Model of dummy tank used in Hindenburg Outpost Line Attack : 4 Field Company, AEME, AIF

Accession Number RELAWM00955
Collection type Technology
Object type Model
Physical description Linen, Paint, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Sinai Palestine 1918: Final Battles
Maker 4th Field Company Australian Engineers
Greenaway, John Forbes
Meaker, Leslie Wilfred
Place made France: Picardie, Aisne, Le Catelet
Date made September 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Model of a Mark V tank in approximately 1/10 scale, featuring a braced wooden framework and a pair of large operating wheels (about 220mm in diameter) located centrally, which extend some 30mm through the lower track section. The frame is clad in a linen skin which is painted in a late-war camouflage finish with markings ('H3' forward of each sponson and on the front glacis plate, and the name 'Digger' behind the right sponson, plus red and white markings at the extreme forward track guides). The linen skin does not cover the underneath of the model. The side sponsons (modelled separately and nailed to the sides) feature wooden cannons held in position with linen tape. There is an opening trapdoor in the rear where the armoured fuel tank is usually located. A wooden unditching beam is located on roof-mounted guide rails. The tracks are painted on. There is evidence of a previous layer of paint on the linen skin, suggesting it has been repainted since being acquired. The rear rails for the unditching beam are missing.

History / Summary

Model showing the prototype design for the ten dummy tanks built for the 18 September 1918 attack on the Hindenburg Outpost Line. The Official History (Vol 6, p 894) notes that 'a few tanks would assist, but only 20 for the whole army. They were parcelled out, 8 each to Australian and III Corps, and 4 to IX Corps. Each Australian division was given 4...But to instill the fear caused by the mere appearance of tanks, a number of dummy ones were to be made with wooden frames covered by painted hessian. These would be taken before zero hour to high ground near the start-line and would thence be moved a little distance by pioneers with long drag-ropes or other means to points where the Germans after dawn would see them.'

The building was undertaken by members of 4 Field Company Engineers while in reserve and resting at Le Catelet. Captain Arthur Henry Dow reported on the construction in the September 1918 Supplementary section of the unit War Diary. After orders to make ten examples were received on the night of 15 September he noted: 'It was decided to build a trial, or model, tank first and then make any necessary alterations to the remainder. Early on the morning of 16 inst, Lieut A J Buckler, MC, 2nd Corporal Greenaway and a party of eight sapper carpenters took the job in hand and completed the model in the afternoon. All material, except paint, was salved from old German dumps and a great deal of time was lost on account of timber having to be hand ripped. Another party of carpenters and other tradesmen were employed during the day upon salving and preparing sufficient timber for the whole 10 tanks. As soon as the model was completed two expert painters, who were borrowed from the 12th Field Company camouflaged it and provided dummy loopholes, gratings etc upon it. It was also marked and numbered in realistic style, the markings and numbers being supplied by the Tank Corps...'

'In the evening the model was tried out, a mule being used as motive power, but this method was found unsatisfactory and it was decided to use manpower in the attack; it was also decided to enlarge the wheels slightly.' The prototype was approved, and Dow continues: 'The remaining 9 were immediately put in hand and ... all available men were called upon and split into groups under the supervision of carpenters, each group making certain portions of tanks. As these parts were completed, a party under 2nd Cpl Greenaway assembled them and put on the hessian, they were then handed over to the painters for camouflaging and numbering... By working from 8am to 11pm on 17 inst, the whole ten were completed...put onto pontoon wagons and carted to a Tankdrome which had been formed near Vendelles.'

Here, the tanks were handed over to 'C' Company, 4 Pioneer Battalion who were responsible for their deployment during the attack. Two groups of thirty five men under Lieutenants Ballard and Whitehead took responsibility for five tanks per group. Lieutenant Colonel T F Rutledge (Commander, 4 Pioneer Battalion) reported on the operation and was clearly unimpressed. The 35 men 'proved quite inadequate for the work and in both cases it was found that not more than three dummies could be taken forward by the number of men available. Three of those allotted to the left Brigade area broke down and ...on the right Brigade sector four tanks were got into position on high ground in front of the jumping off tape, but owing to the poor visibility they were not seen by the enemy. One of these tanks however was seen by an enemy aeroplane who directed machine gun fire onto it.

'Great difficulty was experienced by both parties in getting the dummies across shell holes, trenches and wire entanglements. .. They were too flimsy. Four broke down, the wheels proving the weak spot... All ranks were played out on their return to camp.' There were no injuries to any of the Pioneers involved.