Many books have been written about the invention and development of tanks but, until the publication of my book in April 2016, there was little available about the men who fought in them for the first time. This website provides key details of individual crewmen and their stories before, and after they fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15-16 September 1916. New details come to light frequently so please check the Blog for the latest discovery.
The need for an Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) was established early in the Great War. It was clear to most military leaders that attacking infantry units need assistance in capturing German positions in three ways, firstly to crush the defensive barbed wire, next to counter German machine guns and finally to cross heavily held defensive trenchlines. In 1915, under the auspices of Winston Churchill, commercially available tracked vehicles were trialed but none were suitable. In September 1915, an AFV was designed by Walter Wilson and William Tritton and this was demonstrated to the War Council in late January 1916. The following month, 150 "tanks" were ordered with the full support of General Douglas Haig, the British Commander in chief, in order to produce them for the expected British summer offensive. Manufacture was however slow and the first production tanks did not become available until July 1916. .
The majority of the soldiers who fought in the tanks in September 1916 were from the Motor Machine Gun Service (MMGS) and the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). Few of the officers had real battle experienc. Most of the tank "Skippers" were ommissioned into the MGC on 14 April 1916 and not one had seen a tank or knew what they were expected to do. In May 1916, six tank companies were formed at Siberia Camp near Bisley in
C and D Companies were the first to be sent into action. From mid August the tanks and their crews deployed to
There is no complete list of the First Tank Crews and, whilst the adjutant of D Company, Captain Graham Woods, recorded the surnames of those who went into action, there is much less known about A, B and C Companies. Using available official resources and family records, I identified more than 420 individual crewmen and they are listed on the pages on the left hand column. If you know of some-one who served with the first tank crews, who is not listed on this website, please contact me so that I can commemorate their lives and tell their story.