Here is an assortment of recent news stories pertaining to WWI tanks. Click on the title to view the full article.
Start digging up history and you never quite know what you might unearth. Not infrequently wartime aircraft have been discovered, often with the remains of airmen still strapped inside. But only one First World War tank has been exhumed from the battlefields of northern France. With the Battle of the Somme at a stalemate, more than 340 tanks were positioned against the German forces at Cambrai in November 1917. It was an attempt to smash through enemy lines. Some 35 tanks were in D Company under the command of a Sydneysider, of which 10 were “knocked out” including one in which five of the eight crew died.
One hundred years ago this week tanks made their first appearance on the battlefield and the face of modern warfare was changed for ever. They were large and unwieldy machines only capable of travelling at two miles per hour but as trench-crossing and barbed-wire crushing leviathans they were hailed as wonder weapons. Confirmation of the weapon’s abilities was provided by British commander-in-chief Sir Douglas Haig who immediately ordered 1000 further tanks putting the British armaments industry into overdrive with 90% of their armour plating being supplied by Scottish firms.
Organised amid the utmost secrecy the assault on the French village of Flesquières should have been a key element in the first mass tank attack in history. But the plan went awry when the attack was ambushed by the Germans, who managed to delay the British advance. For years historians struggled to explain why the enemy had obtained enough detail of the operation to rush reinforcements to Flesquières ahead of the planned assault Only now – nearly 100 years on – can it be revealed that the German high command was given notice of the attack by a group of captured British soldiers.
A team of British and Australian war veterans will lead an archaeological expedition in France next year in what will be the first major dig of the Battle of Bullecourt in almost 100 years. The move aims to solve the mystery of the fate of a dozen British tanks that were deployed to support the 1917 assault of the German line by the Australian 4th Division but disappeared – leading to the slaughter of the Diggers in one of the biggest defeats of the Great War. News Corp Australia has learned the French government has granted the British Ministry of Defence an extraordinary permit to conduct an exploratory survey next month of the ill-fated battlefield in northern France. Further access will be sought for a full dig to take place in early 2017, coinciding with the centenary of the battle.