16 September 1916

tank-16-sep

Having made good progress near Flers, on 15 September, orders were issued that the attack resume the next morning in order that the cavalry could push through to Bapaume.  On the left the NZ Division was tasked to capture Grove alley, a German communications trench linking Flers Trench  and Gird Support. In the centre, 21 Division was to capture Gird trench to the north of Factory Corner whilst 14th Division was to capture Gueudecourt.

Maj Frank Summers  ordered all available D Company tanks to support this follow-up attack including:

  • D4 (female)  Charles Storey – which remained stuck in High Wood
  • D7 (male) – Arthur Enoch whose tank engine was knocking badly.
  • D9  Dolly  (female) – Victor Huffam which had been recovered as had D14 (female) – Gordon Court  and
  • D19 (male) Stephen Sellick which had water in its petrol .

Summers found that only D9 and D14 were fit to deploy. He moved forward on the morning of 16 September to  give orders directly to his skippers who were due to go into action at 0925hrs.  On the left, just before the NZ were due to attack, their trenches were attacked by the Germans.  The assault was broken up by rifle fire as well as by the Vickers machine guns of Die Hard which was still  in position to the north west of Flers.

In the centre 21st Division were  tasked to attack north from the Bulls Road but, because of their long approach march which was under taken in  the pouring rain, they did not reach their start point before dawn.  Taking covering in Flers Trench and other shell holes, they set off 25 minutes before zero across the open ground where Dolphin has been destroyed, and were attacked  by German machine gun fire and artillery.   They pushed on towards the Gird Trench, supported by Victor Huffam’s and Gordon Court’s tanks but, when these were destroyed, were forced back towards Bulls Road due to the heavy rifle fire from Germans in Gird Trench.  In the east the artillery barrage was again weak and well ahead of the attacking infantry.    As they crossed the open ground the infantry were destroyed by machine gun fire and no  advance was made.

All of the D14 crew were killed when the tank  exploded having been hit by an artillery salvo.  William Barber (35), Gordon Court (23), Tom Cromack (36), Joseph Crowe (24),  Andrew Lawson (21) and George Mann (24) were  killed inside the tank whilst the tank NCO, Robert Pebody (20)  and the driver Lawrence Upton (24), were killed outside the tank.  Two more crewmen, Alfred Andrew (29) and Ronald Chapple (D9), were killed when D9 Dolly was also hit by shellfire.  Four more were seriously wounded including the skipper and the driver Harry Saunders.

LCpl Harry Nixon D Coy, was awarded the MM for his actions on 16 Sep.

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