Tank Corps Unleashed – The Battle of Cambrai I THE GREAT WAR Week 174


We’ve seen them on battlefields, alone,
in groups, or even by the dozen, but we’ve never seen them fight by the hundreds – tanks,
tanks, and more tanks. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the British army continued its
advance in Palestine, though its three and a half month offensive of the Western Front,
the Battle of Passchendaele, came to an end with casualties in the hundreds of thousands. The October Russian Revolution continued,
with teenage cadets fighting and dying against the Bolsheviks, and when the former Prime
Minister fled it was the final end of his government. This week’s star, as I said, is tanks, and
we saw them at the Battle of Cambrai. “The triple belts of wire were crossed as
if they had been beds of nettles, and 350 pathways were sheared through them for the
infantry.” The Battle began at 0600 November 20th, with
a preliminary barrage of 1,000 guns and 6 infantry divisions of the British Third Army,
supported by nine Tank Corps battalions. According to the Tank Museum, Bovington, there
were 476 total tanks and 378 of them were fighting tanks. 324 of these were used in the opening attack;
this was the first time in history such a large tank force was used. There were also 300 supporting aircraft. More infantry and 3 cavalry divisions were
in reserve. The successes were huge and immediate – they
broke through the Hindenburg Line, in places nearly 10 km deep. The British managed to reach the woods on
Bourlon Ridge and the Bapaume-Cambrai Road that day, taking some 4,000 casualties and
over 4,000 prisoners, but a full 180 of the tanks were already out of action, destroyed,
broken down, or ditched. The Mark IV tank had some serious issues. Even that day, just at Flesquieres, German
artillery knocked out 39 tanks and stopped the advance in the sector. One German, Unteroffizier Krüger, reportedly
knocked out 7 tanks by himself, working his gun alone until he was shot. He is the only German soldier in the First
World War to be mentioned in British military dispatches (Gilbert). There is a certain legendary quality to that
story, but how ever many tanks Krüger and co knocked out, they were with the German
54th Division, which had undergone specific anti-tank training and had faced French tanks
during the Nivelle Offensive. The next day, a fresh German division arrived
from the Russian front, and was rushed forward into the line on the St. Quentin Canal, where
a British breakthrough seemed possible. This ruined the next phase of the British
plans, which was in fact a cavalry breakthrough. On the 23rd, news of the initial breakthrough
was made public in Britain. The British papers called it the greatest
British victory of the war. They rang the church bells throughout the
land- the first time they had done so so far during the war. But that day, even with all the elation at
home, the tide of battle turned in a violent confrontation at Bourlon Wood. British commander Sir Douglas Haig had insisted
that the wood be taken so that they could renew the wider plan of attack. He suggested that the cavalry, whose initial
task was to exploit a tank breakthrough, dismount and fight as infantry. They did, supported by 100 tanks, but they
could not take the high ground above Bourlon, and the German counterattacks were successful
and even recovered 100 of their captured guns. So the week came to an end with the heavy
fighting at Bourlon Wood still in progress, and the British unable to push ahead. But something big came from Cambrai – generals
on both sides saw that tanks – properly deployed – could have a big impact in battle, particularly
in breaking through supposedly impregnable barbed wire, though the combined use of artillery,
infantry, tanks, and aircraft which was in play here certainly had perhaps more impact. And the Germans learned to deal with the tanks
fairly quickly. In “A World Undone”, there’s a record
from a German Leutnant about it. “Some of the boys discovered they could
stop the tanks by throwing a hand grenade into the manhole at the top. Once this was known, the boys realized there
was a blind spot – that the machine guns couldn’t reach every point around the tank… I was shocked and felt very sorry for those
fellows in the tanks, because there was no escape for them. Once a man was on top of the tank it was doomed
to failure…” There was also more news from the east, in
Russia. On the 19th, the Bolsheviks asked for an immediate
armistice on all fronts. On the 21st, they dismissed army commander
in chief, for refusing to negotiate an armistice. That day Lenin authorized front line troops
to negotiate peace with the enemy and at the end of the week issued a decree to further
disband the army. Now, in Petrograd, the British and American
embassies had not been attacked in the revolution, but they had been basically cut off from the
outside world, telegrams, mail, and couriers being blocked by the Bolsheviks. This week, as the ice and snow of winter began
in earnest, 35 Americans, along with many members of the Red Cross, who had simply quit
because of the horrors of the past two weeks, boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway heading
east. For the British colony in Petrograd, however,
Leon Trotsky refused exit permits because of the arrest and imprisonment in England
of two Bolsheviks for spreading anti-war propaganda. In Moscow the fighting had been even bloodier
than in Petrograd. The officer cadets there were forewarned about
the fate of the Petrograd cadets last week and took strong defensive positions in the
Kremlin. It took ten days and a death toll in the thousands
to beat them, and those that surrendered were victims of horrible atrocities. As for that immediate armistice, new French
Prime Minister George Clemenceau responded that his policy is “war, nothing but war.” Also, the following day, British PM David
Lloyd George had some serious words for President Woodrow Wilson’s emissary Colonel House. See, American army leader John Pershing’s
hope of having a million trained American soldiers in France by the summer of 1918 was
not looking so good. Recent calculations had reduced the number
to 525,000 by May. But the US didn’t have the shipping tonnage
to supply and feed them all, and possibly wouldn’t until 1919 (Gilbert). There had been logistical incompetence – some
American supply ships were reaching France with less than half of their cargo space being
used. Lloyd George told House “…I should put
the facts quite frankly to you, because there is a danger that you might think you can work
up your army at leisure, and that it does not matter whether your troops are there in
1918 or 1919. But I want you to understand that it might
make the most vital difference.” Still, the British were advancing without
great losses in Palestine at the moment. By the 19th, they’ve reached the hills of
Judea, and are 10 km from Jerusalem. General Edmund Allenby’s army had made good
advances, sure, but he did have to rein in and reorganize his forces. And the Ottoman’s Yildirim Army Group – or
Thunderbolt Army Group – that had been diverted from Mesopotamia to Palestine, was not only
German inspired and trained, in – among other things – storm troop tactics. It was led by none other than Erich von Falkenhayn,
who seems to be absolutely everywhere this war. Falkenhayn now had the rank of Mushir, or
Field Marshal, in the Ottoman army. His counter attacks in late November against
Allenby’s men failed, but he was preparing to face off against Allenby over Jerusalem. One other thing that he and other German officers
would do over the winter, that I’ll jump ahead and mention now, was help prevent Djemal
Pasha, in his capacity as governor of Greater Syria, from carrying out the forced removal
of Jews from Palestine. Djemal had ordered the evacuation on much
the same lines as the Armenian Genocide. There was a single death of note in the Middle
East this week. Okay, two weeks ago, British General Sir Stanley
Maude routed the Ottomans at Tikrit on the Tigris, taking lots of war materiel. Even with the Russian army collapse and revolution
freeing up a lot of Ottoman troops for attacks on Maude’s forces, they were still in good
position. They had extended their supply lines so that
they had a truly modern transport system from Basra to Baghdad. Irrigation and flood control measures had
managed the river flows; marauding Arabs on communication lines had been quelled by pacification
and slaughter, and the campaign had pushed ever further up the Tigris, Euphrates, and
Diyala Rivers. But this week, Maude died of cholera. Sir William Marshall took over command and
Maude’s final instruction was, “carry on”. And the week ends, with fighting in Palestine,
a plethora of tanks at Cambrai, the Russians demanding an end to fighting, and down in
German East Africa, a force of 1,000 Germans and Askari surrender to the British Southeast
of Chivata. You know, it might not seem like it, but in
several ways this was a pivotal week of the war. Obviously, the largest scale deployment of
tanks, but also the evolving use of combined aircraft, infantry, artillery, and tanks. That is a big part of modern warfare, and
we haven’t seen a whole lot of it so far in the war, but the Allies are starting to
put it together. But it might be too late. Russia asked for an armistice and it looks
like they’re going to leave the war, which would free up thousands upon thousands of
German troops to head west, and the US troops don’t seem like they’re going to be there
in time for that. What could the British do? Well, they’d just have to do as Maude instructed
on his deathbed, “Carry on”. If you want to learn more about the British
Tank Corps at the Battle of Cambrai, check out our episode from the Tank Museum Bovington
right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week are Lord
and Lady Karnage of Truxton, New Jersey. Be as noble as they are and consider supporting
us on Patreon to make this show better and better. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

100 thoughts on “Tank Corps Unleashed – The Battle of Cambrai I THE GREAT WAR Week 174

  1. I am sorry for asking a non-Great war related question but i have just started watching the series from the start (3,5 years ago) and Indy wears the same clothes (and in the same manner) now as he does in the first episode. Is that his work clothes? Does he own multiple copies of the same modells of garment? Again, i am sorry, but what has been seen cannot be unseen. (Nothing wrong with the clothes tough, educated and stylish yet relaxed).

  2. You can't mention combined arms without mentioning Monash…
    Please do a future episode on him, he was a very interesting man.

  3. Let’s be completely honest: The Battle Of Cambria is the most important battle of the First World War, and possibly even the century. While it was a failure in terms of gains, it is the reason tanks still exist, are used effectively, and have had such a huge impact on the world. If the battle had been a complete failure (the tanks don’t reach the enemy lines at all, due to the Germans destroying them), the course of the 20th century would have been rapidly different, with ww2 looking like a repeat of WW1.

  4. What did Persia do in the war? I dont think they joined the central powers or the entente powers, Why did russia occupy Persian lands/cities?

  5. Also, what vehicles we're used in the great war? in battlefield 1 there are attack planes, heavy bombers, assault trucks, artillery trucks, mortar trucks, AA trucks and motorcycles

  6. 5:55
    Vous voulez la paix ? Moi aussi. Il serait criminel d'avoir une autre pensée. Mais ce n'est pas en bêlant la paix qu'on fait taire le militarisme prussien. Ma politique étrangères et ma politique intérieure, c'est tout un.

    Politique intérieure ? Je fais la guerre.

    Politique étrangères ? Je fais la guerre.

    Je fais toujours la guerre.

  7. Do a video of the Russian who were protecting a base in Poland who were attack by germen who used gas and then when moving up the Russian who survived came running all bloody and spitting up their peice of their lung up

  8. Nice video! Can you please make a video about the fieldrailways at the trenches and on battelfield. It called at german side Heeresfeldbahn. But they also worked at the french, amerikan and english side of the trences.

    I hope you can tell me more about that theme. That would be very nice 🙂

  9. were the british alone in this war or what? I love the show but when I hear "what could the british do"… One thing that bothers me is that has the weeks passes on so many french and others actions are left untold.

  10. I'm not really a fan of people who make comments referring to video games, but I just bought my first game since Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, which Is Battlefield 1….. I'm just working through Cambrai in my Mk 4 tank.

  11. as a big tank nut, im sad theres only the tank tanktop, can we get something similar in a cup or hoodie?

    Great episode as usual!

  12. Guys. Tanks are the answer. The Allies will break through the Hindenburg line next month with those machines, I can feel it.

  13. So…"three quarters of a million Germans leaving the Russian Front and coming over here, with the express purpose of using my nipples for target practice!"

  14. russian armistice .. didn't freed thousands upon thousands troops .. but a million german troops .. first time in 3 years indy had presented wrong facts

  15. How awsome i follow your chanel foor 2 or 3 years now and i just figured out you started the great war show in 2014 exactly 100 years after the start of the great war and you said you will go on to the end of the war sorry for my typos i got dyslectcy but keep doing what you do! I love it

  16. A truly great show you're making. I'm your fan since 1916 and I can't thank you enough for your great effort and even greater work, Indy and crew! I have a question for OOTT: on numerous occasions Indy mentioned German anti tank units trained exclusively for that purpose. Can you tell us about the training of those units and how exactly were they used in combat?

  17. "I was shocked and felt very sorry for those fellows in the tanks, because there was no escape for them." Insane how even after everything that happened, they could still feel compassion for the enemy. I always assumed that after the Christmas Truce, and after all the dehumanising propaganda had taken hold, the men of both sides had been reduced to simple hatred of the other side.

  18. Lloyd George: "Americans, hurry up and get your troops here to die for a war we pushed you into. We are running out of our own young men to sacrifice."

  19. 2:32 "Fresh german division" indeed. Look at some of those faces. Some of them are just teenagers. (or at least look like it) I know it's been mentioned before in the series, but sometimes you forget about the teenagers in this war. I don't know why, but the picture just kinda hit me again that the people in this crazy time were almost half my age.

  20. I did it! I caught up with the week by week videos. It took me a week, and I found it very informative and depressing. Well onto the special episodes.

  21. I have finally caught up after 2 months of nearly non stop watching. I’d been waiting for the battle of beersheeba. Such an epic one. Thanks Indy and gang. Looking forward to watching weekly.

  22. I am happy to have discovered your series while it is still in progress. Not only is this very interesting information presented very well, it has fundementally changed my views on WWI.

    To an American, WWII is much more remembered. Partly because it was deadlier, partly because more video footage exists for cable channels to turn into shows, and partly because many if not most Americans have relatives who fought in WWII while WWI is so long ago that people don't remember. (FWIW, having researched my ancestry, I know I have ancestors who fought in the French and Indian wars, at least one ancestor who fought in the revolution, cousins and maybe ancestors who fought in the civil war, and my grandfather was in the Navy during WWII.)

    But mostly I believe Americans like to recall WWII because it was a morally justified war.

    We have been fighting wars or military skirmishes for almost all of our existence as a nation, but only in the civil war and in WWII were we indesputably fighting on the morrally justified side; the side which in the grand arc of history was worth dying for.

    All of our other wars have some ambiguity.

    I am in favor of the revolution, but it had nowhere near the impact on western civilization that defeating the Nazis did, nor the impact on our nation as the Civil War did.

    There may be other wars ww have fought which I would have supported, but in total, I am completely behind the efforts in the civil war and WWII.

    WWI is much more morally nebulous and I do believe we could have stayed out of it had the nation and our leaders truly wanted to.

    The moral lessons of WWI are complex. While WWII says "Democracy good, fascism Bad" WWI has no simple moral lesson.

    In fact, I believe, the real lesson of WWI is that leaders will create alliances and execute wars which kill tens of millions of people for nothing greater than a few spots of land that they want to rule.

    Such a war does not fit within the American mythos, so we are taught in school that WWI was a silly European conflict over mostly nothing that the Europeans couldn't settle themselves, so we went over there to settle it for them.

    Much of what we are taught in school is simplistic or just wrong.

    I still don't know if there was a morally right side in WWI or a morally wrong side, but I have a much greater understanding of the war, how it proceeded over it's duration, its scope, and how many people died as a result.

    You have both educated me and motivated me to do some research on my own.

    Thank you.

  23. As the English Army will "carry on" for this war,
    The Ottoman Army will regain hope and continue the fight
    The Serbian Army will reconquer their lands against all odds
    The German Army will finally strike with his full potential and destroy Allies Armies
    The French Army won't let them pass, until they pass on their dead bodies
    The Austrian-Hungary Army will regroup his forces and strike to Rome
    The Italian Army will defend his home by desperate sacrifices
    The Bulgarian Army will litterally blocking the "Five Nation Army" by herself
    The Romanian Army is backed to the wall without Russia

    Yeah,
    This war still don't have an end in sight unless more and more young people died for their "Duty"

  24. I really enjoy your videos. I am curious about a series of documentaries I saw once where it went over the mining blast in Messiness, snipers, shell shock, and tanks, but more than just a way to break out of trench warfare but it talked about the carbon monoxide gasses the crew endured. Any ideas?

  25. Watching this I noticed how we haven't heard about German affairs for many many weeks. With all that has been going on I wonder what the society was thinking about the war and what the consequences were for the economy at that time?

  26. A Mark IV or any other British tank is not doomed to failure should an enemy infantryman climb atop it. All sides of both the driver's cab and rooftop hatch/cupola have pistols ports through which a webley can be aimed and fired at anyone on top of the vehicle from the relative safety of inside. The rear upper wall of the driver's cab alone has three such ports that can view the entire roof of the hull.

  27. Hi All;Do anyone here know of the Chinese Labour Corp (CLC).And the contribution of the Chinese at the Battle Of Cambrai.Some stuff about Painting Eyes on the front of the Tanks.Fact is Stranger than Fiction!

  28. I was in the WW1 museum in Belgium recently and they had a Mark I tank with display cases of drawings made by Germans when asked what exactly attacked them – whilst hilariously inaccurate they genuinely looked like drawings of a monster. I can't imagine what it was like to see a tank for the first time bearing down on you. Yet this week there were hundreds.

  29. Awesome show guys!, stumbled across this particular show while researching Cambrai battle for my upcoming presentation. The map animation is incredible and I would love to use it if possible (All credit going to you guys off course!!!)

  30. i was thinking what happens to the romanians when the russians pull out of the war and stop supporting the romanians in the area there?

  31. The first tank was created by the British forces. And the first great tank first fought in the battle of Cambrai. In WW1. It was The Mk V tank labelled "Black Bess"

  32. Try wearing something other than that one sweaty costume. You’re surely not that desperate to be recognised?

  33. Funny how the Soviets are all for peace, and simultaneously killing off russian cadets that surrender. Bit of a hint of things to come, I'd say.

  34. I get it I’m a few years late, but can you say Ally synergy! No surprise it’s a mainstay of modern doctrine tenets.

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