Chiswick Tank Has Historians Stumped

War machine aficionados asked who in W4 deserved such an award?

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Following a query from Winston Graham, editor of After the Battle magazine Tank Historian David Fletcher has hit a brick wall with his research and is asking readers for help.

He writes, “We received a query on a tank photograph (right) which one of our volunteers has identified at The Chiswick Tank from the photograph in Gillian Clegg’s ‘Chiswick Past’; you can see the number 148 on both machines.

Having focused a bit of interest on this machine two questions have cropped up. Firstly Chiswick does not appear on the list of Boroughs authorised to receive tanks that was published in the 16 April 1919 issue of the Silver Bullet – the National War Savings Committee paper. Secondly it is a male tank.

This may need explaining. A male tank had a 57mm gun in a ‘sponson’ on each side. Female tanks had much smaller sponsons and only carried machine-guns, which could easily be removed.

Most of the Mark IV tanks built were of the female type so they would be more common as War Bond tanks in any case but it is said that unarmed female tanks would be less tempting to anyone with a grudge against the authorities and to make absolutely sure such tanks were disabled, by removing certain parts, once they were in place.

As far as we can tell, although we have yet to find any proof, male tanks were presented mainly to places where tanks, or parts of tanks, were built; Coventry, Lincoln, Birmingham and Newcastle for example, but we also think that they may have been ‘awarded’ to boroughs that were the home of significant figures in the development of the tank. For example the village of Farningham in Kent received one whether it wanted it or not, because it was the home of the engineer W G Wilson, and Farningham does not appear on the NWSC list either, so we assume that it was a War Office donation instead.

Are there any records to show why Chiswick received a tank, and particularly a male one, if not through the offices of the NWSC? Among those involved in tank development at the time, who might have warranted a tank and who we feel could have lived in Chiswick the choice seems to lie between Sir Albert Stern, head of the Tank Supply Committee, Sir Eustace Tennyson D’Eyncourt the Director of Naval Construction or Sir Harry Ricardo, the engine designer.”

If you can shed any light on Chiswick’s tank, please email and we will pass the information on to David Fletcher. Mr Fletcher can also be contacted via The Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset BH20 6JG

T: 01929 405096 ext 229
F: 01929 405360

September 26, 2008