Operation Alpaca

The transfer of the C and D Company men and their tanks to France was called Operation Alpaca.

C Company began the operation on 13 August by loading 13 of their their tanks onto the rail-flats for their journey to Avonmouth, where they were lifted onto a cargo ship.  They crossed to France on 20th/21st August.  Their remaining machines followed on 24th/25th August. The first tranche of D Company’s tanks followed a day later and the second tranche crossed in early September.  The men travelled separately, by train to London and then on to Southampton before boarding the troopship Caesarea for the journey to Le Havre.

Men and machines were reunited in Yvrench, a village approximately 50kms behind the line.   An HQ was set up in Yvrencheux and an assembly and training area was established at St Riquier.

Field Marshal Haig 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 was impressed with what he saw but recorded ‘we require to clear our idea as to the tactical use of these machines’.  They had just under 3 weeks to do this thinking!

C Coy en route to Waterloo railway station 24th August 1916

C Coy en route to Waterloo railway station 24th August 1916

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