3rd Ypres

On 31 July 1917 the newly formed Tank Corps fielded its biggest fleet of tanks yet deployed in to action. Of the 9 Tank Bns in existence, 5 were committed to the opening assault with 2 more being kept as Army Reserve. These 5 Bns were A, B, C, F, and G and each Bn planned to use 2 of its 3 companies in the opening assault. Thus on 31 July 1917 120 tanks went in to action.

The allocation of tanks to Corps and Divisions was as follows:

1st Tank Brigade (G Bn: supporting XVIII Corps (39, 51, 11, 48 Divs)
2nd Tank Brigade (A & B Bns) supporting II Corps (24, 30, 18, 8, 25 Divs)
3rd Tank Brigade (C & F Bns) supporting XIX Corp (15,55,16,36 Divs)

Of the 120 tanks sent in this day, just over half ditched or broke down although some of these rallied later. 28 tanks were knocked out. In general terms the tanks were able to make it to the line of the 2nd objectives.

42 tankies were killed on 31 July. 15 MCs and 39 MMs were awarded for actions that day.

It started raining on the afternoon of 31 July.

Oosthoek Wood

A British soldier directs a Mark IV tank as it crosses an old trench in Oosthoek Wood, near Elverdinghe.

In preparation for their forthcoming operations at the 3rd battle of Ypres (which would start on 31 July 1917), between 30 June and 2 July 1917 C Bn moved to Oosthoek Wood which is just north of the road from Poperinge and Vlamertinge.  The wood gave the Bn good cover and space to operate but because the unloading ramp was outside the wood the Bn’s arrival at their Tankodrome was seen by German spotters in observation balloons.

On 4 July 1917 the Germans heavily shelled the wood for several hours.  The Bn Orderly Room was hit, injuring the Adjutant and the Bde Supply Officer, who died the following day. Also hit were the workshops, the transport area, and the company lines.  Five soldiers and 5 horses were killed and 3 tanks were hit.

The casualties were buried in the nearby newly constructed Gwalia Cemetery.

As a result of the shelling the Bn moved to a new camp.


Prints and canvasses of the image used here can be purchased from the Imperial War Museum here