Tank changed face of war­fare

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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.


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