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TANKS AND ANTITANK DEFENSE DURING THE WORLD WAR.
The area about Fontaine was so clouded with smoke that observation became difficult. South of Fontaine the British attack was stopped. Between Fontaine and the Bourlon Woods, tanks broke through the front of the 9th Grenadiers of the German 3d Guard Division, and this time infantry of the British Guard Division followed. Tanks and elements of the British Guards turned to the left and attacked the Grenadiers from the rear. The Grenadiers broke, and it was due only to the heavy smoke that a large number of them were able to escape capture.
Other British Guards, supported by tanks, turned to the south and entered Fontaine. The guns set up for antitank defense in the village were soon put out of action. One tank blocked a company in its shelter, and the entire company was taken prisoner.
The German reserve battalions were able to establish a defensive front along the railroad embankment which was attacked weakly only.
In front of Bourlon the German position was penetrated by tanks and the defenders fled to the rear. The tanks were fired on at close range by the antitank guns, and many of them were destroyed. The barricades in the streets of Bourlon restricted the maneuvering of the tanks that entered the village, and two of them were destroyed there with overcharged grenades. In the open, however, such attempts to destroy the tank's failed in spite of the fact that the prospect of capturing tobacco and food was a powerful incentive to the Germans. Since the infantry on this front did not follow the tanks, the tanks soon had to turn back, and so the attack miscarried here.
Five fresh German battalions joined a counterattack at Fontaine which restored the original position. The British had neglected to reform their tanks after the attack to resist the counterattacks which they must have expected. Experience had not yet taught them to do this.
The defenders learned during this battle that both active and passive means of antitank defense must be used, and that guns emplaced for antitank defense must be located immediately in rear of the infantry lines. As on previous occasions, a number of platoons had been held in readiness in rear with teams hitched for antitank defense. These guns invariably arrived too late.
On 30 November a German counteroffensive was begun which, in a short time, regained all the ground that had been lost in the battle of Cambrai, and actually gained some new ground toward the south. The German soldier succeeded without tanks in doing what the British had done with tanks. The exhausted British tanks corps was not used against the German counteroffensive.
The British concluded from the battle at Cambrai that infantry could not advance without accompanying tanks even though leading tanks had broken through the enemy's main position. They also concluded that two types of combat tanks were necessary: a heavy tank, long enough to cross wide trenches, to make the penetration; and a medium fast tank, with a radius of action of over 65 miles, to exploit the success. Besides these various types of tanks, the British also wanted armored cars constructed to be used in cooperation with the cavalry in the open ground beyond the trench systems.
The Germans believed, after this battle, that tanks employed in mass could give decisive results, and immediately gave first priority to the construction of their own tanks. By the end of October 1917, the first German A7V tank was completed.
Source: TANKS AND ANTITANK DEFENSE DURING THE WORLD WAR. ["Kampfwagen und Abwehr wahrend des Weltkrieges." Sanct Christophorus, October 1936.] Abstracted by Lieutenant Colonel S.J. Heidner, Infantry. RML. June 1937.
Cheers. Raúl M
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