The First Tankies

This entry is brief and only covers a few of the more senior first Tankies and it is thus somewhat invidious.  In writing it I make no attempt to ignore the soldiers who did the hard physical graft and who all too often don’t get a personal mention in history.  In this case a great many of them do get a mention in the very excellent book The First Tank Crews by Stephen Pope.  We strongly recommend it to you, along with Stephen’s website

As already mentioned, the original tankies formed up in Bisley but they moved to Elveden at the start of June 1916.  The Heavy Section HQ was at Bernersfield Farm (which still exists and can be found 2km NNE of Icklingham).  C Company joined the HQ at Bernersfield while D Company set up camp at the nearby Canada Farm.

C Company was commanded by Major Allen Holford-Walker, an Argyll & Sutherland Highlander, who was 26 years old.  D Company were led by Major Frank Summers who was 44 and had seen action in France, Belgium and at Gallipoli during the first 2 years of the Great War.

The officers that would command the sections and the tanks came from all over the UK, as did the soldiers.  The latter included the son of Joseph Rowntree (the chocolate manufacturer).  He originally followed the family’s Quaker tradition and had served as a volunteer in the Friends Ambulance Unit prior to joining the Heavy Section.  There were immigrants, including SQMS Harry Jacobs whose father was Russian and his mother Polish, and LCpl Charles Jung whose father was a Silesian brick maker.

In case you were worried that the officers had to slum it by living at the farms, do not worry.  They set up their mess at Elvedon Hall albeit in the stables rather than the main house.  Soldiers were billeted in a tobacco shed.

One response on “The First Tankies


    Thanks for the very kind plug for the book Gareth. Much appreciated. You may wish to make one minor change – Allen H-W was an Argyll not a Gunner. Yours Stephen

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