The astonishing tale of the 'Fray Bentos' tank crew

An extraordinary survival story of how eight British soldiers were able to survive a three-day onslaught inside a stricken tank has only now been revealed in detail.   

For three days and two nights the nine British servicemen endured German machine gun fire, snipers, grenades and heavy artillery attacks after their tank got stuck on No Man's Land.

If that wasn't bad enough, they also came under fire from their own side.

In 1917 the tank was a relatively new invention and the British couldn't risk the Germans getting their hands on one, even if it meant the loss of its crew.

For three days and two nights, war hero Robert Missen and his crew endured German machine gun fire, snipers and grenade and heavy artillery attacks after their tank got stuck

Historians also found Sergeant Robert Missen's personal effects including his uniform and Bible, which have gone on display at the museum.

For three days and two nights, war hero Robert Missen (left and right) and his crew endured German machine gun fire, snipers and grenade and heavy artillery attacks after their tank got stuck

A Mark IV tank, similar to the Fray Bentos, is pictured stranded in the mud at Passchendaele. The Bentos' captain was a grocer with the licence to sell the famous tinned meat before the war, remained stranded in a bomb crater

A Mark IV tank, similar to the Fray Bentos, is pictured stranded in the mud at Passchendaele. The Bentos' captain was a grocer with the licence to sell the famous tinned meat before the war, remained stranded in a bomb crater

Remarkably, eight of the nine-man crew survived the onslaught and crawled back one by one to the British lines after repelling numerous enemy attacks.

They were all given gallantry medals and as a result became the most decorated tank crew of the war.

The Mark IV tank, named Fray Bentos as its captain was a grocer with the licence to sell the famous tinned meat before the war, remained stranded in a bomb crater on the battlefield at Passchendaele afterwards.

The incredible story can now be told after historians at the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, uncovered one of the crew's written account of the action in its archives.

An aerial picture of No Man's Land shows the Fray Bentos visible beneath the Y of 'Fray' on the map

Heroic gunner William Morrey and the rest of the crew were all given gallantry medals and as a result became the most decorated tank crew of the war.

Left: An aerial picture of No Man's Land shows the Fray Bentos visible beneath the Y of 'Fray' on the map. Right: Heroic gunner William Morrey

A Mk IV tank stranded in the quagmire of Passchendeale. Fray Bentos was called into action during the Third Battle of Ypres on August 22, 1917

A Mk IV tank stranded in the quagmire of Passchendeale. Fray Bentos was called into action during the Third Battle of Ypres on August 22, 1917

In his account Sgt Missen wrote: 'We kept on firing and killed several Boche close to the tank, we expected the infantry to come up any time'

In his account Sgt Missen wrote: 'We kept on firing and killed several Boche close to the tank, we expected the infantry to come up any time'

They also found Sergeant Robert Missen's personal effects including his uniform and Bible, which have gone on display at the museum.

Fray Bentos was called into action during the Third Battle of Ypres on August 22, 1917.

On board were Captain Donald Richardson, Second Lieutenant George Hill, Sgt Missen and Gunners William Morrey, Ernest Hayton, Frederick Arthurs, Percy Budd, James Binley and Ernest Braedy.

As it advanced it entered the crater sideways. At that moment the driver, Lt Hill, was thrown off his seat. Capt Richardson took over the controls but was unable to prevent the hulking tank ditching in the soft mud.

Capt Richardson took over the controls but was unable to prevent the hulking tank ditching in the soft mud. Sgt Missen is pictured inset 

Capt Richardson took over the controls but was unable to prevent the hulking tank ditching in the soft mud. Sgt Missen is pictured inset 

Another aerial shot shows the Fray Bentons stranded in the middle of baren 

Another aerial shot shows the Fray Bentons stranded in the middle of No Man's Land, where it sustained constant attacks for three days and two nights from both sides 

This wedding picture show Sgt Missen after he marriage to Miss M Cole in 1926 after the end of the First World War 

This picture show Sgt Missen after he marriage to Miss M Cole in 1926 after the end of the First World War 

In his account Sgt Missen wrote: 'Budd and Morrey were hit at the same time. Budd was unconscious for about two hours. Mr Hill hit in head and neck, Morrey arm and leg.

'I got out of right sponson door to put on one side of the unditching gear but I heard bullets hitting the tank and saw some Boche about 30 yds off firing at me, I got in

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