Landships II

Members Login
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: AEF Tanks


Status: Offline
Posts: 124
AEF Tanks

I came across this on the web, and thought i would post here, in case it wasn't done before.


Only one battalion, the 301st, was used in combat, assigned to the 4th British Tank Brigade and then to the 1st Tank Brigade. The battalion did not receive any tanks for its own use until August 30, 1918, after it embarked from Southampton for Le Havre and finally arrived at Erin. In mid-September, the Batttalion learned it would be joining the British Fourth Army in an attempt to breach the Hindenburg Line. On September 19, the 301st learned it would be part of the British 4th Tank Brigade's, and in particular, would be supporting the the US 27th Infantry Division's attack.

On September 20-21, the Battalion loaded its 47 tanks, a mix of Mark Vs and Mark V*s  ("mark five-star"). By this point the 301st had had its tanks for a total of 21 days--3 weeks.

The 301st tanks were all previously British-operated tanks that had been redistributed to the Americans. Many came from the 10th and 14th British Tank Battalions.  As such, many of the US-driven tanks that went into action on September 29, still bore the markings of the their previous British operators. 

The basic markings on all Mark V and V*s were thus: 


*The left and right horns (front of the each side of the tank) had three hand-painted stripes, each about 12" wide: White-Red-White (sorry, the above photo is post-Armistice and shows a 301st tank with just White-Red). The pattern was repeated on the top and back of the "cabs" on top of the tanks.  These were battlefield and air recognition markings, deemed necessary after the Germans fielded many captured Mark IV rhomboid tanks after the Battle of Cambrai.  AFTER the 301st returned to the US, this practice was modified to use the stripes in different combinations to denote a tank of a particular company.

*Census number (also known as registration number). The four-digit number  was  painted in white on the rear of each hull side above the ventilator grille.

That's it for markings.  SOME tanks, however, bore "personalized" markings, the most obvious were the tanks reassigned from the 10th British Tank Battalion. These were marked with a large, white, hand-painted vehicle number preceded by the letter "J" (designating the 10th Company.). So far, I know that the 301st operated tanks that were marked with J4, J7, J19, J21, J22, and J41.


Other tanks, transferred to the 301st from the 14th British Tank Battalion, bore the number and name combinations: "N8 Neptune," "N11 Natal, " and N02 Newmarket." Other recorded markings I have of 301st-operated tanks include "BISON III", "Baby Doll" (probably painted post-Armistice), "H01," and "I.2." 

One soldier wrote home that their tank was named the "ANGLIN" (no 9111) in honor of an English girlfriend. He didn't say, however, if they painted the name on the tank, but rather, simply said they named their tank after the girl. 


The most unusual, however, appears in the history of Company A, 301st Tank Battalion: No 9604 has a large yin-yang symbol painted on both horns.  Groups of  Company A tankers posed for their portraits in front of this tank, and yet, I can't find record that any group 301st tankers actually drove this tank!  It was likely a 301st Tank, however, because it ended up in the United States after the war.  An important aside: All marking conventions identified pre-armistice are out the door in the post November 11 world. The 301st, when it returned to the United States with its tanks, now knew they were "THEIR" tanks. Therefore, new marking conventions were established to identify tanks within the battalion.


As important as "crews not tanks" is when considering the Light Tank Battalion, it is even more prevalent in the Heavy Battalions.  The tanks were simply regarded as tools, and assigned as needed.  They were crewed as assigned.  SO, a particular crew did not necessarily drive the same tank, day after day. This becomes obvious as the assault on the Hindenburg line continued. By November 4, the 301st was down to just a handful of operable tanks. Commanders were selected for that day's assault and their crews then climbed into one of the operable tanks. It didn't matter if they had fought in a different tank the day before.  Commanders were selected for the specific operation, and then those commanders selected which tank they wanted to take into action.

Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Tweet this page Post to Digg Post to