Tank Corps Officer percival bayliss

A recent donation of photographs has shone a light on the brief military career of a “gallant” young Tank Corps officer, who would be killed in action shortly before the end of World War One. 

Percival Bayliss gained his commission in the newly created Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps as they moved to Bovington Camp.

Following tank training, 2nd Lt Bayliss travelled to France with the E Battalion (later 5th Battalion) and saw his first taste of action during the 3rd Battle of Ypres in September 1917.

Bayliss excelled in this action, trekking an incredible 23 miles through thick mud in a Mark IV tank.

Bayliss was personally congratulated by his Corps Commander, Lord Cavan for his efforts and earned himself a mention in dispatches.

5th Battalion received the new Mark V tanks in in time for the Amiens Offensive in August 1918, where Bayliss was once again in the thick of it.

Black and White image of four men sat down. Percival Bayliss sits on the the left hand side of the group.
Percival Bayliss sits on the left side of the group.
Black and white photograph of a Mark V tank.
Mark IV male from E Battalion at Flesquieres.

5th Battalion received the new Mark V tanks in in time for the Amiens Offensive in August 1918, where Bayliss was once again in the thick of it.

At Zero eight tanks from C Company advanced with Bayliss leading the way.

The bridge had been rigged for demolition, and by the time Baylis arrived it had been blown.

In preparation for this, Bayliss Mark V had been fitted with a Crib fascine – which he successfully deployed allowing the tanks to cross the river.

By October 1918, Bayliss had been promoted to acting Captain and was commanding a section within C company.

In his final action, he was tasked to ‘mop up’ a wood, clearing the trenches and a sunken road in support of the attacking infantry.

Spotting that the infantry were about to be outflanked, he deployed one of his tanks to a ridge where it was able to disrupt the enemy attack.

The tank was hit, and suffered several casualties so Bayliss himself took joined the crew in the role of gunner so it could continue its work. But it would soon receive another direct hit leading the crew to abandon it – and it’s here, sadly, that Captain Bayliss loses his life.

The impact of his loss can be felt in the Battalion’s War History, which notes that ‘the gallant officer’s… death was a great loss to the Battalion.’

Black and white image of 4 male gunners.
After his tank was hit, Percival Bayliss took the role of gunner.

The infantry Captain would later write; “The action of the tank undoubtedly saved my men, so we were able to establish posts on the ridge to cover our retirement.”

The collection includes images of knocked-out Mark IV tanks at Flesquieres, and Mark V tanks being detrained at Beaumetz and offer a rare visual record of the past.

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