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Remembered Today:

5th Battalion Tank Corp April 1918


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I wonder if anyone can help me with finding out about a relative of mine.

James Victor Haylock 78149 5th Batt Tank Corps

KIA 19 apr 1918

Commemorated on the Ploegstreet Mem. Do i assume he was killed somewhere near ?

I know very little about ww1 tanks. Where can i find out where abouts he was killed in action. Tanks are big things and there must be a record of it and its crew somewhere.

Any help much appreciated.

Also posted in soldiers.

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I can't find him in the Tank Corps Book of Honour which is strange. As at 17 April 1918 5th Bn were in 4th Tank Brigade. The Bde HQ was in Godewaersvelde and the Bn was in Berthen; the other 2 Bns in the Bde (4th and 13th) were in Boescheppe.

On 13 Apr the 4th Tank Bde was turned in to a Lewis-gun Brigade. What they were doing on 19 Apr I can't tell you right now, sorry.

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Hi

If you are interested the below are available from Bovington Tank Museum

Library@tankmuseum.co.uk

WD22

5 Bn TC, History of E / 5th Battalion July 1917 - 1919

33 pages

£11.00

WD23

5 Bn TC, War Diary of E / 5th Battalion TC, July 1917 - February 1919

22 pages

£6.00

Regards,

Graeme

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Thanks for the replies. I had a quick look on the CWGC and the Plugstreet memorial. Luckily there are not a lot for the tank corp. In fact there are only 16 which would equate to 2 tanks iirc.

Most were killed on the 16th of apr the list is as follows.

2nd Lt Godfrey N. Serjeant Goodwin J. Cpl Crowe F. Pvts Ballard V. Birch J. Elliott D. Haines R. Holme W. Jones T. Vanstone A.

The others are

12th Apr. 2nd Lt Atkinson W. 14th Apr. 2nd Lt Beavon C. 17th Apr Serjeant Wilson. G 19th Apr Cpl HAYLOCK J. 20th Apr Basson F. Frazer W.

Could two of the 16ths (probably privates) succumb to wounds from the 12th? That would make two tank crews or am i stretching my imagination ?

My man Haylock is formally in the Middx. He and his twin brother both enlist at the same time but are put in different regiments. They are barely 17 when they join up..

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From the honours and awards that were made to men from the Tank Corps in that part of Apr 18 I can see that the Bn was in action near Meteren in the period 15 - 18 April.

They were not fighting in their tanks, they were dismounted Lewis gun teams.

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Thanks for that. It's nice to start building a picture.

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  • 3 years later...

Look up the forum posts for either Meteren or J.Birch, 5th tanks. Jim Birch was my uncle KIS at Meteren on April 18 1917.Between husher17 and myself, CBirch, we have talked about the action on April 18 1917.

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  • 1 year later...

Don’t know if this discussion is still active. My grandad, Sgt Jack Goodwin, 200993, 5th Battalion Tank Corps, was killed on 16/04/1918 nr Meteren. I have recently been to visit the Military Cemetery there.

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image.png.4ac71552d5ea27cfad2be388913e431c.png

 

Hi, I've only just seen this thread and checked my copy of the 5th Bn War Diary - this confirms they were in action on April 16, 1918, and again on April 17, but were relieved on April 18 and 19. Therefore any casualties on that date would presumably have died of wounds. 

 

There is a detailed and characteristically indiscreet account of the action by Wilfred Bion in 'War Memoirs 1917-19'. He includes useful sketch maps and says "if we had only had enough whisky to keep [Major] Bargate dead drunk, the British army would not have lost Meteren." He confirms the loss of a section, as reported in the War Diary, and this presumably included the men referred to above.

 

All the best, John

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F4508FF1-39D6-4957-B988-C859DFF9033E.png.2a1c20996d6270e1176097cacc14ccbf.png

 

Thanks for that, John. In Meteren Military Cemetery, there are only a few tank men with named graves. As mentioned above, there are a number of 5 Battalion killed on the 16th with no known graves remembered on panel 11 at Ploegsteert. Also, I read somewhere (possibly this site?) that the only member of the battalion captured in this action was an officer, 2/Ltn. Albert E Baker, and that a record of his battle report exists. In trying to find a copy of his report, I came across the above on the International Red Cross site. So, it seems likely that two of the four missing officers, Bates and Brown, ended up at Rastatt POW camp.

 

Regards, 

Phil

 

 

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5 hours ago, Brownie said:

Don’t know if this discussion is still active. My grandad, Sgt Jack Goodwin, 200993, 5th Battalion Tank Corps, was killed on 16/04/1918 nr Meteren. I have recently been to visit the Military Cemetery there.

I just saw his name yesterday as I was doing some research on the Tank Corps Medal Rolls. He was ex 15580, 6th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. His widow Florence received a pension for their three young children. His 15 Star roll shows he first went to France 3/9/1915. He appears to have first enlisted in August 1914 as 10874 in Kings Shropshire Light Infantry but discharged after 66 days service, so he must have re enlisted fairly soon after. On his medal rolls and MIC it's noted "presumed dead 16/4/1918"  and on the pension card the date of notification of death was 15/5/1918.

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Hi David

Thanks for your comments. I haven’t managed to find his Tank Corps service records which were presumably destroyed in the blitz, but managed to get his earlier KSLI records from the pension section. He originally signed up with 5 Bttn KSLI, but, as you say, was discharged after 66 days as being ‘unlikely to make an efficient soldier’. This apparently because he had a foot problem and could ‘not march ’  .

Undeterred, he joined the 6th Batt KSLI the following year (obviously less stringent checks by then!) and subsequently progressed to the Tank Corps. He is not mentioned in the Tank Corps book of Honour, but Bovington have confirmed his number, 200993, as a Tank Corps number but have no further details of his service.

Since he seemed so determined to serve his country, I felt it my duty to honour his memory as best I could, by visiting not just the memorial at Ploegsteert but visiting the place where he was killed. Although he has no known grave, Meteren cemetery has a headstone which simply says ‘ An Unknown British Sergeant of the Great War’. I like to think, however unlikely, that it may be the last resting place of my grandfather. 

 

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Hi, when an officer was captured there is normally (though not always) a statement in his service file describing how this came about. These statements were prepared after the war so the officer could "exonerate" himself from any suggestion that he had surrendered too easily.  In the case of Lieut Albert Edward Baker you will need to consult his service file in the National Archives at Kew (reference no. WO 339/10453), but 2nd Lieut Clifford Brown's has been digitised and can be downloaded here: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D1521773

 

These statements can be very useful in telling you more about the circumstances of their capture, but to get another perspective I would again urge you to get hold of Bion's splendid account, which was recently reissued in a new edition: https://www.amazon.co.uk/War-Memoirs-1917-1919-Wilfred-Bion/dp/1782203583

 

However you should prepare to be shocked as he pulls no punches about some of his brother officers (though he's often full of praise for his men). For example, his conclusion about the fighting on April 16-17, 1918, was: "The example set by Bargate was appalling, and the rot he had caused spread rapidly and was increased by the ill-behaviour of Clifford, who had again distinguished himself. In short, the general effect of the action was a lowering of the morale of the company."

 

He wrote a marginally more discreet account of the war called The Long Week-end, which was intended for publication and is also well worth reading, though I couldn't find anything about this particular action.

 

All the best, John

 

 

 

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Wow. I see what you mean. 
Thanks very much for the references, I’ll get a copy of Clifford Brown’s account just in case there is mention of any of the O.R.s in the action.

Am I correct in thinking that Bion went on post war to be a big cheese in psychotherapy? Doesn’t appear to have a great bedside manner! 
 

Best regards,

Phil

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1 hour ago, Brownie said:

Hi David

Thanks for your comments. I haven’t managed to find his Tank Corps service records which were presumably destroyed in the blitz, but managed to get his earlier KSLI records from the pension section. He originally signed up with 5 Bttn KSLI, but, as you say, was discharged after 66 days as being ‘unlikely to make an efficient soldier’. This apparently because he had a foot problem and could ‘not march ’  .

Undeterred, he joined the 6th Batt KSLI the following year (obviously less stringent checks by then!) and subsequently progressed to the Tank Corps. He is not mentioned in the Tank Corps book of Honour, but Bovington have confirmed his number, 200993, as a Tank Corps number but have no further details of his service.

Since he seemed so determined to serve his country, I felt it my duty to honour his memory as best I could, by visiting not just the memorial at Ploegsteert but visiting the place where he was killed. Although he has no known grave, Meteren cemetery has a headstone which simply says ‘ An Unknown British Sergeant of the Great War’. I like to think, however unlikely, that it may be the last resting place of my grandfather. 

 

John.

I suspect he had an MGC number in between. His Tank Corps number was a re number and most on his part of the roll were with MGC (Heavy Branch) from November/December 1916 when the Companies expanded into Battalions. Some of those casualties were killed in early 1917 and posthumously renumbered  and so have Tank Corps headstones though they died before the Tank Corps existed. You sometimes find their actual number at time of death on soldiers effect or original grave records.  In his case by April 1918 he would already be renumbered hence that is the number on his soldier's effects. His KSLI number is also noted in the rolls as that is the unit he actually gained his medal entitlement.

Edited by david murdoch
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Good point, David.

My mother always told me he was in the Machine Gun Corps, but all I have in service numbers are two for the KSLI an one for the Tank Corps. That being said, armyservicenumbers.blogspot states that 200000-200999  Tank Corps numbers were  MGC transfer-ins. Also, although I have been unable to find my grandad’s enlistment in the Tanks, soldier’s with preceding service numbers were enlisted in Aug/Sept 1917. 
All gets a bit confusing sometimes!
 

Best regards,

Phil


 


 

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1 hour ago, Brownie said:

Good point, David.

My mother always told me he was in the Machine Gun Corps, but all I have in service numbers are two for the KSLI an one for the Tank Corps. That being said, armyservicenumbers.blogspot states that 200000-200999  Tank Corps numbers were  MGC transfer-ins. Also, although I have been unable to find my grandad’s enlistment in the Tanks, soldier’s with preceding service numbers were enlisted in Aug/Sept 1917. 
All gets a bit confusing sometimes!
 

Best regards,

Phil


 


 

Phil.

That's correct. I've been researching this block of numbers as many of the Motor Machine  Gun batteries were disbanded in November 1916 and transferred into the Heavy Branch to expand the companies into battalions. Those men already with MMGS or MGC(M) service numbers kept their original numbers and incomers from other regiment would have been issued  an MGC number while serving in Heavy Branch. Once Tank Corps was established they renumbered with this block of numbers starting at  at 200001.

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Phil - going back to your question, it's very unlikely that an officer's statement will mention other ranks by name, but it should give a good summary of what happened to his crew. The main thing is that these statements can be invaluable in building up the story of the battle, and I would be very interested to see anything you come up with.

 

Regarding Wilfred Bion, he did indeed go on to become one of the country's leading psychoanalysts with a formidable reputation in the field (there's a very good summary of his career on Wikipedia) - I don't think he would have done so well at psychotherapy, but that wasn't really the focus of his energies. His wartime writings give some insight into his extraordinarily powerful personality, as summarised in one quote on Wikipedia: he "remained larger than life to almost all who encountered him." Bion's actions at Cambrai, when he opened fire on the counter-attacking Germans with a Lewis gun from the roof of his destroyed tank, acquired legendary status and led to him being recommended for the VC. 

 

All the best, John

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Hi John

 

Ah, I got the wrong type of psycho eh?! But definitely sounds like it’s worth getting his book.

 

I tried the link to Clifford Brown’s service file, but it just seemed to come up with his medal card. I couldn’t see another link on the site to his service records. It’s been many years since I went to Kew, and in those days I remember something about ‘long numbers and short numbers’ to identify officers records. Oh for the good old days!
 

All the best, Phil

 

 

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Apologies Phil, I probably need some therapy because I sold you a complete pup there - I was in a rush and did indeed send a link to Clifford Brown's medal card. Once I looked properly I couldn't find his service record in the National Archives catalogue, and had to search in the full index (in WO 338). This shows his file has a 'P' number (P/290644 to be precise) which means he served in WW2 and his record is still held by the MoD. This means it isn't available without permission from the next of kin and on payment of a fee. However I see he died more than 25 years ago (in 1972) so they may be prepared to relax the rules, though not the fee. I should also warn that the MoD files have been very heavily weeded, though one I saw still had the all-important statement about capture.

 

Sorry again about the duff info,

 

John

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That’s a relief, John, couldn’t quite work out what I was doing wrong! Thanks for the info about the WW2 service; I had found the ref.no. for Baker’s service records (not digitised, as you say) but nothing about Brown’s. All is now clear. 
I got my Dad’s service records from the MoD a few years ago, so I know the hoops required to jump through, even for a close relative.

Probably best to consider a different approach for now. From the CWGC records, I have the trench map references of where the body of the unknown sergeant was moved from for reinterment at Meteren M.C.. Converting via a handy programme I came across on the internet, it places the original position just very slightly south-east of the present village. This appears to tie in with the war history report for B company, 5 Battn. on the 16th. Of course, there had been much fighting round Meteren in 1914, and may have been stragglers in the area on the 16/4/18. Still, I’ll keep on digging.

Best wishes,

Phil

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Hi Phil, to make up for my mistake I've had another rummage on the internet and found four officers from 5th Tank Bn who were captured at Meteren on April 16, 1918 - this would equate to the loss of a section of tanks. The captured officers were:

Lieut Albert Edward Baker: service record at NA ref. WO 339/10453

Lieut Gordon Rogerson Bridge (note the ICRC record says he was in B Company but doesn't specify which battalion - however his medal index card confirms he was in 5th Bn): this is a strange one because the index in WO 338 gives a reference no. (163945) but he doesn't show up in the NA catalogue - I'm not sure why this was, but I see from the London Gazette (Oct 25, 1940) that he was a lieutenant in the Pay Corps during WW2, so his record is presumably still with the MoD

2nd Lieut Clifford Brown: service record held by MoD (see above - ref. P/290644)

2nd Lieut Charles William Midgley: his service record is at the NA ref. WO 339/99299 and should also contain his statement on capture.

 

Therefore there should be two statements easily available at Kew, and well worth looking for.  However, in the course of this research I made another fascinating find: the Lives of the First World War site has a tremendous write-up about Midgley including photos and all sorts of fascinating material: https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/3027669

 

Most exciting of all, there is a letter to his family giving an account of his capture - written by none other than Wilfred Bion, whose description of the battle I have already recommended. So it all ties in very well, and provides another account of the action written soon afterwards. Unfortunately it doesn't provide any more names for casualties in the so-called "other ranks", but so often that's the case.

 

All the best, John

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There is also an account in the History of 5th Tank Bn, which forms part of the War Diary in the National Archives. Unfortunately the person who typed it out seems to have used the same ribbon throughout the entire war, so it's extremely difficult to read. It merely mentions the section that was lost and deals mainly with the defence by the Lewis guns of other sections, but I've attached it so you have everything.

 

John

History of 5th Bn - April 16, 1918.JPG

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