Although we haven’t given you any updates for a couple of months, our predecessors weren’t as inactive 100 years ago; there was a lot of change going on in the winter of 1916/1917.
The first was the (slight) change of name from Heavy Section MGC to Heavy Branch MGC. This better reflected the fact that, apart from in name and capbadge, the tank corps (as opposed to the Tank Corps that would appear in July 1917) was a very separate organisation and had nothing else in common with the Machine Gun Corps.
The next change was the expansion of the branch. The original Companies were used as the basis of the new Battalions that were formed in November and December 1916 in France and in the UK. A Battalion consisted of 3 Companies. Plans were put in place to expand to 14 Battalions.
The final change was the appointment of Bovington as the home of the Heavy Branch (see our entry of 26 Oct 16 for more details).
On 20 October 1916 Brigadier General Frederick Gore – Anley DSO, was appointed as the Administrative Commander of the Tank Training Centre at Bovington. He was an interesting choice to take over from Ernest Swinton. Anley had no experience of tanks and, apparently, little faith in them and so his appointment did not go down well with the true believers on the tank staff. Lieutenant-Colonel J F C Fuller described Anley as
a pleasant little man, the problem was in inverse ratio to his size. He may have been a good infantry Brigadier but he knew nothing about tanks. On one occasion I heard him say, “Little Anley is like a small china pot, floating among a lot of big iron ones; little Anley is not going to get cracked”.
On 27 October the Elveden training centre began its move to Bovington, having outgrown its Suffolk location. Bovington was one of 2 locations suggested; the other was Corhampton in Hampshire.
In Oct 1916 Bovington had none of the luxuries that those who trained there more recently will remember.