Page 293 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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"CAMBRAI, 191'·'
1st and 2nd/5th Battalions
The Attack
1st Battalion
The Landing at Gallipoli on 25th April, 1915, was a classic
example of one kind of warfare . The Battle of Cambrai, which
opened on 20th November, 1917, was the prototype of another.
Unlike as these two operations were in most respects, they had in
common one feature which may perhaps be called the naval form of
support-applied in the one case by the Royal Navy through its
command of the sea approaches to the objective and through the
guns of its moving ships, and in the other by a new branch of the
Army using, for the first time on a large scale (and as a final test of
the value of the tanks), naval tactics to secure command of the land
and to give covering fire to the attackers from its moving tanks.
The 1st Battalion took part in both these historic events.
After its attack near Langemarck on 9th October, the battalion
went to a camp not far from Proven and was employed on road–
making till the 16th, when it moved by train to Blaireville, near Arras.
Here it spent a month in refitting and in careful and thorough train–
ing. Though no hint was given of the scene of the fighting which was
being practised, it so happened that the country near Blaireville was
so like that near Cambrai that very realistic rehearsals could be held.
Towards the end of the month the unit began one of the most strenu–
ous and physically trying experiences which fell to its lot throughout
the war.
went by train from Boisleux-au-Mont at IO.28 p.m. on
17th November and arrived at Peronne at 5 a .m. on the following
morning. It marched thence to a camp at Haut-Allaines and at 5 p .m.
the same day on to Equancourt. These days were foggy, which made
approach marches by day possible and materially helped to preserve
the secrecy necessary for success. The day of 19th November was
devoted to resting in preparation for the final march to the battle-
The essence of the plan for 20th November was surprise, which
was to be attained by dispensing with the lengthy preliminary
bombardment usually arranged and by sending some 380 tanks, the
largest number yet used, immediately in front of the infantry to
perform the functions of wire-cutting and the suppression of hostile
machine guns which had hitherto been carried out by artillery.
was intended by this means to make a breach in the Hindenburg
Line through which cavalry could be passed in order to cut off most
of the German troops before Cambrai. The 29th Division was to be
reserve during the first phase, in which other divisions on the
III Corps front were to capture the Hindenburg Line and its support
line which lay about a mile north-east of it. The 29th were then to