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Alfred King Tripe (1887 – 23rd November 1917)

Old Bill

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On 23rd November, 1917, Lieutenant Alfred King Tripe, my cousin, was killed in action at the Battle of Cambrai.


Alfred, commissioned as a Lieutenant, joined the Tank Corps where he was assigned to ‘E’ Battalion and went to France on July 1st 1917. After familiarisation training, they moved to the forward area at the end of July. Their tank park was at Oosthoek Wood.


Here Alfred was put in command of a Mk IV tank, E3 known as Eclipse II. He had a crew of seven: Corporal Murray, L/Corporal Lewis, Privates Jacques, Innes, Johnson, Hilling and Davies. In November the whole Tank Corps was pitched into battle. This was the Battle of Cambrai.


The battle began at 0600 on 20 November. It opened with a carefully prepared and predicted, but unregistered, fire barrage by 1,003 guns on key German defences, followed by smoke and a creeping barrage at 300 yards ahead to cover the first advances. Despite efforts to preserve secrecy, the German forces had received sufficient intelligence to be on moderate alert. An attack on Havrincourt was anticipated, as was the use of tanks.


Initially there was considerable success in most areas, and it seemed as if a great victory was within reach; the Hindenburg Line had been successfully penetrated with advances of up to 8 km achieved. Of the tanks 180 were out of action after the first day, although only 65 had been destroyed. Of the remainder 71 had suffered mechanical failure and 43 had been 'ditched'. The British had suffered around 4,000 casualties and had taken 4,200 prisoners, a casualty rate half that of Third Ypres (Passchendaele), and a greater advance in six hours than in three months there.


‘E’ Battalion were left with 11 servicable tanks out of the 42 that had started the battle. E3 was one of them, part of No. 3 section under the command of Captain Roberts. On November 23rd, all 11 were ordered into battle again with the objective of taking the ‘Round Trench’ on the plain of Moeuvres. Just before noon, E3 took a direct hit and all the crew were either killed or mortally wounded with the exception of Private Davies. Afterwards, he gave his account of what happened:

“Hit at 11:45 by a shell that passed through the rear of the tank and exploded on the left side practically level with the front of the engine setting the camouflage net on fire.”


Alfred Tripe, who was sitting at the point of the explosion, died instantly. His remains were not found and he has no grave but is remembered on the Cambrai memorial in Louverval and on a war memorial for GWR employees in Chester station. The photograph shows ‘Eclipse II’ after the battle.

Eclipse II.JPG

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This was my maternal grandmother's family - but the family name was changed over a period from "Tripe" to "Tripp"! My grandmother's maiden name was Mabel Clara Tripp - she married my grandfather in 1900 and lived until about 1965.


So she must have known Alfred King Tripe - but I knew nothing of him until another cousin started to dig into family history very recently. Would I have thought of asking my grandmother about Alfred, I wonder, if I had known about him all those years ago when she was still alive?


I think that every one of say - or has said at some time or other - "I wish I had asked whilst he/she was still here".



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