Sergeant Charles McNamee

Sergeant Charles McNamee, 21 and from Portsmouth, was a member of one of the very first tank units in the British Army.

Although it is often thought that Tanks were first used at Cambrai, a limited number of the vehicles were used at the Somme in 1916. The Heavy Section of the Machine Gun Corps was formed to operate the Tanks, originally with four Companies, lettered from A to D. In November 1916 these were expanded to Battalion size.

Serving with D Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps Heavy Branch, Sergeant McNamee was killed on 9 April 1917. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial. There is some confusion as to the circumstances of McNamee’s death, as the Battle of Cambrai took place in November 1917. It seems that McNamee was in fact killed at Arras, as D Battalion were engaged in this battle on 9 April 1917 – apparently they were moving up to launch an attack the next day.

Christy Campbell’s Band of Brigands tells us much about the early tank men. D Battalion’s tanks all had names beginning with D – such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Delphine’, ‘Daphne’ and ‘Dolly’. With a sense of humour, 2nd Lieutenant Sampson christened his tank ‘Delilah’. D Company first fought at the Battle of Ginchy on the Somme in September 1916, however only three out of 18 tanks managed to reach their objectives.

The Machine Gun Corps Heavy Branch later became the Tank Corps, and eventually the Royal Tank Regiment.

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2 Comments

Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War Two

2 responses to “Sergeant Charles McNamee

  1. Anthony Saunders

    Charles McNamee would have been my great-uncle, on my mother’s side. He enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1915, and I believe transfered into the Machine Gun Corps. when his original unit was wiped out, possibly on the Somme. The date of his death, 9 April 1917, corresponds with the date of an attack by 8 Mk II tanks of the 12 Company, D Battalion, Heavy Machine-Gun Corps, in support of the Canadian attach at Vimy Ridge, as part of the Battle of Arras. I have read accounts of that battle which state that the tanks broke down or got stuck just past the start line, their crews exited to try to start or extricate the tanks, and were killed by enemy mortar fire. I have his 1914-14 Star, British Victory Medal and Allied Victory Medal (the latter two awarded posthumously); my brother has his papers.

    • James Daly

      Hi Anthony, great to hear from you. It’s nice to hear a little more about your great-uncle, there were very few Tank men from Portsmouth and their stories fascinate me. There is due to be quite a bit going on in Portsmouth in 2014 for the hundredeth anniversary – I am hoping to complete my next book on Portsmouth men who were killed in WW1, and I would be very interested to hear more about your great-uncle.

      Kind Regards

      James

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