Talk:Battle of Cambrai (1917)

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I am sure that the Canadians were there as well, perhaps someone with more wikiskill should add that into the nations present section of the box thing on the right side Xtopher 09:20, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

CAMBRAI, 1917 is a battle honour awarded to Canadian units, along with CAMBRAI, 1918 which was awarded to Canadian units which participated in the 2nd battle during the Hundred Days Offensive. Mike McGregor (Can) 04:20, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

rename or disambiguate?[edit]

After posting the above response, It got me thinking that this page should perhaps be renamed to something like the "First Battle of Cambrai", "Battle of Cambrai (1917)" or have a disambiguation page created listing both (all?) the battles of Cambrai. Thought? Mike McGregor (Can) 04:20, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Jasta 1?[edit]

The article has it "the squadrons under von Richthofen". Are we talking about Jasta 1, or a larger agglomeration commanded by von Richthofen for the duration (a kind of kampfgruppe)? Trekphiler 20:18, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

The RAF OH IV, p. 245 has the Richthofen Circus (Jagdstaffeln 4, 6, 10 and 11) brought down from Flanders by 23rd Nov17.Keith-264 (talk) 16:43, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Casualty rate[edit]

I added that, relying on Dyer, War. Trekphiler 22:49, 10 October 2006 (UTC) This page is hard to understand

Thanks for it Miguel

Artillery Plan[edit]

This article needs to make some reference to the artillery plan, as well the tank, infantry and air power. Will see what I can do when I get some free time 16:45, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

It still needs help. "It opened with a carefully prepared and predicted but unregistered fire barrage"? OK, after years of reading in military matters, I have a vague notion what's meant, but a tyro might have no clue. Clarify? And, "either trench cleaners or trench 'stop'."? Say what? More clarity is needed. Trekphiler 22:33, 9 June 2007 (UTC)


If you look at the George S. Patton article, in it says that American tanks were present at the battle, including Patton himself. Is this true and if so why is the U.S. not listed as one of the combatants in the battle box?--Aj4444 (talk) 20:19, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

The Patton article no longer contains the passage to which you refer. The U.S. Tank Corps was not created until late December 1917. It didn't have any tanks in France until June 1918, when it received some French Renault FT light tanks. The Corps's first action with the Renaults was on September 12th, 1918. The U.S. troops training in England received their first British heavy tanks in May 1918, transferred to France in August, and first saw action on September 27th. The oft-made claim that Patton was an "observer" at Cambrai cannot be substantiated, but his biographer, Martin Blumenson, states that he was not.

Hengistmate (talk) 12:36, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Actually, this is an ongoing discussion at the talk page for Patton and there are several sources which have him at the battle either as an observer or participant. Hengistmate has not established his points in the current content dispute there. The passage is there.
⋙–Berean–Hunter—► ((⊕)) 15:05, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Actually, I have taken the liberty of altering the start time of the battle from 8pm to 6.20 am, on the grounds that that is when the battle started. Would you like some references? Actually, there were some Americans at Cambrai: a detachment from a Railroad Engineering battalion. Actually, mostly railroad men from New York. Actually, those that were not captured in the German counter attack fled. So it really was an American victory after all.

Hengistmate (talk) 11:11, 29 January 2011 (UTC)

Well, we have established some points, in that the U.S. Tank Corps did not exist in November 1917 and that the A.E.F. did not possess and had not yet been loaned any tanks, so the editor has graciously agreed that, on balance, that claim should be removed. Patton had driven a French light tank - in fact, he was probably the only American who had driven any tank - at Champlieu, about 75 miles from Cambrai, which is where he was on the day the offensive was launched. Anecdotal evidence (including some accounts that also claim Patton led the non-existent U.S. Tank Corps to victory at Cambrai) says that Patton went there as an observer, but his principal biographer says that Patton makes no mention of such a visit in his papers. In view of the fact that he was in charge of establishing the U.S. Tank Training School, one could assume that he might have made mention of such a visit. But he didn't. I think that's probably a more realistic assessment of the situation. A passage is still there, but it's not the passage it was.

Hengistmate (talk) 03:23, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

West or east?[edit]

"...and a British withdrawal east of the St Quentin canal." Should this read 'west'?Keith-264 (talk) 10:22, 29 April 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps 'from the east'?Keith-264 (talk) 18:09, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I'd think the first suggestion is right. This page needs a revamp methinks. Dapi89 (talk) 18:37, 7 November 2010 (UTC)


I note that there is no source given for the assertion that the "....cavalry passed through, late..." and no indication of what "late" means.

In the tank museum there is/was a plaque commemorating Cambrai which is much less friendly towards the cavalry, suggesting that "late" meant more than two hours late and few of the cavalry units ordered to attack bothered to arrive.

The British cavalry earned a reputation at Cambai which was unspeakable (and their reputation before then was bad), and it would seem a pity to cover this battle without either putting the matter to rest or facing up to the issue. Or perhaps, simply admitting that there was a considerable feeling on the matter. Drg40 (talk) 18:34, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

Cavalry presence seems totally ignored in this article yet at least one British Cavalry regiment, the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, had "Cambrai 1917" among its battle honours. One notable action of theirs was to break through a narrow gap in the line, disrupt a German ammunition column and some cavalry, and return to their lines with some prisoners of war.Cloptonson (talk) 18:55, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
The article is unfinished so it's not surprising. Keith-264 (talk) 19:00, 7 August 2014 (UTC)


I made some amendments which follow the comments in the Official History (Ch XVII pp. 278-305) but I don't know how to interpolate the citations into the text. Generally the success of the tanks is acknowledged but the importance of the artillery-infantry improvements emphasised along with the difficulties brought about by the early quick success.Keith-264 (talk) 18:06, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

That it the crux of things as far as I can see. The massive logistics made available in 1918 was designed to keep the tempo of advance going so this would not happen again - there was a logistical learning curve is never really talked about. Mechanization of logistics and some 2,000 heavy locos fed the armies going forward. More importantly, they brought up artillery far quicker to allow for continued operations. Once the enemy op forces were deployed to contain a breakthrough, the infantry was dug in with the protection of the artillery and the rail networks removed entire Corps' level forces to another flank and began the process all over again. It kept the enemy operational reserves slightly off balance. Munching away at the flanks compelled an enemy Corps to stand or fight and risk destruction or withdraw. It was a fire-power and manoeuvre method which was developed from Cambrai and other battles. Dapi89 (talk) 18:46, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
The OH mentions that there were only two roads in to the Cambrai area and that reserve divisions couldn't get closer than 20 miles because of all the artillery and tanks at the front. It brought Goodwood to mind. I think it's worth pointing out as well that it was the first occasion when the German 'peace dividend' from the defunct Eastern front made itself felt in France. The OH also talks of a need for vehicles to carry troops and artillery across the battlefield at the same speed as the tanks. Far from being the debut of a new system, Cambrai was a stage in the evolution of the army of 1914 (on both sides).Keith-264 (talk) 20:46, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, more or less. Cambrai was the last lesson of the learning curve. No new system was developed from scratch at Cambrai thats for sure. One thing though, the speed of the tanks seems to have been too slow rather than too fast at times. Does the OH (a while since I read it) mention this at all. Dapi89 (talk) 14:56, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
It points out that the MkIVs weren't that good but also that where there were long declines the tanks could have gone on but for the infantry stopping. It also seemed to be foreshadowing the Whippet, MkV and V* tanks of 1918. Oddly enough when it mentioned the 'new Hutier' infantry tactics it didn't make a comparison with SS143 on outflanking resistance and leaving it to mopping up parties.Keith-264 (talk) 21:45, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Start time of battle.[edit]

Cambrai did not start at 8 pm. I changed it to the correct time of 6.20 am, but someone has changed it back. I should be interested to hear the grounds for that. Please provide them.

At 8 pm in Northern France in November, it would have been dark for over 2 hours. Cambrai was not a night attack. Night attacks were exceedingly rare. I feel sure that someone, somewhere might have mentioned the fact. The attack started around dawn.


Cambrai 1917 Bryn Hammond. 6.20 am Mr. Hammond's doctoral thesis was on the theory and practice of co-operation between British tanks and other arms on the Western Front. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, and a member of the British Commission for Military History and the Western Front and Gallipoli Associations. He is also Joint Convenor of the Imperial War Museum’s History Group.

The Devil's Chariots John Glanfield, 1999, p221. 6.10 am

A New Excalibur A.J. Smithers, 1986, p140. 6 am

Tanks 1914-1918 Sir Albert Gerald Stern, K.B.E., C.M.G. Signed (May 1920) First Edition of his memoirs. 6.10 am

Achtung Panzer Heinz Guderian, first published 1937. 6 am

The Fighting Tanks Since 1916 Jones, Rarey, Icks, 1933, p20. 6 am

I can find some more if you wish.

Hengistmate (talk) 11:58, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

The OH gives "It was still dark at 6.10 a.m. when the prevailing stillness was broken by the tanks.... Ten minutes later the broad array, followed by the eager infantry, crossed the British front line....", p. 50, ch IV OH1917III.Keith-264 (talk) 12:38, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

David Fletcher, curator of the R.A.C. Tank Museum, Bovington, England, says 6 am (Landships. British Tanks in the First World War, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1984). The few minutes difference might come about because the tanks started up as the barrage began (they would perhaps not have started before for reasons of concealment) and moved off once all were ready. In any event, it is clear that the claim of 8 pm can safely be dismissed. Thanks.

Hengistmate (talk) 23:25, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Imprecise References to Tank Deployments Before Cambrai.[edit]

"The battle is erroneously noted for being the first use of tanks in a combined arms operation. Small combined arms attacks had been used at the Battle of the Somme with mixed results."

By November 20th 1917 British tanks had beeen used in varying numbers on at least 12 separate actions, in France, Belgium and (twice) Palestine.

It is also important not to consider only British tanks. Before Cambrai, French tanks took part in 3 actions. The first, at Berry-au-Bac (April 1917), involved 132 Schneider tanks and some supporting Saint-Chamonds.

Hengistmate (talk) 13:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Contribution of U.S. Troops at Cambrai.[edit]

Mention has been made of units of the AEF being caught up in the fighting at Cambrai.

This description is from The United States Army in the World War 1917-1919, by the Organisation of the American Expeditionary Forces:

"The American troops involved played a minor and impromptu part in the battle. For three months before the operation, three American engineer regiments had been constructing railroads in the vicinity of Cambrai. On November 30, when the German counteroffensive began on the southern face of the Cambrai salient, the 11th Engineer Regiment came under fire in the villages of Fins and Gouzeaucourt. The American groups in Fins joined the British 20th Division and served with it to the end of the operation. The 12th Railway Engineer Regiment delivered ammunition to British artillery. The 14th Railway Engineer Regiment operated light railways in the area of the British VI Corps and delivered ammunition to front line units."

I think it important to point this out.

Hengistmate (talk) 13:33, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

The OH for 1917 vol III

In a footnote does mention a US railway construction unit that got caught up in the Cambrai battle on 30th November; p.187, fn3. "A detachment of the 11th Engineer (Railway) Regt, USA was employed on railway construction at Gouzeaucourt. Later in the day it was assembled at Fins, where it dug reserve trenches. Casualties amounted to one officer and 27 other ranks of whom some were captured."Keith-264 (talk) 15:11, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Thank you, sir. Hengistmate (talk) 16:13, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

German Counter-stroke[edit]

"The concentration of British effort to hold the ridge was impressive but allowed the German advance elsewhere greater opportunity. Only counter-attacks by the Guards Division, the arrival of British tanks and the fall of night allowed the line to be held."

When the Germans do this, it's described as schwerpunktbildung and judged to be a sign of competence. It strikes me that the German effort here resembles the British attack at Langemarck 16-18 August previous which isn't usually decribed as a success.Keith-264 (talk) 10:41, 13 May 2012 (UTC)


What reference is meant by "Sheffield & Bourne 2005"? It is missing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:01, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

Remedied.Keith-264 (talk) 16:59, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

U.S.A. As Belligerent At Cambrai.[edit]

As discussed previously (see above) we cannot seriously consider the USA a belligerent at Cambrai. The information about the first casualties etc is worth a footnote, but it would be a considerable stretch of the normal understanding of the word to use it in this context. Hengistmate (talk) 22:10, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Suits me.Keith-264 (talk) 00:17, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
Put the passage in a note and moved it to the narrative covering 30 Nov. OK?Keith-264 (talk) 00:27, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
i would suggest putting the USA in the belligerents but with a note mentioning that they only participated on 30 november, like in the Warsaw Uprising article. any thoughts? Capt Jim (talk) 21:36, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
Could do I suppose, we don't ignore Neil Armstrong because there was only one Yank taking a giant leap....;O) Keith-264 (talk) 21:45, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

And the nearest Limey was nearly 240,000 miles away. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:35, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

That's about the right distance to be away from an American. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:48, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

O)Keith-264 (talk) 16
41, 9 June 2014 (UTC)Keith-264 (talk) 20:41, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

The problem is the British Offensive ande the German Counter-attack, two seperate operations, are in the same article. The initial Offensive was an entirely British (and dominions) operation. So it seems strange given most of the article is about this first operation that the USA appears in the infobox (Fdsdh1 (talk) 20:50, 4 April 2016 (UTC))

There were some US troops involved and the German counter-stroke (not counter-attack) was obviously part of the same thing considering that it wouldn't have happened but for the British offensive. The article is far from complete, which is why it looks unbalanced.Keith-264 (talk) 21:28, 4 April 2016 (UTC)


Did a little tidying up before having a dash at completing the citations.Keith-264 (talk) 23:03, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Copy edited and cited everything but one item.Keith-264 (talk) 10:33, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
  • removed It is possible Haig was encouraging this account to cover for the failure of combined arms cooperation with the infantry, as he had ordered the assault with no infantry support.[citation needed] until I can find a source.Keith-264 (talk) 10:39, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

Inconsistent with other / linked Wikipedia content[edit]

The (linked) article on Georg von der Marwitz states, "In November 1917 he defended against the British in the Battle of Cambrai, which saw the first use of tanks en masse." This article contends, "The battle is often erroneously noted for being the first mass use of tanks in a combined arms operation. However, the French had deployed large numbers of tanks in April (130+), May (48) and October (92) 1917 and the British more than 200 in Flanders in June and July." These statements appear to disagree, which is undesirable per guidelines. However, this article also indicates "476 tanks" (378 combat tanks). So if these raw counts reflect a methodology that is comparable between these discrete engagements, then perhaps a linguistically "intermediate" position would be preferable - that is, that "first" and "erroneously" can be reconciled by something like, "In November 1917 he defended against the British in the Battle of Cambrai, which saw the most extensive use of tanks to date, with more than twice the previous number, as well as new combined arms tactics." and "The battle is often noted for being the first mass use of tanks in a combined arms operation. Although the French had deployed large numbers of tanks in April (130+), May (48) and October (92) 1917 and the British more than 200 in Flanders in June and July, tank numbers on the opening day of the battle were the largest to date, with a total 476 tanks, of which 324 to 378 (cite the different sources for these discrepant numbers) were combat tanks." In fact, though, the real issue may not be the number. What I remember as received dogma was NOT that this was the first use of massed tanks, but the contention that it was "the first large-scale, effective combined arms operation use of tanks in warfare". Although the key word is "effective", it goes along with the other elements, combined arms operations and artillery non-registration in particular. This article, apparently based on Hammond, very strongly words itself by declaring that the tanks were NOT effective, and YET quotes Crown Prince Rupprecht: "Wherever the ground offers suitable going for tanks, surprise attacks like this may be expected. That being the case, there can be no more mention, therefore, of quiet fronts." There is an additional internal inconsistency of message / tone, in comparing: "Despite the initial success of the Mark IV tanks at Cambrai, German artillery and infantry defences exposed the frailties of their armour and the vehicles became mostly ineffective after the first day." with "The effectiveness of the tank in combat was limited in the extreme." FeatherPluma (talk) 04:40, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

What do the sources say and which are the most notable? The 378 and 476 are in the OH and the success was mainly on the first day, which is to say that tanks had a similar effect to the mines at Messines or the gas at Ypres. The OH is accurate on detail and context; Hammond is the most recent source (quite good too, it's a PhD) and some of the divisional histories (51st) are full of information. Shldon gives an overdue look at the German side. The page has the usual Wiki failing of mild obsolescence, particularly evident in British Great War writing, most of which is derivative hack-work. I've tinkered with it but am busy with other things. I'm glad you've taken an interest, mad commas and all. ;O)Keith-264 (talk) 03:05, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
That's why it's start class.Keith-264 (talk) 03:08, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

378 is better established, and unless reasonable RS also support the variant it stays as 378, and only 378. The relevance of my comment isn't the minutia of the number - it's the substantial increase in number (as well as change in tactics) from prior engagements which I do not sense as receiving due weight in this article. I think the article seems to take the position that Cambrai wasn't much of anything. I think sources probably support Cambrai as the battlefield implementation of dimensional changes in British deployment capabilities and tactics, as well as dimensional changes in German response, including Western Front stormtrooper use. What stirs me up is the article's strong contention that the effectiveness of the tanks was limited in the extreme (image label), and inconsistencies between this and other sister linked articles, and this article within itself. I have a sense that the very earnest contention that Hart and Fuller disproportionately shaped cultural consciousness is a bit overstated, even though I will need to read Hammond when I get a chance. But sometimes PhD work can display an interesting tendency to set up a false dichotomy that then gets elegantly shot down. In fact, use of that (one) source seems to have this article tilt in the opposite direction, with the OH as a conceptual median. For example, Brian Bond (Emeritus Prof of Mil History, King's College, London) in the Forward to Sheldon (2009) ISBN 978-1-84415-944-4 does NOT agree that the tanks were limited in the extreme. Quote: "the Battle of Cambrai, justly famous (emphasis added) for the first employment of tanks on a large scale... ...the shock effect of the mass tank effect with (emphasis added) the novel use of predicted artillery fire had a lasting consequence" ... with a "resulting diversion of scare resources." Nonetheless, I do see that "limited" might be a tactical assessment, and "lasting consequence" a strategic assessment... but that's what needs to be worked out to being coherent in WP. Parenthetically, my edit comments about the commas and my taking umbrage to the mass attack of tanks being dismissively trivialized to some kind of "bonus" were construed as "dramatic" and "snorting", and possibly an attack on somebody, rather than conveying my surprise that Cambrai 1917 (of all things) is a Start class article. I was not criticizing the work of the article's editors in my edit comments, merely expressing bemusement. Seriously I'm not overly interested in the topic, but some dispassionate reading of sources may entertain me for a while. FeatherPluma (talk) 04:20, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

The recent writing stresses the general increase in British offensive capacity for combined-arms warfare rather than using tanks as a deus ex machina and also notes that it came just after 3rd Ypres, which used to be written off as a calvary for the British. Second Battle of Artois see here for a similar discussion of infantry tactics being generic and the theory being formed as fast as the trenches, rather than by uberGerman warriors biffing the moujiks. Krause, J. (2013). Early Trench Tactics in the French Army : the Second Battle of Artois, May–June 1915. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 1-40945-500-9. [1] Sound off by all means but note that the energy isn't going into the article where it belongs. What are your interests by the way?Keith-264 (talk) 08:29, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Your immediately preceding is correct on both fronts - I emphasize your first and penultimate sentences. I am gathering up sources and have commenced reading. I am 1/4 into Hammond. My sense is that the article has inflated his message. I will develop a confident sense of his position and of the general literature and then embark on modifying the article. I have electronic access to substantial resources and will also pick up my university library requests next week. The background review may take a week or three. The imp shyly confesses to an eclectic array of (pseudo)intellectual interests. Participatory sports are another matter but that's not Wikipedia. Thanks, and nice to meet you. FeatherPluma (talk) 14:50, 26 February 2014 (UTC) and Tactical development on the Western Front in 1917 night pique your interest between football and darts. ;O)Keith-264 (talk) 17:05, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

A work in evolution. Several modest edits to reach a more NPOV synthesis that reflects 1 NPOV rather than undue weight on one source and 2 slightly imprv organization and sl broader analysis. Aim to return to further update at a later date. Several issues - add Canada?, add air power (both sides) (have citations)?, possibly expand Liddel Hart/ Fuller issue, or drop - add additional German reactions incl Hindenburg etc etc FeatherPluma (talk) 21:31, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

I think you'd be better off rewriting the article.Keith-264 (talk) 21:42, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

My muse commanded a little dash of undramatic incrementalism. She seems to prefer shorter stochastic walks over to the cyberbothy to plunk down at the escritoire.FeatherPluma (talk) 23:32, 3 October 2014 (UTC)


Crown Prince Rupprecht, the Kaiser and Marwitz (front three, left to right) on the way to visit troops near Cambrai in December 1917
Put pic here for the moment as I've found that the MOS deprecates sandwiched text.Keith-264 (talk) 08:12, 8 July 2014 (UTC)


I revised the article on the Battle of Cambrai to show quotations because it's not obvious that it's a quote.

Keith-264 undid this saying block quotes don't require quote marks. Wiki has an article on block quotations which show how a block quote is set apart from the article - they give an example of a quote in a shaded box. They give an accompanying explanation, viz "In typesetting, block quotations can be distinguished from the surrounding text by variation in typeface (often italic vs. roman), type size, or by indentation. Often combinations of these methods are used, but are not necessary. Block quotations are also visually distinguished from preceding and following main text blocks by a white line or half-line space.[3]" (Ibid.)

What do other people think? In 'edit mode' of course it says 'block quotes' but the average reader won't see this. Montalban (talk) 12:24, 8 July 2014 (UTC)