The Tank Museum in Dorset has launched an appeal to find the Military Cross (MC) won by the commander of its Mark V tank 100 years ago at the Battle of Amiens.
Harold Whittenbury’s heroics at the battle, which included ramming a building with his tank, earned him the bravery medal.
But its whereabouts are unknown and the museum has found scant information about the man who commanded the tank that is on display.
Whittenbury, from Manchester, was protecting Australian troops with the Mk V tank no. 9199, on August 8 1918 – the start of the battle that is considered as the beginning of the end of the Great War.
The museum is marking the occasion and wants to know more about Whittenbury and ideally find his MC to exhibit.
David Willey, curator of the museum in Bovington, said: “The tank itself returned to the UK after the war and was used here for training during the 1920s.
“It was maintained and continued running and was used in parades, demonstrations, TV shows and was even put to use demolishing a cottage in 1938.
“To preserve the machine it eventually stopped being run, but remains one of our most popular exhibits.
“However, we’d love to know more about the man who commanded it so successfully at the Battle of Amiens – and we’d love to find his Military Cross and possibly display it.
“We have little information about Whittenbury although we know he was aged 26 during the battle and was listed in 1911 as living in Deramore Street in Rusholme, Manchester.
“He worked at George Robinson and Co. cotton merchants and enlisted in a ‘pals’ battalion’ of clerks and warehousemen in 1914.
“He transferred to the Tank Corps during the war and afterwards in 1920 married Lucy Mary Naylor in Manchester. They had two children; Hilda and Bernard.
“Harold died in Manchester in 1980, aged 88, and Lucy predeceased him, in 1976.
“Further than that we know very little which is why we’re appealing for anyone who knows any more, or the whereabouts of his MC or other medals, to contact us.
“The centenary of the battle is approaching and we are marking the occasion and would love to be able to tell visitors more about the man who commanded our Mk V tank.”
Harold’s MC citation tells us: “…he displayed great coolness and resource throughout.
“In addition to destroying many dumps of ammunition he rendered valuable assistance to the infantry who were held up by machine guns in an isolated building.
“At first, failing to subdue the fire from this building, he three times rammed it with his Tank, which had the desired effect.
“He fought his Tank with great skill and judgement, keeping up such hot fire on machine-gun nests that the infantry were able to continue the advance.”
After the attack the crew were ‘exhausted’, with two having been gassed by petrol fumes. During the attack they fired 87 high explosive and 18 ‘case shot’ six pounder shells, along with 1,960 machine gun bullets.
They covered eight miles in four hours. In his later report, Whittenbury said he ‘observed many casualties’ among the enemy.
And the 46th Australian Infantry Battalion he was protecting lost just 14 men.