Victoria Cross Exhibit

All four Tank Corps First World War VCs together for the first time.

25th July 2018

For the first time ever the four Victoria Crosses awarded to members of the Tank Corps during the First World War will be brought together.

The Tank Museum has managed to secure the Victoria Cross medals of Clement Robertson, Richard Wain, Cecil Sewell and Richard West and will unveil them on Monday 6th August in a special exhibition.

During the same week – on Wednesday 8 August – the Museum will be commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Amiens, considered to be the beginning of the end of the war. Find out more here.

The museum owns one of the VCs – that awarded to Cecil Sewell – and Lord Ashcroft has kindly loaned the one awarded to Richard West.

The family of Richard Wain loaned his VC last year and following an appeal the final VC - awarded to Clement Robertson - has also been secured.

David Willey, Curator, said: "Having all four VCs together a century after they were awarded is a great moment for us.

"They have never been together before.

"Of course it wouldn't have been possible without the assistance and generosity of Lord Ashcroft and the families of the recipients.

"As well as the VCs we will be displaying the men's other medals and descriptions of what they did and photographs of them.

"All of the recipients received their VCs posthumously and the stories of their bravery is humbling and inspirational.

"Tanks were new, they were only introduced in September 1916 we can easily forget they were designed to save British lives.

"While we have the finest collection of tanks in the world it is always the stories of the men who fought in them that captures the imagination of our audience, and here are four of the best."

The stories of how each of the men earned the presitgious award are below.


Clement Robertson

Cpt Clement RobertsonClement Robertson was the first Tank Corps officer to be awarded a VC, it was for his heroics at Passchendale on October 4th 1917.

Prior to an advance he spent three days in no-man's land marking out the routes for his tanks to follow, all while under heavy fire.

On the day, even with the routes taped out, he thought the tanks might still lose their way and get bogged down.

So he decided to lead them on foot, refusing to take cover from shell and bullet fire.

As the tanks continued forward Robertson was shot and killed, but his self-sacrifice led to a successful attack.

He was 26.

 

Richard Wain

Lt Wain VCCaptain Richard Wain was awarded the VC following his heroics at the battle of Cambrai on November 20th 1917.

During the battle he was seriously injured when his tank was hit, but he shunned a stretcher, climbed out with a Lewis gun and attacked the enemy, captured a strong point, took prisoners and allowed the infantry to advance.

He continued to shoot at the retreating Germans until he received a fatal shot to the head.

He was 20.

 

Cecil Sewell

SewellCecil Sewell was awarded his for two linked actions on August 29th 1918.

After seeing one of his fellow Whippet tanks fall into a shell-hole and catch fire he leaped from his own tank and dug away the mud so the men could escape.

He then saw that his own tank driver Gunner Knox was wounded and he rushed to help.

As he ran across open ground he was shot several times.

While administering first aid he was shot again, fatally.

He was 23.

 

Richard West

Annesley-WestRichard West was an experienced soldier when the war started and his VC was awarded for two actions in 1918.

The first was leading men to their objective after having two horses shot from beneath him.

The second was on September 2nd 1918 when, as a Lieutenant-Colonel attached to the Tank Corps and in command of the 6th Light Battalion and their Whippet tanks, he feared a retreat from his infantry due to an enemy counter-attack.

Realising the danger, he rode on horseback up and down the line encouraging them to fight and defend their position.

His last words were: "Stick it, men, show them fight, and for God's sake put up a good fight."

According to his citation he then fell 'riddled with bullets', but his words and actions inspired the men and the attack was defeated.

He was 39.

The exhibition is open from Monday 6th August until Sunday 11th November.