Tank "Whippet" ("Greyhound") advances to the front line. For quick recognition, red-and-white cockades are made up on the front armor plate and the caterpillar screens.
Tank "Music Box" "Whippet" belonged to company B, 6-th battalion. The crew, besides Arnold himself, included two more: machine gunner Ribbans and the driver Kearney — that is, the standard crew of this car, which was considered a “high-speed tank” in the British army. His design was primitive. It was planned to put a rotating turret with a machine gun on the tank, but something didn’t work with it, and the tank received a wheelhouse, from which four Gochkis machine guns protruded in all directions.
So he planned, but he did not.
The story "Music Box" began at 4.20 in the morning, hour "X", August 8 1918, when the offensive of the British forces began and she moved to the side of Villers-Bretonnay. Lieutenant Arnold later recalled: “We crossed the railway and passed through Australian infantry moving under the cover of our heavy tanks (Mark V.)”
However, further Arnold and his comrades had no luck. “After 2000 yards, I was left alone, our other tanks were dropped. I saw the tanks Mk V, followed by the Australian infantry. Then I came under the direct fire of a German four-gun field battery. ” What this means can only be understood by someone who knows that the then field gun could fire at a speed of ten to twenty shots per minute, that is, to release forty shells in just one fussing minute. The shooting of the battery was so accurate that it knocked out two tanks of the Mk V, moving alongside the “Music Box”. Arnold reacted by turning to the left and, having developed the maximum speed, moved diagonally along the front of the battery at a distance of 600 yards, maneuvering in such a way as to shoot at the target from two machine guns at once. Then Arnold reached a group of trees and became invulnerable from artillery fire. Then he moved in line with the battery, turned to the right and attacked her from behind.
But it became so! "Whippet" from Bavington.
The Germans did not have time to deploy their guns, as the machine gunner Ribbans and Arnold finished them off with their machine guns. The destruction of the German battery immediately affected the infantry. "Australians also moved forward and hid behind the road in 400 yards in front of an abandoned battery."
Then Arnold allowed himself a little rest: “I got out of the tank and asked the Australian lieutenant if he wanted help, and during our conversation he was hit by a bullet in the shoulder.” There was nothing left but to get back into the tank and ride it further. Where? To the east, of course. There, where shots were heard and the battle was clearly fought, because here it was all over.
“Moving further east, I approached a narrow ravine marked on my map as an“ ammunition depot. ” When I approached, there were a lot of people and a lot of crates, and when I opened fire on people, they began to run away and hide. I drove around the hollow, and then Ribbans went out and counted the dead, which turned out to be about sixty. ”
There were four such machine guns on the Whippet!
Then Arnold turned to the left of the railway and made a "world tour" along the front line, along the trenches of enemy infantry. “We shot them from 200 to 600 yards. As our cruise continued, the enemy's losses grew. ” And then his tank was completely behind the Germans. “I didn’t see our troops or machines after the departure of our cavalry patrol, but I decided to continue the movement.” The tank was continuously fired by rifle fire. Bullets clicked on the armor, but they could not penetrate it. Bad was another. On the tank outside were hung additional gas canisters. The bullets, of course, punched them and gasoline, flowing and evaporating, made staying in the tank simply unbearable. Tankmen therefore had to wear gas masks, the validity of which was about 10 hours.
"Whippet" and the British infantry.
Nevertheless, despite all these difficulties, the tank continued to move. “At about two in the evening I again moved east and found myself at a large aerodrome, where I fired at the vehicles there and shot down a balloon with two observers who fell from a great height and, of course, crashed.”
Then Arnold's tank shot a truck moving along the road and went to the railway. “The railway was very close, and I saw a lot of soldiers landing at ranges from 400 to 500 yards. I started shooting at them and dealt them a lot of damage. Leaving them in a panic, the “Music Box” moved on, firing successively at the retreating columns of the German troops, as well as on motor and equestrian vehicles from 600 to 800 yards. Here the tank was subjected to fierce shelling, and he had damaged the ball installation of one of the machine guns. Arnold pulled a machine gun out of her and closed the hole. For a nine-hour stay under fire, this was minimal damage, but fate should not be experienced for so long, and the lieutenant forgot about it. Gasoline, which flowed heavily from punched jerry cans, flared at that time. The driver of Carney tried to turn around, but then their tank received two missile hits at once.
"Music Box" in the hands of the Germans!
“Karni and Ribbans opened the door and crashed to the ground. I also managed to fall out on the ground, and I was able to drag them both away, as the flaming gasoline ran to us along the ground. Fresh air revived us, we all got up and made a short dash to get away from burning gasoline ... At this moment, Carney was shot in the stomach and died. ”
Well, that on this tank was such a big door!
“Here I saw the enemies approaching me from all sides. The first one ran up to me with a rifle and bayonet. I grabbed her, and the front part of the bayonet entered my forearm. The second man hit me on the head with the butt. When I came to my senses, there were already dozens of German soldiers around me, and everyone who could reach me tried to strike me. ” Further, he writes that since the clothes soaked with gasoline were still smoldering on him, then ... these blows, in general, were even useful, because they finally knocked the flames off him.
It is from such field guns that the Germans fired upon and hit an English tank.
“In the end we went to the dugout. Later we walked past the field kitchen, where I showed with signs that I wanted to eat. We had nothing from eating with 8.30 in the morning, so it's no wonder that I got hungry. Then they took me to a senior officer and interrogated me. When I answered: “I don't know,” he said: “You mean you don't know, or you won't tell me? "I replied:" As you wish, so understand! ", After which he hit me in the face and left." Only after this, Arnold was fed, bandaged his wounds and sent back for interrogation.
“The second time I was interrogated, I received five days of solitary confinement in a room without a window - this time I was, however, given some soup with bread. Here Arnold threatened to report the behavior of the officer interrogating him to the senior in rank, and this threat made a terrible impression on the German. He was immediately sent to a prisoner of war camp in Freiburg, where he ... met his brother who was captured shortly before that! And then in the camp at Canterbury, in January 1919 of the year, through which the brothers were repatriating, they met a living machine gunner Ribbans.
Lieutenant Arnold in a prisoner of war camp. Freiburg, 1918
In general, the “Music Box” raid continued from 4-20 to 15-30. The British assessed the losses inflicted on them by the enemy as approximately the kind that, under the same conditions, an infantry brigade could inflict on it at the cost of ... the failure of half of its personnel.
From the book "Battle Tanks - the story of the Royal Tank Corps in action 1916-1919", published in 1929, edited by G. Murray Wilson.
Order “Distinguished Service Order” (DSO) “For Outstanding Service”, which was received by Lieutenant Arnold.
P.S. When Lieutenant Arnold returned to England in 1919, he was awarded the Order of Distinguished Service, which was usually awarded in the rank of major and higher, and only in exceptional cases, junior officers. The command considered that this was such a case!