The Cambrai Campaign 1917

The Cambrai Campaign 1917

Auld-Yin

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Auld-Yin submitted a new resource:

The Cambrai Campaign 1917 - The first use of tanks.

In 1917 whilst much of the fighting on the western front was yet more drudgery and slaughter, for a brief time it seemed that the British Army had found the recipe to end the stalemate in an all arms assault on Cambrai. Although it was soon engulfed by the usual problems dooming it to eventual failure, there was much to commend in this battle. Actually achieving surprise, the extremely effective use of artillery bombardment, a rapid advance, a glimpse of a breakthrough, and the vindication...
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Good review; although engaging, the book is excessively constrained by its short length, and ends up being rather disappointing as a result.

Re: point about 2nd Lt [Herbert Milligan] is further reinforced when a moment's Googling gives you (for clarity, not you, A-Y; my comment's about the author apparently not finding it) a bit more about the man (all below credited to Worcester College, Oxford):



Herbert Milligan was born in 1884 and matriculated in 1903. While at Worcester College he was a member of the Rugby Football XV from 1904 to 1906. He graduated BA in 1907 and subsequently worked for the civil service in Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. On the outbreak of war he joined the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps and sailed for Egypt where he was involved in fighting on the Suez Canal. In July 1915, Herbert Milligan was given a commission in the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and he was wounded with them at Gallipoli. Following recovery in England he fought at the Battle of the Somme and was again wounded. Lieutenant Herbert Milligan was killed in action at Noyelles, near Cambrai, on 21 November 1917.
 
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Themanwho

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Top Google-fu there, @Archimedes ! Sadly the whole book is like that - countless opportunities to engage the reader missed. A bit of a dud, and definitely not worth £25 IMHO.
 
Nice review and if the book is so brief and missed opportunities, Cambrai was "one of the most thrilling episodes of the whole war".

For those that don't know, and plenty on here will know, the Battle of Cambrai, November 1917 was an epoch in all arms battles, the first time tanks were used in significant force in modern industrial Battle-groups. Cambrai is considered the first real combined arms attack, mixing artillery, infantry, tanks and cavalry to attack the town of Cambrai, a “landmark for armies fighting in the new era of industrial warfare”. The ORBAT is considered a marked advancement from the beginning of the war, and trench stalemate had reigned for years.

Captain Stair Gillon in The Story of the 29th Division wrote: "The Battle of Cambrai ranks as one of the most thrilling episodes of the whole war. Tanks at last came into their kingdom. The notion that the Hindenburg Line was impregnable was exploded". Both sides lost around 45,000; Third Army recorded losses of dead, wounded and missing of over 44,200 between 20th Nov and 8th Dec. This included 6,000 taken prisoner in the enemy counter-attack at the end of November, and German stormtroops recaptured much of the ground. Enemy casualties are estimated by the British Official History at approximately 45,000 (firstworldwar.com, 2014, agreed by Baker, Hogg and Holmes).

Charles Carrington, in his 1965 memoir "Soldier from the Wars Returning" recounted contemporary criticism of Haig's "speculative gamble": "haphazard, not thought through”; "it was a harum-scarum affair, ill-planned and feebly directed, yet in military history it stands as the most significant battle of the First World War".

Arthur Conan Doyle's account of Cambrai emphasised the role massed tanks played during the battle. Doyle noted that initial progress was rapid but slowed in the face of determined German resistance. He wrote the book "The British Campaign in France and Flanders"; Cambrai appears in his fourth volume, 1917, beginning with Byng's "great advance". You'd probably get it for free unless you prefer a nice printed Amazon copy.

Besides the likes of Conan Doyle, Alexander Turner's "Cambrai 1917": the "birth of armoured warfare" might be a good introduction for some. Or even better, "Battle Story: Cambrai 1917" by Chris McNab (The History Press); there's also a good write up at firstworldwar.com, with primary documents. All good stuff, and Chris Baker over at The Long, Long Trail is usually reliable for maps, photos, tactics and OOB.
 

Auld-Yin

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Good review; although engaging, the book is excessively constrained by its short length, and ends up being rather disappointing as a result.

Re: point about 2nd Lt [Herbert Milligan] is further reinforced when a moment's Googling gives you (for clarity, not you, A-Y; my comment's about the author apparently not finding it) a bit more about the man (all below credited to Worcester College, Oxford):



Herbert Milligan was born in 1884 and matriculated in 1903. While at Worcester College he was a member of the Rugby Football XV from 1904 to 1906. He graduated BA in 1907 and subsequently worked for the civil service in Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. On the outbreak of war he joined the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps and sailed for Egypt where he was involved in fighting on the Suez Canal. In July 1915, Herbert Milligan was given a commission in the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and he was wounded with them at Gallipoli. Following recovery in England he fought at the Battle of the Somme and was again wounded. Lieutenant Herbert Milligan was killed in action at Noyelles, near Cambrai, on 21 November 1917.
Just for clarity, the review was by @Themanwho . I just put it up for him and the system is such that it shows me as the author even after I have reassigned it.

Good review by TMH but let down by the book by the looks of it.
 
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