The Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps was the first unit to use tanks in the British Army. They became the Tanks Corps on 28 July 1917.
The Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps wore the cap badge the same as the infantry and cavalry branches of the Corps. Their shoulder titles had the additional letters of ‘H’, ‘HS’ or ‘HB’ for Heavy, Heavy Section or Heavy Branch respectively.
In addition, they were authorised to wear a distinguishing badge of a stylised tank, which continued through their transition to the Tank Corps and remains with the Royal Tank Regiment.
Published on the 6th February, 1917.
I. Distinguishing Badge for Personnel of Machine-Gun Corps, Heavy Branch.- A special badge has been approved for the personnel of the Machine-Gun Corps, Heavy Branch.
This badge will be worn on the right upper sleeve of the service dress jacket by all ranks. In the case of non-commissioned officers who wear chevrons above the elbow, it will be worn immediately above the chevrons.
Supplies will be made as stocks become available, and notification will be given when indents may be submitted.Army Order 79 of March 1917.
The strength of the Machine Gun Corps (Heavy) was recorded from June, 1916, until March, 1920, on a month-by-month basis.
At its peak, in May, 1916, it consisted of 2,956 officers and 25,828 other ranks – a total of 28,784 all ranks. A more detailed analysis is available on the MGC strength page.
|Battalion||Theatre||Date in theatre||Notes|
|“A”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 1 Tank Battalion|
|“B”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 2 Tank Battalion|
|“C”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 3 Tank Battalion|
|“D”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 4 Tank Battalion|
|“E”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 5 Tank Battalion|
|Egyptian Expeditionary Force||April 1917|
|“F”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 6 Tank Battalion|
|“G”||France & Flanders||July 1917||Later became No. 7 Tank Battalion|
|“H”||France & Flanders||September 1917||Later became No. 8 Tank Battalion|
|“I”||France & Flanders||September 1917||Later became No. 9 Tank Battalion|
Army Orders describe the administrative arrangements for promotion, pay and organisation of the Corps. Many covered all branches of the Machine Gun Corps but those specific to the Heavy Branch are below.
Published on the 13th April, 1917.
III.- Machine-Gun Corps.- With reference to paragraph 2 of Army Order 357 of 1916, it is notified that the rates of pay of officers of the Machine-Gun Corps (Heavy) whilst employed as Equipment Officers and Officers of the Workshop Companies, will for the period of the present emergency be as laid down in the Pay Warrant for the Army Service Corps.
Army Order 357 of 1916 should be amended accordingly.Army Order 147 of May 1917
Despite the formation of the Tank Corps, the administrative run-down of the Machine Gun Corps included the cancellation of the Mobilization Stores Tables (Army Forms G1098) for the different units in April 1922, including:
- Army Form G1098-341, “Central Repair Shop and Store; Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps”
- Gould, 1977
- The National Archives. WO 123/59. Army Orders 1917.
- The National Archives, WO 123/64, Army Orders 1922.
- War Office, 1922