Last day of the Somme

The final day of the Somme campaign was 18 November 1916, the 141st day of battles.

The day before, on 17 November 1916, D Company planned to send 6 tanks into action in support of the 32nd and 37th Divisions but 5 of them ditched on the way to the assembly point. One tank, commanded by 2Lt Partington, crossed the German front line at around 7am and was able to silence a number of German MGs.

On 18 November 1916 the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps became the Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps. The companies were to be expanded over the coming weeks to form 6 Battalions (A, B, C, D, E, F).

We’re All In It – A Company Join The Fight

On 13 November 1916 tanks were in action again.  In the Beaumont Hamel area 2 tanks from D Company operated in support of 51st Highland Division in the attack on the caves.  Zero hour for the infantry was at 0545 but the tanks did not go in to action until 0950 when they were launched in order to help the Highlanders whose advance had been stopped.  Both tanks ditched.

Further south 3 tanks from A Company were in support of 39th Division.  This was A Company’s first action.  Two of the tanks made it little further than the start line but the third, a tank named ‘We’re All In It’ and commanded by Lt Hitchcock, made it to the German front line but soon after became stuck.  Lt Hitchcock was wounded, ordered the crew to debus. Cpl Taffs took command and managed to get it free but soon after it became stuck again.  Five members of the crew, Cpl Taffs, LCpl Bevan, LCpl Moss, Gnr Ainley and Gnr Tolley, were each awarded the MM for their actions. Their citation reads:

“Brought up under very difficult conditions, theirs was the only tank to start, and penetrated to the second enemy support line.  Here for more than an hour they maintained their position without assistance, their infantry having lost touch owing to the heavy mist.  The officer in charge was killed while endeavouring to establish touch.  Cpl Taffs then took command and LCpl Bevan drove on another 200 yards, when the tank ditched in a German dug-out.  The crew worked under fire for over 2 hours endeavouring to extricate it.  Finding this impossible, they attached themselves to a battalion of the Black Watch and assisted them in mopping up the position.”