Worcester's WW1 Tanks

OK, so let's get this straight. First World War tanks in the city of Worcester... There were two, they were not the same one, and the third one was never here, it was just some fake-arsed cunts in Bolton.

Confused? You will be... (as they say.) Well, actually, hopefully you won't be any more.

This tank was not in Worcester

Not "Julian", not Worcester, not March
This tank is not "Julian", it's not
in Worcester, and it's not in March

Least misleading available version
The least misleading available version of
the postcard. It might even be partially right...

I don't care what the caption says, I don't care that this photo appears on the CFOW website... it's all bollocks. Far too many historically interesting postcards from WW1 were photoshopped to buggery and back, never mind that they didn't have computers or the comically epic shitness of some of the results. This is one of them. Goodalls of Bolton blanked out nearly all of the identifying background features and then added captions claiming it was any tank in any town on any date they bleeding felt like, so now a hundred years later it shows up as a purported historical fact on "what we did in the war" websites all over the country because people believe it, and then having posted it they think they've achieved what they were after doing so they don't try to dig up a real one and so most of the time there aren't any. Yeah, thanks a fucking lot Goodalls, you wankers.

Bolton town hall
Bolton town hall in the horse and cart era

Underneath we have the least perbuggered version that seems to be around, but it's still kind of dodgy. It's supposed to be Bolton's tank bank, and it even almost looks right - Bolton town hall in the horse and cart era did have flags and lanterns in front of it resembling those on the postcard. But it also had a kerb, not just the flags raggedy-edging straight onto the dirt, and that lantern does look rather like someone's blanked the real lantern out and then tried to draw in a Bolton-style one by hand, and got it slightly on the piss. (Or maybe they couldn't be arsed to blank out neatly around it and just painted over it and then drew it back in again because it was easier that way. I don't bloody know.) And if it really was in Bolton, why bother buggering the photo up so much instead of just using it as is?

Preston tank bank opening ceremony
Opening ceremony of Preston's tank bank event
Preston tank bank
The tank bank at Preston

Another possibility would seem to be Preston. It's definitely the same tank - the pattern of dirty marks forward and down of the rear sprocket hub is identical. This also suggests that the photos are close in time and that the tank probably hasn't moved much in between them. There is the corner of a raggedy dirt edge to the flags just visible in the bottom left corner of the opening ceremony photo. The broken area of flags just in front of the angle of the track is also suggestive, although the buggered photos aren't clear enough to say any more than that. Neither photo is at an angle that would show the lantern, but then I can't find any old photos of the Flag Market that are clear enough to see if there was a lantern like that there anyway, although there were similar ones elsewhere in Preston then and there are similar ones in the Flag Market now.

On the other hand there is a small square inset in the flags which definitely can't be seen in the buggered photo and I don't think either the crappiness of the photo or the possibility of alteration are adequate explanations. Also the fence in front of the tank looks closer in the buggered photo than it does in the others, although the angles make it hard to be sure. Mind you, it could account for both of these if the tank had simply been moved forward a couple of yards in between the photos.

A third possibility is Blackburn. I think it went there and it has the same style town hall (ie. dirty great massive stone temple of municipality) with the right sort of lanterns in front. But I can't seem to find any photos of a tank in Blackburn at all, or even a decently close shot of the front of the town hall from the right era, and I can't really be arsed any more because I have after all established the point. The point is, it might be Preston or it might be Bolton or it might be some other fucking northern grothole (arsey northeners with email clients can fuck off, I lived in Blackburn for a bit, it's a complete cake of shit), but it's definitely not Worcester and it definitely is Preston's tank. And it definitely isn't "Julian" because that had "113" painted on it in huge white digits in every photo that definitely is it. It's probably "Egbert" since that is what Preston's tank is supposed to have been, and the number partly visible in the opening ceremony photo is probably therefore "E26" under the dirt. ("Egbert" didn't get its name and Home Service number (141) painted on in big white letters until it had already done quite a lot of tank banking. At this early date its name was small and inconspicuous and not white and so doesn't show up in most photos, especially ones which are all shitted up with compression artefacts.)

Bolton's presentation tank
Bolton's presentation tank outside the town hall

(Oh and just to head off more possible confusion, there does exist a picture of a tank outside Bolton town hall and it obviously isn't the same one. That's because it's the presentation tank given to Bolton after the war, not the tank bank one.)

Anyway, this page is supposed to be about Worcester. Fuck Preston, it is a goberal and squirty place.

This is the real Worcester tank bank tank

Tank bank "Julian" at Worcester
Tank bank "Julian" outside Worcester Cathedral
Tank bank "Julian" with captured German plane at Worcester
"Julian" and captured plane
outside Worcester cathedral

Byng! See now this is how simple it gets when there isn't some fake-arsed bastard fucking the photos up. It's quite obviously "Julian", HSN 113. It's also quite obviously in front of Worcester Cathedral. And the date of the caption is correct for the start of Worcester's tank bank week. So everything is fine and dandy and we are all as merry as lambkins on the lea.

Indeed, it gets even better. Worcester's tank week display also featured a captured German plane, also exhibited outside the cathedral. And here we have a picture of both of them together.

I don't know what was going on in the tent. The selling of war bonds was generally done through a hatch in the tank itself, and indeed you can see the open hatch and the legs of someone buying some underneath it. They were probably selling cups of tea to send to the soldiers or something.

(The war memorial in the photo, of course, is for the Boer war, possibly an even stupider conflict than WW1.)

As well as these two, there exists also somewhere or other this tank's version of the standard tank photo with local nobs standing on top of it thinking what a long way down it is. But so far I have not managed to find the actual image.

This is the other real Worcester tank

Tank "Cynthia Carlton" outside Gheluvelt Park
The Mayor of Worcester's daughtertank
outside Gheluvelt Park

Earl of Ypres opening Gheluvelt Park
Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres
opening Gheluvelt Park in 1922

Gheluvelt Park main entrance
Gheluvelt Park main entrance,
Barbourne Road

Cynthia Carlton in Gheluvelt Park (1)
Tank in the Park (rear)
Cynthia Carlton in Gheluvelt Park (2)
Tank in the Park (front)

The tank of which we do have such a photo is the Mayor's presentation tank "Cynthia Carlton", 4627, HSN 287. The location of this photo is the Old Toll House, Barbourne, just outside the main entrance to Gheluvelt Park, so I reckon it's a pretty safe guess that the occasion is the installation of the tank in its setting in the park.

Gheluvelt Park - like, the entire bloody park, not just something in it - is a memorial to the critically successful resistance of the 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment at the Battle of Gheluvelt in 1914. It was opened by Field Marshal Sir John French, now 1st Earl of Ypres, in 1922. The tank arrived in Worcester in 1919, and while the exact date of its installation in the park is not clear, the most likely looking date seems to be 30th June 1921 during a fete in aid of Gouzeaucourt.

I don't know what they had been doing with it in the meantime. I found some vague hint that it might have been out at Perdiswell but I haven't been able to confirm that or even be sure that that's what it meant.

Interestingly, the plan seems to have been to bring the tank into the park under its own power - you can see what it's done to the road surface turning to take up its pictured position (which is heading straight into the park). I'm surprised it isn't worse. Presumably it had been brought on the back of a lorry or something up to that point, and one supposes also they were confident that it was still capable of locomotion before they got that far.

They weren't, though, doing it because the lorry wouldn't fit through the arch. The arch wasn't there until late in 1924. It looks like they just did it because the tank still worked so they could.

I'm not sure why the lamp post conspicuous in the Pathé screenshot is not visible in the tank photo. It's there in old photos of the Toll House from before the war and it's there in other ones afterwards. Possibly they drove the tank through it to watch it fall over and go ha ha look what we did; they were quite fond of using the tank to knock shit down with (see later). This would at least explain why the lamp post is dark black in the old photos but is all clean and new looking in the screenshot.

Unlike the presentation tanks in other cities, which were often exhibited in conspicuous spots where they made good targets, Worcester's tank was located in a kind of large shell crater, in the manner of one which had got stuck. This may have been where the bed of pink flowers is in the modern photo, just inside the gateway. (The photo is taken from roughly where the policeman on the extreme right of the tank photo is standing.) The photos of the kids clambering over it show that it is reasonably shielded from observation at least from the front.

huossorhwdis "SYNTH-EAR KARL" (tongue-hub in Sten)?

Tank "Cynthia Carlton" in Worcester High Street, 1919
"Cynthia Carlton", the Mayor of
Worcester's daughtertank, on
display in Worcester High Street

Here we see Worcester's presentation tank, the "Cynthia Carlton", serial number 4627, Home Service Number 287, on display in Worcester High Street. Lawley's to me became the building opposite Debenham's which housed the record shop where I bought Chris Rea's "Deltics" purely because it had a picture of the prototype Deltic on the back; it's now Superdrug or some fucking crappy thing, I don't fucking know, it's hard enough trying to keep up with what was where a hundred years ago never mind what's there now. That's where it is, anyway. (Yeah, and you who took the photo, I see you laughing, you're a wanker, you are. Clipping off exactly the necessary amount off the edge of that big sign to make it impossible to get any clue what it's talking about. You cunt. Oh and while I'm at it, it would help a whole bloody lot if that pottery in Stoke on Trent that made shitloads of little china tanks had called itself Rekord or Omega or something, as well.)

The standard folklore about this tank seems to go something like this: The Mayor of Worcester's son was killed at Gallipoli, so he bought a tank and named it after his daughter. He paraded it round the city and sent it off to shoot some Germans, or possibly squash them. (They did that, you know.) Then "after the war it was returned to the City".

This isn't completely bollocks, but it's definitely sack.

This "bought a tank" thing seems to be something of a universal pattern in tales of a town having contributed some exceptional amount of money to the war effort, especially if some local nob was involved with it. They all make it sound as if the chap toddled off down to Bristol Street Motors with a shopping bag full of fivers, chose a nice shiny new tank out of the showroom, clanked off to the local Army base in it and said here you go, chaps, give the Hun a good bashing, what? And then after the war the Army very properly brought it back again, here you go, sir, thanks for the loan, full tank of petrol, sorry about the shell hole, it'll T-Cut out. The same story is told of towns all over the country. You'd think half the tanks on the Western Front were these privately-owned civilian loaners.

Alderman Sir Arthur Carlton, Mayor of Worcester (chicken's tits, Arfur, mate) did indeed have a son, La[uw]rence, who was killed at Gallipoli. There is a memorial window to him in the Cathedral cloisters. His daughter, Cynthia, seems to have contributed to some "keep your spirits up" type events in wartime Worcester. After the war it is said that she went to Hollywood, presumably with Frankie although nobody bothers to mention that bit.

The Glover's Arms, Birdport, Worcester
The Glover's Arms
Birdport, Worcester

Cynthia Carlton driving through the city
Sorry mate, me foot
slipped off the clutch

Genuine Flanders Village. Ruined By A Real Tank!
Approximate viewpoints of the above photos
Map showing approximate
viewpoints of these photos

Worcester's Tank Bank week - the "Julian" visit - in 1918 raised something of the order of £400,000 (fuck me ragged); how much of this was Arfur's personal contribution I don't know. It seems to have been impressive enough to "earn" Worcester one of the 264(?) "presentation tanks" that were distributed after the war to towns that had raised a lot of money, although I'm not sure how "earny" it really was; it sounds more like the Army or someone just decided that this place or that was going to get a tank and they got one unless the council was firm enough about telling them to fuck off. (There's a tale of a place that got told "no, you can't have a tank, have some old German guns instead" - "no, we don't want them" - "you're bloody well having them" - and they did, for a few months, until some drunk people threw them in the river; the fish didn't want them either, but who cares about a lot of bloody fish? (Or something like that.) It's a bit harder to do that with a tank.)

Did he parade it around Worcester before it went into service? Of course not. Until the distributors of presentation tanks decided that Worcester was going to get 4627 and collapsed the waveform, there wasn't even an "it" to parade around; it would be kind of tricky to do any parading with 264 tanks in superposition, though no doubt bloody impressive if you could manage it... No. Like the Army are going to delay their new hot-off-the-production-line wonder weapons going into service by lending them out to random civilians to fuck around with, fucksake. Not entirely clear how so daft an idea became established in the first place.

Did he parade it around Worcester after it had been presented to the city? Oh, yes. Oh, fuck me, yes. For suitable values of "parade", at least.

The grotty-arsed building on the right is the Glover's Arms, in Birdport, some time around the turn of the century. The actual Glover's Arms is the pub bit on the left of the photo; the big white thing in the middle is residential (in some photos you can see people living in it), but I think the pub owned it. There are quite a few pictures of this bit of frontage hanging around, all taken either from this angle or from the same angle from the other side because only there was there room to step back far enough to get it all in. I suppose it attracted so much photographic attention because it's so big and white and conspicuous and so epically fucked. (Actually it doesn't look too bad in this photo but in most of them you wonder how it's still standing up.)

It is said to have been something of a notorious dive that the police were afraid to go into unless they all went at once. All that changed in the middle of 1919, as soon as the tank arrived in town. Couple of days to get the hang of driving the thing and then crunch, straight through the Glover's Arms with it, with actual soldiers in attendance to say "NO NO NOT LIKE THAT... shit, too late" and other such helpful remarks.

The map shows the approximate viewpoints from which the first and third photos were taken, just in case some clever arse notices the buildings in the background are different and thinks I've got it wrong. The first view is marked in purple and the third in a horrible yucky greeny bluey colour. The second photo is of course taken from nearly the same place as the third one. I'm fairly sure what they've done here is knock down the building on the right of the horrible white thing and then started on the rear appendages of the white thing itself.

I've seen it suggested that there was a drive to punt surplus tanks off to civilian buyers after the war and this event was advertising for that, by demonstrating how useful they were for demolishing things. I haven't been able to confirm any of that and I don't think any of it happened at all, it was probably just some bugger finding the photo and wondering what the fuck they were up to and taking a guess.

In the aftermath of WW1, Worcester "adopted" Gouzeaucourt, one of the villages on the Somme battlefield destroyed in the war, to help it rebuild, apparently largely by dumping the surplus production of various Worcester manufacturers on it. (The original plan was to adopt Gheluvelt, naturally, but Gheluvelt held out for actual bricks and mortar and sweat, which was deemed too expensive, so they picked somewhere else beginning with G instead.) In order to raise funds for this, they designated the Glover's Arms demolition site a "Ruined Flanders Village" and charged people to look round it. Look, they even dug a little trench and put a soldier in it. It sounds like a kind of sick joke, but they had some fucking weird ideas back then (like excluding soldiers from the peace celebrations) and it seemed like a good enough plan that a few other towns also independently had the same idea, although I don't think anywhere else made the site by driving a tank through the middle of town.

With this tank being a training vehicle it most likely never left England, and never got the chance to ruin any real Flanders villages (or even Somme ones), so you might argue that this was the closest it ever got to actual service, sort of.

This took place a day or two after the photo in front of Lawley's, so ten days or so in advance of the 19th July date designated nationally for peace celebrations, but it was still reported as being part of Worcester's Peace Carnival. I suppose being all agog to start driving your new tank through some houses is a good enough excuse for kicking off ten days early.

(I don't reckon the tank did the bit of demolition just behind it in the Lawley's photo. They were only after knocking down a bit of that, and keeping the rest. A tank's not really a fine enough tool for that.)

The tank finished up peacefully sitting in its little flowery crater in Gheluvelt Park, being climbed on by children and gradually filling up with rainwater, until 1943 when it went for scrap and apparently discharged its contents all over the scrappies. Cynthia had the last laugh, it seems.

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