From the Diary of Sargent William Coles 15 September, 1916-
Let's get this straight for the record. I am where I am today because here because I WANTED to be here. I came from a small town where nothing happened and I wanted out. I'm tired of people and their assumptions. I signed up after conscription was announced, true, but does that make it any less heroic?
I was picked to join in the special training and deployment of the Mark 1, the very first vehicle of it's kind. There were in all about 100 of us broken into 6 man crews. The specs originally called for eight men, but with the modifications that have been made, it required fewer men to operate. I shall be manning the gearbox and brakes.
I've been assigned to now six-man crew of the D15, and have to wear this ridiculous outfit that Czech designed. I feel like a shiny, rubber ghost!! I felt a lot better about it after we fired out weapon, as small bolts of lightning cascaded to the copper grid installed as a first line of safety.
The thing FLASHED and BOOMED as we rolled forward, melting the enemy wire, and sending powerful bolts of doom at the enemy!! I saw a soldier grabbed and lifted heavenward, as if by the Hand of God himself, and fall to the Earth, a blackened husk.
As I looked in awe through the thick, darkened, visor-ed view screen, In the wonder of the moment I failed to see the hand signs of my pilot to brake. There was a sudden shock wave that sent our massive vehicle sideways, but intact. It shuddered and tilted slightly when what I can only assume was a mortar detonation close by. But the armor held!! The engine, or perhaps the outside tracks or wheels had been damaged, for we no longer had any movement. We were stuck.
And so I write these word so that, in case the worst happens, that my story will be known, and that I made a mark. The engine is ticking loudly as it cools. One of my fellows says he thinks it sounds like machine gun fire.
Most of my uniform was intact and sections of it were smoking. I took stock of what I had and looked around to see what I could use as a weapon, as I could see no rifles about. The small bits of metal here and there from the bits of barb wire and the various buckles and other adornments on the bodies that surrounded me were trailing gray trails upward, like all of the metal spirits had been defeated.
We were, all of us anxious to get going. Our orders and our objectives were fairly simple; gain as much ground as possible so that the infantry could follow in relative safety. If possible get to the village of Flers. I began running through my mental checklist getting ready; we had charges for the weapon ready, The Mark 1, with its forward tilted profile, seemed ready to go, like a beast trembling to be released.