Cambrai November 1917

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    After the failure of British tanks in the thick mud at Passchendaele, Colonel John Fuller, chief of staff to the Tank Corps, suggested a massed raid on dry ground between the Canal du Nord and the St Quentin Canal. General Sir Julian Byng, commander of the Third Army, accepted Fuller's plan, it was originally vetoed by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig.

    After the failure to break through at Ypres, Haig changed his mind and ordered a massed tank attack at Artois. Launched at dawn on 20th November, without preliminary bombardment, the attack completely surprised the German Army defending that part of the Western Front. Employing 476 tanks, six infantry and two cavalry divisions, the British Third Army gained over 6km in the first day. Progress towards Cambrai continued over the next few days but on the 30th November, 29 German divisions launched a counter-offensive.

    By the time that fighting came to an end on 7th December, 1917, German forces had regained almost all the ground it lost at the start of the Cambrai Offensive. During the two weeks of fighting, the British suffered 45,000 casualties. Although it is estimated that the Germans lost 50,000 men, Haig considered the offensive as a failure and reinforced his doubts about the ability of tanks to win the war.
  2. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    cambrai drumhead.jpg Cambrai dead.jpg
    The Battle of Cambrai is celebrated every year by the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR). This battle although it ended in stalemate, brought mobility back to the battlefield and was instramental in bringing to an end the slaughter of trench warfare. This is symbolised in the regimental colours of the RTR, Brown, Red, Green, from Mud, through blood, to the green fields beyond.

    This year (2012) was the 95th anniversary of the battle. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Cambrai to take part in the Celebrations.

    The photo's show the RTR drumhead service at the British Empire memorial to the fallen of Cambrai 1917
  3. Barnbarroch

    Barnbarroch New Member

    My great uncle, Frank Vans Agnew MC was captured at Fontaine-notre-Dâme during the battle. He wasn't impressed by the constant changes of plan leading up the the attack. I don't think he thought highly of the planning at all, in fact!

    From Hanover on 3 January 1918 he wrote home: 'The German papers say there is to be a Commission of Enquiry into the conduct, on our part, of the late battle (Cambrai). I am glad to hear it and wish I were there to give evidence. My being here is all a gross mistake, on someone’s part, for I obeyed orders to the letter and had not a ghost of a chance, as it so turned out. I attach not a bit of blame to myself in any way. I hope the family is not too disgusted, but please tell them what I say.'

    He wouldn't have thought much of the whitewash job that senior officers managed to do on their own part, throwing the blame onto the junior officers and men in the field.
  4. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    This year is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai. I will in Cambrai for 4 days to take part in the celebrations which include the Royal Tank Regiment being granted the "Freedom of Cambrai". I will a post a selection of photo's after the event.
  5. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Now home after a fantastic 4 days in Cambrai. The photo's are of the parade held in the town square in Cambrai

    Attached Files:

  6. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    The trip to Cambrai!

    22 people boarded the coach last Thursday for the trip to France. At Dover we encountered our only delay on the whole trip, 2 hours waiting because the ferries were delayed due to the previous days weather. We arrived at Cambrai in good order with no drama's at the hotel. Everyone got the type of room they were expecting, so no top and tailing. Friday morning began with Breakfast which included egg, sausage and cooked meat for Brit traditionalists with the typical continental fare as well.

    We set off in bright sunshine and arrived at the Tank Corps Memorial at Pozieres where we laid a wreath. Pozieres is classed as the Somme, you forget how close together these WWI battlefields are. We also took time to look at the Australian memorial across the road, very thought provoking. Not quite as thought provoking as the Pozieres Military Cemetary. Those rows of white headtones always bring a lump to your throat. We then went to the "Tommy" cafe and museum in Pozieres where we had lunch, purely liquid for the younger element, no surprise there then!

    We then moved off and made our way to the Battle of Cambrai Memorial at Louverval where the drumhead service was taking place. Here was the first major event of the weekend, The Regiment was present, the Standards of 1 & 2 RTR were paraded and laid on the drum alter. The Ypres Friends of the Tank Salient Standard was laid on the alter as was the Bournemouth & Poole Branch Standard, magnificently paraded by Graham Collins. No other Association Branch Standard was present, which was a surprise!

    The Ceremony was very moving and was filmed by the BBC and broadcast around the world. We then made our way back to Cambrai and the hotel, getting ourselves ready for the "all ranks" party that evening. The weather had remained bright and Sunny all day. The All Ranks Party? What a night? A live band, the Pipes & Drums, A WWI tank in the venue, lots of beer, the serving lads (allowed in Jeans and T shirts) had a fantastic time, as did we all. I met up with a number of lads who had served with my son (who left the Army earlier this year) who all wanted to buy me a beer, age I have decided does have some advantages!

    Saturday began with the Battle of Cambrai presentation by historian & TV presenter Dan Snow, followed by the Battlefield Tour in Coaches. We had the medium tour which meant only getting off the coach once, which turned out to be a good choice as it was very cold and wet. The one stop off was the Monument to the Nations that took part in the Battle, this was at Flesquieres. On the way back we passed the new Museum housing "Deborah"( the WWI Tank destroyed at Cambrai, found and dug up 80 years later) but it was awaiting the official opening. Saturday night was the RTR Association function, but before we went to that, off we trooped to the Town Square where the story of Cambrai in WWI was told, The Story was projected onto the Town Hall Building with the narritive in Both French & English. Lots of people dressed up in WWI costumes, with a very big turnout by the local population. This feature was presented every night for a week.

    The RTR Association function was brilliant, so many people that I had not seen in years, well organised, a good bar so what more could you ask for. There was food but I think many were too busy to partake, Dave Roberts & Graham Collins caused a slight delay when it came to leave? They were in the queue for Fish and Chips at the take away wagon.

    Sunday had the weather we had been hoping for, clear and bright, it was cold but most impotantly it was "dry". We arrived in good time which allowed us to have a coffee in a cafe before we took our places in the stand. The parade consisted of the Regiment, veterans, French Troops from our affiliated Regiment and French Veterans. The Regimental Standards were on parade as were the Association standards, plus many French Association Standards. The Band played the French national anthem superbly which resulted in loud applause from the local population who also applauded the British National Anthem. The speeches, both in French and English went on forever! both sides complimenting the other and saying how good each was, It was a real political "love in". Finally we had the march past with lots of clapping and cheering and suddenly it was over! Following the parade many veterans then remained to boost the economy of Cambrai if you know what I mean, some had tickets for the Mayor of Cambrai's reception where they "hob nobbed" with dignitaries and senior officers. Eleven of us from Bournemouth & Poole joined up with the London Branch and headed over the border into Belgium and Ypres, where we participated in the "Last post" ceremony. 3 x RTRA branch standards were on parade along with the Ypres Tank Salient Standard. We then returned to Cambrai and bed.

    So Monday and the return to the UK, but after leaving our Hotel we headed for the Arras area and the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge, impressive is an understatement, we were hampered by very wet and windy weather, but because we are "British" remained staunch, steady & undaunted and paid our respects to our Canadian brothers, Then! We ran for the coach to get out of the rain!

    We then continued to Calais, stocked up with "goodies" from the Carrefore hypermarket and boarded the ferry. What an experience, there will only be one Battle of Cambrai "centenary" and it was done in style. The photo shows our coach sign, well you have to let people know who you are?

    cambrai 2017  sign.jpg
  7. Diptangshu

    Diptangshu Active Member

    Thank you and enjoyed, still interested!

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