The First World War, unlike the Second, was fought in a very small area.
Just 400 miles of trenches and both sides shelling each other with everything they had.
So, after a few years the land was a deep muddy, gluey porridge.
And there was so much barbed wire, you couldn’t see where it began and ended.
No wonder neither side could move.
The British thought they’d invented a way around this: the tank.
A pill box with tracks on, that could move over mud and barbed wire.
It was crude and primitive, basically just a metal room with an engine inside.
It took a crew of nine to work it and it moved as slowly as walking.
One of the early uses was at Passchendaele in 1917.
In command of one particular tank was Captain Donald Richardson.
Driving, was his second in command, Lieutenant George Hill.
As shells hit the side of the tank, pieces of metal broke away and spun through the air like razor blades.
One of these hit Hill, he slumped forward over the throttle, the tank slid into a shell-crater and stuck there.
Private Brady opened the door to get out and try to free the tank, but he was shot dead.
Private Trew tried to follow him, but was hit by shrapnel from inside the tank.
As the Germans attacked, the crew used rifles and pistols through the slits to fight them off.
They held off German attacks all day and night.
The next day Private Arthurs was hit by shrapnel from inside the tank.
Then a German threw a grenade in through a slit, Captain Richardson shot the man and Private Morrey threw it back before it exploded.
They held on a second day but, as well as the Germans, the British were starting to shell the tank, not wanting it to be captured.
Sergeant Missen volunteered to crawl back through no-man’s-land to tell the British there were still soldiers alive inside it.
They had no water, so by the second day they were drinking water from the engine’s radiator.
Private Morrey and Lance Corporal Binley were both hit by shrapnel from inside the tank.
By the third day, the crew had run out of ammunition, no one was coming to get them, it became obvious they’d have to try to get back to their own lines.
So in the dark, they began crawling through the mud and the wire and the dead bodies.
Amazingly, 8 out of the original 9 crew members made it back alive.
But none of that is my favourite part of the story.
My favourite part of the story is what they named their tank before the attack.
Painted on the side, in big letters, was the name FRAY BENTOS.
Now for anyone who doesn’t know, Fray Bentos was the brand of tinned meat for the working class: corned beef, and steak & kidney pies.
Cheap but long-lasting meat that was also the main army meat ration, named after the town of Fray Bentos in Uruguay where the packing plant was.
What I Iove is the humour of the men in the tank.
They didn’t call their tank: VICTORY, or LIBERTY, or FREEDOM, or what we’d now call a ‘brand purpose’.
They wanted a laugh, so they named it after meat in a tin, which was what they felt like.
They just wanted a laugh, which is something marketing experts can’t understand.
Ordinary people don’t want a pompous brand purpose, they want a laugh.
They ignore pompous brand purpose, but gratefully include a laugh into their lives.
If we’re having a laugh it makes the world a little bit better, it helps us keep a sense of perspective.
Which may be why the crew of FRAY BENTOS became the most highly decorated tank crew of the entire war.