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'On This Day in History' - 15 September 1916-2016

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John Joseph Bowker
John George Dawson
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Today, 15 September, marks the 100th Anniversary of the first use of tanks on the battlefields of the Somme during The Great War. The Battle at Flers-Courcelette, therefore, is most notable for the introduction of tanks.

Members of the Royal Tank Regiment are today being dispatched to various locations all over the country to pay homage to youngsters of The Great War who were pioneers in this new type of conflict.

Two such pioneers and former members of the Tank Corps were Burwardsley men and they will be remembered at 11.00am today at the Church of St John the Divine.

One such boy, Corporal John Joseph Bowker, who initially served with the Machine Gun Corps, transferred to the Tank Corps and survived the conflict. That said, he suffered recurring bouts of influenza and was to ultimately die of influenza in Burwardsley in April 1920, aged 23. Corporal John Joseph Bowker is shown in uniform (click on image to enlarge).

The other was Sergeant John George Dawson who was reported missing on 9 August 1918, who was taken as Prisoner of War, who suffered splinter injuries to his back and his left leg but who survived and who was ultimately transferred to Chester War Hospital on 27 December 1918. He was demobilised on 24 March 1919. Former Sergeant John George Dawson is shown having demobilised (click on image to enlarge).

Serving in the Tank Corps was extraordinarily dangerous. Young men were issued with protective face masks (see image) which were positively medieval in design. The mask was designed to protect the tank crew from 'splash' or flying metal splinters caused by the impact of bullets which hit the hot steel plating of the tank's body. During action, hot steel began to fly and bullets hitting the armoured plates also caused melting and splash, as in steel factories. Since the eyes were always vulnerable, the face mask was made of thick reinforced leather with metallic eye pieces and chain mail which extended to cover the mouth.

Events will also be held in London on Trafalgar Square and on Horse Guards Parade. The MKIV tank is already in place on Trafalgar Square and a Challenger 2 is also on Horse Guard Parade!

During the weekend of 8th and 9th October we will be holding a second nostalgic Burwardsley photographic exhibition in support of the installation of a 'Roll of Honour' to the men of Burwardsley who died in both The Great War and WWII — keep following Tattenhall Online for full details.

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