ROAD TO WAR -
|The Tank..... A New Invention
|A new invention had been designed and built in England
a “monster machine” that the Generals believed and considered
to be a winning combination when accompanied by the infantry following
behind it. Although believed and selected as “Top Secret”,
the enemy had already had great advancements in this type of new
weapon…the Germans had been selecting and designing this type
of massive armored weapon far in advance of the British, as a far
greater part of their own strategy in defeating their enemy.
These tanks (the British High Command used this term...”tanks”
to disguise from the enemy what they really were, as in used for
carrying water and not for warfare) arrived by train at Abbeville
station then transported by rail to Bray near the front line.
By mid September the next assault was ready, the new invention was
to take the lead in an attempted breakthrough and smash through
the barbed wire defenses and crush the opposing enemy by this monster
new invention, in a firm belief that this new machine would save
more infantrymen and break the German lines …”Without
||A lone British tank came up this road in the village
of Flers, 1916 – towards Delville Wood
(Image taken in 2013 Copyright www.edenbridgetown.com )
|On 15th September 1916, the next planned attack went
into operation, at 05.20 a.m. this lone monster, this new invention
called the “Tank” with accompanying infantry came up
the village road of Flers, to the utter amazement of the local villagers,
frightened by the horrendous noise and believing it was a German
bombardment…saw this massive iron machine clanking along in
their village at 4 mph. It would eventually make its presence felt
as it cleared some of the last pockets of German resistance at Delville
wood, or “Devil’s wood”.
For the tank crew it was extremely dangerous from the exhaust fumes
blowing back into the inside of the tank, also the noise of the
engine was unbearable and many suffered from deafness when they
fired the machine-guns and shells, the heat inside during summer
was like being in a furnace, this became intolerable for all the
tank crews, but all endured this despite the risks involved.
tanks going into battle at 4 mph!
|One hour later at 0.6.20 after the brief success at
Devils wood, forty nine tanks that were now employed in France for
the offensive, they all trudged slowly and went into battle, only
thirty two reached their start line, nine tanks failed to keep up
with the infantry as they rushed ahead, nine broke down and five
ended up ditched in large shell craters. The first nine to advance
broke through German defences around Flers, and the British infantry
finally captured the village.
This is one of the first line of
tanks to be deployed by the British in their first attack on the
German Front Lines, this one I was told was heading the initial
assault… Once the German artillery guns were targeted onto
the position of this tank…it’s minutes were numbered,
it was soon blown apart! Initially it reached 4 miles, by then
it was destroyed by enemy artillery fire (all the crew were killed)
and there after used as target practice by the Germans. It was
found near Flesquiers deep underground, and dug-up and then re-built
in 1998 by a team of British enthusiasts…seen here by me
and photographed in 1998!
(Copyright www.edenbridgetown.com) Ian R. Bridle
Massive as they were, the speed they covered was extremely slow,
but the effect on the German soldiers was incredibly frightening,
they felt powerless against these large iron monsters, scattering
and fleeing their strong points for fear of being crushed.
The attack succeeded as such, but gained only 4, 485 yards (4,100mts)
of the German lines. It became a final victory that now lay in
I have a photocopy of the original Army letter to the
4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and to 147th M.G. and 147th T.M. Battery of the
West Riding Regiment, which was sent while the Battle of the Somme was
still in progress, on 18th September 1916 it states…
|The G.O.C. wishes to congratulate the O.C. and
other ranks of the 7th West Riding Regiment and others participating
in the operation last night on the success of their work. In spite
of the difficulties of darkness etc, they were able to advance beyond
the objective ordered, which is the right spirit of offensive. He
urges all ranks to further efforts in common cause, notwithstanding
fatigue and discomfort…Please convey this to companies”......Sent
by the Staff Captain of the 147th Brigade (signature illegible).
|Although he commends the men, it still indicates just how the
High Command officials far from the battle didn’t realize
exactly or at all what the men were going through, but still urged
them to make stronger efforts, despite the horror, death, misery,
wet, cold, and mud, the soldiers were faced with every day.
Watching for the enemy advance (right)
|When the dreadful October rain’s fell, creating
a quagmire of mud feet deep for all the troops to slog through,
temporary paths to get from one trench line to another were made
using “Duckboards” thrown over the deep shell craters,
the heavily laden soldiers moving to front line positions had to
take these routes, many walking along these slipped on the mud thickened
boards and fell in and could not be rescued, they just sank to the
bottom with the heavy packs dragging them down, they would drown
in the depths of their own artillery’s water filled craters.
Hundreds would sink in the quagmire of death, never to be found.
It has been stated though slightly exaggerated, that more men were
killed by drowning, than by bullets during this offensive.
Thousands of soldiers suffered the terrible pain and agony of “trench-foot”,
they were for days up to their knees in water in the trenches. It
soaked through their boots and gradually ate their skin off their
Many soldiers were not allowed to remove their boots under orders
and had to keep them on for days, sometimes weeks on end. It rotted
their feet away in so much that it said that over 150, 000 soldiers
died through “Trench-Foot”.
Many tens of thousands needed urgent medical treatment...In a life
threatening situation they needed their feet or leg/ legs amputated,
gangrene was slowly eating them away…Most never received it…they
died in extreme agony!
||Many recovered after having had their leg /legs amputated, many
more died though there was no anesthetic or cleanliness at these
Base Hospitals. Those who partially recoverd were no good and no-use
at all for military service stated by the Army officers, so they
were packed off home as invalids…their lives ruined, and their
|The battle continued to rage on, British infantry
troops trying desperately to advance under the screams from their
Captains to “Get a bloody move on” slogged through the
knee high mud as shells exploded all around them cutting them to
pieces, coupled with the incessant hail of bullets from the German
machine-gunners thudded into men all along the front line, they
were being slaughtered in their thousands.
Staggering losses accumulated, over 4,000 a day were being slaughtered
just for gains of a few yards of ground.
It is said and stated that one man was killed for every foot of
ground covered…it could well be true considering the amount
All these Brave and Heroic young boys were the
flower of many countries youth, tens of thousands of them fought
that day, many Battalions with such splendid names to be proud
of. The Pals and Chums battalions were tragically and completely
wiped out forever in the killing fields of the Somme, during that
first day alone, the young men of England and its Dominions, Australia,
Canada, South Africa, New Zealand …now lay dead in the mud
of France their blood ran deep in the soil…there to become
their resting place for all time.
Despite these horrendous losses, the ground gained was but a pitiful
strip of land 20 miles long by six miles deep. The desired big
breakthrough had not materialized or come to any victory or conclusion
at all, but it cost the British Army dearly.
A reminder at Pozieres, a memory to the ”ANZACS”…Australian
and New Zealand Soldiers killed there. (Copyright Ian R. Bridle
|This “Great Offensive” …”The
Battle of the Somme” to whom the Commanders of this offensive
had blatantly and arrogantly expressed to the soldier’s day’s
before “To have a cigarette and slowly walk towards the enemy
as they will all be destroyed by the artillery barrage and we have
won this battle and the War”. But as truthfully and as history
has proved without question today in 2016, that the Leaders were
despicably and disgracefully (not mislead) wrong in all their ideas
and ideals, that this would bring an end to the War!
This “The Battle of the Somme” had raged on and on for
all these months, the Generals saw it, but always kept on continuing
to deploy men and young boys, driving them onwards and forwards
towards the enemy and they becoming victims of death and suffering…
for the Generals own beliefs for a “Quick Victory”.
This one Battle alone, the most of all human deaths on the Western
Front raged and destroyed tens and hundreds of thousands of men
and boys of all sides, the British High Command was guilty as it
was described “All for Nothing”
They earnestly believed this would give them a victory so imperative
there would be no doubt as to who would “Win this War”!
This horrific loss of life and suffering would finally end on the
18th November 1916, after four and a half months of horrendous losses
that the British Army had daren’t lose, but in all their own
arrogance they had lost most of the “Boys” and professional
British Army soldiers and those Allies who fought with them!