Battle of Cambrai 1917

What was happening in 1917?

The World War I was going on in 1917. The war started in 1914 when the Archduke of Austria was assassinated. This led to a war between Austria and Serbia. Then the rest of the European nations entered the war on either side, depending on who they were allied with.

Before soon, the whole Europe was involved in the war which was mostly fought on the eastern and western frontiers of the German Empire. USA initially remained neutral in the war but when Germany started attacking American ships, USA had no options but to go to war. America entered the war in April, 1917. The Battle of Cambrai was one of the battles in which the American troops took part alongside French and British troops.

When and where was the Battle of Cambrai fought?

The Battle of Cambrai was fought in Cambrai, France. It was fought from November 20, 1917 to December 7, 1917.

Before the Battle

In November 1917, the British forces decided to lead an attack of the allied troops on the western front of the war. On this front, the German defenses included barbed wire and trenches. British commanders thought that by using a combination of tanks, infantry, effective artillery fire and air support, they may be able to breach the German lines. This is what led to the Battle of Cambrai.

Commanders on both sides

The allied forces were led by General Julian Byng. Byng commanded an army which comprised of 2 army corps and nearly 476 tanks.

The German forces were led by General Georg Von Der Marwitz. He led 1 corps of men to defend the German line.

The Fighting

The British tactic of making heavy use of the tanks worked on the first day of the battle, November 20, 1917. The use of tanks allowed British forces to break through German defenses and push back the German line in the north. However, the Germans soon adopted to this attack and were able to halt British advance.

By November 30, the Germans had launched their own counter-attack which proved quite effective and pushed back the British from most of the territorial gains they had made in the past week. At the end of the battle, the British forces had advanced only a little in the north while the Germans had advanced as much in the south.

American Troops in the Battle

American army’s engineering corps were engaged in numerous constructions behind the allied lines. When the Germans counter-attacked on November 30, they reached the positions of the American engineer regiment. The troops of the regiment engaged the Germans in combat and stood their positions.

Result and Aftermath

The total casualties suffered by the Allied forces numbered at around 44,000. Nearly 9,000 British troops were taken prisoner while the British army also suffered the loss of around 180 tanks. The German casualties during the battle numbered at around 45,000. Nearly 11,000 Germans were taken prisoner by the British forces.

Learn More about the Battle of Cambrai 1917 at Wikipedia