During November 1917 preparations for the Battle of Cambrai were well underway. Each battalion of the Tank Corps recorded day to day events in War Diaries.
This series of posts reproduce a selection of entries from this month, giving us an idea of how tank crewmen prepared for their greatest challenge yet. Read the Tank Corps War Diaries for the 1 – 6 November 1917 here.
November 7th – 12th
This week the battalions of the Tank Corps are increasing the intensity of their training as they prepare for battle, with fascines and infantry co-operation mentioned often. Towards the end of the week some battalions embark on trains, beginning their journey to the front.
A Battalion: Practices of Co-operation of tanks with infantry. Preparation of tanks for action. No 1 & 2 Companies move tanks to railhead.
B Battalion: Routine. No 5 Company – three new female tanks brought from Central Workshops. No 4672, 4671, 4589.
C Battalion: Tankodrome and camp construction continue. Major Johnson DSO visits Tankodrome for demonstration in correct manner of fastening fascines. On the night 7/8th 2 supply tanks and 4 wire-pullers arrived. Supply tank crews and Officers of other Battalions being rationed by C Battalion. Weather – wet.
D Battalion: Strength of Battalion: officers 88; ORs 807. On 8th, 18 ORs joined Battalion from reinforcements depot and were posted to Companies.
E Battalion: Demonstration in fascine fixing.
F Battalion: Training in attack and wire pulling was practised with the 12th Division by each company in turn. Men not so employed continued work on tanks & practised employment of a new type of fascine which has been issued to aid tanks in crossing extra wide trenches.
G Battalion: Another practice with 186 Infantry Brigade.
H Battalion: Battalion trained with 71st Infantry Brigade of 6th Division over wire and trenches at I.14.c and I.20.a. (Sheet 51c)
I Battalion: Training under company arrangements.
B Battalion: Routine. No 5 Company – camouflage demonstration. Demonstration with infantry (at X.3.b.4.6, Fischeux map).
G Battalion: Practice with 185 Brigade. Assistant Adjutant visited site of new camp near ALBERT.
H Battalion: Battalion trained with 16th Infantry Brigade of 6th Division over wire and trenches at I.20.a (Sheet 51c).
I Battalion: 26 Company co-operated with 12th Kings in practising new Battle Formation.
C Battalion: Section Commanders and Reconnaissance Officers commence visiting the line. Representatives of C and I Battalions proceed to select position for railhead in forward area. Taped trenches in training area commenced to be marked out. Weather – heavy showers. 36 fascines arrive.
E Battalion: Demonstration and practice of attack with 152nd Infantry Brigade.
G Battalion: Further practice with 185 Brigade. CO went to 62 Division conference. Maj A N O’KELLY reported for duty and assumed command of 20 Company.
I Battalion: 25 Company co-operated with 12th Kings in practising new Battle Formation.
B Battalion: Routine. Movement orders issued by Officers Commanding Companies. Advance parties from No 4 and 6 Companies proceed to Le Plateau.
C Battalion: All tanks engaged in drawing fascines from Plateau. 3rd Brigade Preliminary Instructions No 1 received. Commanding Officer visits 35 and 37 Infantry Brigades. All available transport engaged in drawing ammunition. Weather wet.
H Battalion: Tanks marched from Blavincourt to Montenescourt
I Battalion: 26 Company co-operated with 7th D.C.L.I. in practising new Battle Formation. Reconnaissance Officers engaged in preparing routes and S.P.s etc., in Gouzeaucourt from 10th to 15th.
B Battalion: No 4 Company’s tanks and personnel move from Boisleux Siding to Plateau. Tanks parked in wood near Plateau station. Officers in camp at Grovetown Camp, ORs in Camp No 166. No 5 Company:- tanks and Company entrained at 1.30 pm at Boisleux au Mont for Le Plateau, arriving 7.30 pm. Tankodrome in Billon Wood. Move completed by 2 am, 12th inst. No 6 Company: Company entrained at Wailly Stone Siding at 1.30 pm, arrived 6.30 pm. 1 officer and 8 ORs left at Wailly.
E Battalion: The CO and Equipment Officer proceeded to Plateau Camp. Capt C B Gull admitted to 43 Casualty Clearing Station. All officers and 1st drivers attended a lecture at 152nd Brigade HQ at Dainville.
F Battalion: Preliminary instructions were received of an intended attack to take place shortly in which this Battalion will operate with the 12th Division; & will probably move to the forward area on the 14th inst. Preparations being made accordingly.
G Battalion: Companies practiced fascine dropping & fixing as much as possible, but time is very short.
A Battalion: Nos 1, 2 & 3 Companies detrain at Bray.
C Battalion: Commanding Officer, Adjutant and Lt Col Truerman DSO (attd) visit line. Transport lines and lying up places visited. Tanks being completed for action all day. Weather – fog up till about mid-day, then cleared up till about 2.45 pm, when thick fog started again. No frost at night.
F Battalion: Preparations continued for move to forward area, and reconnaissances of ground over which the Battalion will operate carried out, and lying up places selected.
H Battalion: Demonstrations and fixing of fascines on Tanks.
Read the War Diaries for 13 – 16 November, as tanks start to move to forming up points.
For more information on the Battle of Cambrai, watch The Tank Museum YouTube documentary, Cambrai: The Tank Corps Story.
For more on the First World War tank crews, have a look at our products below.