The Tank Corps

Photo by Ernest Brooks

Image shows A British Mark I tank on 26 September 1916. Photo by Ernest Brooks

By 1915 it became all too apparent that trench warfare had created an appalling stalemate on the Western Front and in other war theatres. Something had to be done to make manoeuvres more mobile. In the First World War tanks first appeared at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, in September, 1916. It was the first time tanks had ever been used in a military conflict. Their introduction was significant as the new tanks increased mobility on the Western Front and eventually broke the stalemate of trench warfare.

 

Four Years Remembered Leicester During the Great War, Ben Beazley, Breedon Books.

Image: Four Years Remembered Leicester During the Great War, Ben Beazley, Breedon Books.

The 25 battalions of the Tank Corps saw heavy action through 1917 and 1918; particularly at the Battle of Cambrai 20 November - 7 December 1917 where it was the first time a mass of tanks was incorporated into a combined attack.

The success of Cambrai’s tanks inspired ‘Tank Banks’ to be set up around the country. Six tanks toured England to encourage the public to buy National War Bonds. Leicester raised a total of £2,063,250 through the ‘Leicester Tank’.

The success of Cambrai’s tanks inspired ‘Tank Banks’ to be set up around the country. Six tanks toured England to encourage the public to buy National War Bonds. Leicester raised a total of £2,063,250 through the ‘Leicester Tank’.


 Samuel Collis Harding

Samuel Collis Harding

Samuel Collis Harding was born in October 1893 in Leicester to William Warrington Harding, a master yarn dyer, and Cary Louise Collis. He was the eldest of three boys and the family lived at 8 Belmont Villas, New Walk, Leicester. Samuel Collis Harding attended the Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys between 1903 and 1909. The 1911 census shows Samuel was working as a foreman yarn dyer’s assistant at the age of 17.

Samuel was 21 at the outbreak of war and enlisted in the Leicester Regiment as private No. 2653. On 24 November 1916 at the age of 23 he was 2nd Lieutenant with the Machine Gun Company serving with the 18th Company of F Battalion of the Tank Corps which had been formed in May 1916 at the British Army military base in Bovington Camp, Dorset.

By August 1917 the 18 Coy F Bn was serving in Passchendaele as part of the large offensive that was the Third Battle of Ypres. The battle took place between July - November 1917 for the control of the ridges south and east of Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Leicester Mercury obituaries

Image: Leicester Mercury obituaries

On 20 August 1917 new British Mark IV tanks together with artillery and infantry captured strong points along the St Julien-Poelkappelle road. By August 22 further ground was gained and operations were resumed to capture Nonne Bosschen, Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse around the Menin Road.

This operation failed with many losses. Samuel Collis Harding was killed in action on 22 August 1917. His body was never recovered so he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, France as well as at home on the Welford Road Cemetry First World War Memorial. He was awarded the Military Medal, which is the equivalent of other regiments’ Military Cross, for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire.

The image shows Samuel Collis Harding in a First World War trench.


You can find more in depth information about the Tank Corps and Samuel Collis Harding by downloading the information sheet at the bottom of this page.

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