This fantastic photograph was taken by an officer of Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 145. The original caption reads:
“English Tank, destroyed on the 23rd of August 1917 by the assault company of 34th Infantry-Division. Herenthage Park”
On 23 August at 4:00 a.m. a German attack by the 34. Infanterie-Division, in the 14th Division (II corps) area, from Inverness Copse to Glencorse Wood with bombers (handgrenades) and flame-thrower units, pushed the British back to the line of 22 August between Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood. Despite a German bombardment falling short on German troops in Inverness Copse, the infantry advanced, reached the western edge, then fell back still under fire from German artillery. Another attempt in the afternoon, under a hail of fire from both artilleries, pushed the British out of the Copse to the western fringe, from the Menin road to the junction of Jargon Drive and a sunken road.
It must have been during this fighting, shortly after the Battle of Langemarck, that this tank was taken out of action.
Sadly I have no details about tank losses in that area, I would love to know what happened to its crew.
Details are horrible and fascinating, its intriguing that the dead soldiers lying in the mud in front of the tank seem to be german. Lots of the equipment scattered around are german aswell, a Gewehr 98, lots of Stick grenades, a steel helmet. On the right there seems to be an Enfield rifle and someone placed a German bayonet and its scabbard at the rear of the tank. One can only guess what horrible scenes took place some hours before this image was taken.
According to the “Landships Forum” the tank above should be either B3 “Bystander” or B5 “Bluebird”.
4 Company, B Battalion with 43rd Brigade, 14th Div, II Corps, 5th Army
4 Company had 4 fighting tanks in action on 23rd August 1917 (W22):
1 Section – Capt Groves HBM
B3, 2520, “Blue Bird”, Lt Goodhall AH
B4, 2043, “Bulwark”, 2Lt Chambers PC
B5, 2511, “Bystander”, 2Lt Colley EV
B33, 2707, f, “Bushranger”, 2Lt Lane WI
Tank names and commanders from the report on action of tanks (W2a)
B3 and B5 Crew numbers from the summary of battle history sheets. (W22)
2043 is missing from the summary of battle history sheets, presumably because it failed to start.
2707 is not given a crew number in the summary of battle history sheets, it has the crew number B33 in the list in the war diary (W2) , it was possibly with a different crew on this date.
Starting point: J13d.6.8.
Tanks to advance ahead of infantry and deal with strong points in Fitzeclarence Farm and L Shaped Farm ((J.14.b.25.30).
B3 and B4 to start at 4:40am and proceed to L shaped farm, J14b.25.30, demolish it and then turn south and return via the north end of Inverness Copse, dealing with Fitzeclarence Farm if necessary. (158/839)(W1a)
B5 and B33 to start at 4:35am and proceed directly to Fitzeclarence Farm, demolish it then turn north towards L shaped Farm J14b.25.30 (158/839)(W1a)
Account of Operations
B4 broke down, (W1a) was repaired and went forward to the starting point but was then hit and burnt out (158/839).
B3 started at 4.30 am (158/839) and possibly proceeded towards Fitzeclarence Farm. It must have run into the German counter attack which started at 4.30 am (s35.p60). It engaged the enemy near Inverness Copse, inflicting severe casualties on them as they retired. It then suffered a direct hit (W22)(158/839).
B5 and B33 also set off at 4.30 (158/839) as the German counter attack started s35.p60). Both tanks helped drive the enemy back, with heavy loss, into Jap Trench. B5 suffered 3 Direct hits and was abandoned (W22). 2nd Lt Colley was probably wounded as he died of his wounds in August (W2). B33 rallied (W22).
Note: Chris McCarthy appears to date this action to the 24th August. (s35.p60)
The Official History incorrectly states 3 tanks ditched on the way forward and only one came into action and supported the infantry. (OH)
At start: 4
Failed to Start: 1
Engaged enemy: 3
Ditched / Broke Down:
Hit and Knocked out: 3
2520 – no further record.
2043 – no further record, probably one of the tanks at the tank graveyard near Clapham Junction.
2511 – no further record
2707 – Fought with crew B13 at Cambrai. may have been renamed.
According to “Following the Tanks” 2511 was in action at Cambrai.
4 Companies OB in ‘Following the Tanks, Cambrai’ is based on the list in the War diary which is incorrectly dated to Cambrai. “Black Prince”, 2005 was hit and burnt out at Messines on 7th June 1917 the list must therefore have been written prior to this date.
5 Companies OB is accurate for the 20th November according to the notes. A “Bushranger II” is listed with crew B37; presumably “Bushranger” did not therefore survive 3rd Ypres in operable condition.
W2 – War Diary No2 / B Battalion Tank Corps / B Coy HBMGC 1916 – 1919 Transcript from Bovington Tank Museum
W2a – War Diary No2 / B Battalion Tank Corps / B Coy HBMGC 1916 – 1919 Appendices.
Report on action of tanks on the morning of 23rd August – PRO WO 95 – 113
W22 – War Diary 2nd Tank Brigade – Relevant Appendices and Battlegraphs
OH – Official History, 1917, Vol 2, Pg.204
158/839 – PRO WO158 /839
S35 – Chris McCarthy (1995) Passchendaele. The Day by Day Account
S37 – Jean-Luc Gibot and Phillippe Gorczynski (1999) Following the Tanks, Cambrai. OOB excerpt.