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STORY OF THE TANKS

DE MOLE'S TRAVELLING CATER-

PILLAR FORT.

REMARKABLE LETTER FROM

PERTH IN 1014.  

By E. DWYER GRAY.

The neglect of great war inventions is  

unfortunately frequently followed by a   fearful loss of human lives. On February 28,   1921, "The Argus' remarked editorially - "The inventor of the Pomeroy anti-Zeppelin bullet, for instance relates on his   return to Australia that he placed his   invention, which had been tested and proved, with the British War Office 16 months before it was adopted, then only because Sir Lloyd George intervened personally  

In the meantime 37 Zeppelin raids were made on different parts of England, with   terrible results that are too well known to need recalling The consequences were indeed of a cemetery character Neglect had cost human lives "The Argus"

continued by a reference to the disclosures at the proceedings of the British Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors of   November, 1919 "The commission sat to decide who was the inventor of the tank used on the West front with such wonder   ful results. It was learned then that another Australian inventor, Corporal de Mole, had lodged plans and models of a tank, which were found lying covered with       dust in a War Office pigeon-hole long after   the device 44as first used in France. A   much more useful purpose would be served       if commissions were appointed to allot blame for such neglect." A certain letter   from Perth (W.A.), addressed to the   British Minister for War on September 19, 1914, is available for publication for the first time to-day, and gives particular point   to tho last sentence of the comment quoted. The neglect of Lancelot E. de Mole's ideal   tank may have, and probably did, prolong the Great War for years, thus causing a preventable loss of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of human lives in eluding an incalculable number of heroic

Australians.      

APPEAL TO WAR OFFICE    

The writer of the letter in question was   a civil engineer by profession and a man of repute and capacity. Shortly after writing it he became a commissioner for munitions in India. This amazing letter   not only informed the British Minister   for War, in a time of war, that the archives of his own deportment contained the neglected plans for an ideal tank, or "travelling caterpillar fort," but quite     miraculously foretold exactly what tanks could do, almost exactly two years before the belated Somme tanks appeared on the         Western front battlefields. The following   was the text of the letter, and it is most unfortunate, that it was not available at the date of the British- Royal Commis

sion -

"Perth, Western Australia, 19/9/14-To the Hou. the Minister for War, War     Office, London. Re Travelling Caterpillar Forts,--Sir,-The question of (armaments?) being of paramount importance to armies   engaged in this Great War, may I suggest your placing the plans, specifications, and models, submitted by Mr Lancelot do   Mole in 1912, before a commitee of ex perts, with a view to the adoption of       travelling forts against the German forces.   ln my humble opinion no deadlier or more efficient war engine could be used than de Mole's caterpillar fe rl, which can   travel over broken ground, climb em bankments, span canals, streams and   trenches with the greatest of ease, and which, if armoured and manned with small quick firing guns and (maxirus?) will quickly turn the most t-tubboui of irmics, even if they be strongly entrenched V. line of nun ins furtiessts-no drnintrs fancy but mi idei which em bu uttuallv materialised--udcquatilv supported by artillciy, will cutrv (Viritluiik before it, and »ave the wfuutiy I stueotely tiust that you will aj | reuato the vnluc of mv suggestion Shoul 1 vou icqiiiro the ser Tices of Mr L de Afole kindly icquistthc W-V. Government lo 1 oiiuiiunii.iii' with Mr R. 1 jinki tell rest lint uikintir Department of Publi Woik» Perth-1 »m, bir, vouis eVe C. \\ 1) Ure idou

That most sliikm-, letter of 1014 accuses

the British Minister for War, or bis agents, to das It had no effect whatever ana npparcnMy »tent into the some sort

Pigeon hole as de Mole s plans in 1912 J\o»v okscrxe that on November 17 191» the British Itovnl Commission on Awards to luv ei torr presided over by Mr Justice Sirgant, «lecln ed l)c Mole made and I educed to practical Bkapc as lor back as the ycir 1112 a very hnlkant tank inven lion xvhieh anticipitetl and m some respects sur| isse 1 that put into nso m the jcar 1910 Mr ircvor Watson, coun sel for the Ministry {or Munitions made the very definite aclmission In the opin ion of present advisers de Mole s sugges tiona viould hive made a belter article than those Huit went into action J lie elnirman stud to de Mole "Your sugges lion is sent to the Government m 1912 anl 1015 llirn it gets pigeonholed -Th it is your misfortune but not your fault But nothing was end about k13 countrv s nusfoitune or the consequent calamities to mankind Vet it u proper to ask both »»bat would baie occurred if Britain ha<l had tanks at tk« boyaning of the »var and also bj how mauy yearB tho war would have been shortened if tho British Minister for War or his agents had acted with auy common sense on the reeeipt of Brcadon s remarkable letter in October 1914' De Mole told the 191!! coinmixsion My chief regret about m> tank is that we haeln t th ni in 1114 ' If Britain had developed de Mole s invention in 1912 and 1113 it might be too much to Bay that there mighl nexcr hive been anv retreat from Mons It is not to 1 much t ) say that the war would almost certainly never have Uceóme static, and miLjht have keen open sh «rp and short with a vast saving in human lives. Hie stupidity shown hy some respomukle person in London m October, 1914 is al most unimaginable In bptte of Breadou s letter, Britam was destined to spend mil lions in the slow evolution of mother ' and the inferior ¡somme tanks of two years later

WINSTON CHURCHILL'S MOVE

On January 5, 1915 or about two months after Mil arrival of Brendon s letter

London, Mr Winston Churchill, then 1 irst Lord of the Admirait) addressed his celebrated communication to Mr .asquith on the subject of mechanical warfare

Ile rcmaiked -

The question to be solved is not the long attack ox er a carefully prep trod glacis of former times, but the actual getting across. 100 or 200 jurds of open space and wile entanglements All this was apparent more than two months ago but 110 steps km keen taken and no prep «rations made It would lie quite ens» in " short time to lit up a number of stcim traitors with small armoured shell« rs 111 whit h men and nnc) uu guns could be placed which would bo bulletproof Ihn cat«pullar system would enable trenches io be crossed quite emily and tho weight of the machine would destroy all win entanglement«.

These engines tould advance quite certainly into the enciu) s trenches, smash away nil ol stmctionB and sweep the trencher) with their maeliuie-gim fire'

At Uic moment Mr Winston Churchill wrote that letter Mie V»ar OlUce pigeon holes containeil -ireadim h letter to his c« 1

league, I lie Munster fir AVar H had ii 1 ready collected the dust of tit o months au I the plans for a perfect tank on the « itcr jullul system had collecte I the dust of over two »ears Mr Winston t burchill tool up kui conuneudablc tunk uctiuttcs in 1 practical way lnitncdiattdy ufter 1 dinner given by the Duke of Westminster on Hkruarv 15 1915, when Maji r Metier

ingtou mid utiles suggested rollu c, uirs with »»lit 1 Is the suie of the Great Vi hu! at 1 arl s Court But Ins li Mer to Mr As qnith of Innuur "i, IHK shows quite elearl» that there wus it ] nor source of 111

(miration Ile formed lus histoire Lind ship Committee ' of »»huli the present Sir Albert Stern destined to become director of (he Mechóme il Wnrfare ¡bupnl) depart ment was nn original member i he lound ship Committee ' of 1015 was so detested bv the War d« partment that it woul 1 not even accord to its memberi the aee-ommo dation of au uiitenantel room Sir vii* it Sterns Innks 191118 (published ho»em her 10111) is the classic »»oik on the sub j«(t of the history of the wir tank In tint« hook Sir Albert Stern v« rites -

Vlr IJmrnirt tin cal dun » propose-1 tra k u( ItaluU llrltlt <r ni 1 m ce more uur I opes sark Tht-n u '-e|teinbcr « ljlr I reef It ii tie (oil »lie. (rl traill (rom 1 iuctlu - Mern lila, 11 I..I ¡U I ill Mall lUliita Mci 01 trstteut-1 juslcrli) in r 1 Vw armai Ir Tr tton t ot I n-ssfal I lal« I Igt t 1 1 clgl t I ut rrrt

K Ml lol [ «II thai li jou ItouJ r la - TI la us the ! irlh o( Hie tall

Hit st lim nt is 11 it wirriut 1 I» ti

fita Ho tr 1 h tehv un f <«o| t nier

lill siMie 1 1 rou 1 1 nrent1- w is nut

tho "hirth of the tank " It waa only me urti) of Mark I. tank, ufterwardB known on the battlefields as "Mother," and its adap- tations 'Ihe "butti of the tank" toeik place in Wt stern A -'u in the yea:

1012 But fair Albct' -a not to be blamed De Molo ii -oned in his book, but that is or ' o did not know anything what - , de Mole's tank when he wrote . is, however, exceedingly remarkable t the director of the Mechanical Warfare Supply depart ment should have been ignorant of de Mole's tank. This is just one of those mysteries winch should have been probed, and never was It must not he imagined that de Mole's plans were just received and pigeon-holed. They were, on the con trary, examined and deliberately rejected at least tlirec times once before the war, and twice during the war, or. to bo uc curate, in 191 i, 1010, and 1918 In addition, a largo model, one-cightli natural bifo, was »ont to London, where it did no more than the ni inB. and was cvtntuallv discovered

in what tlic British press of 1919 desenbed as "the neglected cellar of a Government department," Those who would like to know tile- details of the occurrences in eon ncction with do Moles '"Jravelling Cater pillai Port" will lind them set out in the current Issue of the "Australian Motor Owner" In 1910 do Mole's tank was re jocted by "The Committee of tlic Panel ol Advisory Scientilic Experts" It can only be concluded that the members of that com uuttce, and of several others, exercised some expert science in keeping the director of the" Sleehamcal Warfare Supply depart- ment ignorant of the fact that anything ot the kind was ui t__sti_.ee on Hie planet

'lho tank's that went into action so be Iatedly in 1910 were not us good as di MoIc'b tank, but they did great work Jn September, 1910, Lord Haig reported

"Where the tonks advanced we took our

objectives, where the tunks did not ud ! \unce we did not take our objectives " In May, 1017, he wrote, "The tanks arc won deful life savers" Britain owed those "wonderful life savers" not to the Wai Oihcc, and the "military iiiithontitH," who, with sonio notable exceptions, per Eistently ridiculed all ideas of "landsnips," or tanks, but to the sagacity, the jicrsever ance, and the courage of Sir Albert Stern and the Naval department It is regret table to have to add that Mr Winston Churchill, to whose "driving force" the commission of 1919 paid a high-tribute in connection with tanks, marred his record by weakly dismissing Sir Albert Stern from the headship of the Mechanical Warfare Supply department on Octobt r 10, 1917, at the bidding of British generals, whose arrant stupidity about tanks lio luid dared to oppose and expose, replaced lum by Admiral Mooro, who up tn date of his appointment li id never even seen a tank, and actuallv rt ferret! istr Albert Stern to

America for a proper development of tanks on ft large serait But Sir Albert Stern won tlirongh in the md. and Britain constrnotcd some 5,000 tanks for the 1018 campaign.

S-iT-rATHT, BliT hO REWAlcD

De Mole's tank was intended to be 37ft. la-mg, with ii wheel base of 25ft. travelling on a caterpillar trark of steel plâtra This tank could hale crossed a trench 16ft- wide

with ease, either forwards or bukwards, ns it hid a double (kinking face, enukkng it to lovum «iver the rough«bt ground It had» a high undi r boil» clcuinnee, ti» pre venl hogging Hie ihiinliack «»as full» protttltd, tiaxt lillie; inside the armour in st«ad ut ox«r the top lb« homme tank« were vet» imiicrfcctl» steered b» moving the ilium trick itistcr on one side than on the other, windi meant that the.» «ould not lie httora al at all if mide over a strict!» limited kngth In do Mole's tank jtcrfcet steering was t-i-tiutil. foi th« chain track lould be moved Ink rill) to tonfnrm to ali) eurie 'lhere was thus no limit to bi/o, except that imposed bj weight and the horse jtower ul the motor engine touttmiilatcd to be used It is small wonder that the "Illustrated London Nous" published on November 2B, 1019, ti full pag. ut illustra lions ot de Moles tank, headed Bitter 'lhan the »Somme Tanks of 11)10-A 1912 Model " '1 he model «an be seen at the Melbourne \\ ar Museum to da>

'Ihe Hi it lah Ho» ii ( nmniiKniin of Vn»em bcr, 1Ü1!), aciorded the brilliant Atutlrnli in inventor credit and rommisirition 'Ike contrn<rs of an infertoi tink »vere awarded i. l8 000 in i.ish It v» is not the (onimis smilers' fault lltij were lud li) (he terms ot Mun upimintmi nt, and e mid on!» make a»»aids for 'tinks atttnllv usid bv i (..nu uni, nt department,' that is for 'Mother and it* snksequinl nd ipta ttons, or to those who «mild pi ovo

a (isual ( (ililli ctioti" betwein thor ««iiKcplinits and those (ontrnaneei I lins the Aiuttriliin nnentoi gut nothing, cxcipt what ti British jiaper

a,uii«.liriill} MiiniiH'.l up us "lli-iiiuoup tanks and the neglcd of Ins invention," tu xvlueli ti grutefiil Htiijilre subi-equfuM) ndded the three sustaining lettets, I" II K. The Somme nu m tier« vteio (¡enerul bin luton, Kir L. d'Mytii'ourl, rur \V. Tritton, Mumr Wilson, Lieutenant Mil'ie, mid Mt. is. Neslleld. A reitilieil verbatim io))) of the inuiuussinn proeccdtiigs on N'ov einher ,'l, 1019, shows that mo of thoMi ¡Somme u\»ardi'iB bud, whilst in (-nntiiilhng olluitil positions, otfcii'd t-iiliiiHtiiH m ti,- Mole's tank, »»huh «oumul for tlie Miuisti) ni Munitiuns stud "hu (elt ho (ould nut pioporl) put Imwutil kcloru the iiniimiKsiuii u» a reasoned und proper icpoit upon lite position us il thnn »vas," siiite (lie saul), "1 nut nil»weil Mint Min «Titi«tsniiH in Illili réunit me iritieisms Miat tiru not jiuliheil." J lui l'oiiuiiissiiinein «lid their liest. Tiley made a confidential loeommendutiiin foi the teiinkiirsenu'iit ol «In Mole's px|K'itH«'s, »vin«li, being a iccoin mondatjon outside the miiim of their com- mission, they requested the press not to publish. The facts were, however, stated in tim ( «imiiHinwinilli I'tnlitimi'iil De Mule luid HIU'Ul iilmiit I 1,0011. ol wini h lu owed »li,nu halt lo a loiiuadi' lu khaki, who had helped to limmen Mm cxim'iuiivu walking liiodi'l of Ins tank, and received

£083. V) but l« Mutt kui nolhiiit;!

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