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Tank question


asdarley
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November 1916 around the Thiepval area ( possibly the hamlet of St Pierre Divion) I have a diary entry from a soldier saying he inspected a knocked out tank. He notes in his diary that it is called HMLS "We're all in it together". Later he reports two crew members being buried next to the tank.

Anybody got any info on this particular tank?

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Thanks Mark

I do have a copy of the book ....somewhere!! Will look it out.

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A13 (544), in the company of two other tanks, was tasked to attack St. Pierre-Divion on 13/11/16 from a start point near Thiepval. One tank did not arrive at the start point and another broke down there. David Fletcher, in "Tanks and Trenches" quotes the company commander's report: "At five minutes before zero hour the engine was started and at zero hour Car No. 544 advanced and was directed on its course by Lt. Hitchcock till about 7 a.m. when it reached the German front line and was temporarily unable to proceed as the tracks would not grip owing to the condition of the ground. This had already occurred once in no-man's land. Up till now none of our own troops had been seen and the car was surrounded by the enemy. About this time Lt. Hitchcock was wounded in the head and gave orders to abandon the car, and then handed over command to Cpl. Taffs. Three men and Lt. Hitchcock got out of the car; Lt. Hitchcock was seen to fall at once, but no more was seen of two of the three men who had evacuated the tank. The third man was pulled back into the tank after he had been wounded in the forearm and, as the enemy was shooting through the open door it was immediately closed. Fire was at once opened on the enemy who retired to cover and opened on the tank with machine guns and rifles. Cpl. Taffs decided not to abandon the tank but decided, with the help of the driver L/Cpl. Bevan, who had been previously wounded about the face by splinters from his prism, to carry on and try to get the tank forward to its objective. They managed to extricate the tank by using the reverse and then drove forward as far as the German second line where the tank crushed into a dugout and was hopelessly engulfed and lying at an angle of about 45 degrees, thereby causing the two guns on the lower side to be useless and the two guns on the upper side only capable of firing at a high angle. The tank was now attacked by the Germans with machine guns and also bombed from the sides, front and underneath. At about 8 a.m., as none of our troops had yet been seen, probably owing to the thick mist which had prevailed during the whole action, Cpl. Taffs sent a message by a carrier pigeon asking for help. The message was received by II Corps who passed it on to the 118 Infantry Brigade who gave orders to the Black Watch to render all assistance possible. At about 9 a.m. the tank was relieved by a party of the Notts & Derby Regiment who were soon followed by the Black Watch. Cpl. Taffs and the remainder of the crew left the tank when our line was established well in front of it and was safe from capture by the enemy.

The bodies of Lt. Hitchcock and Gunner Mills were found and identified today. Gunner Stanley was seen being conveyed to hospital after the action. The guns have been removed from the tank by a salvage party and brought back to camp. Cpl. Taffs and the men who remained in the tank with him undoubtedly did splendid work by remaining at their posts. I would specially bring to notice the name of Cpl. Taffs and Lance Cpl. Bevan (ASC driver).

Signed Major C.M. Tippets, commanding A Company, HSMGC, 14/11/16

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Thanks Mark

I do have a copy of the book ....somewhere!!...

Isn't it always the way? Murphy's law as applied to books - "The one volume that you need right that minute will be 1) on loan to a friend, 2) if at a library, on loan, and 3) if not affected by 1) or 2) will suddenly and mysteriously disappear until at least 24 hours after you need it."

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:rolleyes: Am Still looking! I know its in here somewhere!!
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  • 5 years later...
Guest martinrmiles

My great uncle (Gunner W.J Miles) was one of the two crew members buried next to the Tank. There is an artist sketch in the tank museum (dated 26th Dec 1916) portraying the tank stranded in the German dug out with two graves in the background. I assume the two graves are of the tank commander Lt Hitchcock and my great Uncle. Both are buried together in Mill Road cemetery.

The action the tank fought is very well documented (spent several hours yesterday in the tank museum research department reading the original documents) and 2 photographs and the artist sketch show it's final resting place.

However I would dearly love to know what is written in the diary.

,

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  • 4 weeks later...

I visited the graves last year and took some photos after I acquired the MM group to Cpl Taffs. I will post them up together with the photos of the tank when I get back to my machine. I too would love to know the content of the diary !!

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