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Post Info TOPIC: The Big Mephisto book.


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The Big Mephisto book.

PDA asked what people got for Christmas. Well, this was for my birthday, last June, but it arrived, after a much Covid-interrupted journey from Australia, this week. Yes, that's right, this week. Many thanks to the Queensland Museum for overcoming numerous difficulties, and to the memsahib for her thoughtfulness and generosity.

This site saves me a lot of trouble:

It's not just about Mephisto. It's like an Open University course on the origins and conduct of the Great War. If you click on the thumbnail of the contents page you'll see that it takes until page 190 (of 350) to get to Villers-Bretonneux. There is lots of stuff that's very familiar to the cognoscenti, but there's also a lot of interesting info surrounding tanks and the War in general.

Amongst the highlights is an aerial photo (apparently one of several) of Mephisto abandoned opposite Monument Farm. I didn't know there were any - of course I should have thought of that. But it gives me considerable comfort to know that I was pretty much correct when I tried to find the spot during our trip there.

Faults? Well, it's obviously given an Australian spin. The sleeve notes say, "A small group of soldiers - Queenslanders and Tasmanians of the 26th Battalion - retrieved the tank from within sight of the German lines." Well, that's not quite the whole truth, but there you go.

The battle of V-B is described in considerable detail, but the authors subscribe to the theory that Mephisto was blown up in error by a demolition squad sent to destroy Nixe. AFAIK it's now accepted that this didn't happen and that Nixe was correctly targeted. Tell me if I've got this wrong.

A bit disappointing that they don't clarify whether the vehicles sent to tow Mephisto were Mark IVs or Gun Carriers. They tend to use the terms indiscriminately or refer to them as "gun carrier tanks."

They also describe this as "an artist's impression of a British tank," which is wrong:



And on the last-but-one page (344) the authors try to explain the two Mark Vs in Berlin in 1945, but I'm afraid they confuse those with the ones used at Tallinn, and say that only one Mark V was taken from Smolensk to Berlin. Similar mistakes to those in David Fletcher's Osprey book. It ends up as a bit of a jumble. There's also a bit about the FTs found in Afghanistan which isn't quite right.

(A personal grouch: Ernest Swinton gets a mention, as "British tank designer," which he wasn't.)

This is a real coffee-table book on WWI - crammed with photographs, paintings, drawings, maps and trench maps, trench art, newspaper cuttings, letters, diaries, postcards, cigarette cards, toys . . . a lot of it not connected with Mephisto. A pity such a lavish work should contain a handful of mistakes. Not the end of the world,  but getting things right should be a matter of principle, I would suggest. Especially since QM are asking A$60 (£33.50) to which you have to add the postage. Since the hardback weighs 1.6 Kg (3.5lb), the postage is substantial. I haven't asked the memsahib how much, but she hinted that it wasn't far off the cost of the book.

It sounds unfair to say that I don't know who this book is aimed at. The QM does a little booklet for a few dollars, which, really, tells you all you need to know about Mephisto. This new one is 350 pages. I'm still pondering.





"Sometimes things that are not true are included in Wikipedia. While at first glance that may appear like a very great problem for Wikipedia, in reality is it not. In fact, it's a good thing." - Wikipedia.


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I had the advantage in that all I needed to do was get a train to South Brisbane station which is close to the Museum. 

I agree with your comments about the book. I think it was meant as a resource book for school libraries so that students could

do projects on Mephisto and WW1.

I agree that the description of the recovery of Mephisto was poorly done. In the original Mephisto book published by QM in the 1980s the recovery process

and the role of the 26th Bn were well described. It really isn't known whether Gun Carriers or Mark IV Supply tanks were used. A lot of the Gun Carriers

were destroyed when they got caught in an artillery barrage in the woods outside Villers-Bretonneux in May 1918 (I think) - their numbers were made

up with Supply tanks.

I agree that the case for a demolition charge being responsible for the damage to the roof of Mephisto is weak at best. Nixie was blown up and there is photo

of the destroyed Nixie in the AWM collection (attached) - the whole superstructure was ripped off. 

There's a lot of research on Mephisto and the A7Vs which is just missing such as the French analysis and testing of the armour on Elfriede revealed that the 

French 37mm guns couldn't penetrate the hull of the tank and that, contrary to some opinion, the A7V hulls were constructed of Nickel steels which were carburised

using the Krupp process to produce effective armour plate. 

By the way, I think memsahib is a keeper.



-- Edited by CharlieC on Tuesday 2nd of February 2021 01:06:28 AM



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I tidied up the Wikipedia article on Mephisto quite considerably, using amongst other things an article by Mark Whitmore that appeared in the Australian Journal of Military History in 1994. Bizarrely, I can find no trace of the Journal now. Fortunately, I downloaded the article. It includes a map of the attack at V-B on which the map on page 201 of the new book is clearly based.

There's also this. I can't say I would place a lot of trust in a source that refers to Mephisto as an AV7. Scroll half way down.

-- Edited by James H on Wednesday 3rd of February 2021 08:01:34 PM


"Sometimes things that are not true are included in Wikipedia. While at first glance that may appear like a very great problem for Wikipedia, in reality is it not. In fact, it's a good thing." - Wikipedia.

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