The tank was first introduced on the battlefield on September 15, 1916, during World War I, on the Western Front, during the Battle of the River Som. Tanks were first used in the Fars-Corse battle, one of the offensive operations in the Battle of the Somme River. Subsequently, tanks were used in the Second Battle of Gaza, as well as in the Western Front battles of the Battle of Aras, the Third Battle of Epiphany, or the Battle of Passchendaele. But in all these cases they were not as successful as hoped.

When any new invention or a new weapon is introduced on the battlefield, it is natural for traditional military leaders to have a negative opinion about it. The tank suffered the same fate. Therefore, there was even suspicion as to whether the tanks would be used again.

Picture: Battle of Passchendaele.
Picture: Battle of Passchendaele.

Under these circumstances, it was decided to use the tank for one more battle with the assistance of several high-ranking officers. That was for the Battle of Cambrai.

November 20, 1917, was a memorable day in the history of tanks. It was on that day that the weapon proved to be an essential requirement of the Armed Forces. It is said that if the events of that day had taken place differently, the tank would have been a forgotten weapon.

Sir Douglas Hague

Sir Douglas Hague, Commanding Officer of the British Forces on the Western Front, was the first to be honored for his continued use of the tank on the battlefield. The Hague had serious mistakes and shortcomings. But his confidence in the tank was significant. He used tanks for the Battle of Forsyth-Corselle, the first time he had received such a large quantity of them. Similarly, their use, which had not been tried before on a battlefront, did not bring the expected results. The Germans were initially surprised by them but realized that they could attack with their artillery. Many tanks, on the other hand, became inoperable due to mechanical problems.

Picture: Sir Douglas Hague
Picture: Sir Douglas Hague

Despite all this, The Hague was impressed with the tank. In 1917 he announced that he needed 1,000 tanks.

Tanks were used in the Battle of Aras, but again they were used at a distance from each other. Because of this, they became easy targets. During the Battle of Passchendaele the tanks also fell into the mud.

The battlefield on the Western Front was generally not in good condition. There were ditches, artillery shells, and so on. Also, in some areas, the front became muddy. At that time the speed of the tanks was 1 KM per hour. While the top speed was. About 6KM per hour. These tanks were not very successful on the bad ground.

One British military commander made a simple argument in this regard. “Tanks are unsuitable for bad terrain. Battlefield terrain is bad. Therefore, tanks are unsuitable for the battlefield.”

Cambrai’s plan

The Passion Dale Battle, which began on July 31, 1917, ended in early November. As it was not as successful as expected, Hague focused on launching a new mission on the Western Front before winter approached.

At this point, the views of several British officers were directed to the tanks. They argued that the tanks had so far failed because they had not been used properly. They devised a plan for a new mission.

The three who played the most important role in the planning of the Cumber were the first Commanding Officer of the Tank Force, Brigadier General (later Lieutenant General) Hugh Ellis, and his Chief of Staff, Colonel (later Major General) J.A. . Fuller and Henry Hugh Tudor, commander of the 9th (Scottish) Division’s artillery unit. In June, Fuller came up with the idea of using a large number of tanks to attack good territory. These three officers developed that idea.

It was decided to use the Cumber area for this purpose as its terrain is dry and the area is relatively uncontested. The challenge they faced was the strength of the German defenses in the area The city of Cumber was an important transportation headquarters and a hub for supplies to the German defense ring. It was one of the areas protected by the famous Siegfried Ring, or Hindenburg Ring, built by Germany. It was three inches long, and in front of them was a barbed wire fence about fifty meters wide. The trenches were too wide for tanks to cross. With all of this in mind, the plan was well crafted.

The British Third Army faced the Cambrai area. Its commanding officer was General Julian Bing. He was credited with the success of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (Vimy highand) in April 1917, and was appointed Commander of the Third Army in June. Bing agreed to the Troops’ cumber plan. He referred it to The Hague, which was approved by Hague on October 13, 1917.

Julian Bing

Picture: Julian Bing
Picture: Julian Bing

476 Mark IV tanks were used for the Battle of Cambrai. Of these, 378 were battle tanks and the rest were used for supply and barbed wire.

Mark was able to move forward by crushing the barbed wire to the tank’s rhombic track. Thirty-two tanks were set up to remove the barbed wire. The hooks were fastened to the back of them, and they pulled out the barbed wire. Soldiers and horses were able to break through the area.

The British found another way to cross the trenches. The top of the tanks held a cylindrical hammer made of large, sturdy wooden poles. This bundle of wooden poles was chained together and weighed 1.75 tons. When approaching a deep ditch in a war situation, the hammer made of a wooden pole was able to drop into it. When the ditch was filled with wooden poles the tank was able to cross above it.

Attack was successful

The Cambrai land-attack took place between the two canals, the St. Quentin Canal and the Canal du Nord (North Canal). M. About 10 to the front. The Canal du Nord was an unfinished canal at the time and had no water.

By 19 November the tank army and supporting infantry were ready. The cavalry was also prepared behind it. Troops commander Ellis told his troops that he was personally directing the attack.

Picture: Battle tanks in Cambrai
Picture: Battle tanks in Cambrai

The next day, at exactly 6.20 am, British artillery fired into the front of the Cambrai. But the attack did not last long. It was a short and powerful attack on identified targets.

At the same time the tanks moved towards the German trenches. The Germans did not receive any warning of tanks until they came close to their trenches because of the morning mist and the sound of artillery fire. At the time, they were shocked, and their morale was severely affected. By noon the Tank Squad was able to cross all three German ditches.

Retreat

But here are a few things that happened to Britain at a disadvantage. One is the delay in capturing the village of Flesquire and the uplands. As a result, the conquest of the Bologna highlands and the scrubland was delayed. Meanwhile, they also failed to capture the bridges over the St. Quentin Canal.

Picture: British Infantry in Cambrai
Picture: British Infantry in Cambrai

Meanwhile, the cavalry did not reach the battlefront in time. They were 8 km behind the front. . They did not believe that in a few hours the tanks would break through the enemy front. As a result, their arrival was delayed and the British lost the advantage. By the end of the first day, German auxiliaries had arrived.

Britain did not have enough additional troops to continue the war. This was due to the fact that Britain had to send additional troops to defend the front after the crushing defeat of the Italian army in October.

Picture: Picture one:- Battle of Cambrai. The dark red line shows the British front on 19 November 1917. Redline is the maximum distance the British army traveled, the blue line is the maximum distance of German retaliation) Dark blue lines mark the two canals.
Picture: Picture one:- Battle of Cambrai. The dark red line shows the British front on 19 November 1917. Redline is the maximum distance the British army traveled, the blue line is the maximum distance of German retaliation) Dark blue lines mark the two canals.

Thus the British offensive stopped before reaching the city of Cambrai. They began a tactical retreat but were quickly pushed back by a German counterattack on 30 November. When the German attack came to a halt on December 7 with a cold storm, they had retaken almost all of the areas occupied by the British.

Thus the battle of Cambrai ended without a victory for either side, and the only winner in this battle was the tank. According to Hague, this battle undoubtedly proved its importance as an assault weapon.

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  1. It抯 really a nice and useful piece of info. I抦 glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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