Grandad's Whippet

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Ramiles, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
    von Poop and Guy Hudson like this.
  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There are a few mentions of Whippets here:

    But I can't see that the 9th L used them after the 1st world war.

    Rather different though:

    After the war, Whippets were sent to Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War as part of the British forces there, serving with 17th Battalion, Royal Tank Corps.[17]Seventeen were sent with the Expedition Forces in support of the Whites against Soviet Russia. The Red Army captured twelve, using them until the 1930s, and fitted at least one vehicle with a French 37 mm Puteaux gun. The Soviets, incorrectly assuming that the name of the engine was "Taylor" instead of "Tylor" (a mistake many sources still make) called the tank the Tyeilor. A few (perhaps six) were exported to Japan,[18] where they remained in service until around 1930.
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Some cavalrymen may have made their way into the Tank Corps, but the cavalry units themselves were horsed. The Whippets were attached to the cavalry formations, not manned by them.

    I'm thinking that your grandad was Royal Tank Corps before the war, then transferred to the 9L when they mechanised. Did he serve continuously, or did he come out before the war, only to be mobilised from the reserve into 9L?
  4. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Could be, 'fraid the tracer card doesn't appear to "give much away"


    And the 9th L (Bright) Regimental history has him as a Lance Corporal whilst there:


    I wondered if the text he put on:


    Meant he had gone through 3 (i.e. Royal Tank Corp - 1st, 3rd and 4th Tanks) before the 9th L. - (not sure why he skipped the 2nd! ;) Something about where it was???)

    I think he had a job as a "trainer" i.e. when they were ramping up with new recruits, but went to the front in France in May 1940 when there was the need.

    There were only about 200 whippets and a fair % were shipped abroad. So it's a bit of a mystery what he was doing with this one, but if I can I'd like to figure out the when and the where's!

    Does the uniform / coveralls and the type of beret (hat) allow anyone to surmise? :salut:

    All the best,


    Ps: 1 RTR
    (Some useful location data in here) :)

    Nice pdf.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    If it's pre-RAC, the beret singles him out as Royal Tank Corps as they were the only unit to wear berets at the time (the inevitable exception to the rule being 11 Hussars who had something-like-but-not-quite a beret with a deeper band a bit like a Cap GS, but it was distinctive enough to be worn without a cap badge). I have a dim recollection that proper tankies wore black overalls but I think that was a much later tradition.
  6. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I'm half wondering if this was just an "example" that they kept for maintenance / training at their camp. I don't think at this point in the 30's they would have been used in "anger" by anyone in the UK?! But they might have just used it to pootle about ;)

    I had a quick look at the "existing" examples in museums
    Medium Mark A Whippet - Wikipedia

    & Model (with some history)
    Medium Mark A Whippet Tank "Caesar II" A259

    Bovington Stock Photo:
    Stock Photo - British World War I / WW1 / First War A259 Caesar II Whippet tank at The Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset. UK

    Preserved Tanks .Com | Tank Types
    But it's probably a 1/200 or 5/200 chance (given all the currently existing ones mentioned there on the wiki) it's a very early picture of one of these.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
  7. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Superb picture, Ramiles.

    I was flicking through a Canadian soldier's memoir yesterday in Chichester and he had shots of them doing driver training in Whippets in 1942. Was genuinely surprised.
  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks all!

    BTW some suggestions I have had are that it was a "souvenir" photo taken of him in front of the disused tank park at Bovington heath so there is a fair chance guessed that it might be the original WW1 tank they have on display there now.

    I'm not familiar with this area of Bovington heath back then (!) but apparently (?) it looked a bit like this.

    All the best,

  9. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Have been recovering from an operation over Christmas, but as soon as I was up and about I went searching for a reference to Whippet Tanks at Bovington I'd read. It took me a while to recall it was in Fred Goddard's memoir of life in the Royal Tank Corps and Royal Tank Regiment; Battlefields of Life - it's taken me days to find the book as it was at the bottom of a pile I'd put aside for reference and not on the shelves. (I'm sure lots of us have the same problems with books) .It's a great book, but he can be quite hazy on details - I'm pretty sure Fred served with 2nd RTR. However, relevant to this thread, he joined up in 1938 and mentions training on Whippet (or 'Wippets' as he calls them) tanks in 1939. On pages 44-6 he describes the peculiarities of the tank and its tendency to reverse the steering at speeds faster than 25 mph, leading to his crew turning one over on exercise.

    Now I had heard about this from an ex-10th Hussars sergeant who ascribed the tendency to the Vickers Light Tank Mk VI - and Fred describes the 'Wippet' as, 'very small, about 6 tons' - sounding more like a Mk VI as the Whippet weighed in at 14 tons? Therefore, I'm not sure that his recollections are all sound here; however, I've no doubt that he had experience of Whippets as they figure very much in his memories. He went on to crew Cruiser tanks in France and North Africa before being taken POW by the Italians.
  10. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks Brian,

    Hope you are fully recovered from your op now. I've been looking at one or two historic pictures of Bovington camp as well as for example:

    Bovington Royal Armoured Corps D V Camp - Francis Frith

    A memory of a national service man there in the 50's who looked after a demo Saladin.

    These pics were taken in the 50's :
    Bovington Camp Photos - Francis Frith

    But they have a similar landscape there to that I can see in the Whippet pic above.

    I suspect it seems most probable he's standing in front of an 'exhibit' on the heath there, in those days they kept them back behind in a field somewhere! but there is still a slim chance it was a demo version he actually cared for, or drove for training there, perhaps.

    I'm quite familiar with "hazy detail" ! My computer is choca block with FOW stuff I am still trying to catch a glimpse of some kind (any kind!) through! I was trying to get to grips with whether the Bovington display tank was "working" now or at some (any) stage in it's post WW1 past. But I gave up (a bit too soon perhaps!)

    I think from this though that the Bovington one is not (at least) working at the moment:
    Tiger & Whippet Tanks, Bovington - Restoration | National Lottery Good Causes

    All the best,

    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  11. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Thanks - enjoyed this thread and your other stuff - am up and about now. Priority is to get some bookshelves sorted so I'm not grubbing around everywhere when I want something....You probably know, but the library staff at the Tank Museum are very helpful.
  12. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Yes, thanks Brian,

    I have been in contact with them a bit, I have an account by my gd of fetching up there one cold October day in 1928 and almost immediately being treated to the spectacle of seeing someone being drummed out!

    They lived in huts that were like sheds had practically no heating and had to wash out side with no warm water (I guess it was around the time of the General strike) or else things were just pretty basic there back then.

    He didn't get any kit, not even a towel for a week!

    Happy days!

    All the best,

  13. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY


    IWM has a fine selection of WW1, post WW1 and WW2 pictures of whippets:
    Imperial War Museums

    Including some that the Germans had captured and painted up with their own colours.
    i.e. : THE GERMAN ARMY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 88140)

    Most, I’d guess about 3/4rs are WW1 era, but a fair few are post WW1, with some British territorial’s using them just pre WW2 and thereafter during, where they seemed to run about in a few whippets during drills using them to generate smoke. (intentionally ;) I assume)

    By my guess this one:
    Post: photograph (Q 64484)
    Medium "A" Tank, Whippet. (Sadly no dating on this one though - that I can see) the one so long on the heath at Bovington

    The surrounding landscape is very similar (to that seen in post #1 above), and the colour scheme on the front at least has the suggestion of somewhat looking the same. Although the banding to me, when compared, looks back to front. That is in the IWM version the bit in the middle looks much darker than the white bands on either side, whereas in the pic of my Gd in post 1 the bit in the middle looks slightly lighter than the darker bits on either side. My guess is still that it's the same tank, it’s probably been painted up a bit at some stage, perhaps to keep the tricolour/bicolour (?) colour of the front banding fresh, and maybe switching the scheme around from Dark-Light-Dark to Light-Dark-Light at some later point. I'm not sure if the banding / stripes had any significance re. squadron / troop back then? (Anyhow that's probably WW1 and not WW2 so a bit off colour/topic - and my apologies there!)

    Post: TERRITORIAL ARMY FILM [Main Title] (IWM 706)

    (Reel 2) On manoeuvres a section of 4th Northants piles into a ditch and 'opens fire' with rifles and a Lewis gun, using a rattle to simulate Lewis fire. Other soldiers 'play dead' as the exercise continues. The film emphasises the 'empty battlefield' of modern warfare. Obsolete Medium A 'Whippet' tanks are used to generate smokescreens which add to the confusion. As enemy aircraft (not seen) pass overhead, guns and Vickers Medium Mark II tanks hide in the woodlands.

    (Nb.Sadly this photograph is not curently available to view online) CIVIL DEFENCE IN BRITAIN 1940: THE HOME GUARD : Photograph of a Home Guard practice exercises in Leicester. Picture shows: A Leicestershire Home Guard anti-tank section capture their first "Nazi" Whippet tank.

    (Nb.Sadly this training film is not currently available to view online)
    Field Artillery Troop in concealment awaiting orders. Scout car arrives and orders given. Three men in truck on observation. Field guns pushed into position. Light tank (Whippet?) create smoke screens. Anti-tank gun, wheels removed, loaded and fired. Emergency action on wheels and in camouflage position. Royal Engineers construct a bridge using assault boats. Bren Carrier crosses it. A large explosion creates a road block crater. A soldier walks into the crater and out again.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  14. rockape252

    rockape252 Senior Member

    Hi Ramiles,

    Here is a very brief description of 7 Whippets in action during WW1.



    "But the day was not yet over. As I peeped through my flap I noticed that the Boche infantry were forming up some distance away preparing for an attack.

    Then my heart bounded with joy, for away on the right I saw seven small whippets, the newest and fastest type of tank, racing into action.

    They came on at ten to fifteen miles an hour, heading straight for the German infantry. I could see the latter scattering in all directions.
    The whippets plunged into the midst of them, ran over them, spitting fire into their retreating ranks.

    Their work was soon over. They had nipped an attack in the bud, but only three, their tracks dripping with blood, came back out of the seven; the other four were left burning out there in front.

    Their crews could not hope to be made prisoners after such slaughter."

    Regards Mick D.
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks Mick D,

    Wow, pretty graphic. It reminds me of those stories of the terror that the Germans felt of the tanks and how as a result of this experience post WW1, they determined to master these "fearsome creations".

    On the other-hand, the British for example who had to cope with the constant breakdowns, the infernal internal noise and vapour leaks as well as feeling that such "slaughter was just not British" just wanted to retire back to a more familiar cavalry tradition.

    Being of a type more likely to be covered in overalls like an oily rag, rather than smelling sweetly of the stables, and being able to dress up and follow the hunt, was a hindrance to promotion for some in the post WW1 world whereas re. horses during the first WW1 - for those that disparaged the arrival of the tank - I think this was too oft forgot:

    History of horses during WWI

    Ps. Not sure if I agree with the last sentence on there though: i.e.
    It would be the last time the horse would be used on a mass scale in modern warfare.” As they were also used quite extensively in WW2, and in a large number of more localised conflicts, amidst jungles and steep hills etc. (particularly prior to the arrival of the more widespread use of helicopters etc.) where armour still has great difficulty and often can not go.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  16. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Tank Chats #9 Whippet - Medium A

    Published on 31 Aug 2015
    The ninth in a series of short films about some of the vehicles in our collection presented by The Tank Museum's historian David Fletcher MBE.

    While the heavy tanks were designed for direct attacks against enemy trenches the Tank Corps also wanted a lighter, faster tank to work with the cavalry over open country. Designed by Sir William Tritton and built by Fosters of Lincoln the Medium A, or Whippet, was the only such tank to see service with the Tank Corps, starting in 1918.
    von Poop likes this.
  17. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Another Tank museum youtube film - ref'ing the Whippet:

    Published on 14 Sep 2018

    Jolyon Arnold is the nephew of Clement Arnold, a First World War medal winner and one of the eight men in The Tank Museum's Tank Men exhibition.
    Clement Arnold was one of four brothers who volunteered to fight on the outbreak of war; three of whom served in the Tank Corps. Clement won a DSO for his actions in his Whippet tank on 8th August, at the Battle of Amiens.

Share This Page