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Remembering the tank crews

15 September 2016

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the debut of the tank – a memorable date for one member of the team at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Judith O’Connell’s grandfather, Niall Thomas O’Connell, volunteered to serve with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in February 1916. However, on 1 July 1916 – the opening day of the Battle of the Somme – 21-year old Niall was transferred into the new Tank Corps. Judith, who is our Resources Director, thinks she knows the reason:

“He was a commercial traveller in County Cork, and therefore knew how to drive. That wouldn’t have been common at the time, and my guess is that’s why he was transferred to tanks”

Niall survived the war, despite being wounded in 1917, but sadly died two months before Judith was born. Judith’s family still have the model tank given as a memento to all the surviving tank crews.

The tank was a revolutionary invention, but the steel armour was no guarantee of safety. In France alone, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates more than 1,300 men who died serving in the Tank Corps.