AUSTRALIA TO THE FORE.
Invention of the War Tank.
Isolated in forgotten or unfrequented localities of the desolate war zone, in France and Flanders, stand the ruins of once powerful moving fortresses. Tanks form an interesting example of the many
instances in which genius was called into play for war purposes. To Australia be longs the honour of having provided the world with that brilliant invention. After the war the inventor's service to the Em- pire and Allies was recognised, but not rewarded. Cpl. L. E. de Mole, a native of South Australia, the original inventor of the Tank, will return to the land of his birth on or about February 14, on board the steamer Megantic. The Prime Minis- ter (Mr. Hughes) has promised to consider rewarding Cpl. de Mole on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. —Pigeonholed and Forgotten.— In 1912 Cpl. de Mole was engaged in heavy transport work in Western Aus- tralia. He submitted to the War Office the model of an armoured car, which had most of the features of the subsequent Tank. The model was rejected by the authorities. He was urged to submit it to Germany, but would not do so. In 1916, he again ap- proached the War Office and exhibited his model in essentially the same form. Un- fortunately the invention was pigeonholed and forgotten. Later the counsel for the Crown informed members of the British Royal Commission on awards to inventors, that the suggestion of Cpl. de Mole would have made a better vehicle than that which actually went into action. In dealing with | Cpl. de Mole's application for recognition, the commission reported:— 'It was this claimant's misfortune, and not his fault, that his invention was in advance of his time, failed to be appreciated, and was put aside because the occasion for its use had not then arisen. We regret exceedingly that we are unable to make any award to him. We are bound to adhere to the gene- ral rule in such cases as these— that a claimant must show a causal connection between the making of his invention and the use of any similar invention by the Government.' —The Chief Award.— The principal award in connection with the tank invention was made in favour of Sir William Tritton and Major W. G. Wilson, who shared £15,000. There were three other awards of £1,000, divided among four persons. Cpl. de Mole re- ceived from the War Office a cheque for £985 to cover expenses. It is unaccount able that the original inventor should have been disposed of with merely a 'sop' for expenses, while later designers received the munificent reward of £15,000. In No- vember last The London Daily News de- scribed the matter of allotting the reward as having a rather cynical side. That organ ot public opinion, in a leading article, stated:— 'The reward goes not to the man who invented the best Tank— that man, according to the committee, is Cpl. de Mole, who invented a first-class Tank in 1912. and gets not a penny— but to the author of the best of the inventions that escaped being pigeonholed at the War Office. Cpl. de Mole's did not escape being pigeon holed.' Another English newspaper ob- served:— 'Mr. de Mole's claim will remind us that the war did not create the British inventor, but called him into prominence, and increased his productivity. The moral seems to be that it is better to be abreast than ahead of your time; that it is no use discovering the quinine until you have in- vented the fever.' —An Adelaide Native — Cpl. Lancelot E. de Mole was born in Adelaide. He is a son of Mr. W. F. de Mole, of Renmark, civil engineer and sur veyor. He offered his services to the Em- pire on four occasions, but until Septem- ber, 1917, was rejected. During his service abroad, Cpl. de Mole fought at Merris, Meteren, and Villers Bretonneux. Mrs. de Mole resides at Bondi, New South Wales.