The Battle of Cambrai 1917 is often cited as demonstrating the way future wars would be fought, particularly in the use of large numbers of tanks. Yet for the British Expeditionary Force it was part of an evolutionary process, highlighting both the successes and failings of its operational level of warfare.
Following the close of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, Cambrai was fought, at least initially, in a very different way. The root of the success of the first day was surprise. This could only be achieved by maintaining secrecy before the attack, and by removing the need to destroy the enemy defences before the battle. Neutralising the enemy immediately before engagement would prevent his recovery before being overrun.
The battle opened with the latest tactical means and weapons, not least massed tanks, but the reason behind the surprise and success was good planning.
The initial results were stunning, but the Germans responded and counter-attacked. By the end of the battle the front line stabilised and stalemate resumed. Many factors were involved in the battle’s overall strategic failure.
This tour studies the battle in detail, covering the initial successes and subsequent reverses, which ended with a British Army inquiry. We will visit, amongst others,
The villages behind the front line of 20th November, to appreciate the build-up of British Forces, and the secrecy that surrounded the offensive.
Havrincourt, a village which fell in the initial assault of the battle, on 20th November, to illustrate the very successful implementation of the battle plan on that first day.
Flesquieres, deeper into the battlefield than Havrincourt. This village fell on the 21st November to the 51st (Highland Division). Here we will discuss the tactic of tank and infantry co-operation, and the variability in its implementation.
Bourlon Wood, which became the scene of the farthest advance of the British before the German counter-attack. The difficulties in maintaining the advance will be appreciated at this spot.
The southern end of the battlefield to understand the success of the German counter-offensive, and the net effect on the front line.
The Louverval Memorial to the missing from the Battle of Cambrai.
Finally we will consider the eventual fall of Cambrai in 1918 as the Allied forces pushed the Germans back in the final advance to victory.
Our Cambrai battlefield tours will inform you about the evolution of the British Army through the war. Let Battleground Tours take you to the scene of this action to understand how it was fought and the men who fought it. Click here to book your tour to Cambrai today.