The First Report

The committee issued its first report on Mon 28 Feb 16.  In the 16 days since its formation it had achieved a great deal.  In particular it had issued contracts for the following:

Tanks – Orders were placed for 100 tanks to be made by the Metropolitan Carriage Company (75 tanks) and Foster and Company (25 tanks(.

Engines – 120 engines were ordered from Daimler, to be ready for the end of Jun 16.

Armour Plate – Three companies were contracted to produce armour plate; Cammell Laird & Company of Sheffield, Vickers also of Sheffield, and Beardmore & Company of Glasgow.

Guns – Negotiations were made with the Royal Navy for the supply of 200 6-pounder Quick Fire guns.

Machine Guns – 400 Hotchkiss MGs were asked for.

Ammunition – 100000 rounds of 6-pounder ammo (85k HE and 15 k shot) were requested.  The HE shells were to have a lower power charge than used by the RN.  The committee anticipated great difficulties in getting the required ammunition.

The Committee

The Metropole c 1900, now the Corinthia

The Metropole c 1900, now the Corinthia

The Tank Supply Committee, which was set up on Sat 12 Feb 16, wasted no time in its efforts to get tanks into production and on to the battlefield.

They moved to their new office in the Metropole Hotel on Tue 15 Feb and they held their first full committee meeting on Wed 16 Feb.

Letter to Churchill

On February 14, 1916, D’Eyncourt wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Winston Churchill who by this stage was commanding the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers in France.

Dear Colonel Churchill,

It is with great pleasure that I am now able to report to you the success of the first landship (Tanks we call them).  The War Office have ordered one hundred to the pattern which underwent most successful trials recently.  Sir D Haig sent some of his staff from the front.  Lord Kitchener and Robertson also came, and members of the Admiralty Board. The machine was complete in almost every detail and fulfils all the requirements finally given me by the War Office. The official tests of trenches etc, were nothing to it, and finally we showed them how it could cross a 9 ft gap after climbing a 4 ft. 6 in. high perpendicular parapet.  Wire entanglements it goes through like a rhinoceros through a field of corn. It carries two 6-pounder guns in sponsons (a naval touch), and about 300 rounds; also smaller machine-guns, and is proof against machine-gun fire.  It can be conveyed by rail (the sponsons and guns take off, making it lighter) and be ready for action very quickly. The King came 1 and saw it and was greatly struck by its performance, as was every one else ; in fact, they were all astonished.  It is capable of great development, but to get a sufficient number in time, I strongly urge ordering immediately a good many to the pattern which we know all about.  As you are aware, it has taken much time and trouble to get the thing perfect, and a practical machine simple to make; we tried various types and did much experimental work.  I am sorry it has taken so long, but pioneer work always takes time and no avoidable delay has taken place, though I begged them to order ten for training purposes two months ago.  After losing the advantage of your influence I had some difficulty in steering the scheme past the rocks of opposition and the more insidious shoals of apathy which are frequented by red herrings, which cross the main line of progress at frequent intervals.

The great thing now is to keep the whole matter secret and produce the machines altogether as a complete surprise. I have already put the manufacture in hand, under the segis of the Minister of Munitions, who is very keen; the Admiralty is also allowing me to continue to carry on with the same Committee, but Stern is now Chairman.

I enclose photo. In appearance, it looks rather like a great antediluvian monster, especially when it comes out of boggy ground, which it traverses easily. The wheels behind form a rudder for steering a curve, and also ease the shock over banks, etc, but are not absolutely necessary, as it can steer and turn in its own length with the independent tracks.

In conclusion, allow me to offer you my congratulations on the success of your original project and wish you all good luck in your work at the front.

E H T d’Eyncourt

Dissolution of the “Joint Committee”

On February 12th the ” Joint Committee” that had been overseeing tank development was dissolved and a new committee, closely following the lines laid down at the Conference held in the offices of the ” Committee of Imperial Defense” in December 1915, was formed under the Ministry of Munitions, and known as the “Tank Supply Committee.”

Chairman:

  • Lieutenant A G Stern, RNAS, Director of Naval Constructions Committee.

Members:

  • E H T d’Eyncourt Esq, CB, Director of Naval Construction.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel E D Swinton DSO, RE, Asst Secretary, Committee of Imperial Defence.
  • Major G L Wheeler, RA, Director of Artillery’s Branch, War Office.
  • Lieutenant W G Wilson, RNAS, Director of Naval Constructions Committee.
  • Lieutenant K P Symes, RNAS, Director of Naval Constructions Committee.
  • P Dale-Bussell, Esq, Dir Naval Constructions Committee, Contract Department, Admiralty.

Consultant:

  • Captain T G Tulloch, Ministry of Munitions.

VIPs

On January 30, 1916 D’Eyncourt wrote to Lord Kitchener and informed him that the machine was ready for his inspection and that it fulfilled all the conditions laid down by the War Office (that it could carry guns, destroy machine guns, break through wire entanglements, and cross the enemy’s trenches, whilst giving protection to its own crew). D’Eyncourt also recommended that a number should be ordered immediately and that whilst these were being manufactured the design of a more formidable machine could be developed.

On 2 Feb 16 a VIP visitors’ day was held at Hatfield.  Those who came to see Mother/Centipede/Big Willie in action included:

Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (Secretary of State for War)

The Rt Hon A J Balfour MP (First Lord of the Admiralty)

The Rt Hon D Lloyd George MP (Minister of Munitions)

The Rt Hon R McKenna MP (Chancellor of the Exchequer)

Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton (Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel)

Sir William Graham Greene (Permanent Secretary to the Board of the Admiralty)

The Rt Hon G Lambert MP

Major General Sir S B Von Donop (Master General of Ordnance)

Major General Butler

Major General H G Smith

Lieutenant General Sir John Cowans (Quartermaster General)

General Rudyear

Lieutenant General Sir W Robertson (Chief of the Imperial General Staff)

Major General Whigham (Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff)

Brigadier General Corkran

Brigadier General Nanton

Brigadier General Maurice (Director of Military Operations)

And a number of assorted Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and Majors.