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Post Info TOPIC: call signs and names


Legend

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call signs and names
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Arising out of thre discussions re supply tanks Forage et al I've been taking a hard look at the general subject of call signs and numbers. Its proving to be a significant task. I am posting the first fruits which consist of an examination of the call signs and names of F battalion - much more to follow.


The numbering and  naming of tanks appears to be as almost an ineffable subject as the naming of cats. There is much we don’t know (and may never know). Close scrutiny of seemingly reliable sources can throw up significant questions about their reliability and completeness.


 


The ‘White list’

 


 One prime example is the table of F Battalion call signs and names for August – November 1917 published by White and repeated in the pages of this site. At first sight this appears to be a pretty complete list.  However even without comparing it with any other source certain oddities emerge and when it is matched with other information it becomes clear that it is not all that it seems.


 


When first set up with its tanks in June/July 1917 F Battalion was organised into three companies each with 3 sections of 4 tanks. Each company also had 2 supply tanks and one wireless tank. In August/September 1917 a reorganisation produces companies with 4 sections of 3 tanks each but the same number of supply and wireless tanks. Either way the total battalion strength was 45 tanks. The ‘White list’ shows some 51 individual tank call signs. Each company appears to have too many tanks, for example no. 16 coy. has 14 tanks plus 2 supply and one wireless tank (17 tanks rather than the 15 one would expect). When we then compare the ‘White list’ with the Battalion history covering the Battle of Ypres at the end of July 1917 some interesting discrepancies begin to appear.


 


A list compiled from the histories of the tanks of the 16th and  17th coy. (18 coy was held in reserve) for the last days of July is as follows:


 


16 co


F.1. "Firespite".                        Ditched


F.3. "Frolic".                             Ditched and Destroyed  Commander wounded


F.4. "Flint" (Flirt?).                       ?


F.5. "Firefly".                            Ditched and Broke down


F.6. "Feu D'Artifice".                   Ditched


F.7. "Feu de Ciel".                     Ditched


F.9. "Feu Follet".                     Rallied*


F.11. "Fizyama".                      Broke down


F.12. "Friar Tuck".                   Ditched


F.13. "Falcon".                      Destroyed        Commander killed


F.15. "Fifinella".                     Ditched            Commander & 1 crew wounded


 


*F9 Feu Follet was put out of action by shell fire after it had rallied


 


 


17 co


F.21. "Five Knights".             Rallied


F.22. "Flying Fox".                Broke down


F.23. "Foggie"                      Broke down


F.25. "Fums Up"..                Broke down


F.26. "Fearless".                  Ditched


F.27. "Fighting Mac".             Rallied?


F.28. "Formidable".               Rallied


F.30. "Flaming Fire".              Destroyed


F.36. "Furious"                      Ditched            Commander wounded


F.37. "Ferocious"..                 Broke down


F.38. "Firefly".                      Destroyed        Commander killed


F.39. "Formosa"                    Rallied


 


(It is interesting to note that there were 2 Firefly’s in service with the Battalion at the same time F.5 & F.38 so that names were not unique to a specific tank or crew)


 


Where a tank is marked as destroyed this means what it says (for example F.38 hit by four artillery shells and burnt out). Ditched means irretrievably ditched (most of the tanks ditched several times in the course of their attack but were got out by their crews using the unditching beam, and in one case by digging it out). Irretrievably ditched tanks were abandoned when bogged in too deeply and  can be regarded as almost certainly lost. One would assume that tanks that broke down were probably recovered late (especially if this occurred near their jumping off point). It is clear therefore that many tanks were lost (16th coy effectively loosing most of their tanks) by July 31st 1917. Yet their call signs and names appear in the ‘White list’ for August – November 1917!


 


In some cases a name has obviously been ‘reincarnated’ as a II has been added (as in Firespite II). In others one can see that the original call sign has been reallocated to another differently named tank (as in F.5 Firefly/Fervent). But this still leaves at least ten tanks lost at Ypres whose names and call signs still appear unchanged  in the ‘White list’ One example is F.30 Flaming Fire which was destroyed at Ypres; another F.30 was with the Battalion at Cambrai in November 1917 for these is a photo of it knocked out behind the German wire. This tank was almost certainly one of those issued to the Battalion on the 19th September when the Ypres losses were replaced, but would the name have been retained unchanged? In the case of  F.3 Frolic were not only was the tank destroyed but the commander (and possibly others of the crew) killed would the name have been retained? It should be remembered that the names were very much the ‘property’ of the commander and crew. 


 


There are some call signs and names in the ‘White list’ that do not appear in F battalion’s order of battle at Ypres (for example F.8 Freemason). This may represent one of the September 19th replacement tanks where the call sign and name of a destroyed tank has not been revived. Given the large number of replacement tanks issued in September it is probable that some or all of them had new names (or the II suffix) and this has not been recorded. There is one further small mystery – F.5 appears in the battalion history as Flint but in White’s list and elsewhere as Flirt. This could have been a simple typing mistake in the original document or it could represent a new name being allocated to the call sign because the original tank had been lost (along with its commander).


 


The id of supply tanks in the ‘White list’ is a little puzzling. Normal practice across all the different tank battalions appears to have been to give supply tanks a call sign in which the first two characters were alpha, the first being the battalion letter and the second ‘S’. (G battalion certainly appear to have followed this convention) As late as May 1917 there were no more than 12 supply tanks available for the whole of the tank corps, these being “improvised from earlier marks” (ie I and II) so this numbering would not have caused any problems.  However the ‘White list shows only two tank call signs following this pattern and two others with fighting tank call signs. By mid June F battalion had drawn less than half its complement of tanks and it is possible that supply tanks were not actually available. Certainly the supply tanks were delivered to the front after the fighting tanks. In the event only two supply tanks were committed to battle by F battalion . These followed the ‘mopping up section’ of 16 coy. If Whites list is any thing approaching accurate these would have to have  bene FS.1 and FS.2. Given the general lack of success of 16 coy’s attack (due to the totally unsuitable ground) one cannot be sanguine about their chances of survival. But which were the supply tanks allocated to 18 coy? I suspect these have not been listed (assuming that they existed). When F Battalion drew new tanks on 19th Sept to replace their Ypres losses the supply tanks were returned to Erin. Thus these cannot have been present in November as White’s list suggests ( the service life of any Mk I or II supply tanks with F Battalion must have been incredibly short being effectively a mere handful in July 1917.)


In short White’s list merely represents call signs and name combinations that existed sometime between June 1917 and November 1917 but not necessarily concurrently (this would explain the numerical discrepancy). It is also possible (likely?) that it is incomplete. It would therefore be unwise to use it to back or create too many theories.



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aka Robert Robinson Always mistrust captions


Commander in Chief

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As usual, facts and reports differ.


F.30 "Flaming Fire" became No.3 "Lotte" of Beute-Abteilung 14 and was lost (again) on June 1st, 1918, close to the Fort de la Pompelle. The tank remained there - possibly - until WW2 (as a kind of monument) and is supposed to have been dragged away by the Germans in 1942.


F.13 "Falcon II" was the first captured tank demonstrated to the Kaiser and the OHL in December 1917 and is also prominent in a German film "Die Englischen Tanks bei Cambrai" that was shown in Germany in January 1918. (However, Falcon II indicates an earlier Falcon, that may have been lost in Flanders.)



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MZ


Legend

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mad zeppelin wrote:


As usual, facts and reports differ. F.30 "Flaming Fire" became No.3 "Lotte" of Beute-Abteilung 14 and was lost (again) on June 1st, 1918, close to the Fort de la Pompelle. The tank remained there - possibly - until WW2 (as a kind of monument) and is supposed to have been dragged away by the Germans in 1942. F.13 "Falcon II" was the first captured tank demonstrated to the Kaiser and the OHL in December 1917 and is also prominent in a German film "Die Englischen Tanks bei Cambrai" that was shown in Germany in January 1918. (However, Falcon II indicates an earlier Falcon, that may have been lost in Flanders.)

The F.30 you mention was the second tank to bear this call sign and the one lost at Cambrai not the one destroyed at Ypres. There is no Falcon II in Whites list which rather makes my point about its accuracy.

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aka Robert Robinson Always mistrust captions


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The names appear to be those that were in use for the Cambrai battle. They match with German reports about vehicles captured.


From what I've seen of British tank corps files, they usually use the callsign (e.g. F.30) only without name, so whatever name the vehicle may have had in Flanders, the F.30 at Cambrai fore sure bore the name "Flaming Fire".



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Legend

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mad zeppelin wrote:


The names appear to be those that were in use for the Cambrai battle. They match with German reports about vehicles captured. From what I've seen of British tank corps files, they usually use the callsign (e.g. F.30) only without name, so whatever name the vehicle may have had in Flanders, the F.30 at Cambrai fore sure bore the name "Flaming Fire".

We know that F30 bore the name Flaming Fire at Ypres because the 6th Batt history uses both names and call signs. In general (borne out by examples from a number of battalions) naming practice appears to be that if a tank was lost and a new tank issued with the same call sign it either bore the same name PLUS a II (or III or even IV depending how many replacements there were) or an entirely diferent name was issued. As F 30 was lost at Ypres then one would expect the F30 captured at Cambrai to either be named Flaming Fire II or bear an entirely different name. White's list reflects neither of these. I don't know how the decision was taken to continue with a name but suspect that if there had been casualties an a new crew was assigned to the call sign then they would apply a new name otherwise they would stick with the original (plus a II or III etc as appropriate)

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Legend

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I've found some details of photos in the Bundesarchiv of captured Mk IVs assembled at Bourlon among them C30 (diferent shot from the usual one) The accompanying text indicates that this was 'Flaming Fire II' of F Battalion.
Its therefore clear that the C30 destroyed at Ypres was 'Flaming Fire' and the  C30 captured at Cambrai was its replacement 'Flaming Fire II'. As I said previously White's list does not reflect this

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aka Robert Robinson Always mistrust captions
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