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The Tank.... A New Invention
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THE ROAD TO WAR -
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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 any problems”
 
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.
British 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 British hands.
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 flesh.
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 futures!
 
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 of dead!
 
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 www.edenbridgetown.com )
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!
 
   
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