Egbert the Tank visits Bridgend

During the First World War it became clear that without financial contributions from the public and from businesses and other institutions the war effort would run out of money to buy equipment and keep services running.

One way of raising money was to form a War Savings Association. One institution to do so early in the war was Bettws Pontycymmer Infants School, who formed a War Savings Association in February of 1915 (EM/8/1). By June of 1917 the authorities were embarking on a campaign to raise awareness of War Savings. Several schools closed for an afternoon that month so that teachers could attend conferences with representatives of the National War Savings Committee, so they could be advised as to how to set up a War Savings Association in a school.

After the Battle of Cambrai in November of 1917, where tanks were first successful, the public wanted to see them for themselves. The authorities realised they could use public exhibitions of tanks as a way of raising money for the National War Savings Committee.

Egbert was the first to be used as a ‘Tank Bank’ when it was retrieved from the battlefield, shipped to London and put on display in Trafalgar Square. People would queue up to see the tank, having bought War Bonds and certificates, and these bonds and certificates would be stamped by women who were seated inside the tank. This was successful so more tanks came home from France and Belgium and toured the country.

The Tank Banks also had another role to play; they were tasked with raising morale and patriotic fervour.

Before visiting Bridgend, Egbert had already visited Treherbert: School closed, owing to the visit of the Tank ‘Egbert’ to Treherbert. Dunraven Girls School, log book (ER14/3)

The visit of Egbert to Bridgend had first been discussed by Bridgend Urban District Council on the 6th of June 1918:

The Clerk reported that the authorities had now agreed to send a real tank to Bridgend on the 18th and 19th. It was then resolved that the council bear the expenses of printing , postages, and other local expenses not paid by the Treasury and the action of the chairman and clerk in calling a meeting of probable workers in connection with the visit was approved. Bridgend Urban District Council, minutes (UDBR/C/1/13)

When the tank visited on the 18th and 19th of June 1918, several schools granted a half or whole day’s holiday so that the children and their families could visit the tank and invest in it through certificates as a form of War Bond:

Yesterday the 18th inst a holiday was given owing to the Tank being at Bridgend & Ogmore Vale. I collected on Monday last from the children of this school the sum of £4.4.0 for the Tank at Ogmore Vale, 5 certificates were bought & the rest is invested in stamps towards certificates. Blackmill Mixed and Infants School, log book (EM5/1)

School closed all day for the visit of the Tank “Egbert” to the town. In the last three days the sum of £234-1-0 has been collected in this department and spent on the purchases of War Saving Certificates. Oldcastle Boys School, log book (EM9/8)

I took depositors in Tank War Loan to visit the Tank “Egbert” bearing bomb holes inflicted by the Huns. The children’s certificates were stamped at the tank. Llynderw Infants School, Maesteg, log book (EM32/1)

The school was closed on Tuesday in order that the Scholars may be enabled to visit Bridgend to view the Tank “Egbert” and place some of their savings in the War Loan. The War Savings’ Association established in connection with the School is in a flourishing condition and about £250 has been deposited… Penybont Mixed and Infants School, log book (EM42/1)

The Headteacher at Penybont School noted the area’s immense achievement:

The tank “Egbert” paid a visit to our town on Tuesday and Wednesday, 18th and 19th inst. The huge sum of £230,500 was invested in the tank by the people of Bridgend and the surrounding district. As the population of the town is now only about 7,500 the above sum represents a sum per head of head of over £30. One of the best contributions in the Kingdom. The proceedings in front of the Town Hall where the tank was stationed were characterised by great enthusiasm and patriotic fervour. The Choir of our school occupied the stage in front of the tank an two occasions and sang numerous patriotic and national songs, to the evident pleasure of the great assemblage, which completely filled the square. Our School Assoc’, The Penybont Boys War Savings Association invested in the tank on Wed afternoon the comparatively large sum of £2,100, representing a sum of £2,800 in War Certificates. Penybont School, log book (EM10/11)

The Council met again on the 25th of June 1918, after the tank had visited:

It was resolved that the thanks of the council be given to the Chairman, Mr Hitt, in connection with the great success of the Tank visit. Bridgend Urban District Council, minutes (UDBR/C/1/13)

Three days after visiting Bridgend and Ogmore, Egbert was visiting Caerphilly:

Visit of the Tank-“Egbert” to Caerphilly with the object of raising £100,000 for the purpose of the great war. The schools of the town were closed to celebrate the event. Caerphilly Girls School, log book (ECG13/3)

It would appear that Egbert also visited Bargoed:

The clerk stated that he had received official intimation that the date of the Tank’s visit had now been fixed for July 5th and 6th, two days at Bargoed, and that the Model Tanks would be at Ystrad Mynach, Bedlinog and Pontlottyn on the same dates. Gelligaer Urban District Council, minutes (UDG/C/1/13)

You can learn more about the Tank Banks at:

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant

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