Diary November 20, 1917

Britsih tanks advance during the Battle of Cambrai

Britsih tanks advance during the beginning of the Battle of Cambrai. On the left is an overrun German field gun.

World War One Diary for Tuesday, November 20, 1917:

Western Front

Cambrai – BATTLE OF CAMBRAI (until December 3). FIRST MASSED TANK ATTACK: Reinforced British Third Army (Byng) with 19 divisions and entire Tank Corps led by Brigade-General Elles in tank ‘Hilda’ launch surprise attack without prelim shelling on Hindenburg Line. 389 tanks (179 lost, 65 by to gunfire) debouch from assembly points at 0620 hours, flatten German wire, rout front line infantry and open breach nearly 6 miles wide and up to 4,000 yards deep. They capture 4,200 PoWs; 123 guns and 281 MGs for 4,000 casualties.
Tank Battle Drill with 4 of 5 infantry assault divisors works as trained, but 51st Highland Div halt before key central Flesquieres sector (39 tanks lost, Unteroffizier Krueger’s gun knocks out 7 of them) and cavalry fail to get up in time. German 107th Infantry Division (from Eastern Front) is detraining at Cambrai when British attack. Germans blow up St Quentin Canal crossings.
Lorraine: US 1st Division relieved from first trench stint (83 casualties total).
Germany: Kuhl memo to Ludendorff on an offensive in Flanders.

Air War

Cambrai: Royal Flying Corps concentrates 289 aircraft in 15 squadrons to support Third Army and first mass tank thrust against only 78 German planes. 4 Squadrons (13 aircraft lost or wrecked, 13 damaged by ground fire) fly ground attack 45 minutes after assault and 20 Sopwith Camels (4 lost) and Pups attack 4 of 6 targeted airfields. Air observers fail to report German batteries at Flesquieres, one pilot in error reports village captured before 1100 hours.

Eastern Front

Russia: Bolsheviks declare Ukrainian People’s Republic.

Southern Fronts

Piave: Austrians take Mt Fontanasecca at start of week­long fighting.
Italy: The last two French divisions (23rd and 24th) arrive (until November 22). Foch leaves for Paris on November 23.

Middle East

Palestine: 75th Division storms 3 ridges aided by mist, gets 5 miles north of Jerusalem on November 21, but Yeomanry Division expelled from Zeitun Ridge.

Africa

East Africa: Giffard’s 1/2nd KAR takes 127 PoWs at another camp. 900 Portuguese arrive at Ngomano. Lettow dismantles Newala radio station and begins march south to river Rovuma.

Call of War
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