The tank-man Bumbleth!

One man tank, photo from War trophies Annex building, Ottawa, 1920s (LAC photo)
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 in the shield on display at Les Invalides, Paris. (public domain)
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 appears to have been armed with a Heavy MG and had two rifle slits (LAC Photo)

96-year old Vimy Ridge newsreel from 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!

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The remarkable science of reading serial numbers off old, corroded guns!

Good luck with this! Serial numbers on cannon manufactured from the Victorian era until the present are important because they are the key coordinates for tracing actual details about that weapons’ history. Some cannon breeches I’ve seen have featured someone using solvent or abrasive to get through layers of paint, grime, and corrosion. While this may be officially undertaken by the local groups, I’m not sure they would appreciate me freelancing. I try to treat the guns like old gravestones, and do a charcoal rubbing on paper. When it works it is okay, but other times the corroded bumps make it useless. Another deeply-scientific technique is using your camera flash, a flashlight or app on your phone, or just the sunlight to look for different angles, raised ridges and indentations. Most Field Guns and Howitzers had serial no.s that read “Nr. _____” with anywhere from 1 to 5 digits. For other types see my note on serial numbers in the War Trophies database tab. Good searching and interpreting! My advice is, if you know what the gun’s number should be from the ledger or another source, don’t accept it uncritically and see that number. Plenty of these guns, machine guns, and mortars were shuffled around. It helps to go to the sources after examination. Using the rubbing shown below (And the War trophies database), we can determine that the gun no. 438, located in Mt. Stewart, PEI was captured by the 11th British Division, operating with Canadian units on the 27th Sep. 1918, during the first day of the Canal du Nord battle, and originally shipped to Charlottetown on June 21st, 1920 by CPR rail.  Interestingly, the rail ferry service (using the SS Prince Island) between Cape Tormentine, NB, and Borden, PEI, was new at this time, and sections of the line on the PEI side had been built by prisoners of war.

Mt. Stewart FH98-09 rubbingproper This gun is in front of the library/interpretive center, but used to be at the legion.
Mt. stewart FH 89-09 no.438,Author, July 13' Mt. Stewart 105mm howitzer no.438