William Carnie Donation

The Tank Museum has received a donation from the family of Private William James Carnie, who served as Musical Box’s, driver. This donation brings together the collection of all three crew members of the famous Whippet tank ‘Musical Box’ to the Museum for the first time.

Private Carnie was the only crew member to die in the tank’s famous action at the Battle of Amiens, 8th August 1918 the Battle of Amiens marked a major turning point for the Allies on the road to victory. On the first day of the battle, all the tanks in William’s troop were knocked out, and Musical Box became the lead tank

Lieutenant clement Arnold’s Medium A Whippet tank `Musical Box’ photographed on the 9th August, 1918. Three German soldiers take an impromtu nap in front, whilst both a German and British officer stand off to the side. Rifles and various kit lay scattered about.
The Medium A Whippet tank `Musical Box’ photographed on the 9th August, 1918.

The commander of the Musical Box, Clement Arnold, ordered William, to drive across the German lines of fire whilst engaging the German battery with machine gun fire. They were able to cause considerable damage to the German artillery. Inevitably, the tank attracted machine-gun fire, which punctured the spare fuel cans on the roof and caused petrol to run down inside the cab. Two shells then hit the tank, causing the petrol to ignite inside the tank.

On escaping from the burning tank, William and the rest of the crew were met by a group of German soldiers seeking revenge for the deaths of their comrades. William was shot and killed, and Arnold and his gunner, Private Ribbans were savagely attacked.

The collection includes a letter William wrote to his brother in August 1918, less than six days before his death.

While travelling towards the Front Line, William writes to his brother John, who served with the RAF during World War I that he had achieved a 1st Class grade on his driving course and been recommended to become a driving instructor.

He adds that:

By the time this reaches you, we will have been instructing old Jerry a bit on how to go back the way he came.

A postcard from Carnie to his sister, Mary dated 9th July 1917.
Medals and sweetheart brooch
A selection from the donation, including the medals he never wore. Private Carnie's British War Medal 1914-1920 and Victory Medal (without ribbon) sit either side of a sweetheart brooch. His Victory Medal arrived unmounted with its ribbon still within its original brown envelope.

John was reported missing in action shortly after Carnie’s death, which meant that their parents received the telegrams informing them that William had been killed and John was missing on the same weekend.

John was discovered later to have become a POW and survived the war.

Visitors will be able to see the replica of the Whippet ‘Musical Box’ at TANKFEST 2024. Built by the Landships CIC, the build involved thousands of hours of workshop time and research, including interviewing the descendants of Musical Box’s crew. Family of Private Ribbans will be attending the event to see the replica in its public debut.

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