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British Industrial History

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Albert Gerald Stern

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Sir Albert Gerald Stern (1878–1966), banker and key figure in the development of armoured tanks.

1878 born on 24 September in Knightsbridge, the second son of James Julius Stern (1835–1901), senior partner of Stern Brothers and his wife Lucy.

Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford

Entered the family business, Stern Brothers

1903 Became a partner

WWI Seized the opportunity to join the forces but was rejected because of a weak ankle. By the end of 1914 he had managed to obtain a commission in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and to join the armoured car division of the Royal Naval Air Service.

1915 Became part of a team charged with finding a way out of the deadlock created by trench warfare. The RNAS team was concerned with the development of armoured cross-country vehicles, or landships, designed to be proof against hostile fire, to break down barbed wire, to cross trenches, and to destroy enemy weapons. As secretary of the Admiralty landships committee, he took the lead in urging the development of materials and designs for the new concept. Took over an office in Pall Mall at his own expense in June 1915 and began to run the project on business lines. Worked with Ernest Swinton, one of the the first people to visualize the armoured fighting vehicle carried on tracks. Whilst William Tritton and Walter Gordon Wilson worked on solving the technical problems, Stern battled for support among the ministries and in industry to acquire the necessary resources.

1916 Lloyd George brought tank production under the Ministry of Munitions, and made Stern the chairman of its tank supply committee. As a result 50 tanks were ready for their first action, at Flers, on 15 September 1916. Stern was transferred to the army.

1917 Appointed commissioner for mechanical warfare (overseas and allies) and promoted lieutenant-colonel in the new tank corps. Appointed CMG in 1917 and KBE in 1918.

Post-war: Stern returned to banking.

1922 He married Helen Merryday Orr-Lewis.

1933 Became head of Stern Brothers on the death of Sir Edward David Stern

1939 The outbreak of hostilities brought him back to work on mechanised warfare but his ideas were out of date.

1964 Retired from Stern Brothers.

1966 Died at his home in Kent.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Obituary of Sir Albert Stern