Tank banks was the name given to a World War I, British Government, fund raising campaign for War Bonds and War Saving Certificates.
William Goss and his son Adolphus are credited with the idea of making souvenir China items bearing the arms and names of seaside resorts which they manufactured from 1858 to 1939. Other pottery manufacturers followed Goss’s lead, including Wiltshaw & Robinson of Stoke-on-Trent with their Carlton Ware, Heraldic China which they started making around 1903.
Towards the end of the 19th century bank holidays were introduced and most workers had a half day off on Saturdays, starting “the weekend”. Some skilled workers began to receive paid holidays and an extensive railway network allowed workers to go to the seaside for day trips and longer holidays for the more affluent. Purchasing a souvenir was part of this experience and was a pleasant reminder of happy times when they returned home.
The Queensferry Tank bears a number of inscriptions. It has the name of the tank “Crème-de-Menthe” on the front and the letters HMLS on top, which stand for His Majesty’s Land Tank. Tanks, like ships, had names as well as numbers. Unfortunately, Carlton got the name of this tank wrong, “Crème-de-Menthe” was a Mark I tank and this Mark IV tank is “HMLS Nelson”, number 130, as displayed on the left hand side.
On the left-hand side of the tank is the number 130 assigned to this tank and also what Carlton China considered to be Queensferry’s coat of arms. Although Queensferry was one of the first Royal Burghs to register arms in the Lyon Register (c. 1673), the Burgh has always used representations of its Common Seal rather than a coat of arms. On the left of the shield is the coat of the arms of Queen Margaret and on the right we see Queen Margaret arriving at the Binks Rocks at Queensferry. Underneath this is the Latin motto “Insignia Burgi Pasagi Reginae” meaning, “The Insignia of the Burgh of the Queen’s Ferry”.
On the right-hand side of the tank is: ”Victory of Justice – Peace Signed at Versailles, June 28, 1919”, which commemorates the Versailles peace treaty and dates the model tank at 1919 or later.
Underneath this is the inscription “British Tank Gave Them Hell At The Marne 1918”. The Second Battle of the Marne was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counter attack by French and American forces, including 350 tanks, overwhelmed the Germans. The German defeat marked the start of the Allied advance which culminated in the Armistice with Germany about 100 days later. Ironically, a small number of captured British tanks were used in this battle by the Germans.
The Mark IV Tank
Tanks were independently developed by the British and French at the start of World War I. Britain was first to deploy tanks on the battlefield at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, part of the Somme offensive on 15th September 1915. The initial development of tanks was undertaken by the Royal Navy (hence their original designation of “Land Ships”) in response to the stalemate on the Western Front. A vehicle that was armed, armoured, and could cross barbed wire and trenches was the goal. They were originally to be called “Water Carriers”, or just “W.Cs.”, to keep the development top-secret but as W.C. meant toilet, this was changed to “Tanks”
The Queensferry tank is a Mark IV with improved armour, larger barrelled gun and better reliability.
Tank Banks was the name given to a World War I, the British Government, fund raising campaign. Six Mark IV tanks toured the towns and cities of England, Scotland and Wales to promote the sale of Government War Bonds and War Savings Certificates. Tank 130, “HMLS Nelson”, was one of the six tanks.
At each town or city, a tank arrived with great fanfare and civic dignitaries or celebrities made speeches on top of it. The tank was accompanied by soldiers and artillery and sometimes there were flights over the town to drop leaflets encouraging people to invest. The tank would put on a show for the crowd to demonstrate its capabilities. Each town or city had a fundraising target to meet and the amount raised by each location was reported in the press to create a competitive element, especially between the larger cities.
The Tank Bank campaign in Edinburgh managed to sell almost £5 million and Glasgow raised over £14.5 million.
The cartoon featuring the Tank Banks campaign appeared in Punch Magazine on the 6th of March, 1918. Shortages were frequent in Britain throughout the war and queues were a common sight.
War Bonds and War Saving Certificates
War is an expensive business. The British government introduced National War Bonds in October 1917. These were available to any person, company or organisation and were interest bearing and provided a premium payment when cashed in, 5-year, 7-year and 10-year bonds were available. These bonds can be used to buy government stocks or buy into war loans. They could also be used to pay death duties and excess profit duty. British banks put enormous effort into promoting and selling war bonds and also purchased large amounts of bonds with their own funds
War Savings Certificates were introduced in June 1916. These were simple investments aimed at ordinary people. A £1 certificate cost 15 shillings and sixpence (77½ p) which could be redeemed five years later, tax free. For small investors this was a good return, a safe investment and patriotic act.
© Frank Hay