During our Amiens event, the Archive received a number of donations from visitors, including this copy of the children’s story ‘To the Fore with the Tanks!’ by Percy F Westerman.
Percy F Westerman
Percy F Westerman was a prolific children’s writer in the 20th Century, with his books mostly based on military and naval themes. This particular edition includes a book plate, which revealed the copy had been awarded as a third place prize for the 90th Glasgow Company Boys Brigade Drill Efficiency during the 1917-1918 Session. It is no doubt a worthy prize, as “To the Fore with the Tanks!” is typical boy’s adventure story.
The Second Wheatshires
The story follows Private Ralph Setley, originally of the ‘Second Wheatshires’, through his trials on the Western Front. [Spoiler Alert!] Having survived going over the top, Setley is recommended for commission after saving a wrecked tank in No-Mans-Land. As a Tank Commander he battling through the trenches on ‘the big push’, tackles a treacherous double agent and, in a thrilling climax, uses his tank as a battering ram against a steam train and railway bridge to stop German reserves reaching the front.
First published in 1917, the book certainly falls in rousing propaganda at points with our hero, trapped in his tank, overlooking the destruction, concluding that “the hollow mockery of modern civilization stood unmasked. Was it merely to satisfy the insensate craving for glory in the part of the megalomaniac Emperor that millions of Huns and their vassals poured out their blood like waters, and more equal numbers of Britons and their Allies freely risked their lives to thwart the sanguinary ambitions of militant Prussianism.”
While the text is particularly candid with its descriptions of battle. “In a trice the roof of the Tank was swarming with men who endeavoured to find a vulnerable joint in the massive armour…Ralph gave orders for the motors to be reversed. With the sudden change of motion the Huns on the roof rolled off like ninepins. Many were caught and crushed under the broad-flanged tractor bands, others formed an easy mark for the machine-guns…”
In excellent condition for its age, ‘To the Fore with the Tanks’, will be catalogued and added to the Fiction section of the Archive’s reference library.