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Remembered Today:

Tanks at Bapaume


Bill M.
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Pals,

I ran across mention of a tank counter attack (British tanks) at Bapaume during the German offensive in 1918. No details given. So if any of you folks can fill me in it would be greatly appreciated. Also if anyone has a map of the battle I would be eternally in your debt.

Cheers

Bill M.

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The use of tanks was very patchy and somewhat disorganised in March 1918. A number of small scale counter attacks were made at Epehy, Roisel and Hervilly and Ronssoy Wood. The most successful counter attack was at Beugny on the 22nd March by some 30 tanks. 17 of which were knocked out or ran out of fuel and 70% of all crew members were killed or wounded. Despite this they caused heavy casualties amongst the attacking German troops and took many prisoners. Especially badly hit was the Prussian Infantry Regiment 52 which was forced to retreat. Had cooperation/coordination between the British infantry and the tanks been better (or possibly even existed) the German reverse would have been much greater.

However I can find no reference to an action at Bapaume - which does not mean there wasn't one just that it must have been fairly small.

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The use of tanks was very patchy and somewhat disorganised in March 1918. A number of small scale counter attacks were made at Epehy, Roisel and Hervilly and Ronssoy Wood. The most successful counter attack was at Beugny on the 22nd March by some 30 tanks. 17 of which were knocked out or ran out of fuel and 70% of all crew members were killed or wounded. Despite this they caused heavy casualties amongst the attacking German troops and took many prisoners. Especially badly hit was the Prussian Infantry Regiment 52 which was forced to retreat. Had cooperation/coordination between the British infantry and the tanks been better (or possibly even existed) the German reverse would have been much greater.

However I can find no reference to an action at Bapaume - which does not mean there wasn't one just that it must have been fairly small.

Centurion,

The article I was reading in an old military history magazine must have confused Bapaume with Beugny as it list the exact numbers you quote for that battle. Do you by any chance have a map of the area that show trenches or emplacements? The article, sorry I can not recall the name and it is not with me at the moment, also stated that as the lead tank moved to engage the Germans coming over a hill that there was a single British gun standing it's ground on a small hill to its right. Does this ring any bells with you?

Thanks

Bill

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Bill

Unfortunately I don't have a map. It seems the tanks and two companies of infantry were ordered to counter attack but that the infantry "could not be spared for the counter attack". The attack proceeded through a German artillery counter barrage, knocked out a German advanced 77mm battery, and enfiladed the German positions forcing a retreat and checking the German advance at that point. It does suggest that had the British managed to come up with some effective and coordinated tank tactics the March offensive might have been much less successful.

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Bill

Unfortunately I don't have a map. It seems the tanks and two companies of infantry were ordered to counter attack but that the infantry "could not be spared for the counter attack". The attack proceeded through a German artillery counter barrage, knocked out a German advanced 77mm battery, and enfiladed the German positions forcing a retreat and checking the German advance at that point. It does suggest that had the British managed to come up with some effective and coordinated tank tactics the March offensive might have been much less successful.

Centurian,

Great info, thank you so much for putting me on the right battle. If I find anything further I will post here. Once again this forum is the place to be.

Cheers

Bill

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Bill

The action took place less than 5 K from Bapaume so thats probably why its located in the article you saw as being there. I found the following account of the fatal wounding of an officer from Stockport in this action which provides a little more detail.

On the 21st, the Germans launched an expected major attack on the British lines. What was unexpected was the strength and ferocity with which it was delivered. Within hours, many Tommies were dead, wounded or prisoner. Many more were fighting a desperate retreat along miles of the front line.

Orders came to the 2nd Tank Battalion at 3pm on the 22nd.They were to deploy near the French village of Beugny, about three miles away, to try to prevent the Germans making a further breakthrough. The vehicles were slow moving in those early days and it was over an hour before the first machine was in action. Another 24 joined shortly afterwards.

The Colonel commanding the Battalion later wrote "A tremendous concentration of machine gun fire was opened on the tanks of "B" Company as soon as they were perceived by the enemy and shortly after a barrage was put down which accounted for a number of tanks. The appearance of the tanks of the other two Companies round the ridge from the west seems to have taken the enemy by surprise and these tanks did great execution........During the action there was a considerable concentration of hostile aircraft and about 20 enemy planes swooped down over the tanks firing at them....Of the 25 crews or 175 men who went into action 100 became casualties and of the 25 officers, 18 became casualties."

Frank's tank was one of those had been hit. He was badly wounded. The tank driver later wrote that Frank's right foot had been "blown off". The driver had dressed the wound and stayed with him until captured by the Germans. He felt that Frank was well "in himself" and felt sure he would get over his wound. Frank was operated on at a German field hospital and his foot and part of his leg were amputated. He was then evacuated to a military hospital at Gent, where complications set in and he died of pneumonia a few days later.

Frances Geoffrey SINKINSON is buried in the Gent City Cemetery

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Bill

The action took place less than 5 K from Bapaume so thats probably why its located in the article you saw as being there. I found the following account of the fatal wounding of an officer from Stockport in this action which provides a little more detail.

On the 21st, the Germans launched an expected major attack on the British lines. What was unexpected was the strength and ferocity with which it was delivered. Within hours, many Tommies were dead, wounded or prisoner. Many more were fighting a desperate retreat along miles of the front line.

Orders came to the 2nd Tank Battalion at 3pm on the 22nd.They were to deploy near the French village of Beugny, about three miles away, to try to prevent the Germans making a further breakthrough. The vehicles were slow moving in those early days and it was over an hour before the first machine was in action. Another 24 joined shortly afterwards.

The Colonel commanding the Battalion later wrote "A tremendous concentration of machine gun fire was opened on the tanks of "B" Company as soon as they were perceived by the enemy and shortly after a barrage was put down which accounted for a number of tanks. The appearance of the tanks of the other two Companies round the ridge from the west seems to have taken the enemy by surprise and these tanks did great execution........During the action there was a considerable concentration of hostile aircraft and about 20 enemy planes swooped down over the tanks firing at them....Of the 25 crews or 175 men who went into action 100 became casualties and of the 25 officers, 18 became casualties."

Frank's tank was one of those had been hit. He was badly wounded. The tank driver later wrote that Frank's right foot had been "blown off". The driver had dressed the wound and stayed with him until captured by the Germans. He felt that Frank was well "in himself" and felt sure he would get over his wound. Frank was operated on at a German field hospital and his foot and part of his leg were amputated. He was then evacuated to a military hospital at Gent, where complications set in and he died of pneumonia a few days later.

Frances Geoffrey SINKINSON is buried in the Gent City Cemetery

Once again Centurian, you are top notch!

Cheers

Bill

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