Tank Mk A "Caesar II" in the tank museum in Bovington. Also, in its own way, a hero tank, but still not as famous as the "Music Box"
First english Tanks were still rather slow. It was obvious that they needed a faster tank. And such a tank appeared soon!
“And another horse came out, a red one; and it was given to him who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and to kill one another; and a great sword was given to him. "
(Revelation of John the Divine 6: 3,4)
(Revelation of John the Divine 6: 3,4)
Tanks of the world. The British noticed that the Mk IV tanks in the battle of Cambrai were too fast for the infantry accompanying them, but not fast enough to interact with the cavalry. For this, another tank was needed. It was then that it turned out that they already have such a tank. Tank "Whippet" ("Greyhound") or Mk A was ready in December 1916, successfully passed all tests in February 1917, then in June an order was issued for 200 vehicles, and in March the first tanks were ready. It is clear that they did not get into the army right away. Then it took some time to train their crews, in a word, it took time to accumulate a certain number of fully combat-ready vehicles.
Interesting pencil drawings of the Whippet tank, made during its tests, have come down to us. Imperial War Museum, London
The tank had many innovations. First, it had not one, but two engines, each of which set its own track in motion. The control was carried out by an ordinary car steering wheel by changing the rotation speed of one track in relation to the other. But for tight turns, the braking mechanism could be used. True, the suspension was still stiff, the reliability of the track chains was low, which limited the tank's tactical mobility. But its speed was 12 km / h with an armor thickness of 12 mm. Due to the fundamentally different shape of the tracks, the Whippet could not overcome anti-tank ditches, but these tanks were no longer assigned such a task. The first to attack were Mk IV tanks with fascines on their roofs. They had to fill up the ditches, after which the "Whippets" were able to get ahead and go into the rear of the enemy.
Another drawing in this series. Imperial War Museum, London
Interestingly, the tank was originally supposed to have a rotating turret with one machine gun. But for some reason, it was not possible to create such a tower that was perfect enough, for some reason they did not put the tower on the tank from armored vehicles. And since the car was required urgently, instead of the tower, they put a wheelhouse for three people, which was armed with three Hotchkiss machine guns, which had a 360-degree shelling. It is believed that the design of the tank was primitive, but it coped well with the tasks assigned to it. Perhaps the best example of the effective "work" of the Whippet tanks can be considered the raid of an English tank of this type called the "Music Box" (literal translation or "Music Box" - a variant of a literary translation).
This was supposed to be Mk A initially, but did not!
He went into battle on August 8, 1918, on the very first day of the famous battle of Amiens, called the "Black Day of the German Army." For 10 hours, this tank was in the rear of the German troops and inflicted significant damage to them in manpower, not to mention the panic it sowed. This tank was listed in company B of the 6th tank battalion. The tank was commanded by Lieutenant Arnold, in addition to whom the crew included two more tankmen: Private Ribbans (shooter) and Carney (driver).
Now let's get to know history tank "Music box". It began on the morning of August 8, 1918 at 4:20 am - hour "X", when British troops, tanks and infantry headed towards the town of Willers-Bretonne. According to the memoirs of Lieutenant Arnold, his tank crossed the railway and passed through the lines of the Australian infantry, moving under the cover of heavy tanks Mk V.
Tank models from the First World War were not as popular as they are now. But today they are produced by many companies on a wide variety of scales. And some collect them and paint them to order. Today we will just take a look at the model of the Whippet tank made by the D63 studio. As you can see, the model looks very impressive in the photo, exactly as the models of armored vehicles should be made. Traces of exploitation, dirt and soot are visible on it - in a word, this is a small artistic "picture". But, in my opinion, the modeler, the barbed wire is a little out of scale ...
But soon Arnold was alone in his tank. The fact is that right in front of the British vehicles was a battery of German field guns, which opened devastating fire on the tanks. True, there were only four of these guns, but since their rate of fire was very high, they sent shells one after the other and with such high accuracy that both Mk V tanks, marching next to Arnold's tank, were knocked out. But Arnold did not lose his head, turned sharply to the left, developed maximum speed and went to the battery, moving diagonally to shoot at it from two machine guns at once. The distance to it was about 600 yards, but, apparently, the Germans had no experience of shooting at such a fast moving target, so they never hit his tank. Meanwhile, the "Music Box" reached a group of trees and, standing behind them, became invulnerable to the fire of this ill-fated battery. Then he flanked her and attacked from the rear.
It looks like he managed to catch the Germans by surprise, because they did not have time to deploy their guns. They did not even have time to hide, when an English tank appeared in their rear, Ribbans and Arnold shot them with their machine guns. Having destroyed the battery, Arnold's tank moved on, and the Australian infantry went forward and took up a position 400 yards in front of the shot battery. It was possible, probably, to go further, but something apparently prevented them. The main thing is that no one fired at the infantry anymore.
A feature of the tank was its coloring - large red and white cockades for identification from the ground and from the air, and the whimsical outlines of the conning tower. The commander - he is the shooter, was in the ledge in front, but the driver was to his right, and the commander could always hit him on the shoulder and indicate the direction of movement. A hatch was provided over the commander's seat. The third member of the crew - a shooter, served two machine guns at once - on the left and right in turn. Whippet tank model made by D63
Arnold got out of the tank and turned to the Australian lieutenant, they say, does he want any more help? But in war as in war, and just at the moment of this conversation, a stray bullet hit the Australian in the shoulder. Arnold quickly climbed back into the tank and moved further towards the German positions. In a narrow hollow, an ammunition depot was marked on his map (apparently, aerial reconnaissance tried), and there really were a lot of boxes and people. He and the shooter opened fire on them, and then stopped at the edge of the ravine, and Ribbans went to count the dead and counted about 60 people!
The tank had no fenders. They were replaced by tarpaulins, but it's hard to say how useful they were. Whippet tank model made by D63
Then there was another German trench ahead, and Arnold's tank moved along it, firing from a distance of 200 to 600 yards. Noting in the combat log that the enemy had suffered losses, the tank commander decided to move on.
Size comparison: British tank Mk IV on the left and Mk A on the right
He noticed that the English cavalry patrol was leaving, that is, there were only Germans further, but decided to continue moving. At the same time, his tank was constantly fired upon from rifles, bullets clicked on the armor like hail, but it was not pierced. But what turned out to be bad: it occurred to someone to hang cans of gasoline on the tank. In reserve. As if this man did not understand that in battle they would certainly be pierced by bullets, and gasoline would flow out of the canisters. And so it happened. Gasoline from the punctured canisters flowed, began to evaporate and ... it made staying in the tank just disgusting. The tankers had to put on gas masks, the cartridges of which had a duration of about 10 hours.
One of the advantages of the Whippet tank was the rear door, which saved many lives!
Whatever it was, but even in gas masks, Arnold's tankers were eager to continue the battle and drove on. Then they saw a large airfield with cars standing on it and began to shoot at them, and then they noticed a balloon in the sky, in the basket of which there were two observers. Then the British fired at him. He was blown away, the basket with the observers fell to the ground from a great height and, of course, both of them crashed. Having thus deprived the Germans of aerial reconnaissance, the "Music Box" continued to move ...
The tank had four ball mounts, but three machine guns, one of which, if necessary, could be inserted into the rear door mount. Some people ask the question: was it possible to fire simultaneously from two machine guns simultaneously? Thanks to the special shape of the felling, you can. And Lieutenant Arnold writes more than once in his memoirs that he and his shooter fired such a fire every now and then. By the way, the wooden parts between the tracks are removable lugs on the tracks to increase cross-country ability. Whippet tank model made by D63
There was a road nearby, and a truck was moving along it, which the tank shot. Then a railway appeared, and on it there was a train into which the German infantry was loaded. The tank approached him at a distance of 400 to 500 yards and began firing, causing significant damage. Panic broke out, the soldiers ran to hide in the fields. Meanwhile, the British tank continued to move, periodically opening fire on the retreating German troops, as well as on cars and horse-drawn vehicles moving along the highway.
The "Hotchkiss" machine gun has proven itself very well as a tank gun!
There were many troops here, so the tank was heavily shelled. The Germans managed to damage the ball mount of one of the machine guns. But it should be noted that for a nine-hour stay under enemy fire, such damage could not be considered as serious. But the lieutenant had clearly forgotten that it was not necessary to test fate for too long - the gasoline flowing from the punctured canisters finally caught fire. Driver Carney tried to turn the burning tank against the wind, but then two German shells hit him one after the other.
It was good that the fighting compartment of the tank was in the stern, and a rather large door led out of it. First, Carney and Ribbans got out of the tank, but immediately collapsed to the ground, and Arnold had to drag them away from the tank, because a trickle of burning gasoline streamed in their direction. Fortunately, the fresh air had a life-giving effect on them, and they were able to get up and ran away from the tank, but just at that moment Carney received a fatal bullet in the stomach.
Then the Germans began to run up to the tankers with rifles with bayonets attached. Arnold grabbed one of them and received a wound in the forearm. Then he was hit on the head with a rifle butt, and he fell, and the German soldiers gathered around him, as Arnold later recalled:
"Everyone who could get to me tried to hit me."
But still, no one pinned him with a bayonet, and for this it was necessary to give them their due. In addition, his clothes, soaked in gasoline, were still smoldering on him, so these blows were even useful, since they finally knocked out the fire from him.
Lieutenant Arnold in German captivity. He looked good there, didn't he?
Arnold was led past the field kitchen, and then he showed by signs that he was hungry. And no wonder, since he hasn't eaten in 10 hours. When questioned by a senior officer, Arnold replied:
" - I dont know.
“You mean you don’t know, or you won’t tell me?”
- As you want, understand it! "
“You mean you don’t know, or you won’t tell me?”
- As you want, understand it! "
For this, the officer punched him in the face and left. However, they fed Arnold, bandaged his wounds and again began to interrogate - he again did not say anything, then he was locked in a room without a window for five days, and was given only a little bread and soup. Arnold said that he would report how he was interrogated by the officer, senior in rank - for some reason this threat made a truly terrible impression on the German. He immediately stopped tormenting him and sent him to a prisoner of war camp, where he met his brother, who had been captured before Arnold, and then, in January 1919, in a repatriate camp - the surviving rifleman Ribbans.
After the war, it was calculated that the "Music Box" was in a combat situation from 4:20 in the morning until 15:30 in the afternoon. Well, as for the losses that this tank inflicted on the enemy, it turned out that a whole infantry brigade could inflict them on the Beauches ... having lost up to half of its personnel!
Distinguished Service Order
Lieutenant Arnold was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on his return to England in 1919. And usually to get it, you had to have the rank of major and above. It was given to junior officers only in the most exceptional cases. This time it was just such a case!
After the end of the war, to whom only the British did not transfer and did not sell their tanks, starting from our White Guards and ending with the overseas Japanese. In this photo, the Mk A tank, for example, belongs to them!
Literature Used: "Battle Tanks - A Story of the Royal Armored Corps in Action 1916-1919", 1929 publication edited by G. Murray Wilson.
PS The author and the site administration would like to thank the D63 studio for permission to use the photographs of the model of the Whippet tank they made.