The Fray Bentos Boys.

They named their tank ‘Fray Bentos’ after the famous canned meat. They were the 9 crew members who were trapped inside their tank in the middle of no mans land in August 1917. Fray Bentos F41 was a male Mark IV tank numbered 2329.

They endured 3 days and 2 nights being attacked with artillery, grenades, small arms fire and close quarter battle by BOTH sides!

To set the scene, as they say. Its late August 1917, the Battle Of Paschendaele has been raging for 3 weeks, tanks are a very new entrant to the front. A story emerges about the bold determination of a tank crew that refuse to let their ‘working’ tank fall into enemy hands.

Its August 22nd, Fray Bentos sets off in support of an infantry attack by the 61st Division near St Julien. The man in charge of Fray Bentos is Captain Richardson, he elects to walk into the attack alongside his tank.

After 3 weeks of shelling, the countryside as you can imagine, is nothing but a featureless tundra of mud and more mud. Fray Bentos comes upon a machine gun post and it is here that Captain Richardson get shot in the leg, he makes back into the tank to ‘safety’ but the driver also gets hit in the neck at the same time and as he slumps out of the driving seat, Fray Bentos slides sideways into a ditch. Trenches, ditches and other such obstacles are no problem for the new tank as it carries plenty of equipment to help out in such circumstances. At this point, one of the crew, Pte Braedy, emerges from inside the tank to retrieve the tanks ditching gear to assist with the recovery but unfortunately, he is spotted and is shot immediately. His body sinks into the mud and is never recovered.

Soon after this, the advance of the 61st stalls and the troops retreat back to their lines leaving Fray Bentos and her crew alone and to the mercy of the Germans.

At first, as the Germans advanced, they were an easy target for the Fray Bentos crew who managed to pick them of through the hatches and view holes of the tank. The Germans realising this then started to send waves of troops over to the tank and at one point they had swarmed over Fray Bentos in the hope of dropping grenades into her to kill the crew. It is here the Fray Bentos crew engage in hand to hand combat to repel the aggressors.

As expected by now, most of the crew are injured but their ordeal was far from over. For the next 2 days and nights they fought off attack after attack and even had to contend with British snipers taking shots at them as they thought they were Germans trying to steal the tank! The crew started to disarm Fray Bentos and they formed their plan to escape. It is now August 24th, 60 hours after they first set off on the advance, that they manage to make it back to British Lines.

The crew of Fray Bentos were to become the most decorated tank crew of WW1.

The crew
Captain Donald Hickling Richardson MC MID.

Second Lieutenant George Hill MC.

78690 Sergeant Robert Francis Missen DCM.

69575 Gunner William Morrey DCM.

69629 Gunner Ernest W. Hayton MM.

69463 Gunner Frederick C. Arthurs MM.

69463 Gunner Frederick C. Arthurs MM.

69648 GunnerJames H. Binley MM.

69524 Lance Corporal Ernest Hans Braedy. Killed in Action.

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