The general outline of the Battle of Cambrai is well known. After using tanks in small numbers on the Somme, they were first used in large numbers on the first day of the Battle of Cambrai, a battle mounted expressly to allow the tanks to be tested in ideal conditions. On that first day the British achieved a massive breakthrough, but the attack then ran out of steam, before the Germans counterattacked, taking back much of the territory lost on the first day.
Cooper's account of this pivotal battle begins with a short section on the development of the tank and its early use in combat, before moving onto the planning for Cambrai. Most of the text is taken up with an account of the attack itself, especially the first and second days of the battle, before he concludes with a look at the German counterattack, the British response to it, and the aftermath of the battle.
Cooper's account of the battle makes it clear that the rapid German response had much to do the eventual failure of the British attack, as did failures of British command, and failures to take opportunities when they arose. In the defence of the British commanders, the same was then true of the German counterattack, which after making its own impressive start also ground to a halt, despite a high level of complacency of the British high command, which refused to believe that the Germans had the reserves to launch a successful attack.
This is a detailed but readable account of the first major tank battle, and as such a valuable contribution both to the literature of the First World War, and to the history of armoured warfare.
1 - The First Victory
2 - Birth of the Tank
3 - Baptism of Fire
4 - The Beginnings of the Tank Corps
5 - Plan of Battle
6 - Dawn Attack
7 - The Big Breakthrough
8 - Legend of Flesquieres Ridge
9 - The Advance Continues
10 - The Second Day
11 - Fight for Bourlon Ridge
12 - End of the Attack
13 - Counter-Stroke
14 - Return of the Tanks
15 - Aftermath
Author: Bryan Cooper
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010 edition of 1967 original