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The Battle of Cambrai, 1917

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  • Essay length: 818 words
  • Submitted: 06/08/2003
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GCSE Britain 1905-1951

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The Battle of Cambrai, 1917

On November 20, 1917, the British launched the first full-scale offensive that was designed exclusively to accommodate the British secret weapon, the tank (so-called because when the first shipment came from England they were described as water tanks to maintain secrecy). A surprise artillery barrage started the offensive and 476 tanks, packed tightly for a mass attack moved against the German lines. Supported by infantry the gains were dramatic, breaching the almost impregnable Hindenberg line to depths of 4-5 miles in some places. However, these gains seemed to surprise British High Command equally as much as the Germans, and the following cavalry failed to take advantage. Nevertheless, Cambrai demonstrated how a well-thought out attack, combining tanks en masse with surprise, could be used to break the trench deadlock.

The Battle of the Somme, 1916

At 0730 hours on the 1st July, 1916, after a week-long artillery bombardment; Haig launched the now infamous "Big Push" attack across the river Somme. With the French Army being hard-pressed to the south at Verdun the British intended to breakthrough the German defences in a matter of hours.

The mistrust that High Command had of

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