BEHIND THE IMAGE – Tanks on Parade

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This image shows three tanks taking part in the Lord Mayor’s parade in Ludgate Circus, London in November 1918. The parade celebrated the end of the First World War as armistice was declared that month.

In this photograph we can see crowds of men, women, and children who have gathered out on the street to watch the military parade file past. Wrapped up in their coats and hats, they line the route behind a line of mounted and foot police.

Some people crane their necks to better see the huge tanks pass by, and many have climbed onto lampposts to get a better look at the machines. Others view the scene and wave Union Jack flags from the windows of the buildings lining the streets.

Amusingly, the photograph captures the parade at an angle which sees a sign in the foreground attached to a lamppost that reads ‘Caution: Drive Slowly’ set against three heavy tanks rolling by. The tank types, from front to back are a Mark V Male, a Mark V Star Female with fitting unditching beam, and a Whippet.

Films and photographs from the parade show that the tanks were preceded by Royal Marines, sailors, Boy Scouts, a Belgian Army contingent, the Army Service Corps, the WRNS, the WAACs, and the Forage Corps from the Women’s Land Army. They were followed by various display floats by the Land Army, the Ministry of Munitions, and the Royal Field and Garrison Artillery which tow their various guns.

One float shows a pigeon loft, another is from the Ministry of Pensions showing disabled men at work. Other floats show captured German guns and weapons. The parade ends with the arrival of the Lord Mayor.

This photograph was taken by Thomas Federick Scales, who was appointed to the New Zealand Army Service Corps as the official war photographer in the United Kingdom during the First World War. Many of his photographs documented the everyday life of New Zealand and Australian troops in training camps and military hospitals in England, and he took several dry plate negatives of this victory parade in 1918.

This is an article from the February 2015 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.

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