We all know the story: The tanks break the deadlock on the Western Front and is a harbinger of the victories of 1918. England’s church bells are allowed to ring in celebration for the first time. But it all ended in disappointment, stalemate and the almost inevitable concerted German counter-attack. The outcome was a disappointing score draw.
Actually the “tank phase” of the Battle of Cambrai lasted until about 2pm on the first day – 8 hours in all. Coincidentally or not that was how long a tank crew could survive inside one. The battle itself lasted (officially) a further 18 days. For all the technical and military advances on display, for the most part Cambrai was something much more familiar. It was 3rd Ypres without the mud, for Passchendaele Ridge, read Bourlon Wood.
The key themes of 1917 are all here – poor advance planning, innovation by the middle ranks of the BEF and a slow slog in difficult conditions against a well-entrenched enemy. As ever, artillery was the key – to both the initial tank breakthrough as well as what followed.
Ross Beadle BA (Hons) (Hull) MA (Birmingham)
Ross has a BA in History (from a long time ago) and a more recently acquired MA in First World War Studies. He was first inspired to study the war when as an eleven year old boy he sat and watched all 26 parts of the BBC’s 1964 documentary. He specialises in the strategic management of the war – on both sides of the wire. So his lectures Schlieffen and his plan and Robertson’s contribution to the war are central to this. He also has an interest in key battles like Cambrai and Neuve Chapelle that are sometimes ignored, in particular the planning of them and use of technology.
Contact Neil Pearce at firstname.lastname@example.org
17 Sep 2020 19:30