Inside a Tank during an attack

A first hand account by an unknown local man in a letter to his sister written in 1917  

    Inside the tank, are the keen-eyed fighting men know as the "crew" strangely garbed as becomes their strange craft, while around them is a complicated mass of machinery. Now we are passing over shell holes tree stumps and many other trifles which fill the ground of "no mans land" The deck of the tank rolls and pitches like a torpedo boat in a storm. The crew hold on to anything within reach to steady ourselves, while rushing down a shell hole, probably made by a coal box. But we are old hands full of A, Bs in fact and we come safely through without sea sickness.

    Suddenly the gunnery officer gives "To action". His voice is only just heard above the whirling machinery. A few sighting shots and we have found the range. We succeed in putting out two machine gun emplacements the guns of which have been worrying our infantry for sometime. And now the action begins in earnest. Hun bullets are rebounding off our tough sides like hail from a glass roof, while inside the Tank, the crew are at various guns, which break forth in a devastating fire under which nothing can live. Now we are on the parapet of the first Hun trench just on the outskirts of the wood which is our objective, as we go bumping on to the other side we really think that we are "in the wood" in more ways than one for we land with a terrific bump, which makes us wonder if the piston rings have jumped inside the carburetter (sic) or something even more serious has happened. We find however that it is merely a can of petrol which has slipped from its pigeon-hole and come clattering down on the armoured deck, with its stopper shaken out and its dangerous spirit running over the floor just as we were wanting our spirits kept up, too ! However we just enfiladed that trench followed up the retreating Huns for a minute or two, cleared out the nearest dugout and went on our way to the next trench.

    By this time the fumes from the hundreds of rounds which we had fired, with the heat from the engines and the waste petrol and oil, have made the air quite oppressive and uncomfortable to breath in. However, those who go down to the lands in Tanks are accustomed to many strange  sensations which would make an ordinary mortal shudder. Now we are nearing the next enemy trench, and we hear the deep report of bursting bombs above the pattering of the storm of bullets striking our armour. We make a fairly difficult target as our way lies between numerous tree trunks and battered stumps also much barbed wire. Our strange craft is battling bravely with the waves of earth now encountered and the conditions inside might be better imagined than described. But thanks  to our protective head gear we come through it all still smiling to find ourselves on the edge of the Hun trench. This proves to be composed of shell holes of all sizes just linked together showing how severe our previous bombardments had been. The Huns show fight here, and we have a warm ten minutes! before they show signs of retreating. 

    We leave them for a minute or to in order to ram a machine gun emplacement, which is still threatening our  rapidly advancing infantry. we just crawl over the embankment guns and all, it is not necessary to fire a single shot.  Now it is time for us to advance to the next and last objective. we have the good fortune to strike a road which has escaped serious damage. and making all speed along this we make up to the Huns who have escaped from the last trench. But they have had enough of the all devouring monster and are ready to throw down their arms and make their way to our infantry, glad to be prisoners. The last trench proves to be the worst, for just as we are crossing a large hole our Tank stops. I believe the sparking plugs have ceased to sparkle, and it is in a very awkward place, as tree stumps now prevent free traverse of our guns. Two or three Huns, seeing our difficulty, crawl out of a hole like rabbits and are brave enough to creep onto the back of the Tank from behind. But we hear them on the armour, and they were doomed  not to get the Iron Cross, for we open a small trap-door and shoot them with a revolver. Of course we had seen them before they reached the Tank, but as our mechanism was giving us little change of occupation just then we did not trouble about them. And now the Tank is going again strong. Only just in time for a large lyddite bomb bursts against the armoured jacket of my gun. The flare comes in through the port-hole behind me, blinding me for a minute or so, while splinters strike my face. But my gun is still untouched thanks to the armoured plate, and somehow seems to work much better. I catch sight of some Hun  retreating along a trench almost in line with a burst of fire. The Germans are now scattered into small parties it is almost like playing hide and seek as we now travel backwards and forwards along the trench. After a few short runs we find no more enemy and as or objective, the woods have been captured by the infantry, we leave the scene to find shelter from stray shells.