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Post Info TOPIC: Home Forces or training numbers, or what you will


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Home Forces or training numbers, or what you will
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The subject of Home Forces or training numbers has cropped up recently in discussions on the Tanks part of this Forum. These, I should clarify, are the large white numbers painted on the horns of heavy tanks in the UK. It has occurred to mea few weeks ago how these numbers might work. This post is to try to find evidence that I might be wrong, inthe absence of which I'll assume I'm right. It is also to try to flush outinformation to fill the gaps inmy idea.

I think the system behind them works like this:
Two digit numbers: early tanks, i.e. Marks I, II and III, both Males and Females. Examples include 20 and 81, both Mark III Females. (Note: I don't have evidence that any Mark Is carried these numbers).
Three digit numbers, first digit 1: Mark IV Males. Examples include 109, 113, 130, 141.
Three digit numbers, first digit 2: Mark IV Females. Examples include 228, 261, 290.
Three digit numbers, first digit 4: Mark IV Tenders. Examples include 403 and 469.
Three digit numbers, first digit 8: Mark V* Females. The only example I know is 832.
Three digit numbers, first digit 9: Mark V* Males. The only examples known to me are 902 and 909.

Does anyone have a photograph of a Mark V with Home Forces numbers? Anyone seen a Home Forces number (possibly on a Mark IV Female) starting with 3? Finally, does anyone have any evidence that disproves this, such as a photo of a Mark V* with a number starting 2?



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148 was also a Mk IV male used for touring in the Lincilnshire area but not one of the original touring tanks that started from Trafalgar square.

I've also recently sen a photo of a tank used for training that had a two digit number! Will check on this this evening

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two digited tank atached

-- Edited by Centurion at 14:22, 2007-04-05

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Centurion wrote:

two digited tank atached

-- Edited by Centurion at 14:22, 2007-04-05



That's a Mk III female (check the exhaust covers in the middle picture) and the photos were taken when it wasawarded as a presentation tank. Bovington has the details but I can't find them at the moment.There is also a photo around ofa Mk III female WD617 with a training number of 73 which was awarded to Maidstone. Both of which do fit in with the numbering range.

P.S.: Andnow I have found the details. It's Bridlington, Yorkshire. The identity of the tank can also be confirmed by the rivet pattern at the cab top but the resolution of the photo is a little murky.



-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 15:08, 2007-04-05

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There is also a photo of a Mk III on a rail wagon in "Landships" (the book, not the website). I posted about the incorrect designation in Retrospective Correctionsbut I'll repost the image here.

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There is a photo in "A New Excalibur" of a Mk V female with what appears to be a home forces / training number (610). The photo is captioned as being from France. The number is very rough, in contrast to the normally neat appearance. It looks as though the original photo has been "enhanced" to make the number more visible. The inner curve of the 0 and the connection between the tail and the body of the 6 have certainly been altered.

P.S.: The dreaded forum bug has finally struck. This is the second time I've tried to upload this.

-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 15:54, 2007-04-05

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Mark Hansen wrote:

Centurion wrote: two digited tank atached-- Edited by Centurion at 14:22, 2007-04-05
That's a Mk III female (check the exhaust covers in the middle picture) and the photos were taken when it wasawarded as a presentation tank. Bovington has the details but I can't find them at the moment.There is also a photo around ofa Mk III female WD617 with a training number of 73 which was awarded to Maidstone. Both of which do fit in with the numbering range.P.S.: Andnow I have found the details. It's Bridlington, Yorkshire. The identity of the tank can also be confirmed by the rivet pattern at the cab top but the resolution of the photo is a little murky.

-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 15:08, 2007-04-05


An even more obvious give away was the sponson that was removed for transport - see middle photo -and no join see third photo - but then I didn't say it was a Mk IV



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Mark Hansen wrote:

There is a photo in "A New Excalibur" of a Mk V female with what appears to be a home forces / training number (610). The photo is captioned as being from France. The number is very rough, in contrast to the normally neat appearance. It looks as though the original photo has been "enhanced" to make the number more visible. The inner curve of the 0 and the connection between the tail and the body of the 6 have certainly been altered.

P.S.: The dreaded forum bug has finally struck. This is the second time I've tried to upload this.

-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 15:54, 2007-04-05


I'm happy to be corrected on this but didn't the Tank Corps start to do away with the alpha number number number call signsin favour of an all number system towards the end of 1918? Better security as it doesn't give away the batallion id.



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Legend

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Its a nice neat theory but here is a MkV* male with a 700 series number - how does this fit in?

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Legend

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And just to stir the pot how about a MkX with a 900 series number?

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Centurion wrote:

And just to stir the pot how about a MkX with a 900 series number?


It should show a 900 series number - that was the WD number for the Mk IX.



-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 00:09, 2007-04-06

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Mark Hansen wrote:

There is a photo in "A New Excalibur" of a Mk V female with what appears to be a home forces / training number (610). The photo is captioned as being from France. The number is very rough, in contrast to the normally neat appearance. It looks as though the original photo has been "enhanced" to make the number more visible. The inner curve of the 0 and the connection between the tail and the body of the 6 have certainly been altered.

Hi, could this be a "G" rather then a 6.........



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Legend

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Ironsides wrote:

Mark Hansen wrote: There is a photo in "A New Excalibur" of a Mk V female with what appears to be a home forces / training number (610). The photo is captioned as being from France. The number is very rough, in contrast to the normally neat appearance. It looks as though the original photo has been "enhanced" to make the number more visible. The inner curve of the 0 and the connection between the tail and the body of the 6 have certainly been altered.Hi, could this be a "G" rather then a 6.........



Having just checked a few photos, I don't think so. There is another photo of 610 and the number, although partly obscured by a dust cloud, is the same as that on the first photo. It looks as though this number was outlined on the tank itself.




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Gwyn Evans wrote:

Does anyone have a photograph of a Mark V with Home Forces numbers? Anyone seen a Home Forces number (possibly on a Mark IV Female) starting with 3? Finally, does anyone have any evidence that disproves this, such as a photo of a Mark V* with a number starting 2?

Its almosr certain to be an error butI enclose the following extract fromA History of Gloucestershire Transport
Despite this, tanks caught the British public imagination and following the Armistice on 11 November 1918 many towns received an example for display. Cheltenhams tank a Mark 5 numbered 285 was a gift from the local war savings association in recognition of the 2 500 000 raised by Cheltonians in war bonds and savings certificates.

I suspect it was really a Mk IV but perhaps a request to somewhere like the Cheltenham library might find a photo to be sure?



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In "The BritishTank, a photographic history" produced by George Forty when he was the Director and Curator of the Tank Museum there is a photo of a Mk V male at the Lullworth gunnery school with a number on the 700 series (740). There is also a photo of a Mk IV supply tank with single digit (4)

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Legend

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I've been away a few days (no Internet!) since starting this thread and have just seen how busy you've all been in the meantime. Thanks for the comments and the several new photos (at least to me). Two comments: I've yet to see any Mk IX with a training number, as commented above Mk IX census numbers are three digit ones starting 9 and so easy to confuse; secondly the Mk IV Male carrying 148 is identified by David Fletcher as the tank presented to Lincoln, not a touring tank. The town had a Male to honour it as the birthplace of the tank.

I can't explain everything yet, but please keep the info coming!

Cheers!

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148 had a life BEFORE being presented to Lincoln (if indeed that is were it ended up - I've seen some doubt expressed about the photo of it in its presentation state actually being in Lincoln). However it does seem to have visited a number of places in and around Lincolnshire being sometimes mistaken for Julian. I've seen one reference that it came straight from Fosters into that role. There were in fact a number of male presentation tanks (Coventry's for example)
131 appears to have done some visits as well (there is at least one photo supporting this). There's nothing that says that the tanks that asembled in Trafalgar Square (either in Nov 1917 or in March 1918) were the only tanks used for fund raising.

We need to be careful before assuming that all tanks with a 3 digit number were indeed training tanks -for example 140 was used as a testbed for a number of ideas including different forms of unditching gear. Its possible that a 3 digit number was indeed a general home service number that included but was not restricted to training tanks.



-- Edited by Centurion at 23:58, 2007-04-07

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That's precisely why I prefer the term "Home Forces number" to "training number"!

Yes, Coventry certainly had a Male presentation tank (number 145?). I have seen it argued thattowns with connections to tanks or the military tended to have Male presentation tanks. Coventry, a centre for engineering, was certainly involved in the supply of components. As you'll know Daimlers were based there. I assume the Coventry Chain Co (which provided chain drives for Mark IV tanks) was also based there, though I've never really understood why the Coventry Ordnance Works is in Glasgow....

I have a note that The Tank Museum at Bovington has a photo (reference 6354/C/1) that shows tank 131 apparently in Tunbridge Wells. I'm not clear if it was part of a tour or a presentation. According to the Friends of the Lincoln Tank a tank was definitely presented to Tunbridge Wells.

-- Edited by Gwyn Evans at 22:27, 2007-04-08

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Gwyn Evans wrote:

... the Mk IV Male carrying 148 is identified by David Fletcher as the tank presented to Lincoln, not a touring tank. The town had a Male to honour it as the birthplace of the tank.

I can't explain everything yet, but please keep the info coming!

Cheers!


Is this possibly the tank that was initially painted up as HMLS Lincoln? There are a few pictures of it in "Landships of Lincoln". According to Richard Pullen, it did some Tank Bank work in Lincoln (naturally) but doesn't go on to say where HMLS Lincoln ended up.



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Gwyn Evans wrote:

That's precisely why I prefer the term "Home Forces number" to "training number"!

Yes, Coventry certainly had a Male presentation tank (number 145?). I have seen it argued that tanks with connections to tanks or the military tended to have Male presentation tanks. Coventry, a centre for engineering, was certainly involved in the supply of components. As you'll know Daimlers were based there. I assume the Coventry Chain Co (which provided chain drives for Mark IV tanks) was also based there, though I've never really understood why the Coventry Ordnance Works is in Glasgow....

I have a note that The Tank Museum at Bovington has a photo (reference 6354/C/1) that shows tank 131 apparently in Tunbridge Wells. I'm not clear if it was part of a tour or a presentation. According to the Friends of the Lincoln Tank a tank was definitely presented to Tunbridge Wells.


I've a copy of the 131 tank at Tunbridge Wells photo, It certainly looks more like a tank bank type event.Re the theory about Male tanks going to towns associated with tank development - this would favour the Tunbridge Wells 131tank being a tank bankand not its presentation tank. As far as I can tell ALL the towns that had a tank bank week also got a presentation tank (not of course the same tank).I'll post the photo later.The various lists of tank bank week locations that I've seen do not seem to be complete as I have found details of tank bank weeks not listed (for example Alchester).


Does anyone know when precisely the numbering system was introduced? At the same time that large call signs were added to tanks in France? (and exactly when was that?).

I would suggest that so far the evidence supports your theory re the Mk IVs butI think its still not clear exactly how it worked for Mk V and V*s - however no doubt as soon as you've concluded that you know exactly how it all works the dreaded photo of the exception that tests the rulewill be discovered



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I enclose a photo taken at Bovingdon sometime after September 1918 it shows what is either a Mk I or a Mk II with a 2 digit number. Unfortunately the photo is rather grainy so that one could interpret the rivets on top of the cab either way. I cannot see any raised edges on the vision flaps so it could be a Mk I in which case it adds to the theory.

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Thanks for the latest post. I have seen this photo before and I also concluded it was either a Mk I or II but I wasn't sure which. As I recall it comes from a site giving biographical details of a Canadian who served with tanks. If this is a tank of the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion it would, I think, be a very unusual photo.

The other interesting thing is that the number appears to be 56. Since 19 was a Mark III and 81 was also a Mark III, but this is a Mark I or II it looks as though the Home Forces numbers were applied to tanks as the man with the paint pot reached them. He didn't do all the Mark Is, then the IIs and then the IIIs till he ran out of tanks to paint with two digit numbers.

I don't know for sure when these numbers started to be applied. I think in the autumn of 1917, but if anyone has any evidence....

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Gwyn Evans wrote:
The other interesting thing is that the number appears to be 56. Since 19 was a Mark III and 81 was also a Mark III, but this is a Mark I or II it looks as though the Home Forces numbers were applied to tanks as the man with the paint pot reached them. He didn't do all the Mark Is, then the IIs and then the IIIs till he ran out of tanks to paint with two digit numbers.


Which raises the question was the 3 digit code deliberately introduced for Mk IVs or was it a case of 'we've reached 99 and what do we do now? Lets introduce 200 for females etc'? The problem is this can be resolved one way (ie if we find a photo of a Mk IVwith a 2 digit no or alternatively a I, II or III with a three digit number) but not the other as not finding a photo of something doesn't prove it didn't happen. The best we can say is if we keep finding more and more pre Mk IVs with 3 digit numbers and no shots of them with 2 digits or pre Mk IVs with three then the likely hood of this being the case becomes ever smaller.


-- Edited by Centurion at 00:19, 2007-04-09

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Centurion wrote:

I enclose a photo taken at Bovingdon sometime after September 1918 it shows what is either a Mk I or a Mk II with a 2 digit number. Unfortunately the photo is rather grainy so that one could interpret the rivets on top of the cab either way. I cannot see any raised edges on the vision flaps so it could be a Mk I in which case it adds to the theory.

It's definitely a Mk II. Even though the rivets are indistinct it does have the narrow cab of the Mk II. Another point is that there is another photo of this tank.

P.S.:The splash guards surrounding the vision flaps have been removed as has the cover for the cab MG.

-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 05:07, 2007-04-09

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This photo of a MkII with training number 56raises a few questions. Although intended as training tanks, few of the MkII's appear to have servedfor long in this role.I can't recall seeing any other photos of MkII's with training numbers.Twenty-six of the 50 MkII's produced were sent to Bovington in early 1917, but all of them appear to have been sent on to France prior to the Battle of Arras in April. (19 MkII's had been sent directly to France, and 5 MkII females were to receive experimentalpowertrains for the Oldbury trials). None of the MkII's photographed at Arras show evidence of a training number, suggesting the numberswere not in use at this time, or they were painted over in France. Most of the MkII's were destroyed at Arras, anda number of the survivorswere converted to supply tanks. At least some of the MkII's survived the war and had been returned from France to the obsolete tank graveyard at Bovington by 1919.There would not seem to be a good reason to apply a training number to these obsolete returned tanks. So how did "56" get it's number?Perhaps itwas one of the Oldbury trial tanks, sent to Bovington after the trials concluded in March 1917.In common with the Oldbury tanks, it lacks sponsons and has alterations of the cab flaps and apertures.

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The attached Mk V has neither an alpha number number call sign nor a three digit home service number. It does have a large single digit number on a dark (black?) square

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Legend

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This is such a good photo I've used it as my computer's wallpaper in the past. It comes from the AWM, which identifies the location as Duncan Post, Ronssoy and the date as 29 September 1918. The tanks have been disabled by mines (the photo was taken by someone standing on another tank - the unditching beam can just be seen in the original photo but it's been cropped from the version posted here.

I came across a photo of a Mark V Female also with thisrough painted 4 on a black square recently (where?!), so this marking appears to be for aunit as opposed to an individual tank."The Tank Corps" by Williams-Ellis makes reference to ten tanks of the US 301st Tank Battalionbeing destroyed by mines on 29 September 1918 (pages 251-253). Somy assumption is that this tank is an American one. But I still don't know what the "4" actually means.

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Certainly a number of US tanks were disabled by mines (actually the ones on the date you mention appear to have hit an old British mine field laid down during the German offensive earlier that year - friendly mines!) however what I've seen about this particular instance suggests a number lower than 10 and the tanks affected as Mk V*s. (A suggestion has been made that the tanks were warned in advance but their section commander ignored this advice - how true this is I don't know). One has to be a little cautious about Williams- Ellis he sometimes gets numbers, types and even crew names wrong or muddled.

I think I've sen a photo of a supply tank with the same number - I need to search. None of the photos I've seen where US tanks are clearly id as such has this number. The Germans did lay a lot of anti tank mines.

"Initially, the Germans buried standard artillery and mortar shells with a sensitive fuze pointed up. They also employed command-detonated mines, which are forerunners of full-width-attack AT mines. Later in World War I, the Germans improvised many types of mines, including a wooden box mine that measured approximately 14 by 16 by 2 inches and weighed about 12 pounds. Twenty 200-gram blocks of explosive were placed in each box, which was normally buried about 10 inches deep. Detonation was initiated by a hand grenade placed inside and against one wall of the box so that the primer passed through the wall. The mines functioned by pressure as tanks passed over them or by command detonation. Electric blasting caps, which first appeared in 1900, greatly facilitated command detonation. During World War I, Germans scattered their AT mines at random or in locally created patterns to reinforce wire obstacles and AT ditches in front of trench lines.

The Germans began to manufacture standard AT mines in 1916 and produced nearly three million before the Armistice of 1918. Regrettably, no information on the characteristics of these factory-produced mines has come to light. German AT mines accounted for a sig-nificant portion of allied tank losses, including about 15 percent of U.S. tank casualties, during the battles of St. Mihiel, Catalet-Bony, Selle, and Meuse/Argonne. The British also im-provised AT mines during World War I. Two varieties have been identified: one based on a pipe bomb and the other on a bombard shell."

So the tank in question could be British

Incidentally asa very small boy I met a British tank driver who had driven over a German AT mine in 1918. His name was Wainright and he still walked with a stick and a limp. Unfortunately in those days we were all much more interested in Centurion tanks in Korea so I never asked him the questions I wish I could ask today.



-- Edited by Centurion at 01:08, 2007-04-12

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Legend

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Centurion wrote:

Certainly a number of US tanks were disabled by mines (actually the ones on the date you mention appear to have hit an old British mine field laid down during the German offensive earlier that year - friendly mines!) however what I've seen about this particular instance suggests a number lower than 10 and the tanks affected as Mk V*s...


Thereis aphoto of a mine-disabled Mk V*at the AWM website. It doesn't have detailed information as to where ithit the mine. Could be an own goal.

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Perhaps the black square is important. If a tank was transferred from the British to the Americans presumably the old alpha-numeric number would have to be painted out.

I'm wandering into speculation here - dangerous when there's minefields about, friendly or otherwise.

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Found the photo of the Mark V Female with the mysterious "4". I'll try to post if my creaky computer can fight off the gremlins I've seen others complain of.


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Now that 4 doesn't have a black square so probably explodes the 'cover up those limey call signs' theory.

One wonders why no one has seen a 1, 2, 3 or 5 marking. Perhaps its not a unit or section marking but something functional such as tanks with this marking carry a.... only I can't think of a plausible function.

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Just found a note from research at The National Archives (London). "On 29 September 1918 301st American Tank Battalion lost ten of its Mark V when crossing an old British minefield."

What would also help is if we knew whether 9107 (see "Tank/Supply or Baggage" thread) served with the Americans.

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I've seen an American account of Sept 29th that states " a part of the 301st Battalion and British tanks were routed through an area were the British forces had placed a mine field in March 1918, as a defence against German tanks and, in going through this field, two or three of the 301st Battalion tanks and some of the British tanks were blown up". In addition it appears that some of the American tanks suffered failure from problems with the vacuum systems and their crews taken prisoner (it seems that for some unaccountable reason the American crews had not been issued with pistols and so could not easily fight off close quarter attacks). I would suspect that the "10 American tankslost" to mines is really aconfabulation of American tanks mined, British tanks mined andAmerican tanks lost to other causes in the same area.
It would seem that in general somewhere about ten percent of all Allied tank loses in 1918 were down to mines. Given the much greater number of British tanks employed than American a mined tank is more likely to be British than American. This does not mean that the "4" tanks are not American but that being mined alone is not a sure indication that they are.

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Gwyn Evans wrote:

...I think the system behind them works like this:
Two digit numbers: early tanks, i.e. Marks I, II and III, both Males and Females. Examples include 20 and 81, both Mark III Females. (Note: I don't have evidence that any Mark Is carried these numbers).
Three digit numbers, first digit 1: Mark IV Males. Examples include 109, 113, 130, 141.
Three digit numbers, first digit 2: Mark IV Females. Examples include 228, 261, 290.
Three digit numbers, first digit 4: Mark IV Tenders. Examples include 403 and 469.
Three digit numbers, first digit 8: Mark V* Females. The only example I know is 832.
Three digit numbers, first digit 9: Mark V* Males. The only examples known to me are 902 and 909.

Does anyone have a photograph of a Mark V with Home Forces numbers? Anyone seen a Home Forces number (possibly on a Mark IV Female) starting with 3? Finally, does anyone have any evidence that disproves this, such as a photo of a Mark V* with a number starting 2?



Is it possible that the 700's were reserved for Mk V & Mk V* hermaphrodites / composites? I have since seen another Mk V* that has a 700 series number. Beingable to see only one side of a tank in a photo makes it difficult to test the theory.

Perhaps 500's were for Mk V males and 600's for Mk V females, although with only the single example of Mk V female 610 to go off, and no good reason why there should be no 300's (unless the photoshaven't turned up yet), this will have to be fairly speculative.

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I obviously don't know the answer, because we're short of evidence in terms of photographs. But I will make a guess: I don't think there is a sequence for composites. I guess that the reason for Mark V*s to appear in the 700s, 800s and 900s is far more straightforward - namely that there were too many of them to fit.

From my research at Kew, I believe that in November 1918 there were 97 Mark V* Males and 33 Mark V* Females in the UK. All the Composites were in France. According to John Glanfield in "The Devil's Chariots" 579 Mark V*s had been built by the Armistice but 700 were completed in all by 14 March 1919 and all the tanks built after Armistice were Males. That's another 121 Males. Thus there would have been, by March 1919, 33 Females and 218 Males in the UK, plus any tanks returned from France, less anydeclared unfit or exported.

To my knowledge no Mark V*s were deployed elsewhere (please correct me if I'm wrong)and all the exports of Mark V*s I'm aware of took place before the Armistice. Let's suppose that the net effect is that the number of Mark V* Males in the UK is justunder 200. That would mean thatthe 700 sequence alone would beinsufficient so the 900 sequence had to be used. The Females already had the 800 sequence.

Again, according to my research there were very few Mark Vs in the UK at the time of the Armistice - just one Male and two Females. In both the UK and France there were only 124 and of these 29 were in workshops in France. So even if all the tanks in running order were returned to the UK (which they weren't) they would all fit in the 600 sequence. (No Mark Vs were built after the Armistice).

Incidentally, note that the onlyMark V* Femalenumber I have is 832- so if the numbering started at 800 rather than 801 that would be the 33rd Female.

All this is supposition of course, a bit of evidence would be really welcome!

Gwyn

P.S. Thanks Mark for encouraging me to put brain in gear on this again.

-- Edited by Gwyn Evans at 22:54, 2007-07-06

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Just found anotherMkV* female with a Home Forces number. Itis in "The British Tanks 1915 - 19",p. 69, miscaptioned as a Mk IV. There isn't much to see (the photo was used to show the new type female sponson) but enough to tell that it isn't a Mk IV. The number is in the 800 series but what exactly it isI'll let everyone else decide. The first number is an 8, the second an 0, but the third is obscured yet again by the helpful crew from Cryptonumbers, a group that seemed to have no other purpose than to get in the way in photographs!
What shows it isn't a Mk IV apart from the HF number?The panel detail just behind the sponson is the main identifier.

-- Edited by Mark Hansen at 11:26, 2007-07-31

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Legend

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One more for your collection, Gwyn."The British Tanks 1915 - 19" on p. 149 has a Mk V* female with its HF number as 826.

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Legend

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Thanks Mark. Could you give the full details of this book, please? Is the author B T White? Looks like I shall have to bother my long suffering librarian again!

Cheers

Gwyn

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Legend

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It's "The British Tanks 1915-19" by David Fletcher. ISBN 1-86126-400-3.

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