The Battle of Cambrai, 1917
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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.
For the meagre achievements, total losses on the British and Imperial side numbered 419,654 with German casualties between 450,000 and 680,000. When the offensive was eventually called off the British were still 3 miles short of Bapaume and Serre, part of their first-day objectives The Battle of Messines Ridge pitted the British against the German army. The British were being commanded by Herbert "Daddy" Plumer. The nickname of "Daddy" was apparently earned by the reddish coloring in his face. The man had a pot-bellied figure that probably helped a many young British soldier relate to their own fathers. Obviously in a time of great conflict, Plumber was no doubt a man great comfort. Beyond providing a paternal like comfort, it was Plumer's job to insure his men stayed alive. Messines Ridge was not making his job easy. Plumer began to investigate the possibilities of taking the ridge.
Plumer's men began digging tunnels towards the ridge. Using the expertise of the coal miners, Plumber's men were able to dig a series of 19 tunnels that led directly under the German army. The earth that was taken out was used to help build up the British held trenches. This came in handy during times of heavy shelling and periodic machine gun fire. Eventually, Plumer's men were able to load the 19 tunnels with an estimated one million pounds of TNT. This of course was more than enough to handle to the job at hand. When the blast came in 1917, no one, not even Plumer himself, knew what to expect. Whatever was on their minds, the results were beyond believe. The ridge, for the most part, had been blown apart. Those Germans that had not been killed were found mainly to be incoherent. The blast was heard over 300 miles away. To say the least, Plumer's objective had been met.
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