One man tank, photo from War trophies Annex building, Ottawa, 1920s (LAC photo)
These bizarre pieces of equipment were sometimes called one-man tanks, or mobile personnel shields. They are described in the war trophies catalogs as German but the above model is French (despite the Mauser rifle). The inspiration for this came from Col. Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne, The French “father of tanks” who was searching for solutions to overcome devastating German MG and rifle fire. Both types shown above and below are also found today in Les Invalides’ Army Museum collection in Paris. These were likely gifts to Canada from the French government (along with other material on this website). These artifacts, in the Public Archives’ Sussex annex building appear to have not survived. Operationally, they weren’t a great success. They were cumbersome, conspicuous, must have been nearly impossible to navigate through a wire-strewn, pockmarked landscape, and must have been hard to aim out of. It would also seem like there would be no real way to withdraw in the one-man tank without exposing the soldier to enemy fire.
Yikes! This is the view looking forward in the compartment of the shield on display at Les Invalides, Paris. (public domain)
Below there is a larger, up-gunned type that was like a mobile pillbox. It seems more likely that this may be German, as it appears to be armed with an MG08, and the rifles do not appear to be British or French.
This appears to have been armed with a Heavy MG and had two rifle slits (LAC Photo)
This Remembrance Day I pause to think about the contribution of armed forces’ service personnel to this Canada that I love. I think especially about the personnel files of Second World War Dead that I reviewed at Library and Archives Canada in 2012, documents that are some of the only lasting information about the regular men and boys who were killed in the air and on the sea and at Hong Kong, Dieppe, Sicily, Italy, D-Day, and the North-West Europe Campaign. They served in every capacity and died on the front-lines and far in the rear in every way imaginable. I think of the roughly 46,000 that this small selection was drawn from.
fatal .303 round from an accident in training, recovered and placed in relevant service file
This year I also think of the roughly 66,000 personnel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who died on service 1914-1918. Many of these soldiers were killed or mortally wounded by the implements of war that my site attempts to explore. Infantry died in the front lines, from high explosive, shrapnel, machine gun fire, grenades, rifle fire, mortar rounds, or chemical warfare. Gunners died from counter-battery fire or aerial bombardments, or at the hands of advancing infantry. Courageous young Canadians in the RFC, RNAS, or RAF died in aerial battles sparring against the Kaiser’s flyers. I hope for the day when Canadians’ only knowledge of war would come through their discovery of relics, faded photos and musty files.
Last Rights or Goodbye? Official Canadian Army photograph, Second World War, Library and Archives Canada
This links to part 2 of a very interesting series about the four Canadian divisions at Vimy, April 1917. Watch out for the map as the Canadians attain their objectives…It becomes rather shocking with shell bursts and advancing dots!! At about 6:00, this reel starts into a series of war trophy captures, with grinning troops nearby 7.7cm field guns and infantry guns, some 17 or 25 cm minenwerfers (trench mortars), one sFH02 15cm Howitzer…a nice series! Enjoy: http://youtu.be/-SHuOLV5UUs!