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William Mooney and the First Tank Action

Article about: I thought I'd post the rather surprising results of a little family tree research I've been doing recently. I'm a complete amateur so any corrections or new information appreciated. My fathe

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    Default William Mooney and the First Tank Action

    I thought I'd post the rather surprising results of a little family tree research I've been doing recently. I'm a complete amateur so any corrections or new information appreciated.

    My father died just after I was born and my grandfather long before that so I never knew much about the paternal side of my family. It turned out my grandfather had a brother, William, who had been "killed in the war". An elderly relative offered to lend me an old photo album which she thought might be helpful and I've posted copies of some of the contents below.

    The first thing I read was notification that 22334 Private William Mooney of 6th KOYLI was killed on 15 September 1916 and is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. Some basic research indicated that the only action 6th KOYLI was involved in on that date was immediately before the launch of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on The Somme. Two companies were detailed to expel a pocket of Germans between Delville Wood and Ginchy in support of three tanks. I was amazed to read this was the first use of the tank in warfare.

    This account is from Chris McCarthy's book "The Somme - The Day-By-Day Account":

    "Two companies of 6th KOYLI (43 Brigade) and three tanks were detailed to expel pockets of Germans to the east of Delville Wood before zero hour. At 05:15hrs only one tank (D1) was operational but it started forward from Pilsen Lane, followed 15 minutes later by KOYLI's bombers. The tank was immobilized by a shell. The KOYLI came under machine-gun fire on the rear of their right flank. This was settled by bomb and bayonet."

    From another forum I read this about the same action:

    "As well as F A Pentelow, 6th KOYLI lost another 62 men that day.
    They were facing the 7th & 14th Bavarians and their objectives were all named after drinks - Hop Alley, Lager Lane, Pint Trench etc."


    On the following map the startline - Pilsen Lane - is the bottom of the centre square. I'm assuming that the action took place and my Great Uncle and his comrades were killed in that same square.

    The photograph below shows Great Uncle William with his mates in 1915 (he's in the middle of the front row). The greetings card was sent from France by him to his little sister (the mother of my elderly relative with the photo album).

    I'm sorry it took so long to learn about the sacrifice he made with his mates but pleased that those interested will get to see some of their faces and a few of the kind words William wrote.
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    Last edited by stewfoxy; 02-18-2010 at 10:59 PM.

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    Default Re: William Mooney and the First Tank Action

    Nice piece of History for your grandfather mate, indeed the Battle of Flers-Courcelette was the first use of Tanks in action.

    Delville or Devils wood was one of the most notorious places on the Somme, i have been there many times and interestingly a few years ago did some research for a freind whose uncle was killed on 16/9/1916 in the same area as your grandfather , he was part of 10 DLI which formed part of 43 Brigade , 14 Light Divison with the 6 KOYLI.

    I have attached some photos for you i hope they are of interest.

    The fisrt shows the area of Hop alley , Lager lane tenches etc with Delville wood in the background , the second shows a view into the same area from the water tower at the wood.Then some debris still on the battlefield in the area.

    cheers

    Paul
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    The gates of hell were opened and we accepted the invitation to enter" 26/880 Lance Sgt, Edward Dyke. 26th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers , ( 3rd Tyneside Irish )

    1st July 1916

    Thought shall be the harder , heart the keener,
    Courage the greater as our strength faileth.
    Here lies our leader ,in the dust of his greatness.
    Who leaves him now , be damned forever.
    We who are old now shall not leave this Battle,
    But lie at his feet , in the dust with our leader

    House Carles at the Battle of Hastings

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    Default Re: William Mooney and the First Tank Action

    Thanks Paul, your pictures are excellent and much appreciated.

    Haven't visited the site yet but will do so later this year, possibly September.

  4. #4
    Reg
    Reg is offline
    ?

    Default Re: William Mooney and the First Tank Action

    Fascinating stuff, great research.

    Cheers

    Reg

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    Default Re: William Mooney and the First Tank Action

    Delville wood and the Ginchy - Longueval road
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    The gates of hell were opened and we accepted the invitation to enter" 26/880 Lance Sgt, Edward Dyke. 26th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers , ( 3rd Tyneside Irish )

    1st July 1916

    Thought shall be the harder , heart the keener,
    Courage the greater as our strength faileth.
    Here lies our leader ,in the dust of his greatness.
    Who leaves him now , be damned forever.
    We who are old now shall not leave this Battle,
    But lie at his feet , in the dust with our leader

    House Carles at the Battle of Hastings

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    I spent a morning around Ginchy earlier this week and took quite a few pictures of the battlefield (I'm a photographer).

    One of the very first ones, from around 5:30am, has really stopped me in my tracks as I've started editing. It's shaky and over-exposed (thanks to an accidental 30 second hand-held exposure) but what little light there was has combined with the camera's movement and, in an abstract way, brought the events of dawn 15 September 1916 back to life.

    It's taken just west of Ginchy looking north towards Flers. My location is Pilsen Lane on the edge of the southern KOYLI trench occupied by either W or X Company. It was still dark and I was experimenting with long exposures. The image is unretouched except for a little darkening.

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    - The pink blur from bottom left to mid-centre is the area 6/KOYLI covered as they followed Tank No D1 towards Ale Alley.

    - The three fine ribbons of light from lower mid-centre (which on closer inspection are individual metallic dashes) terminate in the KOYLI trench. The one on the right traces back to the four German MGs in Pint Trench, just north of Ginchy, which were the source of deadly fire into the rear of the infantry's right flank as they passed the eastern edge of Delville Wood on the mid-left. The other two ribbons lead to German positions in Tea Support trench in front of Flers.

    - The two dark lines that cross lower mid-centre also lead to the German MGs.

    - The lights of Flers on the horizon show the diagonal direction the camera moved in during the long exposure. They also suggest to me the British barrage ahead of the attack (a short shell from this is suspected of disabling D1 just north of Ale Alley).

    Simon

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    he's now remembered by a lot more people.

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    A few more pictures from the Brewery Salient at dawn. All were taken from Pilsen Lane, the Longueval to Ginchy road and the British front line. They show the area of German trenches cleared by Captain Harold Mortimore's Tank No D1 and W and X Company from the 6th Battalion KOYLI. It was a preliminary attack to the main Battle of Flers-Courcellete as the German pocket east of Deliville Wood was a major threat to the infantry due to advance north of the wood towards Flers and Guedecourt.

    Any corrections or additional information welcome.

    Simon

    Looking north towards Flers from the first KOYLI trench which D1 crossed at around 0530. The second KOYLI position ran along the edge of Delville Wood mid-left and was designed to block a German retreat into the woods:

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    East towards Ginchy. D1 crossed the British lines (travelling from right to left) roughly where the reflections in the road are below the horizon:

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    The four German MGs in Pint Trench were about 700 yards away under the rising sun:

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    Looking north across the battlefield at 0609. I'm sure it would be even darker in September:

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    The view south-west back into the British lines towards The Sugar Refinery and Trones Wood. The KOYLI companies came up from here and D1 started its attack from this field just off to the left.

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    East towards Ginchy. There are marks on the road at D1's approximate crossing point:

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    The cracked earth to the north of Pilsen Lane reminded me of trench maps:

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    Last edited by stewfoxy; 04-27-2014 at 12:32 AM.

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    Quote by harryamb2 View Post
    he's now remembered by a lot more people.
    I'll second that, great thread!......
    It's a wasted trip baby. Nobody said nothing about locking horns with no Tigers.



    I'm Spartacus, not really i'm Paul!...

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    One company of 6/KOYLI held a trench here down the eastern edge of Delville Wood at the junction with Hop Alley, where they were to join their comrades approaching from Pilsen Lane with tank D1. Its commander, Captain Mortimore, remembered 'lots of flashes' from here as he approached the junction.

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    The view the German machine gunners in Pint Trench had of the Brewery Salient. They caused heavy casualties to the rear right flank of KOYLI as it cleared Ale Alley and then to the 14th Division infantry during the main battle as they attacked northwards to Guedecourt:

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    I'm sure I'm seeing too much significance in the marks on the landscape but this is looking south from the new road just above Ale Alley at my best guess of the position D1 was knocked out. It was the only patch of bare earth on that side of the field:

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    Brewery Salient and the south-eastern corner of Delville Wood from the cemetery opposite which has over 5,000 graves with two-thirds of them unknown soldiers:

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    Last edited by stewfoxy; 04-27-2014 at 12:37 AM.

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