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Researching Jack Tunn 205665 (Gnr. 9 Company / C Battalion Tank Corps 1916-1919)


nrc
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We're trying to pull together my Grandfather's WW1 history as he's one of the 70% whose service records were destroyed during WW2.
 
We have exhausted all the obvious routes without being able to link him to a specific crew or tank, which is frustrating as this deadend leaves us without any insight into his service contribution. In common with so many others who served he didn't really speak to anyone in the family about his time and experiences in the Corps and, having read the raw details about what they went through during the research, I can absolutely understand why.
 
I'm posting here just in case anyone can suggest other possible avenues of investigation or has access to sources that aren't readily available elsewhere - any help and suggestions will be very much appreciated. Reading the "C Battalion Narrative of Operations July 1917"(National Archive ref: WO-95-106-2) gives a lot of details for the Passchendaele / 3rd Ypres build up and attack but unfortunately contains nothing of note for the actual day he was wounded (30th July 1917).
 
What we are 100% sure of:
 - Recorded as Gunner 9 Company / C battalion when arrived at Tank Corps Command Depot Catterick 1st February 1918 (Medical record index entry - National Archive ref: MH106/2256/901 Folio 917)
 - Service number 205665 but some records are held against 2832 (his casualty number?), and also under 805665 or 205465 (both indexing / transcription errors in the Nat Archive data)
 - Enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps 3rd March 1917 (Medal Record Card - National Archive ref: WO-372-20-93964)
 - Accepted in early March to the Heavy Section; named on the March 9th 1916 "The MotorCycle" Recruiting page (Tank Museum display, Bovington)
 - In France / Flanders in Aug / Early Sept 1916 based on letters / postcards sent home in Sept & Oct 1916
 - Recorded in the Roll of Honour as wounded 30th July 1917 as "Lewis Gunner" (Appendix E, Summary of Tank Operations 31st July 1917, 3 Brigade, Tank Corps - National Archive ref: WO-95-104-2)
 - Severe shrapnel wounds to right forearm and right side (Family knowledge supported by photo of original Ship Label)
 - Transported by Ambulance Train 21 from Etaples to Calais on 5th August 1917 (AT21 War Diary National Archive Aug 1971 ref: WO-95-4136-7 and photo of original Diary of Transference form dated 5th August 1917)
 - Returned to England (Southampton) on S.S. Brighton (photo of original Ship Label)
 - Hospitalised Edinburgh War Hospital, Bangour (Medical record index entry - National Archive ref: MH106/2256/901 Folio 917)
 - Discharged to Command Dept Alnwick 27th October 1917 and transferred to "Z Reserve" (Partial burnt Army Service Record - National Archive ref: GBM_WO363-4_007408594_00575)
 - Arrived Tank Corps Command Depot Catterick 1st February 1918 (Medical record index entry - National Archive ref: MH106/2256/901 Folio 917, pages from S2_GBM_MH106_MH106-1855_0101 and S2_GBM_MH106_MH106-1861_0036)
 - Final demobilisation date 8th February 1919 (Medal Record Card - National Archive ref: WO-372-20-93964)
 
What we are less sure of:
 - Original unit was C Company HBMGC (based on final unit being C Battalion and organisational history of HBMGC / Tank Corps)
 - Travelled to France with original "C Company" tanks (does not appear in C Company "Landing List" of personnel travelling separately)
 - Crewed Female tank (based on role as "Lewis Gunner" - Appendix E, Summary of Tank Operations 31st July 1917, 3 Brigade, Tank Corps - National Archive ref: WO-95-104-2)
 - Following transfer to "Z Reserve" spent time as crew on Tank Bank duty (family history based on conversations)
 
Sources searched:
 - National Archive Kew (personnel records, 3 brigade War Diaries and Operation / Action records etc.)
 - Great War Forum (inc. updated C & D Company crew lists posted Nov 2020)
 - Landships Google site (https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home)
 - Landships Forum (https://landships.activeboard.com/
 - History of the 4th and 7th RTR (http://www.4and7royaltankregiment.com/)
 - The Long, Long Trail (https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/tank-corps-in-the-first-world-war/)
 - A Company of Tanks by Watson, William Henry Lowe (Pub 1920)
 - The Tank Corps by Amabel Williams-Ellis and Clough Williams-Ellis (Pub 1919)
 - Tanks in the Great War, 1914-1918 by J. F. C. Fuller (Pub 1920)
 - The Tank in Action by Capt. D G Brown M.C. (Pub 1920)
 - The First Tank Crews by Stephen Pope (Pub 2016)
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2832 Is his original MGC Number. The original Motor Machine Gun Service and Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch) men were renumbered in the 20#### range  when the Tank Corps was created. Their original numbers don't always show on their medal rolls.  Mostly if they received a 1915 Star and former number is usually noted on soldiers died records.

You can see in the attached he is listed against his MGC number as of 29/10/1917  but there are a couple of men there already renumbered. Note the man next to him is 205466 William McLellan. It's likely as he (Jack) had been out  wounded some time previously (before the renumbering) then been renumbered 205665 (Tank Corps) his new number had just not caught up with him or the person typing up that list.

Pte 205666 Harry Zimmerman shows up enlisting in The Motorcycle 23/3/1916

 

On his final discharge in February 1919 he was discharged due to sickness rather than wounds. He received a Silver War Badge  and that record gives his enlistment date as 3rd February 1916  - the 2832 service number fits that timeframe.

GBM_WO363-4_007408594_00575.jpg

Edited by david murdoch
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  • Admin

Welcome to the forum, @delta and @Gareth Davies have a great deal of tank knowledge, so tagging them.

Michelle 

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Thanks David - we didn't know about the renumbering, another piece of the jigsaw!

 

With all the org changes they went through and hand-written records it's no wonder the systems struggled to keep pace sometimes; it would have been hard enough in normal times let alone alongside the chaos of war.

 

Fuller's comments in his memoir that "The word “Reorganisation” is a word which will never be forgotten by any member of the Tank Corps Headquarters Staff; it was their one persistent companion for over two years. It dogged their steps through all seasons, over training areas and battlefields in sleuth-hound fashion from the earliest days; and its pace was never stronger or its tongue more noisy than when, on November 11, 1918, it was temporarily shaken off with the armistice."  says it all.

 

Cheers

 

Nik

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37 minutes ago, nrc said:

Thanks David - we didn't know about the renumbering, another piece of the jigsaw!

 

With all the org changes they went through and hand-written records it's no wonder the systems struggled to keep pace sometimes; it would have been hard enough in normal times let alone alongside the chaos of war.

 

Fuller's comments in his memoir that "The word “Reorganisation” is a word which will never be forgotten by any member of the Tank Corps Headquarters Staff; it was their one persistent companion for over two years. It dogged their steps through all seasons, over training areas and battlefields in sleuth-hound fashion from the earliest days; and its pace was never stronger or its tongue more noisy than when, on November 11, 1918, it was temporarily shaken off with the armistice."  says it all.

 

Cheers

 

Nik

 

I'm researching from the MMGS side  - service numbers up to 3000. The top end of this range  nearly all went into Heavy Section, though at the time they enlisted  (especially through The Motorcycle) they would have been intending serving with motorcycle units. They all ended up renumbering once Tank Corps were formed. Though they first served in France and their medal entitlement would be gained with MGC and their original numbers but this is often omitted from Tank Corps rolls.. There are several casualties with close by (original) service numbers and they show up as C Coy. Another thing that is found is many of them  were renumbered after they had been killed - so they have CWGC headstones with Tank Corps and later number when they died before the Tank Corps existed. From Jack's enlistment date it's likely he went straight into Heavy Section after basic training. He will likely be in the recruitment photo in The Motorcycle of 9th March. Checking the others on the list may turn up a casualty or a service/discharge record which can give pointers to his likely service timeline. Eg on the list F.C. Minifie  who enlisted same day was 2914 Frederick Charles Minifie later 205207 Tank Corps  - has a surviving record (in his case he went to A Coy).motorcycle16lond_0333.jpg.889a8cf7967c7e8fbf5b6b647e8bccbf.jpg

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So we have contact with the grandson of a previously unknown member of C Company; it's a great evening.

Please let me know how I can help

I would be very interested to know more - the letters home in the Autumn of 1916 may well give us clues as to the section in which he served, 

Please keep sharing the info - if you want to get to me directly, please email me on firsttankcrews@outlook.com

 

 

Edited by delta
Inability to write concise English
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Thanks David - that’s a much higher res version of the recruitment page than we were able to grab from Bovington; we couldn’t spot him before but I’ll certainly ask the family to take another look.

 

Cheers

 

Nik

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Thanks Stephen - appreciate the offer. From what I’ve been told the letters are brief but will definitely get copies and see what clues I can find. Reading each of the unique personal stories in your book has really inspired us to keep looking for that elusive hook that will help us connect Jack to the recorded events!

 

Cheers

 

Nik

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There may well be a clue or two

One will be if there is a name, in different handwriting, at the margins of the letters - this will be the name of the officer who acted as censor on letter sent from France.

Others might be in letters when he was training at Bisley or Elveden.  

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I think we may have something - we only have one brief letter and an even briefer postcard, both sent from France but lacking any info apart from mentions of rain and mud, however on the postcard we do have what looks like an additional signature (attached) that appears to be “R. Williams”, which would tie in with Capt. Richard Earl Williams in C Company HQ Staff perhaps?

 

9B3B949D-2BA3-4D18-B9B6-FBAA9780989C.jpeg.6dbcf60cc7350482b1fdf0d2b9cc2368.jpeg

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Yes that is Williams' signature.  So Jack was working at C Company HQ in Oct /Nov 1916 (links to mention of rain and mud}. 

This is a guess but he may have travelled with the advance party for which there is also no landing list. 

Edited by delta
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  • 4 months later...
On 14/11/2020 at 16:03, nrc said:
We're trying to pull together my Grandfather's WW1 history as he's one of the 70% whose service records were destroyed during WW2.

If you do come across any particularly useful new sources then please do share! I've just seen this post (five months late) and I'm also researching a gunner in No.9 Company, C Battalion (in this thread here) - the main issue I've encountered being that only officers tend to be mentioned by name in War Diaries, finding anything more than what's already on his service record isn't turning up much.

 

Your list of sources will certainly come in handy now I'm getting back into researching a bit more!

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