Book News: The First Tank Crews

The Evening Telegraph has posted an article about the recently released book The First Tank Crews: The lives of the Tankmen who fought at the Battle of Flers Courcelette 15 September 1916 by Stephen Pope.  While we posted a book alert about this particular book back in April, this article gives a far better description of the book than the publishers description in our original post.  Also, we were unaware that the book is accompanied by a really excellent website of the same name.  This site hosts quite a bit of content, including biographical information on many of the tankers who took part in the September 1916 battles.  The First Tank Crews site is a “must see” for fans of WWI British armor history.

Article excerpt:

THE heroics of a Tayside war hero have been revealed in a new book for the first time.

The book — which marks 100 years since one of the bloodiest battles in the First World War — features 400 accounts of tank crews.

One of the stories features the heroics of Dundee-born soldier, Corporal William McNicoll, who worked as a solicitor after the war.

In August 1918, Cpl McNicoll took his tank five miles into hostile Western Front territory.

He suffered two direct hits under German bombardment.

However, the soldier, who himself was injured, bravely held his position under heavy machine gun fire to allow his wounded men to retreat to safety.

For this act, Cpl McNicoll was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On returning to his home in Kinnettles, Angus, on leave in October 1918, he was presented with a gold watch bought by local parishioners.

Cpl McNicoll’s story is only one of the accounts captured in The First Tank Crews: The Lives of the Men Who Fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15 September 1916.

While featuring tales of the 1916 event, the book, which is penned by Stephen Pope, also tells of stories of other fights — including Cpl McNicoll’s heroics during the Battle of Amiens.

Read the full article here.

Book Alert: The First Tank Crews by Stephen Pope

Amazon is listing an April 30 release date for this new book examining the story of first tank crews at the Somme battlefield in 1916.  Written by Stephen Pope, The First Tank Crews: The lives of the Tankmen who fought at the Battle of Flers Courcelette 15 September 1916 is a rather substantial 400 pages and is published by Helion and Company.

Publishers Description:

This remarkable new book reveals the hitherto unknown story of the soldiers who took the first tanks into action on the Somme battlefield in September 1916. Drawing on official records, contemporary newspaper reports and family memories, Stephen Pope provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the First Tank Crewmen, covering their recruitment, scant training, rapid deployment and their premature use in battle. He then traces their inter-connected lives over the next two years as tanks played a key role in the defeat of the Germany Army in 1918. He reveals the story of their return to civilian life and their often difficult struggle to build a family life. Sadly many of the First Tank Crews died young, some due to injuries or illnesses developed as a result of their wartime service.

Amongst the stories revealed are those of the grandson of the social reformer Joseph Rowntree, the champion rose grower Bill Harkness, the Scottish chemist Stuart Hastie who introduced science into the whisky distilling process and the Liverpool school teacher Graham Nixon who tried to teach John Lennon mathematics. None of those who fought in the tanks achieved great fame for their actions and few revealed their wartime secrets to their families. However, many became pillars of their local communities, giving a life of service to those around them.

This book tells the previously untold stories of bravery, determination and dedication by a group of unsung heroes. The author has used his contacts with more than fifty relatives of those who fought at the First Tank Action and used their input to provide a detailed description of their lives after the war. He has also gathered together many previously unpublished pictures including many of the tankmen in France, and has revealed the backstory to several well known photographs. Above all, he has linked individual lives together to create a fascinating story of ordinary men who took part in extraordinary events. The story of the First Tank Crews is one well worth reading.