Tank changed face of warfare
READERS may be aware that ceremonies took place recently in Northern France to celebrate the centenary of the epic tank battle at Cambrai in which over 400 tanks took part.
This memorable encounter is chronicled in a famous book called The Ironclads of Cambrai. The tank, arguably Britain’s most iconic secret weapon of World War One, did as much to change the face of warfare as her equally marvellous invention of World War Two, radar.
The tank was first used in combat in the First Battle of the Somme, but not in any significant numbers.
I remember my father, a
survivor of that seminal battle, recounting his memories of their first appearance and impact. Though few in number, they had an important psychological effect on the Germans – their unexpectedness, their size, their noise, their ability to destroy fortifications, their apparent imperviousness to ordinance and machine gun fire and hand grenades.
They caused panic among the German troops and the German High Command. Despite the fact some broke down because of mechanical failure, the tank had proved its worth.
The Germans, however, discovered that three hand grenades tied together or an artillery shell would do severe damage and were eager to capture a damaged tank to learn its secrets and eventually create their own tank brigade.
Such was the arrival of the vehicle nicknamed “The dreadnought of the trenches”.
It was in World War Two that the tank came into its own, as events in the Western Desert and the plains of Russia would prove.
JACK FLETCHER, Chopwell