The Tank Museum | Hidden Cambrai Art Discovered

Hidden Cambrai Art Discovered

Found underneath another painting

18th January 2019

This First World War artwork, 'Tanks in Action at Cambrai', was discovered in a loft, hidden underneath a different painting.

Despite being discovered in the donor’s grandmother’s loft, this forgotten artwork is still in pristine condition. The artwork was found hidden underneath an unrelated painting. The top painting had protected it from the coal dust after hanging over an open fire for many years. While attempting to remove the unrelated painting for restoration, the donors found this pen and ink wash drawing below. 

Neish full

Titled ‘Tanks in Action at Cambrai’, the drawing by Gunner A. R. Neish of the Tank Corps dated 1919, portrays Mk IV tanks crossing the trenches and crushing wire at the Battle of Cambrai 20th November 1917. 

Since Tanks were traditionally named using the first letter of the Battalion such as D Battalion’s ‘Deborah’, it is intriguing that the foremost tank features the name starting with the letter N.  N/14th Battalion did not take part in the Battle of Cambrai as it was not formed until October 1917, leaving us only to speculate the reasoning behind choice of markings.

Curiously, the Museum already has artwork by Gnr A. R. Neish in the collection -which was also found in loft! ‘When Tank Meets Tank’ illustrates the first tank battle between MK IV and A7V at Villers-Bretonneux on 24th April 1918.

Both artworks are of battles that we presume Neish had either fought in or witnessed, drawn at or relatively soon after the event. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to identify Neish’s battalion or explain how the drawings came to be in the two lofts.