tanks as

“... with three exceptions, worn out and obsolete Mark I machines, survivors of the Second Battle of Gaza.”

Presumably the three exception would be the Mark IVs

Whippets were still on Allenby's shopping list in June; see his letter to Wilson of 11th June 1918 [iWM: Wilson Papers HHW 2/33A/5 per Matthew Hughes 'Allenby in Palestine – the Middle East correspondence of FM Viscount Allenby']

Hughes has a note that one of Wilson's staff wrote in reply on 1st July 1918 that his request was noted, however there was a shortage in France. [HHW: 2/33A/9]

I don't think that Allenby ever got any

regards

Michael

Yes.

Indeed.

No, he didn't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Philip, I found your photo interesting, not just for the tank view, but also as I seem to have a similar photo.....

Perhaps this is the one Gwyn is thinking of?

post-56052-0-28843900-1438725825_thumb.j

post-56052-0-94636100-1438725929_thumb.j

Edited by Geoffrey Churcher
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Geoffrey

Thanks for these images certainly the man on donkey with three tanks behind appears to be the same man whose photograph I originally posted in this topic.

We have a considerable number of WW1 photographs in Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum; some in splendid albums with captions, others as bundles of photos in individual holdings for men who served with 1/1st Warwickshire Yeomanry, in Egypt Gallipoli and Palestine. We are gradually re-cataloguing these holdings as we continue to develop our database.

Philip

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Can I hitch a ride on this old EEF Tank thread, and ask if anyone has details of how these vehicles arrived at the front line?

I was involved in a discussion recently on this topic; a discussion which came to no very firm conclusions

Were the tanks shipped from Egypt by Train?

If so, what happened when the they reached the end of the standard gauge line?

Were they able to be carried over the smaller gauges that operated nearer to the Gaza front line?

If not, then how were they transported to the front line?

Thanks in advance for any enlightenment here

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 25 Jan 17 they moved by train to Gilban where they remained until March. They then moved by train to Khan Yunis on 28 Mar. From then on they moved on their own tracks. I don't know which of these lines were standard gauge and which were narrow but would be interested to find out, it's another layer of detail for my book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gareth,

Very many thanks for that speedy reply

I too am not very clear about the different rail gauges involved here

and will attemp to engage those better informed on that aspect

Once again, many thanks for those details

best regards

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gareth,

If the tanks got as far as Khan Yunis by rail on the 28th March 1917

then they did so on standard gauge – seemingly the line reaching that point on that very same day

See Appendix E (page 198/9) of Sir Archibald Murray's Despatches

Item No. 5

Standard Gauge Lines east of the Suez Canal.—The standard (4-foot 8½-inch) gauge line from Kantara eastwards was commenced towards the end of February, 1916, the original destination

being the neighbourhood of Katia, the materials used being 75-lb. Vignolles section steel rails on wooden sleepers with bearing plates and spikes........................

From the 16th February, 1917 (Kilometre 170), to the 28th March, 1917, when Kilometre 215 was reached, construction continued regularly, stations being laid in at El Burj, Sheikh Zowaid, Rafa and Khan Yunus—besides some smaller crossing stations necessary for traffic working.

Regards

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most interesting - and not just to Gareth

Thanks for sharing this information.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

I came across this IWM photograph today

 

 large_000000.jpg?action=d&cat=photograph

 

Judging by the relaxed attitude, this is a spell of training 

'British troops by a tank' doesn't give very much away

Can any one say where/when?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am pretty sure I have the answer somewhere in my notes - but I started to rearrange my study this morning and so it may take a couple of days for me to find the notes Michael!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had a good root through Gareth's study, but couldn't find the answer.

 

For what it's worth, Alamy have it titled as "British tank and troops on Palestine border, WW1" - http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-british-tank-and-troops-on-palestine-border-ww1-66158769.html

 

Part of this image also appears on the cover of "The Battle for Palestine 1917" - John D. Grainger

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And it was all caught on my hidden camera.

 

I haven't found the piece of paper I was looking for but we can do some group detective work.  It's a Mk I Female and there were 4 of them; Tiger, War Baby, Kia Ora and Nutty.  I can't make out the wording on the horn but someone with better eyesight (or possibly with a higher resolution photo) might be able to read it.  War Baby and Nutty were destroyed in the 2nd Gaza battle and were replaced by Mk IVs so if we can read the name we can narrow down the date.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The picture of the Tank in post 21 can be found as plate 15 in 'The Last Crusade - The Palestine Campaign in the First World War ' by  Anthony BRUCE published in 2002, ISBN 0-7195-5432 2.  A useful book.

 

The caption reads: 'A British Mark 11 tank in action during the Battle for Gaza,1917.' The author and publishers thanked the Imperial War Museum, London for permission to reproduce this picture along with several provided by the Hulton Archive. 

 

Philip

Edited by Philip Wilson
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...