Barnsley's Tank

Posted on Thursday 29th September 2016

The latest military technology stood in peel square in 1919. now we look back on the ceremony and its eventual resting place

The tank standing in Peel Square, before its journey to its eventual resting place in Locke Park, Barnsley.

In an open meeting on 1 July 1919, the third anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, the Barnsley Victory Loan campaign was launched with great success.
During the meeting, which was held in Peel Square, a Mark IV 'female' tank was presented to the town on behalf of the National War Savings Committee.

The tank had arrived in Barnsley several days before, having been sent by the War Savings Committee as a memento of Barnsley's contributions to the Victory Loan. It was driven from the Midland Station to Peel Square preceded by the Mayor, Colonel W E Raley J P, members and officials of the corporation, and other local gentlemen. Once the tank was in position in Peel Square, a speech was made by the Mayor, who was accompanied by a number of gentlemen including Lieutenant Meek, who was in charge of the tank, Colonel Sir Joseph Hewitt, and Colonel Fox. Lieutenant Meek formally handed the tank over to Colonel Fox on behalf of the National War Savings Committee. The Mayor then received it on behalf of the borough from Colonel Fox, who said that the tank was 'a memento of the Great War, a war which he hoped would be the last.'

The ceremony was scheduled for 6.30pm on 1 July. A heavy downpour about an hour before it was due to start meant that the crowd was smaller than anticipated, however there were still many people gathered, celebrating the arrival of the tank and listening with interest and enthusiasm to the speeches which were delivered from its 'spacious top'.

The Mayor was the first to speak, expressing his great pleasure in receiving the tank on behalf of the borough, 'not only for this generation, but for generations to come'.

During the next speech, Colonel Sir Joseph Hewitt; who had helped to raise Barnsley's two voluntary Battalions; added to this 'vigorous appeal on behalf of the Victory Loan' by reminding those gathered of the sacrifices made for them during the War. He urged people to 'put by for a rainy day' and help the country to bring employment, by investing in the Victory Loan.

'a memento in the Great War, a war which he hoped would be the last'....

His oration finished, accompanied by loud cheers, with the words 'for yourselves, and for your country, do your duty now, as these lads have done theirs!' The final speaker, Captain Fernens, was a native of Barnsley and had served in France in 31st Division, to which the Barnsley Pals belonged. He spoke of the importance of money as the foundation needed to build confidence for troops in France, and as a nation. He appealed to the audience for their contributions in buying securities , informing them that if they could not afford to so, the bank would lend money at four and a half per cent, and they would receive five per cent interest for it. With much laughter and agreement from the crowd, he said it was 'money for nothing!'

The Mayor spoke again to thank the other speakers, and once again encouraged everyone in the borough to do their bit by way of subscribing to the Victory Loan. The meeting came to an end with loud cheers and the singing of the National Anthem. The tank remained in her position in Peel Square until the Peace Day celebrations.

The Peace Day celebrations held on Saturday, 19 July 1919 were very successful, despite heavy rainfall in the evening which threatened to spoil the festivities.

The morning's great event was a welcome home to the forces where an estimated 3,000 officers and men gathered to take part in a procession through the town. From 10-11 am ex-servicemen and those still in service for His Majesty's forces assembled in their respective units, and at 11.45 am the procession left the Queen's Grounds and marched through the town. The procession followed the route: Queen's Road, May Day Green, Sheffield Road, Park Road, Duke Street, Wood Street, Princess Street, York Street, Peel Street, Eldon Street, Queen's Road.

There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the crowd, due to the many people who had lost loved ones. 'Amongst those masses of onlookers were many aching hearts and sad, tear-dimmed eyes of the inevitable thought of father, son, brother or dear friend who had given his all so that Peace Day might be so happily commemorated'.

Throughout the town, almost every building displayed extravagant decorations. The people who lined the streets were wearing ribbons and rosettes, and the children waving flags. A 'particularly fine show' was made at the Public Hall (now the Civic Hall); the front was a mass of colour, with a crown illuminated with vari-coloured lights in the centre'. Banners were hung across Eldon Street and Mary Day Green bearing slogans such as 'Barnsley Thanks her Gallant Sons', 'Barnsley Welcomes her Faithful Sons' and 'Victory with Honour'.

Kaiser William II was forced to abdicate on 9 November, 1918.

The throughfares and walkways around the Sheffield Road area had the most elaborate decorations. 'Residents of the side-streets appeared to vie with each other as to which made the best display'. Effiges of the ex-Kaiser and his son were a pronounced feature. Along the entire route the footpaths were crowded with people celebrating Peace Day.

Peace Day Celebrations news excerpt.

It became known at the eleventh hour that the decision had been made to include the tank as part of the procession. The tank had been in position in Peel Square for several weeks, and in joining the procession would be making its way to Locke Park where it was intended that 'for generations to come it would remain a relic of the greatest of all wars'. The procession included: mounted police returned from active service; the boy scouts and Church Lads' Brigade; Officers and Men of the Royal Navy, Royal Artillery, the 13th and 14th (service) Battalion Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiments (the Barnsley Pals), other Yorkshire and Infantry Regiments, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Army Medical Corps, Service Corps, Defence Corps and the National Reserves; plus several bands including the Cooper's Royal Brass Band. The public's interest was intensified by the inclusion of Barnsley's Tank in the parade.

However, the men marched far too quickly and the ‘deadly war-weapon’ – which could only make six miles per hour on good ground – ‘failed to keep pace.’ She was left in the rear at Sheffield Road to complete the rest of the journey at leisure. Hundreds of people, after witnessing the march of the soldiers, turned their attention to the tank which was making its way to Locke Park in easy stages. Though no public announcement had been made regarding a demonstration of the tank’s abilities, a rumour quickly spread through the crowds that, in order to reach its final resting place in the Park, the tank would knock down a wall on its journey.

‘Past the main entrance gates the engine of destruction trudged, and upon reaching the Kingstone end of the Park, the officers in charge diverted the tank’s course from the roadway to the wall, which crumbled as it slowly-but-surely poked its nose inside the enclosure.’ Those who had been left at home during the war had heard of the mighty powers of the tank, and were privileged in witnessing it with their own eyes, and were ‘greatly delighted’ with the demonstration.

The tank was obviously an interesting attraction for the children of Barnsley

The procession returned to the Queen’s Grounds at around 1.00pm where dinner was served ‘on a generous scale’ to the Officers and Men in marquees, and entertainment for the afternoon was offered in the local cinemas. After taking part in the procession, the 13th and 14th Battalion York and Lancaster band returned to the grounds of Beckett Hospital where they ‘rendered several delightful selections’ for the enjoyment of inmates and staff. Peace gifts were given to the Hospital as part of the celebrations, such as flowers, fruit, cake, muffins and crumpets.

Arrangements were made for an extra exhibition at dusk featuring flares, rockets and parachute flares. Unfortunately, this part of the programme was marred by heavy rainfall. However, bonfires still ‘blazed merrily’ in many parts of town, and numerous Kaiser effiges came to an untimely end.

The celebrations continued into Monday. In the afternoon once again rain threatened, but held off, and there was brilliant sunshine as youngsters from many local schools in the area gathered at Churchfield. Around 10,000 young scholars marched from their respective schools to Churchfield, carrying banners and marching proudly. A temporary platform was arranged, from which the Mayor made an address to the school-children full of encouraging words about ‘duty and discipline’. The National Anthem was sung, and cheers given for the King and the Mayor. The children made their way back to their schools for tea and games.

Also on Monday afternoon, around 950 elderly ladies and gentlemen were ‘royally entertained’ at the Queen’s Grounds. They were served food in huge marquees and then went outside into the sunshine where the National Reserve Band played for them. The Mayor made an appearance and addressed them briefly. many of the guests described the event as ‘one of the best days of their lives’.

Many of the smaller villages such as Dodworth, Thurgoland and Grimethorpe, held their own celebrations with parades and decorations.

On a more somber note, Peace Day celebrations did not go off without incident elsewhere in the country. It was reported in the Barnsley Chronicle that a young clerk in Stoke-on-Trent, Frederick Byatt, aged seventeen, was watching a celebratory fireworks display when tragedy struck. A giant rocket swerved horizontally, and struck him where he was standing fifty yards away. It hit him ‘with terrific force in the pit of the stomach’ and sent him unconscious. Byatt died shortly afterwards from his injuries, and several bystanders received slight injuries from burns which were caused by burning gunpowder from the rocket. The eventual fate of Barnsley’s Tank, is a sad one. Despite the intentions for it to remain there for generations to come, it was scrapped only a few years later. If you have any stories or information regarding the tank we would love to hear from you.

'For generations to come it would remain a relic of the greatest of all wars'...
Mk IV's on their way to the front to take part in the Battle of Cambrai

Tanks were first used in combat during the fighting which took place in what was known as the Battle of the Somme. The offensive was launched upon a 25 mile front from north of the Somme river between Arras and Albert. It started on 1 July, 1916 and would carry on until 18 November of the same year.

Mk I tanks were used in the attack on Flers-Courcelette which took place on 15 September, 1916. These early tanks proved notoriously unreliable and were easily destroyed by shell fire. The development of Mks II and III saw little improvement and were mainly used for training.

It was not until the Mk IV that tanks were produced in significant numbers, with 1220 being built. The Mk IV came in two main configuration, the female which was armed with six .303 Lewis machine guns, and the male, which replaced two of the machine guns with two 6 pounder guns. It also had more armour than the Mk I version.

The Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917 saw the successful deployment of the Mk IV in a major offensive. It was used in a way that made best use of its capabilities. Its brief was to smash down barbed wire, destroy previously invincible machine-gun nests, over-run artillery positions and give the infantry a chance to achieve their objectives with greatly reduced casualties.

Inside, the crew of eight had to put up difficult conditions – indescribable noise and overpowering fumes, and with a speed of less that one mile an hour over rough ground they became an obvious target for German guns.

German soldiers pose for the camera in front of a ditched Mk IV.


There are varying ideas as to what eventually happened to the tank. Some people thought it had rusted away and was buried in the Park, while others thought it was weighed in as scrap during the Second World War. One man who lived near the Park in the 1920s remembered that the tank was cut up in the Park, by the Blacksmith from Townend. It seems that this was correct. On 5 July 1926, at a meeting of the Parks Committee, tenders for the purchase of the tank were considered and it was agreed to accept the tender of Mr J Dunk of Worsbrough, amounting to £31 10s 0d (after permission had been obtained from the War Office that the tank would only be sold for scrap). The cutting was carried out by a method using carbide and water and then the pieces were carted away for scrap by the Blacksmith, regardless of the earlier statement that it should stay at the Park 'for all time'.

Vanishing Relics of Barnsley Gerald Alliott

Photographs courtesy of:

Chris and Pearl Sharp,

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council's Archives and Local Studies Department,

Taylor Library

Of further interest...