Possibly the most romantic item that survives from the first tank engagement of all time is turning heads 100 years after it was created.
The ring was made from a shard of glass removed from the face of Lt Basil Henriques on 15 September 1916 during the fighting at The Somme in World War One.
He later presented it to his wife Rose who he had married months earlier and now it is in a new, prominent display at The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.
Henriques was looking through a periscope during his Mk I tank’s first outing when artillery fire struck a glass prism that shattered, sending splinters into his face.
Miraculously he was not blinded and after medics removed the glass pieces he kept the largest and had it mounted in a gold ring.
Henriques was a prominent Jew who dedicated his life both before and after the war to social work, and particularly the social welfare of children.
He was knighted in 1955 and a road in Whitechapel, London, is named after him. The ring was later given to the museum by his widow.
The unique item of jewellery will be taken to Trafalgar Square in London on the anniversary of the first action along with a Mk IV tank – a working replica made for the film War Horse.
David Willey is the curator at the museum which has the only genuine Mk I tank in existence and the finest collection of WWI vehicles and exhibits in the world.
He said: “At the museum the tanks are always going to have a presence and draw but objects like this ring help tell the personal stories of the men and their experiences.
“Henriques joined the new tank unit with his old school friend George Macpherson who was killed on the day of the first attack.
“He later wrote movingly about how lonely he was without George who was a ‘marvellous companion’ and he felt ‘blank’ and ‘empty’ without him.
“The first tank attack was not a great success, many tanks broke down and others lost their way, but a few made a real difference.
“For us now it seems amazing that after a day of such terror, confusion and loss Henriques was able to think of his new wife and make a present to her out of something that had nearly blinded him.
“This is one of our smallest objects on display but certainly one of the most moving and one of the most popular.
“We have researched the lives of eight of these early tank pioneers for our exhibition that marks the centenary, and their personal stories can’t help but powerfully bring home the nature of this new type of war.
“Tanks were developed in great secrecy and the first volunteer crews – including Henriques and Macpherson – didn’t know what they were actually volunteering for.
“Conditions were awful inside with eight men to operate them in temperatures of 50 degrees C (122F) with a deafening noise, a top speed of three mph at the very best – and drawing German fire.
“Carrier pigeons were taken on board to relay messages but often the carbon monoxide in the fumes left them too debilitated to fly.
“Two out of every ten tank crew were killed and many others were wounded and it’s important we remember their contribution.”
The museum’s replica Mk IV will be in Trafalgar Square on the morning of September 15 and in Horse Guards parade during the afternoon.
During the Great War ‘Tank Banks’ were popular around the country; politicians from across the House as well as celebrities climbed on tanks in front of huge crowds to give morale-boosting speeches.
On September 17, Bovington is hosting a Tank 100 event to commemorate the centenary of the tank, the sacrifice of Britain’s tank soldiers and Bovington’s role in armoured warfare.
The centenary event on September 15 is being supported by the World of Tanks publisher and developer Wargaming.
For more information contact Ed Baker at Deep South Media on 01202 534487
Nik Wyness | Head of Marketing | The Tank Museum | firstname.lastname@example.org | 01929 405 096 x234 | +44 7801099390
Roz Skellorn | Marketing@tankmuseum.org
NOTES TO EDITORS:
ABOUT THE TANK MUSEUM
The Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset holds the national collection of tanks and brings the story of tanks and tank crews to life.
With over 300 tanks from 26 nations, The Tank Museum holds the finest and most historically significant collection of fighting armour in the world. These range from the world’s first ever tank, Little Willie, through to the British Army’s current Main Battle Tank, Challenger 2.
Eight powerful exhibitions tell the story of armoured warfare spanning over 100 years of history. As you explore the Museum’s seven large halls, you come face with face to face with tanks and hear incredible true stories from the last century.
The Tank Museum is an independent Museum and registered Charity.
Wargaming is an award-winning online game developer and publisher, and one of the leaders in the free-to-play MMO market. Founded as a privately held company in 1998, Wargaming has shipped over 15 titles. Currently, Wargaming is focused on its team-based MMO war series dedicated to mid-20th century warfare that includes the armored World of Tanks, the airborne World of Warplanes, and the naval World of Warships. The three intertwined titles form a common gaming universe integrated within the portal www.wargaming.net.
As part of its multiplatform line-up, the company has introduced World of Tanks on Xbox and World of Tanks Blitz on mobile platforms, Windows 10 PCs and Mac OS X. Launched in 2014 and 2015, World of Tanks on Xbox introduced epic tank-on-tank battles to console gamers and offers the first cross-platform gaming experience between Xbox 360 and Xbox One. In 2016, Wargaming released World of Tanks for PlayStation®4, continuing its console campaign.
Official website: www.wargaming.com