Tank Driver Sid Smalley’s Leg Injury

By Mr John Nichol

In the last war I worked at Richard Dunston’s Thorne Shipyard with Mr Sid Smalley and his son Rowland as Engineer Fitters.

Sid was a First World War veteran tank driver and told me this story when I enquired why he limped on one leg. He said:

“In 1914 I worked as an apprentice in the Lincoln firm which developed and made the tanks. Later I was conscripted as a driver mechanic and sent to the front.

The main principle of the tank was to act as a shield for advancing infantry against the withering fire and slaughter from the machine gun trenches.

We conceived a better use by going out before daylight whilst others were asleep then running along or up and over the enemy’s trenches to collapse and fill them in. Thus disabling their fire and manpower completely.

One morning after a successful sortie I/we stopped for a breather and a fag and dismounted, when out of the ground or the grave, as it were, rose up a huge German, some 6ft 7” tall and 8” between the eyes. He shook himself then threw a hand grenade which landed at my feet.

I immediately picked it up and threw it at him then dived head first back into my tank.

Unfortunately he repeated by action and the grenade exploded just before my left foot got all the way to safety, sending a sliver of shrapnel into my ankle.

The medics patched me up and sent me home to recover but shortly afterwards the war ended.”

After the latest war Sid with his two sons Alec and Rowland set up the garage on Selby Road, Thorne which is still there today but in different ownership.

For my part my abiding memory of Sid will always be his description of the German/Goliath type encounter.

Submitted by Mr John Nichol

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