Great War Tanks in Canadian Service
by Michael R McNorgan.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW023
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“Canada raised its – and indeed the world’s – first armoured unit in 1914 with several armoured trucks mounting machine guns and they were covered in “Armoured Autocar in Canadian Service” (WOW017).
Canadian infantry were among those taking part of the first tank attack in 1916. In preparation for the planned 1919 campaign it was decided to form Canadian tank units. 1st Canadian Tank Battalion was raised from university students in early 1918, rapidly reaching full strength they sailed to England for training at Bovington and Lulworth in Dorset. Courses in driving, maintenance and gunnery were along British lines and came with learning other skills such as sending messages by carrier pigeon.
While these first “Cantanks” were training other units were formed, a 2nd Battalion from Royal Canadian Mounted Police “Mounties” and artillerymen with a third intended to be French-Canadian. However events overtook all three units as the Armistice in November 1918 meant that none of them operated a tank in anger. They did suffer several casualties, mostly from 2nd Battalion due to influenza caught on their voyage to England.
Although these Canadian tank units did not see action this book gives us a flavour of life in the 1st Battalion and tank training in those early days. Accounts from several of those involved make interesting and even amusing reading, and are illustrated with a 1/35th scale plan of the Mk V tank they would have used and a selection of period photos. Some show the first tanks in action in France but the majority come from the private album of one of the officers of 1st Battalion and are previously unpublished. Although the accounts cover Mk V the photos mainly show Mk IVs with a few of Mk V*, V “Tadpole”, Mk VIII, Whippet and FT17.
Text and photos give us a good account of the first Canadian tank units and life in tanks during the Great War. A useful addition to this series and coverage of Great War armour.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”