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OBJECT OF THE WEEK: A Life-saving notebook.


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When the crippled Mark I tank bogged down at the battle of Flers-Courcelette, Corporal Charles Albert Ironmonger of D Company was forced to abandon it.

 

As he did so he was struck by a bullet in the chest.

 

Flers-Coucelette, September 1916, is famous for being the first battle in which tanks were deployed. However, pioneers like Ironmonger and the rest of his crew quickly found that they had many shortcomings.

 

Tank D7, with Ironmonger aboard, had no sooner rolled into that historic battle when it found itself in great difficulty. Its tail wheel was damaged and its speed, which was never higher than walking pace, dropped. As it limped along, the tank slid into a shell hole and stuck fast. Attempts were made to manoeuvre it free but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

 

It was then that occupants decided to bail out. Now exposed in no-man’s land, the crew attracted the attention of the enemy. It was then that Ironmonger was hit.

 

But that potentially fatal bullet was stopped by a small, thin, ruled notebook which Ironmonger kept in his breast pocket. The notebook, which contained names and addresses of friends and relatives, saved his life.

 

Ironmonger survived this close shave, and probably many others, serving in the Tank Corps until the end of the war.

 

His notebook was donated to us in 2003 by his relative, Mr John Ironmonger.

 

This little book is currently sits in a display case in our Tank Story exhibition, clearly bearing its scar from Flers-Courcelette. The bullet itself can be seen near to the notebook in the case – leaving visitors to wonder how just a few millimetres would have dramatically changed this story.

 

We will shortly be posting our PIC OF THE WEEK: D7 - Ironmonger's tank!

 

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