Individual Stories – WW1
Lionel McAdam, Mac, was a member
of the Creme de Menthe Tank that left
description of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette
the evening of 14 September, we started out from Albert up the Pozieres
Road. By ten o’clock at
night we were quite near the [front] line and Fritz, no doubt hearing
the distant hum of our engines, began to strafe us heavily.
The attack was to take place on a front from Courcelette to
Combles. Number 1 Section had the place of honour on the left of the
line, acting with the Canadians.
short distance behind the line we stopped to take on a fresh supply of
gasoline, oil and water. Before
starting up again, we were each given a cup of cocoa and some biscuits,
a refreshment we were in need of as work had been very hard.
One of the crew was struck by a flying splinter just after we
started and our tank, the Crème
de Menthe, was forced to go into action with only six men and our
proceeded to a place just in front of our own line, where we had to wait
for day break. Our guns were giving Fritsy a terrible gruelling and he,
by this time knowing something was up, was devoting a large share of
attention to the front line where we lay, all night long, the terrific
cannonading went on . Crème de
Menthe took two hits on the tail which blew half of it away. The
explosion of each shell simply lifted the nearly thirty-five ton monster
onto her nose and then let her drop again with a bang which shook the
crew pretty thoroughly.
hour for the Canadians was, if I remember correctly, 5.30 am of the
Fifteenth. Just before this
time we started the engine and, when a lull in the firing gave us the
signal, we started off. Dawn was just breaking and there was just a
little ground list which slowly disappeared as the sun came up.
We moved along at the rate of about two or three miles an hour,
pitching in an out of the shell-holes and overall sorts of obstacles.
In the mist we could make out the forms of our men following us
up. Machine guns were pattering all over the side of our old bus and the
infantry outside were catching it rather hard.
soon as the mist cleared sufficiently for the Germans to see us, their
fire died away appreciably. Crème de Menthe and Cordon
Rouge were running parallel courses about two hundred yards apart.
We reached Sugar Trench together and with our guns pointed at a
mass of Germans in the trench. The infantry came up and took all these
we went forward again from Sugar Trench we constantly had to drive away
groups of German prisoners who were anxious to surrender. An infantry officer bought us a message that the advance was
being held up at the Sugar Factory.
We advanced to attack it from the front with our six pounders
whilst Cordon Rouge worked
around the left flank. Infantry
bombers were already in the place when we arrived and, when we breached
the wall and started to come in, the resistance weakened and broke.
had only fired a fraction of our ammunition, when we were ordered to
turn to the right and patrol the new position.
After patrolling for about fifteen hundred yards we were again
told to turn right and return to the rear.
All this time the German artillery had kept up very heavy fire on
us and, on several occasions, were attacked by bombers on all sides.
The bullets and bombs had very little effect on the machine
although a number of bullets came through the sighting apparatus
we came away from the line, we unreeled an armoured cable from the new
position to the old. This
was to establish communications and save the signals sections a
troublesome and dangerous job. The
worst of our work was over but we were still in a bad zone.
As we moved back through the newly occupied ground I noticed a
fine pair of German field boots lying in a shell hole and decided to
annex them. Unfortunately, as I examined them, I found the legs of their
late owner still in them and decided to do without them.
During the action, a splinter from a large shell had struck the track of the tank, splitting it across. The plates held together until we were out of the firing line and then broke. The old bus had been working steadily for two days and we thought she was entitled to a rest. We were pretty well all in ourselves having been in action for fourteen hours and had little to eat or drink. A guard was bought up from our camp to look after our bus. The crews of Crème de Menthe and Cordon Rouge returned to camp.