The Great War News

21 November 1917

The Battle of Cambrai

The attack on Cambrai was launched at dawn on the morning of November 20.25 The allied forces sent 476 tanks along with six infantry and two cavalry divisions. The Allies did not bombard the German forces before the attack in order to insure complete surprise.26 The German forces were forced back 6 Km in the first two hours, and the Hindenburg Line was pierced for the first time in the War.27 On the first day alone 8,000 prisoners and over 100 guns were captured. Because of these big gains the commanding officer elected to keep pushing forwards.28 After the initial surprise of the first day, the gaining of ground was much harder to come by for the Allies. The Germans sent 20 divisions in their counter attack. After a week past the Germans regained virtually all ground lost because the Allies had insufficient reinforcements.29 The Germans suffered approximately 50,000 deaths during this battle. While, the Allies lost about 45,000 soldiers, in this massive tank battle.30

The solid line below is the line before the attack. The hearvy dashed line was the line reached on November 29, 1917. The final dashed line is the line at the end of the battle.

Modern War Tactic

The Battle of Cambrai was not the big success that the Allies hoped for but it was a turning point in the art of war. The tanks did not create the breakthrough that was desired. However, they did demonstrate the potential for tanks to be used in future battles. This battle showed that the tanks were useful for clearing out a path for the follow up infantry divisions. This tactic is a very modern one where we use technology to go in and clear a path so that the enemy is weakened. There was also a high death rate in this battle. The high deaths were caused by the modernization of fighting techniques. Also the fact that the Allies used the element of surprise a technique that has been around for along time and continues to be used. This battle was a failure for the Allies, however it was one of the most modern battles in the war.

The Man of the Day
John Fuller

John fuller was born in 1878.31 He was commissioned into the British Army in 1898 and almost immediately saw action in 1999 in the South African War. He served in India from 1903-1906 and was named Captain in 1911.32 Fuller was constantly coming up with new modern tactics, which was good for his country. Fuller came in conflict with the rigid army Methodology of the time. When WWI broke out he found himself as staff officer and he was later responsible for organising training programmes for senior officers.33 His big breakthrough was in 1916 when he was named chief of staff of the Tank Corps. Fuller planned the attack on Cambrai and was a key part in planning other tank battles in 1918.34 Throughout the war Fuller was influential on the use of tanks as an offensive device for Great Britain. After The Great War Fuller taught at Camberley and as the assistant to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1926. Fullers career was brought to an end after he commanded the Experimental Force Brigade in 1926.35 In 1930, Fuller was promoted to Major-General, placed on half pay, and retired. After his retirement in the army he became a journalist. John Fuller died in 1996.36

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