Rolling on as tanks are used to raise vital funds in Doncaster

A tank rolls into Doncaster for Tank Bank Week 1918
A tank rolls into Doncaster for Tank Bank Week 1918

It was a momentous day and one which occupied many people’s conversation in the Doncaster borough near the end of the First World War.

The conversation went: “Have you seen the Tank?” In April 1918 there was only one topic on people’s lips in Doncaster, as a battle-scarred tank named Egbert rolled into town one spring weekend.

As the First World War raged on, the government was in constant need of additional money for the war effort.

It was only two years prior to this that the British Army first used tanks on the Western Front in September 1916, but the tanks soon took on another role. They took on the role of that of a fundraising tool.

The piece of military hardware Egbert was one of six tanks that toured England, Scotland and Wales to fundraise for the war effort in campaigns that were known as Tank Banks.

In April 1918 Tank Bank Week rolled into the Doncaster borough. It was a huge occasion at the time and the local newspapers were filled with coverage on the week’s events.

Local businesses took out advertisements at the time to encourage their customers to buy war bonds and also to buy war savings certificates.

After his arrival on April 20 1918, Egbert the tank had his first outing on a Sunday. After leaving the Great Northern Railway Goods Yard in St Sepulchre Gate, Egbert the tank ambled towards the Race Course.

From the racecourse the tank made its way across an obstacle course of barbed wire and trenches. A guard of the Doncaster battalion of the West Riding Volunteers accompanied Egbert as he continued on his journey.

Mayor Carr then climbed onto the top of Egbert to declare Tank Bank Week officially open at noon on the Monday in the centre of the Market Place.

Visitors purchased War Savings Certificates and they also purchased Bonds from a temporary Post Office in the Market Place, before entering the makeshift office inside the tank to have their bonds and certificates stamped.

People from all over Doncaster flocked to see the tank Egbert, contributing a total of £25,000 on Monday alone.

Business continued on Tuesday with a number of high-profile purchases including Mr Warde-Aldam, of Hooton Pagnell Hall, and local businesses Dennis Roberts & Sons and Sheard Binnington & Co.

The huge business contributions raised the second day’s total to a much higher £55,000.

More than 4,000 students who flocked from local Doncaster borough schools including Oswin Avenue, Balby Central School and also Oxford Place Wesleyan, descended on the Market Place to purchase their bonds bringing Wednesday’s total to £40,000.

More schoolchildren visited Egbert the tank on Thursday and this time they came from Beckett Road, Chequer Road and also from Hyde Park schools.

Friday saw large investments from businesses in the borough with £25,000 coming in from the Brodsworth Colliery Company alone.

On Saturday, visitors who came to town were entertained to music by local colliery bands, which included the Bentley and Yorkshire Main.

At the same time Balby Wire Company, the Brodsworth and Yorkshire Main Colliery Companies and the Bullcroft Colliery Company made huge donations on the final day of Tank Bank Week, bringing the total contributions made for Saturday to a massive £178,000.

And once again Mayor mounted the tank to bring the Tank Bank Week to a close. The total made in contributions for Tank Bank Week was around £410,000. Adding this to previous fundraising efforts by the town brought Doncaster’s contribution to the war effort to over two million pounds.

The towns that hosted the tanks were all in competition to raise the largest amount at their Tank Bank Week. West Hartlepool raised more than two million and were awarded Egbert the tank in June 1919. It remained on display until it was sadly scrapped in the late 1930s.

Step back in time and experience what Doncaster’s Tank Bank Week was like at an action-packed recreation in Doncaster Market Place on Saturday June 9 2018. From 10am to 3pm, Frank the Tank will be on display in the Market Place at a free, family-friendly event organised by the Doncaster 1914-18 team from Heritage Doncaster. Get hands-on with World War One history, dress up in war time costume, have a chat with soldiers from 100 years ago and enjoy live music from the First World War era. Visit the website www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk” www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk for more information.