Machine Gun Corps

Gunner Cyril William Coles

Died 15th Sep 1916 War Dead

Story

Cyril Coles died at the Somme, France aged 23 years.

Prior to enlistment Cyril worked for his father at Creekmoor Mill where he had been born. He was the son of William Clement Coles and Sarah Coles, who, at the time of receiving word of Cyril's death, lived at 'Stoneleigh', Wimborne Road.

He is remembered on Broadstone War memorial, on the memorial in St. John's Church, Broadstone, and on the memorial in Skinner Street United Reformed Church, which states "Killed in the first tank attack at Flers Sept 15th 1916".

Address

Creekmoor Mill, Poole

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Wartime Organisation

British Army

Subdivision

Machine Gun Corps - Heavy Section, D Company; No.3 Section

Rank

Gunner

Service Number

32414 (205764 after his death)

Place of Death/Burial

Shortly after joining the Machine Gun Corps, in the second week of April 1916, Cyril transferred to a special formation which provided the first tank crews; the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps. Cyril joined D Company, one of the five original tank units, in May 1917 and was a machine gunner in tank crew D15 who manned a Mark I female tank known as “Duchess”.

On 15th September 1916, the D15 crew was tasked to support the attack along the western edge of Flers together with crews D2 and D19 in “Duke”. When these tanks ditched into shell holes en route to their starting point, Duchess continued on its mission alone, crossing the German front line, before it was hit by an artillery shell and became inoperable. Unable to manoeuvre the tank, the tank’s skipper ordered the crew to bail out. Gunner Coles was shot in the head almost immediately after he left Duchess; he was the first crew man to be killed during the 100 years' service of the tank.

Cyril Coles was buried next to wreckage of Duchess but, after the Armistice, his remains were reburied at Bulls Road Cemetery, to the East of Flers.

This information has been provided by Stephen Pope, author of 'The First Tank Crews', published by Helion & Company.

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Memorial

Bulls Road Cemetery, Flers - III.E.6

CWGC Entry

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/193689/coles,-cyril-william/

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We shall remember them.

- Robert Laurence Binyon