Based on the text of the book “The First Tank Crews” by Stephen Pope
In May 1916, the first six tank companies were formed at Siberia Camp near Bisley in Surrey. The majority of the soldiers who fought in the tanks were from the Motor Machine Gun Service (MMGS) and the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). After initial weapon training at Bullhousen Farm, Bisley, which is just north of HMP Coldingley and tuition on the 6lb gun by the Royal Navy, in May 1916, the companies moved to Elveden in Suffolk where a secret training location had been established. Over the next eight weeks, the crew members learned to drive and “fight” their vehicles on a specially built mock battle area.
From mid August the tanks and their crews of C and D companies were deployed to France and, after final training across old trench lines near Yvrench, went into action on the morning of 15th September 1916. 49 tanks were tasked to support an attack designed to capture German strong points between Courcelette and Combles as part of the Somme offensive that had begun on 1st July.
Three members of the crew of tank C1 “Champagne” were from Woking; the driver Private Horace Brotherwood, Sergeant Fred Saker and Gunner George Lloyd. This was one of three tanks tasked to support the 2nd Canadian Division attack on Courcelette village on 15th September 1916.
The tank lost its steering wheels, due to artillery fire, whilst moving up to its start point and therefore crossed the start line after the infantry. The tank pressed on and crossed the German front line. At approx 7.00 am, the tank became ditched (at map reference R25a3.9) whilst following a German communications trench.
The crew attempted to dig out C1 for 4 hours; during which time they were the target of enemy artillery fire. The Tank Commander, Lieutenant A J C Wheeler was just about to order that the tank be abandoned when Private Brotherwood was killed, a fragment of a German shell severing his jugular vein. The remainder of the crew returned safely to their own lines and later recovered his body. He is buried at Pozieres British Cemetery.
Unlike most of the tanks, which broke down or became ditched, Champagne was never recovered from the battlefield. Her picture subsequently was taken by Capt Frank Hurley of the Australian Army: http://www.awm.gov.a…rn/pozieres.asp
Gunner George Lloyd was born on 20th October 1896 in Woking; the third son of domestic gardener John and Anna Lloyd. The 1911 Census shows him living at 12 Kingfield Terrace, Woking. As a 19 year old Motor Mechanic, employed at Mount Hermon Garage, he enlisted into the Motor Machine Gun Service on 16th November 1915. He deployed to France on 16th August 1916 and, after the first action, was admitted to 4 Canadian Hospital suffering from diarrhoea. He returned to duty on 24th September and joined C Battalion on its formation.
On 5th April he was admitted to hospital again, this time with a dental abscess; thereby missed the battle of Arras; he rejoined C Battalion on 12th June. On 12th September he was posted back to the Reinforcement Depot for service with the infantry. He stayed with them until 21st February (the first day of the Great German advance known as the Kairserslacht) when he was returned to C Battalion.
Transferred to the smaller “Whippet” tanks, during the final British advance he was wounded on 8th October 1918 near Cambrai. He received gunshot wounds to the upper right arm and right leg and was evacuated to St Luke’s War Hospital in Halifax. Discharged from hospital, and demobilised on 20th March 1919 he returned to the family home at 12 Kingfield Woking where he was still living in 1925. He died on 10th June 1953 at the Victoria Hospital, Woking.