Overlord'S Blog: Black Box
In 1918 the Germans had launched massive attacks and broken the allied lines. Then after stiff fighting the Germans suffered a crushing defeat. Ludendorff called it "The black day of the German army". A significant part of it might be down to one tank. A Whippet MK A light tank nicknamed Musical Box.
On 8th of August, Lt C.B Arnold, his gunner, C. Ribbans and the driver W. J. Carney climbed into their Whippet tank. One of 8 tanks in the unit, and left their overnight camp near Amiens. At 0420 the formation departed, passing Villers-Bretonneux (see Edfrancis thread about why that place is famous). However the going was bad, and soon all the other 7 whippets were bogged down, leaving Musical Box on her own.
Lt Arnold moved his tank up behind some Australian infantry and MKV tanks. Shortly after linking up with the advance his area came under fire from a battery of German field guns. Able to spit out 48 rounds per minute the German battery started causing serious problems for the infantry, two of the MKV's were smashed by the barrage.
Arnold drove his tank at its top speed of 8mph past the front of the battery engaging them with his machine guns. The Germans launched over 30 rounds at him, luckily none failed to connect. The Whippet made it to cover on the flank of the battery, and enabled Arnold to mount a flank attack on the Germans scattering the battery, and smashing the local German defences. The Australians were able to move up the quarter of a mile, and take the German position with no further loss.
After dismounting to liaise with the infantry Arnold moved off to rescue several troops of cavalry who had been taken under fire by Germans in a wheat field. After routing those Germans Arnold continued to attack. Unknown to him he by now was far out in front of the advance, deep inside the German lines.
Arnold came across a railway bridge defended by Germans. Rushing down the rails he smashed through their lines and scattered their defence, causing over 60 casualties to the defenders. For the next hour or so he harried a German battalion, causing significant damage.
Musical Box was not getting off scot free. The Battalion of Germans had put up such a storm of concentrated fire the fuel cans stored on the outside of the tank had been hit multiple times. These doused the tank in flammable fuel which leaked into the fighting compartment. The crew were standing knee deep in the petrol. The fumes became so bad that all three crew were forced to wear their respirators.
So Musical Box was now a driving bomb, with the crew drenched in fuel, the slightest spark and it's would all be over.
It was by now 2PM; Musical Box ploughed further into the German lines, and became possibly the only tank in WWI to score an aerial kill. She came across an airfield and on it an observation balloon. The transport for the Balloon, and the craft itself were both swiftly destroyed.
Moving on Lt Arnold spotted a German truck approaching, so he hid his tank round a corner, and as the truck drove past rammed it. Continuing down the road Musical Box found the rest of the transport column and set about them. She also routed another column of German infantry.
As Musical Box penetrated deeper resistance began to stiffen. Arnold didn't know it but Ludendorff's HQ was close by! In a fierce fire fight the Germans belted Musical Box with everything they had. At this point the left hand pistol port was shot off by weight of German fire. Grabbing one of the other machine guns Lt Arnold pulled it off its mounting and stuck the barrel through the hole ripped in his tanks flank. Firing the machine gun from the hip as his Gunner manned the Left Machine gun they delivered effective fire onto the enemy.
After 10 hours of constant combat, drenched in fuel the inevitable had to happen. A German field gun managed to score a pair of hits that ignited the fuel.
Bailing out Lt Arnold realised that both the other crew members were still inside the tank, he rushed back and despite being on fire himself dragged both from the blazing wreck. British infantry later found the burnt out hulk of Musical Box.
Although being in no shape to try, they attempted to escape, but were all captured by the Germans, during their capture one of the crew was shot and Lt Arnold sustained a bayonet wound.
Lt Arnold was interrogated almost immediately, and there followed an exchange between a German officer and Lt Arnold that is worthy of any film.
After being asked any question Lt Arnold replied: "I do not know."
"Do not know, or will not tell?" Was the German officers response.
"You can take it which way you wish!" Arnold defiantly replied, followed by a under his breath comment of "...and be damned to you!"
The German officer stormed out of the interrogation.
Lt CB Arnold
Arnold was sent to a German POW camp at Freiburg, where he found his Brother, whom had been captured earlier in the war. It appears that Lt Arnold received a DSO.