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Tank Crew Photograph 1917


Simon Bull
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The attached photograph shows my grandfather with other members of his tank crew in the Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps.

 

I note that the phtograph shows 9 men when a crew was 8.  I have read that there would sometimes be a spare crew member for each tank, but know of of no other explanation for this.

 

My query is whether anyone can identify the officer, or indeed any other man, in the photograph.  My grandfather was in 8 Company of C/Third Batallion and won medals on 8 and 23 April at the Battle of Arras, but this must have been with two diffferent officers in command of his tank..

 

I cannot date the photograph beyond saying it was almost certainly taken in 1917.  I believe he probably joined the Tank Corps predecessor in early 1917 and he definitely served in the Corps throughout 1917.

E Arthur Lincoln's comrades in Tank Corps - he is belived to be on the right in the standing row-1.jpg

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Great photo.  Sadly I don't recognise the officer but will share it with members of my group - they may be able to help.  Many of the crew are wearing belts of the pattern worn by former members of the MMGS and the man rear right is wearing the gaiters issued to MMGS men as well 

In 1916, a tank crew was established as a skipper, his servant and 6 gunners, one of whom was an NCO and two were used as gearsmen. The tank company HQ had a reserve section which included a further two gunners per tank as spares against illness or wounded. The driver was on the establishment of the supporting  ASC company. 

This changed in Dec 1916 when the Heavy Branch was formed but I don't have full details.   

Edited by delta
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Hi Simon,

Many thanks for posting this fascinating photo - unfortunately I'm more familiar with D Bn than C Bn in the Battle of Arras, but have been through the records to see if I can work anything out.

You say he was in No. 8 Company, presumably because the ICRC records say he was in B Company when he was captured in April 1918. This seems a reasonable assumption as men normally stayed in the same company, and is supported by the fact that he won his first MM in the attack on the Harp which was the main objective for No. 8 Company on April 9, 1917.

You may have seen from the War Diary that he was captured in Whippet tank A.256 commanded by 2nd Lieut H. Dale, but that doesn't help much with your photo which was obviously taken much earlier - the men are all wearing MGC cap badges which must have been in 1916 or 1917. I feel they have a somewhat 'battle-weary' air which suggests some time in 1917, as you say. I have seen a number of crew photos taken in Poperinghe when the crews had plenty of spare time between sporadic attacks in the Salient, but in those they're often wearing shorts because of the summer heat.

Sometimes the events described in a man's MM citation enable you to work out which tank he was in, but with Pte Lincoln the descriptions are quite generic. This leaves half a dozen or so possible tank commanders, which doesn't help much in terms of narrowing it down and identifying them in the photo. My only additional thought is that the sign in the foreground would almost certainly have had writing on it, probably including the number of the tank crew, and I wonder if it's possible to scan it at higher resolution and try some digital manipulation to see if you can make anything out?

There's also the obvious question about whether anything is written on the back of the photo, but I presume you would have said if there was.

Thanks again for sharing the photo, and please let us know if the sign reveals any secrets!

All the best, John

 

 

 

 

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Tank Corps Book of Honour p. 236

MM to Gnr AH Lincoln 75290

For conspicious gallantry and devotion duty during the attack on the Harp on April 9th 1917. He always volunteered for any dangerous work which he carried out with the greatest coolness. He was frequently outside or on top of the tank exposed to heavy sniping, machine gun and artillery fire.

Tank Corps Book of Honour p. 240

Bar to MM

For conspicious gallantry and devotion duty. During the Battle of Arras on 23rd April 1917 this man guided his tank from the outside across difficult country under intense shell fire. After being wounded he continued his work until his tank had reached its destination, without reporting he had been wounded. 

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Tank Corps Book of Honour p. 236

MM to Gnr AH Lincoln 75290

For conspicious gallantry and devotion duty during the attack on the Harp on April 9th 1917. He always volunteered for any dangerous work which he carried out with the greatest coolness. He was frequently outside or on top of the tank exposed to heavy sniping, machine gun and artillery fire.

Tank Corps Book of Honour p. 240

Bar to MM

For conspicious gallantry and devotion duty. During the Battle of Arras on 23rd April 1917 this man guided his tank from the outside across difficult country under intense shell fire. After being wounded he continued his work until his tank had reached its destination, without reporting he had been wounded. 

This is his ICRC POW Index card courtesy of the ICRC

2129881656_grandeguerrelincoln.jpg.63b2eb852c437fe548e2757a22766e07.jpg

This leads to the following record

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/3655166/698/25202/

 

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He was almost certainly serving in No 8 Coy on 9 Apr 1917 as this was the subunit allocated to attack the Harp. 

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On 08/08/2021 at 14:51, Simon Bull said:

The attached photograph shows my grandfather with other members of his tank crew in the Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps.

 

Great photo - thanks for sharing. And to all contributors for the fascinating titbits.

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On 08/08/2021 at 14:51, Simon Bull said:

Yes indeed he is.

Simon,  

Do you know when he enlisted and his first unit.  His Tank Corps number indicates he transferred in early 1917 to the Heavy  Branch  and mostly of those with 750 series had previously been in the Army Service Corps.

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According to the medal register he was previously Private 15840 in 11th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment. The Tank Corps medal register is interesting because it shows successive drafts from Sherwood Foresters, then Royal Irish Rifles, and various other regiments, most of whom seem to have gone into C (later 3rd) Bn. Arthur Lincoln seems to have been the only one in that draft from the Sussex Regiment.

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry to have been absent from this conversation for so long when I started it. I had to have an urgent operation and then was on holiday.

Yes, indeed he was in 11 Royal Sussex before the tanks.  Unfortunately, his records do not survive but I believe he probably fought on the Somme in the battle at Stuff Trench discussed in “Undertones of War”.

I had worked out all the information that you gents have so kindly turned up but have never been able to work out which tanks he was in at Arras.  He was in action on the days he won his medals and also possibly in the assault on Monchy on, from memory, 11 April.  It is clear from the war diaries that he must have been in 2/3 different tanks. 

The main reason I was interested to identify the officer in the photo is I wondered if this would shed light on which tank he was in at Arras.  As an aside, if you look at David Fletcher's book "Tanks and Trenches" it is apparent that several photographs were taken of 8 Company tanks on 9 April - it looks as if they had a photographer with them.

I am a bit pushed for time at the moment but I do have some other information and documents I can post about him and will do so when I have a moment.

I also have a theory about which tank he was in on 23 April when he won his second medal which I will set down when I have a moment.

A further small aside – his experience shows how one should be wary of always trusting ostensibly reliable sources – if one looks at the Official History version of the incident at Cachy in which he was taken prisoner it has him being killed when he was in fact taken prisoner.  Ditto re the other ranker in the tank, although not the officer who was killed.

 

 

 

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Hi Simon, I'm glad you're back on your feet and please do post any additional information you have, as it avoids us going over old ground and may help take things a little further. The crew photograph is fascinating and the officer looks very distinctive, so I think there's a pretty good chance of identifying him. 

My only additional thought was that the sign in the foreground would almost certainly have had writing on it, probably including the number of the tank crew, and I wonder if it's possible to scan it at higher resolution and try some digital manipulation to see if you can make anything out?

All the best,

John

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

The photograph was taken in April 1917 as I have another to a different 8 Company C Btn crew with some names, and the very same set up. A better hi res scan and some digital work should show up the crew number. Several of the faces are very familiar. 

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That sounds fascinating Geoff - are you willing to share the photo please? I'd love to see it.

All the best, John

 

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TANKS & CREW - "C" BTN MGC (Heavy Branch) & 3rd BTN Tank Corps

Tank Crew C24, 8th Company, April 1917

Crew C24 (2Lt Sailliard) in Tank 777 "Charlie Chaplin" Arras 9th April 1917

Crew C24 (2Lt Sailliard KIA) in Tank 2021 "Crusty" 3rd Ypres 22nd August 1917 (No 5 Section)

Photo of Crew C24 L2R

F1 Corporal R Duffin (76167)

F2 2nd Lieut P Sailliard

F3 Lance Corporal FD Pile (200658)

R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 TBC

Write up on Pile can be found here:-

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TankcorpsMGC/permalink/1697198490307750/

Write up on Duffin can be found here:-

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TankcorpsMGC/permalink/2070254319668830/

FB_IMG_1631611002836.jpg

Edited by ghchurcher
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On 08/08/2021 at 13:51, Simon Bull said:

E Arthur Lincoln's comrades in Tank Corps - he is belived to be on the right in the standing row-1.jpg

 

3 hours ago, ghchurcher said:

FB_IMG_1631611002836.jpg

For anyone else who wanted to compare the two without scrolling back up and down.

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What a fabulous photo, and taken in exactly the same location with them sitting on the same chairs. The only small difference I can see is that the pipe in the right background has fallen down between the photos being taken. It was always likely there would be a crew number written on the board and your photo confirms this, so as you say the best hope lies in some digital manipulation of the image.

Thanks for sharing this,

John

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