The German front line was quickly overrun and the tanks continued on, punching deep into the German defences.
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German gunners had been trained to engage tanks, and they began to methodically target and destroy the slow machines. It was an advance of some five miles, an achievement not seen since the early stages of the war. Church bells were rung in Britain in celebration.
Battle of Cambrai () - Wikipedia
The cost of success had been high. Almost half of the attacking tanks had been lost, and the cavalry had failed to push on through the break in the German lines.
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Further advances were made over the following days, with the important positions at Bourlon Wood briefly captured on 27 November. On 30 November, the Germans counter-attacked.
Many of the hard won British gains were lost and British units suffered heavy losses fighting desperately to hold back the tide. Finally, on 6 December, the battle was brought to a close, both sides exhausted by the ferocity of the fighting. German prisoners carry wounded British soldiers to the rear 20 November The Battle of Cambrai was a brief and bloody engagement, with more than 80, servicemen from both sides wounded, missing or killed.
The attack had ultimately achieved little for the British Army, but it had demonstrated the shape of the fighting to come. The tactics seen at Cambrai in November would play an important part in eventual victory for the Allies in November Cambrai Memorial is a focal point for commemoration of the Battle of Cambrai. For decades, Deborah was out of sight and out of mind, forgotten beneath the surface. But in the early s, Philippe Gorczynski, a resident of the region, heard a rumour. An elderly lady remembered a tank that might have been buried in the area.
Battle Story: Cambrai 1917
Intrigued, the hotel owner and Great War enthusiast took up the search. He was convinced a First World War tank was out there somewhere. After poring over hundreds of archival documents and aerial photographs, Gorczynski refined his search perimetre. Of the eight soldiers assigned to this tank, five were killed.
The Battle of Cambrai
We were able to identify four. An association has been created since and other enthusiasts have joined its ranks. Never had an attack advanced so quickly since and by the evening of 20 November the British vanguard had won nine kilometres of terrain and was closing in on Cambrai. But once again the problem of capitalizing on the initial breakthrough reared its head.
In fact, the impact of the first assault dissipated along with the element of surprise and the Germans were soon harassing the foremost troops from the heights of Bourlon Wood.
On 23 November the British started to do something about this, just as the bells began to peal in Great Britain to mark what seemed to be a miraculous victory. Under a hail of artillery fire, several tanks and a Welsh infantry brigade succeeded in getting a foothold in part of Bourlon Wood but soon found themselves isolated. Ludendorff's first reaction to execute a major retreat was rapidly abandoned in favour of mounting a counter-attack.
He set about assembling twenty divisions and by the morning of 30 November they were poised to retaliate.
Battle of Cambrai (1917)
Their success was immediate and devastating. Supported by a barrage of poison gas shells, the Germans advanced more than five kilometres in two hours and, at one point, threatened to envelop several British divisions which had become isolated in a minor salient. Ludendorff put into practice new methods of fighting which consisted of infiltrating the enemy's lines with small groups of highly-skilled and heavily-armed soldiers.
Developed by the field commander Oskar von Hutier, these new infiltration tactics had already been successful on the Italian front. By the time the fighting had come to a close, on 4 December, the initial and unexpected success of the British Army had deteriorated into a total failure. All the terrain which had been won in the initial stages of the offensive had to be abandoned and the losses, although similar for both sides, were high.
The British casualties amounted to 44, killed, wounded and lost in action including 6, prisoners and the Germans 45, including 10, prisoners. Discover a network of more than tourism professionals with special knowledge of the Remembrance Trails.