from 'the War Budget', October 26th, 1916
'Tommy in a Tank'

A Comedy of Terrors

a German illustration of a British tank


The daily work of a tank on the Western front has been described by a young Australian soldier in the "Manchester Guardian." We quote the following:


MONDAY. - Out for first time. Strange sensation. Worse than being in a submarine. At first unable to see anything, but imagined a lot. Bullets began to rain like hailstones on a gavanised roof at first, then like a series of hammer blows. Suddenly we gave a terrible lurch. Look-out said we wore astride an enemy trench. "Give them hell," was the order. We gave them it. Got a peep at frightened Huns. It was grimly humorous. They tried to bolt like scared rabbits, but were shot down in bunches. Machine guns brought forward. Started vicious rattle on our "hide." Not the least impression was made. Shells began to burst. We moved on and overtook some more frightened Huns. Cut their ranks to ribbons with our fire. Experience was not altogether pleasant at first. Tank-sickness is as bad as sea-sickness until you get used to them.

TUESDAY. - Off for another cruise, peppering begun at once. Silly blighters thought they could rush the tank like they would a fort. Dashed up from all sides. We fired at them point-blank. The rain of bullets resumed. It was like as if hundreds of rivets were being hammered into the hide of the tank. We rushed through. Soon the music had charms, and we got to like the regular rhythm of it. Suddenly a jolt, and our hearts jolted in our mouths in sympathy. Nothing doing in the mishap line. Only some unwonted obstacle. Heavier "strumming" on our keyboard outside, and more regular.

WEDNESDAY. - Early start. Roughest voyage yet. Waves of fire seemed to break over us. Tremendous crash. Silence for a time. Party of Huns came to meet us outside the village. Very stout old gentleman in front. Thought it was the mayor and village big-pots to give us a civic welcome. Mistaken. They meant to give a warm reception, but not as we understood the word. Tank reception committee dispersed in a cloud of smoke and flame; no trailing clouds of glory. Fat old gentleman only visible member of deputation. Stood open-mouthed. Purple with rage.

Tank bore down. Old gent started to run, Funnier than a sack-race. Old gent flung himself to earth with many-signs of surrender.

THURSDAY. - Got into the village, and passed down between two irregular rows of wrecked houses. One blighter made a rush at us with a clubbed rifle. Made a terrible swipe at the tank. Smashed his rifle, and made a nasty noise on our roof. Hurt himself more than he hurt us.

FRIDAY. - Early afloat. Usual showers of bullets and a few sheik on the way. Got right across a trench. Made the sparks fly. Went along parapet routing out Huns everywhere. Enemy terrified. Tried to run, but couldn't keep it . up under our fire. Threw up the sponge, and surrendered in batches. One cheeky chap said he didn't think it was fair to fight with such things.

SATURDAY. - Terrible crash first go off. Thought we had collided with a wandering world. Weathered the storm. Got busy on enemy trenches. Rare good sport. Enemy tried a surprise for infantry-Yorkshiremen-advancing to attack. We tried a surprise, too, and ours came off first. We waddled into their ambush for the attacking troops. Never saw men so frightened. Fled panic-stricken in all directions. Went snorting after the enemy wherever wf could find them. Their losses were terrible. Later strong detachments tried to make their way back supported by big guns. Lined up across the road, and gave them hot time. Every time they tried to rush through we ripped their ranks to bits. At last they gave it up. Very wise of them.

SUNDAY. - Good work of frightening Huns continued. Better day, better deed. Fritz didn't think that. Blighters opened rifle fire on us at 200 yards. It went like water off a duck's back. Fritz couldn't make it out. Kept up the fire, but got a bit nervy as the blessed old thing kept waddling up to him. Ladled out death as you might vamp out indifferent music from a hurdy-gurdy. Fritz got fits. No fight left in him. Prisoners scared to death. Finished an exciting week. Got plenty of fun, but one wants a good rest after a spell with a tank.


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