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Tank Times

Published by The Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset, UK, BH20 6JG

Tel: +44 (0) 1929 405 096

First World War Centenary at The Tank Museum

FROM THE Archives

Janice Tait The main role of the Archive & Library and the Supporting Collection Study Centre is to make the thousands of documents, photographs and Supporting Collection objects accessible both to the public and to the Museum.

As many of you will already be aware, 2014 marks the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The Tank Museum has always had a strong offering when it comes to this infamous period, with an extensive collection of original First World War tanks and the most famous of all ‘Little Willie’ – the first tank ever made. We also have our popular walk-through trench experience, starting at the recruiting office and ending at the front line, giving a taste of what life was like on the Western Front. As we move into 2014 the Museum is looking deeper in to the birth of armoured warfare and the people who made it happen. Charting the history of the move from horses to mechanised warfare, visitors will have the opportunity to explore our new Warhorse to Horsepower exhibition, which opens at the beginning of April.

Inside… ● The Hornsby Tracklayers ● Deborah ● What’s On ● Award for Little Willie ● Win a Ride in Tiger

We will be also be hosting a landmark event on 4th August 2014, marking the date 100 years earlier when Britain declared war. Our commemoration event will include an arena display featuring some of the most iconic vehicles of the First World War and beyond, including our replica Mark IV and German A7V. Visitors will also be able to witness an air display from the Great War Display Team and a living history encampment. While inside the Museum there will be an extensive programme of brand new talk and tours. Curator David Willey said, “With the anniversaries over the next four years, The Tank Museum, along with other public outlets, will present many more opportunities for the public to engage with the subject. “We hope there will be a chance to gain a more balanced picture of the period and what those across society went through, from the soldier in the new tank to the woman working in a factory making that tank. “With such a wide ranging, powerful and important subject it is vital that the spectrum of the war and its consequences is covered, taking on board both the burden of sorrow for the sacrifices made and the achievement of innovation, perseverance and belief by the British people in what was termed the ‘War for Civilisation’.”

The Tank MUSEUM - THE WORLD’S BEST COLLECTION OF TANKS An Independent Museum and Registered Charity No 1102661

Our two main tasks, which take up the majority of our time, are cataloguing of all the items, so that they are accessible on Tracer, the Museum’s Collections Management System; and answering enquiries from the public (from every corner of the world) and from Museum staff. Last year we answered nearly 3000 enquiries ranging from very simple questions to quite complicated, time-consuming ones. Because, as a charity with limited resources, this takes up more and more of our time we are planning to introduce a fee for answering enquiries this year, which may free up more time to sort and catalogue the collection and hence make more of the collection available. Each of our staff help visitors with their research, but in addition they have specific responsibilities, which include recording all items that are donated to the Museum, scanning, cataloguing, sorting documents, photographs and objects and of course answering enquiries. Our volunteers also have specific projects such as sorting plans, photographing the collection, cleaning objects, copying photographic donations, scanning Continued on page 2...

The Tank Museum - FEBRUARY 2014

Tel: +44 (0) 1929 405 096

FROM THE Archives Continued… and transcribing documents, converting videos to DVD and adding data to our catalogue records. Donations are an important factor in the continuing discovery and historical understanding of armoured warfare and Regimental history, but also provide an insight into ordinary people who found themselves in the thick of war. Furthermore, they provide a continuous source of material to refresh Museum displays. The documents in the collection range from vehicle manuals and spare parts lists to personal information. As a Place of Deposit for the National Archives, we are often given collections that they have digitised and no longer have any use for. A recent donation was of boxes and boxes of ledgers, which showed the service history of anyone who transferred in or out of the Royal Tank Corps during the interwar period, including T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). In partnership with Findmypast these have now been digitised and will be available on their website shortly. We receive donations from many different areas, including the public, the Ministry of Defence and defence companies. For instance, The Tank Corps Berlin Flag and the Rhine Flag are particularly unique acquisitions, which were presented to the Regiment in 1923 by General Elles, along with the Cambrai flag which is on display in the Museum. The ¼ million photographs that have been scanned include all armoured vehicles, group photographs from all eras and many albums both private and personal. At present we are also scanning and captioning, in-house, all our collection of First World War documents ready for the First World War centenaries. These include personal papers, official documents and First World War Tank Corps Battalion War Diaries.

Little Willie gets Big Award John Wood (left), Chairman of the Institution’s Engineering Heritage Committee presents Tank Museum Curator, David Willey with the plaque for Little Willie.

Little Willie, displayed in pride of place in The Tank Story Hall, has been honoured by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers with an Engineering Heritage Award. Weighing 18 tons, with an intended crew of two plus four gunners, Little Willie – built by William Foster and Co. in Lincoln - was the first completed tank prototype in history. However, although the completed vehicle was running by the end of 1915, a new design was already under construction, meaning Little Willie never saw combat. The tank will stand alongside previous award winners like E-Type Jaguar, Tower Bridge and the Vulcan Bomber as an example of exceptional British engineering. John Wood, Chairman of the Institution’s Engineering Heritage Committee, said, “This award celebrates Little Willie’s status as the world’s first tank, but is also in recognition of the excellent work of The Tank Museum in preserving this vehicle for generations to come.”

The lucky winner will be able to take a ride in the infamous Tiger 131 around our arena this coming Tiger Day, on 5th April 2014. 2nd prize is a ride in the Leopard and 3rd prize a ride in the Centurion, each to take place this coming Tiger Day. To enter the raffle simply fill out the stubs of the tickets included in this edition and send them back to us at the address on the tickets, with the money enclosed. If you would like to purchase additional tickets to the five included then please see our website for details. Tickets are £5 each. Please see the raffle tickets and, for terms and conditions.

Galloping Along

This new exhibition has been the result of years of work by a team of Tank Museum staff and will be the centrepiece of our Centenary Commemoration activity.

In April 2014 The Tank Museum will launch a major new exhibition, ‘Warhorse to Horsepower.’

Exhibition Officer, Sarah Lambert, said, “As we make our way into 2014, the exhibition is really starting to take shape. The Independent, Peerless Armoured Car, Light Mark IIA and Hornsby Tractor have all been moved into place, while the hall itself has been painted and the graphic panels installed”. The display examines the role of horses before, during and after the First World War. The key emphasis will be on the British Army’s transition from horsed Cavalry to armoured vehicles and the reasons behind this major shift in land warfare.

Next year we will be building on the work already completed with the hope that people will continue to donate their wonderful collections to us.

With the original vehicles and model horses, a host of interactive displays and dramatic imagery; it is hoped ‘Warhorse to Horsepower’ will have a multigenerational appeal and do justice to the experience of both men and horses between 1914 and 1939.

Janice Tait Librarian and Archives Manager

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We are holding a raffle to give you the chance to win a ride in Tiger 131!


The Tank MUSEUM - THE WORLD’S BEST COLLECTION OF TANKS An Independent Museum and Registered Charity No 1102661

We have recently launched a new Online shop on The Tank Museum website. A variety of tank and History related objects are on offer, including our full Tiger tank range, and we are adding new products all the time. It is a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions as to what you might like to see available please contact Visitor Services on The shop ships to all corners of the globe, so visit for all of your tank memorabilia needs - unfortunately the exhibits are not for sale!

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The Tank Museum - FEBRUARY 2014

D51 Deborah

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by David Fletcher

by Chris Copson Try this experiment; ask any ten people you know whether they have heard of the Battle of Cambrai. Provided those concerned are not serving or past RTR soldiers, I can pretty well guarantee blank incomprehension – the Somme, Gallipoli, Passchendaele, yes, but Cambrai, “What was that, then?”. It is a great pity and a symptom of the general ignorance of the conduct of the War beyond the “Blackadderised” version of senseless slaughter, muddy trenches and stupid and callous senior officers. Cambrai, which took place in November and December 1917, should be more widely known about. Cambrai was not only a great tank battle, the British Army deploying some 470 mainly Mark IV machines on a frontage only about eight miles wide, but also, in the assault phase, a great “all arms” affair; cooperation between infantry, tanks artillery and aircraft demonstrating a new way to wage war that would reap dividends in the last year of the War.

infantry support and a German artillery battery, firing over open sights, was able to inflict severe casualties as the tanks crested the ridge. Deborah, a Mark IV Female of 12 Section, 12th Company, D Battalion, was one of a number of vehicles in the second wave of the attack tasked with attacking the Hindenburg Support line west of Flesquières. Commanded by 2/Lt. Frank Heap, she entered the village, firing into the ruins to suppress the defenders. As she left the shelter of the village she was hit by several enemy artillery rounds and five of her eight crew were killed. Lt. Heap and the two remaining crew members were able to retire back to British lines. He was subsequently awarded the Military Cross for his gallant actions. Deborah was carefully hoisted out of the ground near Flesquières

Uniquely amongst First World War battlefields, Cambrai has a memorial in the form of a tank. D51 “Deborah”, knocked out by enemy artillery on the edge of the village of Flesquières and subsequently buried, was located and recovered by the excellent M. Philippe Gorcynski, battlefield historian and Deborah’s guardian. She is currently housed in a barn in the village, close by the graves of five of her crew. The story of the Battle of Cambrai is too complex to recount here; suffice it to say that when tanks with their accompanying infantry rolled forward on the morning of November 20th, preceded by a walking barrage, surprise was total and a hole some six miles wide was torn in the defences of the Hindenburg Line. The initial attack met with overwhelming success; only on the Flesquières Ridge was serious and determined opposition encountered. Here the tanks had become separated from their

Citation T. 2nd Lieut. Heap, Frank Gustave, ‘D’ Battalion Awarded MC

In the Cambrai operations near Flesquières on November 20, 1917; he fought his tank with great gallantry and skill, leading the infantry on to five objectives. He proceeded through the village and engaged a battery of enemy field guns from which his tank received five direct hits, killing four of his crew. Although then behind German lines he collected the remainder of his crew, and conducted them in good order back to our own lines in spite of heavy machine-gun and snipers’ fire.



Deborah then disappeared for over seventy years, but local tradition persisted of “ a tank pushed into a hole”, supposedly by Russian POWs under German command. In 1998, after six years research, Philippe Gorcynski located and excavated her and, after a brief sojourn under a tarpaulin, she is currently residing in a barn on the Rue du Moulin, Flesquières. It is more likely that she was in fact buried by a Tank Corps recovery unit in a clear up operation, having first been stripped of anything useful. In October, I visited Deborah in the company of fellow staff and volunteers from The Tank Museum, where we were received with great courtesy and enthusiasm by M. Gorcynski. None of those present came away untouched; looking at the massive hole torn in the front of the tank by an exploding artillery round throws into stark perspective the fate of many First World War tank crewmen and the qualities involved in going to war in such a vehicle.

In 1998 Philippe Gorcynski from Cambrai found a Mark IV female tank buried beneath a field in the village of Flesquières, on the Cambrai battlefield. The tank was badly damaged but still recognisably a Mark IV so, at great expense, Philippe had the tank exhumed and placed on display. The question then was, what tank was it? Research narrowed the possibilities down to two, D41 Devil II or D51 Deborah. Second Lieutenant Jones of Devil II was buried in Flesquières Cemetery, but Second Lieutenant Heap of Deborah appeared to have survived. Shortly after I returned home from France after viewing the tank I was contacted by a friend of mine who was then commanding the ranges at Eskmeals in Cumbria. One of his civilian staff was the grandson of a Tank Corps officer who had been awarded the Military Cross, and if I would send a copy of the medal citation he would reciprocate with a photograph of his grandfather’s tank. Nothing could be easier and the citation was duly sent off, a few days later back came the photograph and comparing it with a shot I had taken of Philippe’s tank it was obvious that the damage was the same; not similar but identical, it had to be the same tank. On the back of the print was written ‘Mr Heap’s bus’, which told us at once that it was D51, Deborah that Philippe had found. The tank commanded at Cambrai by Second Lieutenant Frank Heap. I sent a copy of the photo off to Philippe in France and it seems to me now that no sooner had I stuck the envelope down than the phone on my desk started ringing, and jumping about all over the place. It was Philippe, very excited, telling me that I had accurately identified the tank as D51 Deborah so I had obviously been correct. Since then we have found a photo of the tank being buried and you can read the number D51 on the fuel tank at the back so now there is no doubt at all. The tank uncovered in Flesquières is D51, Deborah.

Deborah herself is now a Monument Historique and it is hoped that a museum will be built to house and conserve her on a patch of land on the edge of the village; resting within a few metres of the graves of her crew in the Flesquières Hill British Cemetery.

The Tank MUSEUM - THE WORLD’S BEST COLLECTION OF TANKS An Independent Museum and Registered Charity No 1102661

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The Tank Museum - FEBRUARY 2014

Tel: +44 (0) 1929 405 096


From the


Saturday 8/2

Evening Lecture by Kate Adie Andrew Sawyer At the end of last year a group of Tank Museum employees, including myself, were lucky enough to be taken on a First World War Battlefields Tour by our Education Officer, Chris Copson. We focused on the areas around the Somme and Ypres Salient, visiting war graves, memorials and trench systems. Looking at the rows of white headstones and huge bomb craters was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made and the sheer scale of the first truly mechanised war. As we stand on the brink of the centenary commemorations, national debate on how we remember the First World War is heating up. Differing interpretations from historians, politicians and actors alike all serve to illustrate the evergrowing significance of the role that public institutions will play in setting the narrative of remembrance in the coming four years. Through existing displays and new ones it is our intention to engage the public with the stories of real people who fought and died during the war, dismissing some of the myths that have grown up in the preceding one-hundred years, and enable people, we hope, to reach a more balanced view of a war that is both significant to the national consciousness and our own history as a tank museum. This year also marks the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, in which tanks like our Sherman DD played a crucial part, offering further cause to hark back to the innovation, sacrifice and bravery of our forebears. As ever, we look forward to welcoming you to The Tank Museum to see history first-hand.

Andrew Sawyer Editor

David Fletcher driving the Hornsby Tractor in 1984


With 2014 fast approaching and the centenary of the Great War this may well be an appropriate time to look at some of the unusual vehicles that in some respects anticipated the tank. None probably more so than the series of vehicles built or modified by Richard Hornsby and Sons of Grantham that were fitted with tracks to the design of David Roberts. David Roberts became managing director of Richard Hornsby in 1904. He had joined the firm in 1895 because of his interest in oil powered internal combustion engines which Hornsby had pioneered, based on the work of Stuart Ackroyd. Roberts also devised a system of caterpillar tracks, the first to be applied successfully in Britain, which he began by fitting to a singlecylinder, oil-engined tractor built by Hornsby in 1897. Although it was aimed principally at the agricultural market and potentially for Colonial use, the tractor attracted the attention of the military and members of the Mechanical Transport Committee inspected it in 1905. Also in 1905, Hornsby built a huge wheeled tractor for the Army, rather like a steam traction engine but powered by a two cylinder Ackroyd heavy oil engine. It was converted to a tracklayer in 1907, using the David Robert’s system and in this guise was tested as an artillery tractor. It lasted until 1914, when it was broken up. Again in 1907, Hornsby adapted a 40hp Rochet-Schneider car, their first petrol fuelled vehicle. With a top speed of 15mph it was quite lively and, at the suggestion of Major Donohue, the Army’s Inspector of Motor Transport it was used to tow a tracked trailer mounting a Dummy Gun at the Aldershot Royal Review. A newspaper, the Morning Leader said of it, “Here is the germ of the land fighting unit when men will fight behind iron walls”, in May 1908, very prophetic.

Legendary BBC War Correspondent, Kate Adie talks at The Tank Museum and tells the story of the First World War years through the eyes of women. Tickets £10 per person.

In 1905 the War Office ordered another tracked vehicle from Hornsby. Known as the Little Caterpillar, it was powered by a six-cylinder engine but was otherwise a smaller version of the 1907 tractor. It still survives in The Tank Museum collection and is essentially in working order. All this time, apart from limited interest shown by the Army, Richard Hornsby and Sons enjoyed no commercial success with their tracklayers at all. Then, in 1909 they received their first commercial order. It was from a mining concern in the Yukon Territory, who wanted a steam powered engine, for which Hornsby had to approach William Foster & Co of Lincoln since they no longer built steamers. It is not known how well the engine performed in the Yukon, if at all, but the chassis of it, complete with tracks, still survives in Canada. After that, unable to get any further business, Hornsby sold all their patent rights on tracks to the Holt Corporation in the USA, reputedly for £4,000. In 1915 Major Thomas Tulloch, an Army officer with considerable engineering experience, suggested a massive Landship, based on two steam powered Hornsby crawlers operating back to back and fitted with armour plate and cannon as his answer to the problems of trench warfare. Tulloch had the right idea but he based it on out of date technology. In fact, no existing, commercial track system would do. The only answer was to design a new and much stronger type of track for the fighting tanks. The Hornsby Tractor features in our new Warhorse to Horsepower exhibition, opening on 3rd April 2014.

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The Tank MUSEUM - THE WORLD’S BEST COLLECTION OF TANKS An Independent Museum and Registered Charity No 1102661

Saturday 15/2 – Sunday 23/2

February Half Term Visitors will have the chance to explore the Home Front as it was during the Second World War. Children go free.*

Saturday 5/4

Tiger Day 2014 Due to popular demand, The Tank Museum is hosting another Tiger Day; the essential experience for fans of the legendary Tiger tank.

Saturday 28/6 - Sunday 29/6


Tickets are available now, as the World’s best display of moving armour returns to The Tank Museum. #You may not use your Annual Pass for re-admission on these dates. *See our website for details.

Tank Times | February 2014  
Tank Times | February 2014