Distinctions, Traditions and Institutions

RTR coloursThe Royal Tank Regiment colours are Brown, Red and Green. When first formed, the Tank Corps had no distinctive colours. Nothing was done about it until just before the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 when General Elles, wanting some distinguishing mark for his tank, went into a shop to buy material for a flag. Elles bought some lengths of brown, red and green silk. The silk was sewn together green uppermost and was flown from his tank 'Hilda' in which he led the Tank Corps into battle. The colours typified the struggle of the Corps - 'From mud, through blood to the green fields beyond'.

DRESS

The Royal Tank Regiment dress differently from the remainder of the Royal Armoured Corps when not on operations. The differences stem from the early days when it was found that much of the uniform and equipment of the soldier of WW1 was quite impractical for use inside a tank.

In particular, the visors were of necessity small, and it was necessary to keep the eyes very close to the slits in order to get even a limited vision which was all that was possible; moreover as the tank bumped and lurched, it was impossible to wear a head-dress with any sort of peak. Originally, tank drivers and gunners were supplied with a primitive brown leather crash helmet, which incorporated a chain mail visor, this was soon discarded as being impractical. By May 1918, General Elles and Colonel Fuller, when dining together at Bermicourt, discussed the future of the Tank Corps and its uniform. The 70th Chasseurs Alpins were billeted in the area at this time and General Elles tried on one of their berets .Of the various proposals put forward he strongly favoured a black beret. He was influenced by the presence of the Chasseurs Alpins,Maj AD Fisher many of whom were trained at British tank schools, and who had a particularly close liaison with the Tanks Corps.

Black was selected because it would show oil stains least. When bending over the engines inside a tank, it was almost impossible to avoid getting oily. No change of uniform was possible during the war. Later, when advocating that the black beret should be accepted officially, Elles, in addition to explaining its advantages inside the tank, added that, both in war and on manoeuvres 'it was very convenient to sleep in'. The black beret was approved by HM The King on the 5th March 1924.

The black beret remained the exclusive head-dress of the Royal Tank Corps until it practical value was recognised by others and its use was extended, in various colours, to the whole of the Royal Armoured Corps in 1940, and later to other arms.

Black coveralls are worn by all ranks. This custom was introduced at the Royal Review in 1935. It lapsed during the WW2 and was then re-introduced in the 1950s. The custom is now officially recognised and black coveralls may be worn only by members of the Royal Tank Regiment.

REGIMENTAL BADGE AND MOTTO

FearnaughtThe present Regimental badge, with certain modifications including the Queen's crown, dates from the formation of the Royal Tank Corps in 1923. When the choice of a Corps motto was considered in 1917, 'Dread Naught' was first proposed, but Colonel Fuller's alternative suggestion, 'Fear Naught' was adopted. When the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps was formed, it's men wore every type of cap badge due to the fact that its men were drawn from many other units.

tank corps

 

As this was bad for morale, a more corporate identity being required in early January 1917, a request was made for the Tank Corp's own metal capbadge. This would have taken a long time to procure and so the War Office was asked for a provisional worsted arm badge that had been designed by General Swinton, the founder of the Tank Corps. A sample a arrived in the form of a Mark 1 tank, complete with rear wheels. For simplicity the rear wheels were removed. The Tankarmbadge Arm badge has been worn ever since. When the Tank Corps reformed at Bovington and Wareham in 1919, the arm badge was taken into general use by all officers and men and is believed to be the only badge of its kind which survived the years of WW1 and was continued in use as part of a peacetime uniform.

THE ASH PLANT STICK

AshplantDuring WW1 long sticks were often carried by officers. Such sticks came to have a new and greater use with the introduction of tanks, which often became ditched on the boggy, shell-battered ground of the battlefields, particularly in Flanders. Officers of the Tanks Corps used these sticks to probe the ground in front of their tanks, and often led them into action on foot, testing the firmness of the ground step-by-step as they went forward. The carrying of an ash plant by officers of the Regiment both on and off parade continues to this day. Of course, as a general rule of thumb some of the ash plants have a bigger knob on the end of it, and over the years one cannot but help to recall some of these!

CAMBRAI DAY CELEBRATIONS

The Royal Tank Regiment celebrates Cambrai Day on the 20th November every year, operations permitting in a fairly traditional way.....it's soldiers get fairly drunk!!!

This may be seen by some as irresponsible and they would be right, however, it isimportant that the early pioneers of tank warfare are never forgotten and the day also is celebrated by more conventional means.

It is normally an early start, with Officers and SNCO's parading together normally at 0700 hrs in Squadron groups. The SQMS of each Squadron would have collected from the cookhouse an urn of tea. Rum and/or whiskey is added to the tea forming something known as Gunfire, and a cup is presented to the living in soldiers. Barrack rooms are entered brashly, often accompanied by the Regimental Band or worse pyrotechnics and the soldiers are offered this dreadful mixture...Gunfire, weighted very heavily in favour of alcohol it is at very best nasty...soldiers of course are encouraged to drink up in one and often are given seconds....with very little argument!!!

Following this fun event, Officers and SNCOs retire to relevant messes and normally have a 'Fat Boys' breakfast. This is followed by a more sombre affair when the Regiment parades for a Drumhead Service. During this, the Commanding Officer or often a young Officer will read Special Order No 6 followed by the Regimental Collect and Prayer.

After the Drumhead Service, lunch is served in the Regimental restaurant when Officers, Warrant Officers and SNCOs serve the junior ranks of the Regiment their lunch. The Warrant Officers and SNCO's being invited to the Officers Mess for drinks preceding this.

The afternoon sees the final of the Inter-Squadron Football Competition, "The Tommy Cup", at which the supporters are vocal to say the least, often adding to the occasion by letting of pyrotechnics and wearing fancy dress. The day is rounded off with an All Ranks function...for those still standing!!

As a footnote, it has become an annual event for a Cambrai Lunch for both serving soldiers and old comrades to be held at the RAC Centre WOs' and Sgts' Mess at Bovington Camp on a Friday afternoon as close to Cambrai Day as possible. The 3rd are generally well represented and true to form get very drunk!!