At 6am on 31 Aug D Company entrained at Le Havre; they reached St Riquier at 6.30 am 1 September. The men cooked breakfast in the station yard and the officers went into the village and obtained breakfast at an estaminet. Later the group marched about 4 miles to the village of Yvrench where billets had been arranged for officers and men.
Not all the tank crews took part in the exercises at Yvrench. Views clearly differ on just how good the briefings and training were. Some crews were quite content that everything had been done to prepare them for the tasks ahead; they had been told precisely what they had to do. Others were less certain. But all agreed that morale remained high; there was a wonderful esprit de corps and great comradeship. No one seemed fearful of the fighting to come.
Photo – Band of Brothers. Credit Stephen Pope http://www.firsttankcrews.com
The C Coy tanks arrived in Yvrench from 25 August and during their time there they were inspected by the GHQ Staff. The tank commanders and the Infantry of the 56th Division developed some rudimentary infantry-tank tactics. This was the first and last time that the tanks worked with Infantry before going into action on the 15th September, 1916.
Field Marshal Haig, accompanied by the commanders of the Fourth and Reserve Armies, Generals Rawlinson and Gough, visited the area on 26 August and watched a mock attack by 12 tanks from C Company, supporting/supported by the 7th Middlesex. The CinC appeared impressed with what he saw. He wrote in his diary:
“At 3pm I was present at a demonstration in the use of ‘Tanks’. A battalion of infantry and five tanks operated together. The tanks crossed ditches and parapets representing the several lines of a defensive position with the greatest of ease, and one entered a wood which was made to represent a strong point and easily ‘walked’ over fair-sized trees of six inches diameter! Altogether, the demonstration was quite encouraging but we require to clear our idea as to the tactical use of these machines’.”
They had just under 3 weeks to do this thinking.