Updated:- 17/10/15

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Lincoln Tank Diary-1 DIARY

This diary has been set up to record key moments and decisions in fulfilling the project to erect a tank memorial on the Tritton Road / Ropewalk roundabout in Lincoln.

The Diary starts with a description of the initial concept and its subsequent development.




-Robin Wheeldon

In 1915 during the Great War, the British War Department turned to Lincoln’s engineers to solve the problem of a stalemate which had developed between Germany and the Allies on the Western Front.

The solution, William Foster & Co. Ltd. – Engineers achieved, was the world’s first practical armoured fighting vehicle which came to be known as the tank. It was designed and built under tremendous pressure by a skilled and motivated workforce – The citizens of Lincoln are proud of what these men and women achieved - surely they should be remembered?

The idea of a tank memorial in Lincoln is not new. The original ‘Lincoln Tank Group’ active in the 1980s, made several proposals for a memorial, but sadly they came to nothing. The group was short-lived, but it did achieve a tremendous amount. Under the chairmanship of the well-known Lincoln architect, Sam Scorer and the hard working secretary Ray Hooley, the group managed to get an original Great War Tank back to Lincoln and have it restored. Housed in the Lincolnshire Life Museum, the tank has been an inspiration to many people and led to the formation of a group ‘Friends of the Lincoln Tank’ in 2003.

With a concept of what the memorial should look like it fell to me to have a go at designing figures working on the tank.

At this point I should introduce myself:-

I am an artist specialising in paintings of agricultural and rural subjects. Some of my paintings have been reproduced as limited edition prints, greetings cards and have also been used as illustrations in calendars. I have always enjoyed painting pictures of machinery especially steam threshing sets which were built by several world famous Lincolnshire engineering firms including William Foster & Co. Ltd. the originators and builders of the first landships (tanks).

I have an interest in Great War Tanks for two reasons – Firstly the fact that they were made in Lincoln and secondly because one of my uncles (George Handsley) served in the tank corps as a gunner and saw action in 1918.

During 2013 with Mike Credland’s concept in mind I started work on designing figures for the memorial. Fortunately there are good quality photos of Foster’s works (The Wellington Foundry) showing tanks under construction. These provided a good starting point.

Along with the workmen, Fosters employed about 100 munitionettes and certainly later on in the war, soldiers from the tank corps. These workers all needed to be represented on the memorial.

I also decided to show the three designers – William Tritton (Managing Director), Walter Wilson (Inventor) and William Rigby (Chief Draughtsman).

I recruited friends and neighbours to model the figures. A major problem was finding outfits for the models. I was lucky to buy a workman’s outfit (bib, braces and jacket) in a Lincoln saleroom and found a suitable flat cap on the internet. A stonemason friend – Andy Pass who lives nearby modelled the workmen. Over several sessions, I photographed Andy in a variety of poses – Working on top of the hull, tightening nuts with a spanner, carrying a trackplate and playing the part of a foreman with his clipboard.

I was faced with a similar problem when it came to an outfit for the Munitionettes. Following an article in the Lincolnshire Echo, Mrs. Irene Crosby from Lincoln sent a wonderful photograph of her mother Florence Bonnett and two friends who worked at Fosters on tank production.

All three are shown in their work outfits. I managed to get a local dress maker to make an outfit based on the photo and persuaded a care worker, Jade, to model the outfit.  She is shown painting the interior of the tank and passing a spanner to a tank corps soldier standing on a ladder. A local hairdresser, Laura, also modelled for me and appears reaching up to a workman on top of the hull.

The three designers are placed at the front of the tank and were originally designed individually. I decided to try and link them together and came up with the idea of Tritton and Rigby showing an engineering drawing to Wilson. The ‘drawing’ will be pierced allowing light to show through and reveal the outline of the tank, along with a certain amount of detail. Again finding outfits for the figures was a problem. Collectors in the group ‘Friends of the Lincoln tank’ were able to help with uniforms, accessories etc. and the Ellison family, Andy, Peter and George acted as models.

I painted about 60 silhouettes altogether using acrylic on card to a scale of 1” 2” to 1’. Each figure was painted in a slightly different pose which meant I was able to choose which ones I thought were the most suitable for the memorial.

Florence Bonnett

Foster’s munitionettes-Photograph-c1917

On the Western Front  - Acrylic Painting Robin Wheeldon 2014

Flirt at Lincolnshire Life Museum

A meeting between members of ‘Friends of the Lincoln Tank’ and the ‘Cooke/Connell Fundraisers’ led to the decision to form a new group and again attempt to erect a tank memorial, ideally placed somewhere near the site of the Wellington Foundry where the first tanks were built.

The Lincoln Tank Memorial Group held their inaugural meeting on 1st August 2012 in the ‘Tank Room’ White Hart Hotel, Bailgate, Lincoln, where almost a century before the design team of William Tritton, Walter Wilson and William Rigby sat down and conceived the idea of the world’s first practical armoured fighting vehicle.  

Michael Credland, member of ‘Friends of the Lincoln Tank’, architect, authority on The Great War with experience of designing memorials, suggested the idea of a 2 dimensional partly built MK.1 Foster Tank with male and female workers engaged on its construction.

The group agreed that the memorial should celebrate Lincoln’s engineering heritage and to this end sponsons housing armament would not be included, obviating any objections the public might have regarding ‘warmongering’.

Where possible, local engineering firms will be involved in the construction of the memorial.

Mike Credland’s concept for the tank memorial.

Foster Threshing set-Oil painting-Robin Wheeldon

WW1 British Tanks in action-Limited edition print-Robin Wheeldon

Lincoln  Tank Diary

Tanks under construction-Wellington Foundry-Lincoln

Andy Pass-Workman


Jade - Munitionette Model

Laura - Munitionette Model

George and Andy modelling the figures of Tritton and Rigby.

Miniature mock-up of the three designers.

George Ellison scanned and cut the figures from MDF, using his schools laser cutter.

Figures Cut from MDF

I created a model of the memorial using MDF and after arranging a selection of 15 figures photographed the result from every angle.

The silhouettes and photos have now gone to Peter May, Ian Dobson and John Carleton who are designing the framework supporting the tank and figures. Eventually the figures will be laser cut, full size in mild steel, powder coated and assembled on site.