'Camera Returns' No. 10 appeared in Stand To! No. 28 Spring 1990. Some 30 years later the 100th 'Camera Returns' approaches. Members of The Western Front Association received Stand To! three times a year and have access to the entire digital archive going back to the Spring of 1981.
In Stand To! No. 26, 'The Camera Returns' team visited the site of the Central Tank Workshops at Erin, near St Pol. We have returned for this issue in a further attempt at encouraging readers to visit this fascinating area.
Taken a few miles down the road at Sautrecourt, IWM photograph Q11460 shows King George V (who later became Colonel in Chief of the Tank Corps) witnessing a demonstration by Mark V Star tanks, two males and a female, on 10 August 1918. With him is Major General H. Elies, commanding the Tank Corps. Hugh Elies, a Royal Engineer was, at the age of thirty-eight, somewhat young for his rank but he was an exceptional and dynamic leader. As a Brigadier General he had personally led the tanks into battle at Cambrai the previous November. Undeterred by the danger involved, he had singled out a male tank, 'Hilda', in the leading wave, unfurled a brown, red and green Tank Corps flag which he placed on the top of the tank, and gone 'over the top' with his tanks and troops. He travelled with 'Hilda' for just under two hours before she became ditched in a trench of the Hindenburg system. He then calmly walked back to his own headquarters.
The Mark V Star tanks were a stretched version of the successful Mark V. The experimental first few had been built at the Central Workshops at Teneur by simply cutting a Mark V in half and inserting an extra six feet of armoured plate. The increased length gave a greater trench crossing ability, and the extra space, room to carry twenty-five infantrymen. In practice, however, the heat and fumes from the engines made the soldiers too sick to fight and the greater track base made steering extremely difficult even when the horse power was increased. Even so, 300 were eventually built and these were the last tanks to see action in the war.
Unfortunately the location of the photograph is difficult to describe. Sautrecourt is a tiny hamlet on the D343, a continuation of the D94 on which Erin stands: see S T /26. Sautrecourt is thus 6 km south-east of Erin, just before the villages of St Martin and Wavrans sur Tervoise. The valley in which the photograph was taken is to the west of the villages and requires some walking to obtain a comparison! In our comparison, taken looking north over the valley, Bob has taken the place of Hugh Elies, later Sir Hugh Elies, who died in 1945. As Steve was taking the photograph, we felt extremely fortunate in finding a stand in for the King, albeit a four-legged one!
IMAGES: Brigadier-General Hugh Elles, the Commander of the Tank Corps, and King George V watching a tank demonstration at Sautricourt, 10 August 1918. Q 11460. Bob Grundy at the same sight in 1990.