Oldham Tank Week – 11-16 February 1918
In February 1918 tank 141 ‘Egbert’ arrived outside the Town Hall in Oldham. Tanks had become immensely popular after their use in the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 and the National War Savings Committee used this new ‘wonder weapon’ as part of a nationwide campaign to persuade people to buy War Bonds and War Saving Certificates.
Oldham received notification of the decision to send a tank to Oldham in the middle of January 1918. It was originally decided to locate the tank on Tommyfield with a pavilion adjoining and to use St. Mary’s Parish Church Schools on Burnley Street. However after a visit to see how Preston was tackling their tank visit the location was changed from Tommyfield to outside the Town Hall as less space was needed than originally thought.
‘Egbert’ left Bolton at 8pm on Saturday 7 February and arrived at Mumps station in the early hours of Sunday morning where it was kept overnight in the goods yard. Then on the Monday morning the tank ambled out of the goods yard and drove up Yorkshire Street to its position between the façade of the Town Hall and John Platt’s monument for the opening at 12 noon. A bandstand and a temporary post office from which people would be able buy their Bonds had also been erected beside the tank while cross the pillars of the Town Hall a large banner had been put up exhorting Oldhamers to roll up with their money, the appeal ending with the reminder that ‘the Tank loves a cheerful lender’.
After a short speech the Mayor declared the Tank Bank open and proceeded to pass a cheque for £100,000 which the Council had decided to invest through one of the two tank windows. The target for Oldham was set at £1,000,000 with individuals rather than industries being the main contributors as it was thought industries were already contributing in other ways. Branches of the Tank Bank were also opened in Royton, Chadderton and Lees.
On that first day Subscriptions totalling £320,000 were recorded in the first hour, the band of the 1st Manchester Regiment played in the afternoon and in the evening Private Cook of the 2/10 Manchesters was presented with the Military Medal on top of the tank for helping capture an enemy dugout and four prisoners. The Waterhead Prize Brass Band entertained the crowd from 7-9 pm.
On the morning of the second day the tank was visited by around 4,000 school children who were marched in procession to view the Tank. On their return to their classrooms they were called upon to write essays upon what they had seen. The Volunteers marched to Chadderton for a meeting in front of the Town Hall.
On Wednesday 13 February a party of munition girls arrived from Rochdale who said they were tired of waiting and proceeded to deposited £300 in the Tank, and the ‘largest outdoor meeting that Royton had ever seen’ was held in the evening. After three days £682,957 had been raised.
Further medal presentations were made on the Thursday. Corporal Frank Doleman of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bombadier H Rhodes of Greenfield the Military Medal. A large procession, led by an illuminated tram car, took place in Lees. The procession consisted of members of the District Council, War Savings committee, Oldham Volunteer Corps and their band, followed by troops of boy scouts.
Friday 15 February was designated ‘Out-townships Day’ and that evening the illuminated car undertook a tour of Oldham, Shaw, Royton and Lees. By the following day the target of £1,000,000 target has been passed. That day two Oldham men were presented with medals: Private Wheeler with the Military Medal and Driver Henthorn with the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The total amount of money raised in Tank Week was £1,529,259 including contributions from Chadderton, Royton, Crompton, and Lees and Springhead.
After the end of the war the tank ‘Egbert’ was presented to West Hartlepool which had won the competition for investing the most per capita of population. There it remained until 1937 when the West Hartlepool Town Council decided to scrap it as a ‘relic of barbarism’.
Oldham also received its ‘presentation’ tank which was parked for a number of years in Alexandra Park before being scrapped in 1938. A tank was also presented to Crompton.
This blog post was written by Ann Jones from Oldham Local Studies and Archives.
Image: Oldham Local Studies and Archives