Special Order Number 6

I know this post is too late for Cambrai Day but I wanted to draw attention to Special Order Number 6, a masterpiece of brevity.

Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance of which they have been waiting for many months – to operate on good going in the van of the Battle.

All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been done in the way of preparation.

It remains for Unit Commanders and tank crews to complete the work by judgement and pluck in the battle itself.

In the light of past experience, I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in your hands.

I propose leading the attack of the centre Division.

Major-General M. J. Elles. CB, DSO
Commanding the Tank Corps in France

Cambrai, 19th November 1917

Distribution: To Tank Commanders


View a copy of the original hand written order at Green Flash

What a brilliant piece of communication.

There is always some interesting story behind the story and for this one, it is the colours and motto of Royal Tank Regiment.

At the time of formation, the Tank Corps had no formal colours but Major General Elles wanted to distinguish his tank so went to the nearest available shop for some material to make a makeshift marker panel. All that was available was a small amount of red, green and brown silk and this became the flag for his tank, called Hilda.

Royal Tank Regiment
Royal Tank Regiment

And so, the Royal Tank Regiment colours are red, green and brown, according to J.C. Fuller, these colours signify their struggle

From mud through blood to the green fields beyond

These two aren’t related, an order and a flag, but still interesting!

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 7, 2014 10:55 am

On a related note to the choice of Colours, the tale I was told was that RTR had typical khaki overalls originally, but there was a royal visit to the regiment by the King, George V, in which he was invited to clamber in a tank to see what it was like – when he emerged his fine and no doubt very expensive uniform was streaked with black oil & grease. When the King visited the regiment a few months later (1935?) he found all the tank crews dressed in black overalls as a not too subtle joke at the King’s expense. He thought the jibe amusing and decreed RTR uniform overalls were to be black thereafter.

December 7, 2014 12:23 pm

Not related to the RTR but to special orders, this one from “Lieutenant F.P. Bethune to his group of seven men in No.1 section, 3rd Machine Gun Company, when sent to defend an exposed position in March 1918” of the Australian Army.

Special Orders to No.1 Section 13/3/18
(1) This position will be held, and the section will remain here until relieved.
(2) The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this programme.
(3) If the section cannot remain here alive, it will remain here dead, but in any case it will remain here.
(4) Should any man, through shell shock or other cause, attempt to surrender, he will remain here dead.
(5) Should all guns be blown out, the section will use Mills grenades and other novelties.
(6) Finally, the position as stated, will be held.

F.P. Bethune Lt
O/C No.1 Section

December 7, 2014 8:21 pm

Lieutenant F.P. Bethune didn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation :-)
Fight or die.

December 7, 2014 11:59 pm

Having done a little more digging on the event, turns out the orders achieved the desired result, and they held for 18 days until victory. The story in full here:


December 8, 2014 3:23 pm

Captain Bethune, MC, remains a fine example of what an officer should be, leading his troops by example and taking the most dangerous position in the line, something I always tried to emulate.