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Remembered Today:

Mark V tank, possibly with Indian Army Solidier?


andiS
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Hi

 

An American gentleman posted this photo in a photography group on facebook of which I'm a member. It's from his collection of glass stereo slides and has been in his family since 1919 (he also had one of the interior of a St Chamond). I'm looking at this and thinking it's a battle damaged Mark V. However if you look at the solider at the far right hand end, he looks as though he's from India (or possibly now Pakistan) and appears to be wearing a turban? But from what I could find out the last Indian Army units were withdrawn from the Western Front months before the arrival of the Mark V in theatre?

 

If anybody can help me understanding what information I'm missing, or perhaps idenfity the tank (you can make out the name Deeside), or the somewhat runic markings both myself and the owner of the photo would be grateful.

 

tia

andy

 

(photo from the private collection of Mr Jim Rebmann, and is produced here with his permission)

MkV - Deeside.png

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Although the Indian Corps was withdrawn in late 1915, and the Indian Cavalry Divisions in early 1918, there were still a lot of Indian troops serving in (largely) transport roles, such as with artillery units right up to the Armistice and beyond.

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Looking at the photo carefully the appearance of the man fits with the Indian Labour Corps Companies.  There is further research material here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-labor-and-working-class-history/article/abs/short-career-of-the-indian-labour-corps-in-france-19171919-1/A1D30F4C6D231414D68D07FD09728821
 

One of the foreign Labour Corps roles was washing down tanks (to clean them of cloying mud) at the Central Workshops, Tank Corps. Teneur, during 1918.

 

Although turbans were provided for some ethnicities, the most common headwear was the knitted woollen “cap comforters” that were issued in the tens of thousands.

 

FD224152-D4BB-48E6-8E2D-E8B07452D38F.png

A5569E70-1737-4493-801E-04DE1AB31DD7.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Hi, thanks for sharing this fascinating photograph which as you say seems to be completely new. As others have pointed out, there were plenty of Indian servicemen on the Western Front throughout the war, so that doesn't give much idea when it was taken. However the tank has the white/red/white stripes on the front horns which were added in 1918 to distinguish Allied tanks from the increasing numbers of captured 'Beutepanzer' used by the Germans.

 

The name Deeside implies it was in 4th Tank Battalion but I haven't come across this name before - unfortunately the War Diaries etc. rarely record tank names during the last year of the war, so this doesn't help with identification. The triangle marking is also interesting because a similar sign was found on Deborah, the Mark IV knocked out in November 1917 and now displayed in a museum in Flesquieres. We assumed it could be a divisional marking but have never been able to explain its significance. I'll post a photo so you can see what I mean.

 

The other black runic signs are also new to me, though a black "Z" was often painted on the sponsons to confuse snipers who would aim for the crewmen's small vision slits on the side of the tank. These look similar but they're not in a place where there were any slits so there may be some other explanation.

 

Thanks again for posting this and I look forward to hearing other people's views.

 

John

Edited by johntaylor
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This is the triangle marking painted on the side of Deborah - the white outline is visible and you can just make out it was originally red/pink in colour. A German photograph of Deborah in March 1918 shows there was an identical marking on the right hand side as well, though this was subsequently destroyed by shellfire. It's interesting that this is in the same position as the triangle painted on "Deeside".

 

John

image.png

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Regarding the 'runic' markings, if you look at the left-hand man you can see one of the vision slits just above the peak of his cap, with a typical "Z" marking to obscure its position and confuse snipers. These were quite common, but I've never seen them in front of the sponson as on the Deeside photo.

 

John

 

image.png.cdd343ae34524987fb8dfa659da93f43.png

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Firstly, thank you for posting this photograph.  I have never seen it before and as John Taylor explains, it contains several points of interest for tank researchers..

 

As regards John's suggestion that the triangle marking was a divisional marking of some kind, well that's a theory I have never subscribed to and the fact that it can't be linked to any division indicates to me the theory is wrong.  My own hunch is that it simply denotes D (later 4th) Tank Battalion and that it stems from the Greek letter Delta.  The same symbol, is conveniently used for the number 4 in the Greek numbering system.  The second half of my hunch is that the colour of the triangle is significant, possibly denoting companies - but with a complete lack of hard evidence I shall stop speculating there.

 

Gwyn

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As I saved the image I realised that although the name Deeside was not known, there was a 4th Battalion tank in the immediate post war years called Dee.

 

Gwyn

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Hi Gwyn, as you say the suggested explanation for the triangle marking was never more than a theory, and was considerably weakened by the fact that it doesn't resemble any known divisional sign. In fact my overall conclusion about the triangle marking (to quote the message above) is that "we... have never been able to explain its significance".

 

The suggestion that it could be a D Battalion marking is intriguing and sounds persuasive. The only downside is that to the best of my knowledge, we've never seen it on any other D or 4th Bn tank until now, which is one reason why the Deeside photo is such a great find. However I would have expected to find a similar marking on the D Bn tanks photographed at Plateau on their way to Cambrai, for instance, or on the D Bn tanks knocked out at Arras/Bullecourt and in the Salient, or on the 4th Bn tanks photographed in 1918-19. The fact that it doesn't show up there makes me think the theory is less persuasive, though we should keep looking out for further evidence.

 

All the best, John

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