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Battle of Cambrai - 1917

When:
November 20 – December 8, 1917

Where:
Cambrai, France – Western Front

Who:
Allied Powers – British Empire
Central Powers – German Empire

Summary:
The Allied army had launched the tanks initially at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
Tanks had also been used subsequently at the battle of the Somme and at the Third Battle of Ypres. Despite the initial surprise that they caused, the tanks failed to provide the Allied troops any significant advantage. The unnavigable terrain and the mechanical failures of the initial designs made the Allies skeptical of the effectiveness of tanks. The Central troops did not invest much in developing tanks at this stage. Lieutenant-Colonel John Fuller of the Tank Corps, however, did manage to persuade Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig to use tanks at Cambrai in France.

The offensive was launched on November 20, 1917, with 476 tanks and over a thousand guns. Six divisions of the British infantry attacked the German Second Army, led by General Georg Von Marwitz. They were supported by two divisions of the British cavalry. The German troops in the Flesquieres were taken by surprise and were forced to retreat over three miles to Cambrai. The British forces, however, could not effectively follow up on their initial success.

General Marwitz organized counterattacks and slowly recovered almost all the territory lost to the Allies. Over twenty divisions of the German army labored for a week to repel the British forces. By the end of the battle, on December 8, 1917, the offensive turned into a stalemate with no decisive victory.

Outcome:
While neither side could claim a victory in the Battle of Cambrai, the offensive established the efficacy of the tanks beyond doubt. German troops lost about 50,000 soldiers in the battle while the BEF recorded a loss of 45,000 soldiers. The battle provided a boost to the development of tanks in Britain.



  Major Battles of World War I  
Battle of Mons - 1914Battle of Fler- Courcelette - 1916
Battle of Tannenberg – 1914Battles of Gaza - 1917
Battle of Heligoland Bight - 1914Second Battle of Aisne - 1917
First Battle of Marne – 1914Second Battle of Arras - 1917
First Battle of the Masurian Lakes – 1914Battle of Messines – 1917
First Battle of Aisne – 1914Battle of Passchendaele - 1917
First Battle of Albert - 1914Battle of Caporetto - 1917
First Battle of Arras – 1914Battle of Cambrai - 1917
First Battle of Ypres – 1914German Spring Offensive - 1918
Gallipoli Campaign – 1915Hundred Days Offensive - 1918
Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes – 1915Battle of Le Hamel - 1918
Battles of Isonzo – 1915Second Battle of Somme - 1918
Loos-Artois Offensive - 1915Second Battle of Marne - 1918
Battle of Verdun - 1916Battle of St Mihiel - 1918
Battle of Jutland - 1916Battle of Cambrai - 1917
First Battle of Somme - 1916Battle of Vittori Veneto - 1918