*** DEBUG END ***

Search for relatives of first tanks’ crewman

16 September 2016


Early tank crewmen: Cyril Coles is fourth from left in the first row of men standing shoulder to should

Early tank crewmen: Cyril Coles is fourth from left in the first row of men standing shoulder to should

A MEMORIAL on a church wall has sparked a search for relatives of one of the first tank crews to be killed in action a century ago this week.

The death on the Somme of Cyril William Coles, aged 23, on 15 September 1916, in the first tank offensive in history, was recorded with a photograph and plaque at the United Reformed church in his home town of Poole, Dorset.

By chance, it was seen by Melissa Lambert, who told her sister, Sarah Lambert, the exhibitions manager at the Tank Museum, 15 miles away in Bovington. That started a search for more about his life to include in the museum’s display marking this week’s centenary of the first use of tanks in war at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

Born at Canford, Dorset, in 1893, Cyril Coles was the son of a corn miller, and worked with him at Creekmoor Mill, in Poole. The researchers identified his tank, D15, and found him in one of the first group photographs of the tank crew. His memory was kept alive by his brother, Donald Coles, who, in 1925, named his only son after Cyril; but Bovington has been unable to trace his family.

The museum curator, David Willey, said: “One hundred years on, it would be wonderful to make contact with them. We knew that a Cyril Coles was killed on the very first day that tanks ever went into battle, but finding such a personal story practically on our doorstep was a complete coincidence.

“Like so many names on First World War memorials we all pass by without a second thought, Cyril was, until recently, just another anonymous casualty of a war fought long ago. But now we know he was one of that small group of men who were pioneers of tank warfare.”

His tank was disabled by artillery, and he was killed by German machine-gunners as he climbed out. He is buried in a cemetery near Flers. “One hundred years later,” Mr Willey said, “we feel it is important to remember these brave men, and we’re pleased to have been able to bring Cyril Coles to people’s attention with our exhibition.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)