Mr Bye was one of four members of staff who left us to join up on the outbreak of war in 1914, and now the gallant editor of the ‘Draconian’ has persuaded him to contribute an article about the modern wonder that is the Tank, together with an excellent sketch. As Capt. WRG Bye MC DSO (Royal West Surrey Regiment), he has had ample opportunity to acquaint himself with them.
“The latest Tank – Mark V one star – besides being much superior to the older type in speed, power, armament etc., is also so constructed as to render the crews immune from ‘splashing.’ In the older Tank many serious casualties were caused to the crews by sprays of molten lead which flew into the interior through the crevices etc., in the plate, when the Tank was under rifle fire and machine gun fire.
My first Tank ride was… 1½ miles in a Mark V one star over rather variegated country comprising many trenches and fear-inspiring ditches.
Prior to this, I had always felt a certain amount of pity for a Tank crew and thanked my stars I was not compelled – like them – to live a good part of my life being shaken to bits inside one of these crawling ironclads. However, as a result of this ride, my views have changed somewhat, as the trip was accomplished with much less pain than I had anticipated…
After a short time we began to imagine ourselves in danger of being melted alive and so the side doors and top apertures were opened, which relieved our distress somewhat. And yet a trained crew are capable of sticking that stifling oily atmosphere for eight hours.
In some of the operations of 1918, platoons of infantry were carried into action in Mark V one star Tanks, but the great drawback was that after some distance the men were absolutely done in and had to be rested before they could go on.”
Despite Mr. Bye’s words, as someone happiest on the open sea, I am not sure I could endure the conditions suffered by those brave soldiers who manned these Tanks.
It is rather appropriate to produce this article today, as it is a year ago to the day that the Battle of Cambrai, famously involving over 400 tanks, started.