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Battle of Cambrai


Jim Gordon
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Can anyone give me an instance in which a Tank was saved from destruction by Field Gun fire by the actions of infantry following in support immediately behind the Tank ?

Regards

Jim Gordon

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can't rememeber one off hand but see 'Following The Tanks' by Phillipe Gorczynski for the most exhaustive account yet published of the Cambrai fighting.

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I know the book well and don't think you'll find an incident that fits that description. Sorry.

....though, of course, you should have a copy!

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Sorry, a little off-point, but can you tell me if the book looks at the whole battle, or just the tank action bits? I already have the official history -- would 'Following the Tanks' add a lot to what is there?

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Yes, the book does concentrate on the Tank Regiment's role, but contains much material not covered in the official History, after lots of research at PRO, Tank Museum etc and includes many individuals' stories. It does cover the whole period of the battle, village by village, but you'd possibly want a different source if you needed to find detailed description of, say, the Guards at Fontaine. Otherwise highly recommended, especially for the maps and photographs (mostly "then and now")

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Jim

Hello. Hope you remember me and our exchange of letters on 'Uncle' Harper.

I have to say that I've given a lot of thought to your question and I must say I have found no direct reference whatsoever in an infantry or tank account that states that a Tank was saved from Field Gun fire by the infantry following in support.

HOWEVER, I'd also say that you cannot take that as an unequivocal 'No, that didn't happen'.

Take the following extract from John Foley's 'The Boiler Plate War' in which he quotes Alan Scrutton:

"The Guards were magnificent," he says. "Quite the best troops we had ever worked with. We had a hell of a job getting back into Gouzeaucourt. The Germans were very quick at getting their field guns forward and we lost quite a lot of tanks in bitter street fighting. But we might have lost more if it hadn't been for the Guards. We had a sort of drill worked out: we dealt with machine-guns which were troubling them and they dealt with artillery which was troubling us. It was a splendid example of tank/infantry co-operation."

I take this to mean that post-20th November at Cambrai (actually on 30 Nov/1 Dec), the infantry and tanks are applying a well-practiced and familiar drill. This drill, presumably, had worked before and was therefore used again.

ANY German artillery was a threat to tanks. The fact that the infantry took on German artillery batteries or single guns may not be referred to as being directly to 'save the tanks'.

I'm still checking, when I can (!), the vast number of accounts I have on tank - infantry operations but it is proving very hard to pin this sort of issue down.

Hope this is of interest, anyway.

Regards

Bryn Hammond

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Thank you to Mark, Graham and Munce for your contribution to this thread. I have not read the volume in question but fully intend to do do.

Bryn

I certainly do remember our correspondence re 'Uncle' Harper and the courteous way you dealt with my amateurish ramblings on that subject.

I acknowledge that the point you make regarding the cooperation between Tanks and Guards at the retaking of Gouzeaucort would seem to be a significant event in that battle. However can I put the following points to you:

1) Did the Guards and Tanks train to conduct operations in this way or did it just evolve from the experience of the Guards at Fontaine?

2) One publication, heavily pro-Tank in its presentation, states that the Guards had retaken Gouzeaucourt before the Tanks arrived.

3) The same book states that on the following day (Dec.1) the Tanks made a frontal assault on Gauche Wood near Gouzeaucourt while the Guards did a 1000 yard bayonet charge on the Wood from a different direction. Hardly "close cooperation" although, in this case, mighty effective. They, of course, both met the enemy in the Wood and the resulting melee would, I submit, develop quite naturally into the type of fighting described in your source.

4) Again, in the same book (sorry), the writer states that when the Commander of the ad hoc Tank Group formed at Havrincourt informed the Guards Divisional Commander that his Tank Group was in existence and ready for action the GDC was 'not much impressed'.

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Sorry Bryn but I made a mess of previewing and posted instead before I signed off.

If I don't hear from you before Christmas may I wish you and yours all the best for the coming Festive Season and beyond.

Regards

Jim Gordon

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  • 2 years later...

I thought I'd bring this thread back up hoping that some Pals might have more to add to it. I know very little about tank operations and infantry tactics, but I think there are several interesting questions raised by Jim and the others already. Hopefully a few other Pals can add to it.

Andy

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Alex Fasse is about the most knowledagble person I know on the Cambrai battle. His thesis is related to German counter-measures against tanks. If anyone could answer the original post here, he could.

He can be contacted through the AGW 14-18 group at Yahoo:

http://de.groups.yahoo.com/group/AGW14-18/

You'll have to do a quick registration to post. Posts can be in English, and if you let Alex know if can or cannot speak German he will post accordingly.

Paul

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There's been a recent long discussion, with lots from Robert Dunlop, whom you could search for, also a photo and some discussion, about Ribecourt, started by Laurent a few weeks ago

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