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Even Dudley children joined in the battle to raise money to buy tanks in 1918

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 17, 2014

  • Youngsters take a close look at tank 113 Julian

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FOLLOWING on from the previous Great War Tank Bank articles in The Bugle (July 17 edition) about Wolverhampton and about Walsall (June 12 edition) Lee Dent, Ben Cunliffe and Richard Pursehouse of The Chase Project military research group report on how the children helped when the tank fund-raisers came to Dudley Borough in April 1918.

TWO weeks after the Tank Week at Walsall, tank 113 Julian returned to the Black Country, visiting Dudley and Brierley Hill.

Julian had already raised more than £40,000,000 in purchases of War Bonds and War Savings Certificates by the time he arrived in Dudley, three quarters of which had been amassed during its time in Scotland.

Julian's presence in Dudley was also to provide a focal point for the recruitment of Volunteers.

Bedecked in tartan ribbon from the successful Scottish tour, Julian would again form the centrepiece for the proceedings.

But on this occasion he would share the limelight with a local man; the tank commander, Lieutenant Wilf E. Davies, who was from Holly Hall, Dudley.

Plans for Julian's appearance in the second week of April 1918 were overseen by Mr A.M. Fairbairn and his Dudley Tank Committee; their target was £1 million.

Julian was to arrive at Stourbridge railway station at 10am on Sunday, April 7 and after a one-hour stay was to make his way by road to Market Place, Dudley.

It was planned that Julian would stop off at various places along the way - Brettell Lane (at the junction for Wordsley and Kingswinford) being his first port of call, before moving on to Brierley Hill and eventually crossing the Dudley boundary at 2.45pm.

After being put through his paces on the waste ground adjacent to the cemetery, Julian was to proceed to Dudley town centre, arriving at 4pm.

Julian was joined in his fund-raising exploits by the Model Tank built by Siemens of Stafford, and a captured German aeroplane. The Siemens Tank was sent to Brierley Hill on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then at Stourbridge on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The aeroplane was placed in Tipton Park.

Despite the waiting crowds being lashed by torrential rain throughout the morning, there was a carnival atmosphere in Market Place.

Crowds lining the route from Stourbridge to Dudley swamped the tank, delaying his progress.

Outside the Whymsey Arms in Brierley Hill, Julian's cylinders apparently "overheated" and remained there in excess of half an hour. Suitably cooled, both tank and crew proceeded on their way! The progress was short lived, as crowds on Church Hill brought the tank to a halt. Brierley Hill's first citizen, Councillor Ernest Marsh JP, mounted the tank and addressed the "wet through" assembly.

The timetable was now but a pipe dream as Julian pulled out of Brierley Hill with the borough boundary of Dudley reached at 5.50pm.

At 7.30pm Julian met "a barrier, strongly founded on sandbags, placed over earthen foundations and built up with a formidable network of barbed wire." Julian "ridiculed" it as he hardly hesitated in his advance, landing safely on the other side, and proceeded towards Market Place, finally arriving at 9.20pm.

Mr William Welby (the official organiser) and Lieutenant Davies were heartily congratulated on the tank's safe arrival. The Mayor addressed those present to make the goal of raising £1 million a reality. The crowd erupted and shouts of "we are there" filled the night air. The proceedings closed with the National Anthem, led by Councillor Tanfield.

Monday saw better weather. As with the Walsall Tank Bank, the Band of The New Zealand Rifle Brigade played to the crowds. Joining them would be The Salvation Army Band from Cradley Heath, The Band of The South Staffordshire Volunteers and The National Projectile Band. Areas such as Tipton and Halesowen would provide their own local bands.

At 12.30pm prompt, the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Mr Fairbairn mounted the tank and opened the proceedings with a series of speeches. Sir Arthur Boscawen, MP, informed the crowd that now more than ever their support for the war effort was crucial, as the Germans had just launched a seemingly unstoppable offensive.

Speeches over, Mr Ernest Davies with the accompanist, Miss Nellie Ruston, sang Land of Hope and Glory from on top of the tank, the large crowd present taking up the chorus.

At 4.30pm the first day's takings of £105,578 were announced. The contributors included £20,000 from Grainger and Smith, £10,000 from Pearl Insurance Company and £100 from National Brassworkers of Dudley. The Tank Bank received £107,713 on Tuesday and on Wednesday £61,346. Thursday was Children's Day, which was overseen by Mr Edward Frost. In excess of 8,000 children passed by the tank to the accompaniment of The Dudley Grammar School Band.

Children who had done well raising funds were allowed to chalk their names on the tank. The children deposited more than £9,300, much to the delight of the Schools' Fund-raising Committees. Thursday's total topped £110,275, and combined with Friday's total of £146,108, the total for five days had reached £531,020. The halfway point had been passed.

On Saturday, the pressure was on to hit the £1 million target. The crowd was the largest to date, thousands waiting patiently to "do their bit".

Corporate donations including £50,000 from Prudential Assurance swelled the takings. But as the day progressed it became increasingly clear that the undeclared takings from outlying areas, such as Tipton, Kingswinford, Amblecote and Brierley Hill, were crucial. At the close of business on Saturday the Tank Committee were unable to say if the target had been reached. It was not until Monday that it was announced the target had been exceeded - by £109.

From Dudley the Tank Julian was to proceed to Kidderminster. During the closing of the Tank Bank on Saturday night an unfortunate incident occurred.

One of the crew, Sergeant G. W Harrington, became entangled in the machinery while trying to start the tank. Half of the thumb on his right hand was torn completely off, but he refused to go to hospital until after Julian had left Market Square, much to the annoyance of the two medics who treated him. A whipround raised £14 for his "devotion to duty".

The following week, as all of the figures were collated, the final figure for Dudley and Brierley Hill tank bank was declared - almost £1,200,000 -enough to buy 240 tanks.

In comparison Walsall had managed £832,000 (for the four days around Easter), Derby at the end of January 1918 generated £1,284,000, Coventry £1,370,000.

If anyone has any additional information or photographs of this important chapter in Dudley's Great War experience, please write to us at The Black Country Bugle, Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL, or email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or log on to www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk We will forward any information on to The Chase Project.

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