G battalion Composite Company 19 August 1917
 

 

The Tanks at 3rd Ypres. 19th August 1917


Composite Company, G Battalion, with 11th and 48th Divisions, XVIII Corps, 5th Army

 

G Battalion had 11 fighting tanks in action on 19th August 1917(W21):


Composite Company Commanding Officer: Major R.H.Broome MC

 

G4, 2323, m, “Gloucester”, Lt Willard JD 

G43, 2536, f, “Gordon”, 2Lt Coutts HG 

 

G29, ???? , m, “Gorgonzola”,  2Lt Baker AG 

G32, ????, f, “Gargoyle”,   Lt Morgan ET

 

G31, ????, f, “Galetea”, 2Lt Kane CRH 

G28, ???? , f, “Geisha”, 2Lt  Close AV

 

G52, 2756, f, “Guisley”, 2Lt  Claughton HM

G1, 2312, ,"Glasgow", 2Lt McCherly

 

G47, 2525, f, “Gitana”, 2Lt Browne DG 

G44, 2757, f, “Glangarry”, 2Lt Chaddock EHJ 

 

G53, 2778, , “Gracchus”, 2Lt Bubb JS 

G10, 2565, , “Gravedigger”, 2Lt Jukes AE 

 

Note: 

G4, G10, G43, G44, G47, G52, G53 serial numbers and names from 31st July Battlegraph in the 1st Brigade War Diary (W21).

G28 and G31 names from Map in 7th Battalion's War diary (W7a). 



Orders(W21):

 A Tank attack. The tanks were to cross the Steenbeke at St. Julian and, due to the boggy and crumped nature of the ground, proceed in single file along the Poelcapelle Road, crossing the original front lines and then proceeding across the front of the 48th Division from right to left and consecutively engaging the rear of strongpoint’s at: Gun Pit, Hillock Farm, The Triangle, Mon Du Hibou and Cockcroft. Upon reaching the far end of the Triangle junction they were to turn left towards Langemarck, cross the original front of the 11th Division, engage Cockcroft and re-enter the original British Front Line.  


One or two tanks were allocated to each objective with those with the most distant objectives at the front., thus the order of march was: G4 and G43 leading the way, followed by G29 and G32, then G31 and G28, next G51 and lastly G47 and G44 bringing up the rear.


As each strongpoint was subdued the infantry were to advance and occupy the position.

The whole attack was covered by a Smoke Barrage on the neighbourhood of Rose House, Von Tirpitz Farm and Hill 35 (South of Gallipoli) which would screen the tanks from view (W158).

 


Objectives:  

Cockcroft: G4 and G43 

 

Mon Du Hibou: G29 and G32


The TriangleG31 and G28

 

Hillock Farm: G52 and G1

 

Gun Pit at C.12.a.9.3 and mopper up: G47 and G44 

 

Bttn Reserve at O22.2.d.75.90. California Trench: G53 and G10


 

Account of Operations

The Smoke Barrage came down at 4.45 am and was apparently very effective, successfully screened the tanks from the enemy’s view (W158). 

 

G1 broke down on the 17th whilst moving to the staging point at Bellevue Farm (W7). 

 

G53 and G10 stayed in reserve at O22.2.d.75.90, California Trench and did not see action.

G31 ditched West of the Steenbeke at St. Julian and thus did not see action (W21).

 

The remaining eight tanks proceeded along the Poelcapple road (W21).

 

G4’s crew were overcome with fumes at C6a.7.1 after engaging Hillock Farm and (W21) the gun pit at C12c.9.3 (W158) [probably C12d.9.3 meant].   The driver enlisted the help of a man from 1/8 Worcester’s and with his assistance returned the tank to St Julien Farm where it ditched (W21).

 

G44, G47 and G52 all engaged Hillock Farm (which may have been already abandoned) and the Gun Pits alongside the Poelcapple Road (W21), the infantry occupied the empty Hillock Farm at 6 am (W158); the tanks [then presumably covered the infantry consolidation] returned to St Julian (W21).

 

G28 also engaged the Gun Pit (W158), then the driver was wounded and the tank became ditched and was eventually abandoned, the clutch being destroyed by 2Lt Close, at Z +16 hours (W21).

 

[The remaining three tanks (G29, G32 and G43) proceeded towards the Triangle]:

  

All three tanks probably reached Triangle Farm at 6.20 am. The garrison here put up a fight and the whole garrison was killed by the infantry, mostly with the bayonet.

About 6.35 the tanks reached the Crossroads at C6c.8.5 and point C6c.5.8 and found both unoccupied, British infantry took possession of both locations (W158).

 

G29 and G32 both engaged the rear of Mon Du Hibou concrete emplacements from the road at C.6.c.8.8. [(possibly C6.c.8.4) [probably at 6.25 am]; when twenty to thirty enemy fled from Mont du Hibou, eight or nine were hit by the tanks' fire, ten other germans were captured by the infantry when they moved up to secure the strongpoint (W158).

 

G29 and G32 then missed the turning due to road being obliterated. G29 ditched but continued to fire the right hand 6 pdr until the tank sunk too deep to allow its use. G32 passed the ditched G29 and engaged an enemy MG to the right (W21) at C6b.3.2 (W158). [Both tanks then presumably covered the infantry consolidation]; G32 turned for home but broke down by G29, G32 was repaired and eventually Rallied (W21).

 

G43 [presumably made the turn as] at 6.45 she made it to within (W158) 50 – 60 yds of the Cockcroft whereupon she ditched. 100 – 200 Germans abandoned Cockcroft and about half were hit by tank and infantry fire whilst withdrawing. British Infantry then occupied Cockcroft (W158). The tank was eventually camouflaged and abandoned (W21)

 

The Official History incorrectly states this attack took place on the 20th August. The attack was very successful, the infantry only suffering one Officer and two Other Ranks killed. (OH)


Summary

Intended: 10

Reserve: 2

At Start: 8

Failed to start: 0

Engaged enemy: 8

Ditched / Broke Down: 4

Hit and Knocked out: 0

Rallied: 4


Note: 

Two tanks stayed in reserve.

Failed to start includes one tank which didn't reach the start point. 


Aftermath

G4, 2323 - No further record, possibly the hulk photographed in the Steenbeck. 

Still there on 15 February 1918: 

IWM Q 10709: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205246379

IWM Q 10711:  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205246381


G43, 2536G28, Geisha”; G29, Gorgonzola”; G31, Galetea” No further record


G32, Gargoyle” was handed to Advanced HQ Tank Corps to be used as a demonstration tank  on 18th September 1917 (W7)


G1, 2312G10, 2565G52, 2756G44, 2757G53, 2778 - All In action on 20th November 1917 at Cambrai.


G47, 2525 - with 5th Tank Battalion in March 1918. 



Sources

W7 - G Battalion War Diary, transcription form Bovington Tank Museum

W7a -  G Battalion War Diary, in PRO WO 95/100

W21 - 1st Brigade War Diary (W21)

W158 - PRO WO158 /839

OH – Official History, 1917, Vol 2, Pg.202

 

Note

G / 7th Battalion War Diary, transcription from Bovington Tank Museum (W3), contains a detailed tank by tank account of this action. 

An excellent illustration by Peter Dennis shows "Gargoyle" (G32) leading an infantry section forward in August 1917. This may be intended to show this action as this is the only known occasion that "Gargoyle" fought at 3rd Ypres (Neil Grant (2014) The Lewis Gun. p50)


 

G Battalion. 19 August 1917. Map

 

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