19 Company 20 November 1917
 

 

The Tanks at Cambrai 20th November 1917

 

19 Company, G Battalion with 187th Brigade, 62nd Div, IV Corp, (H7) 3rd Army

 

19 Company had 30 tanks in action on 20th November 1917. (W21)

 

Company Commander Major Fernie (H7)

 

1 Section Capt Wright EV

G1, 2312, “Glasgow”, 2/Lt. Clegg,

G15, ????, 2/Lt. McChlery,

G42, 2559, “Gladys”, 2/Lt. Lishman,

G47, ????, “Gitana”, 2/Lt. Cross,

G73, ????, 2/Lt. Vergette, Tank D25.

G74, ????, 2/Lt. Watherston. / 2Lt Clegg.

 

2 Section Capt Rudd

G2, ????, 2/Lt. Mackenzie,

G45, ????, 2/Lt. Dudley,

G49, 2309, “Goff”, 2/Lt. Waine,

G67, ????, 2/Lt. Johnson,

G72, ????, 2/Lt. Strutlers, Tank D22.

G76, ????, 2/Lt. Parsons,

G77, 2697, "Dorothea", 2/Lt. Karstell , Tank D12.  Transferred from 4 section 2 hours prior to Zero.

 

3 Section Capt Moore - in G10 (S57.p51)

G10, 2565, “Gravedigger”, 2/Lt. Jukes,

G48, 2534, "Gullah", 2/Lt. Abbott,

G52, 2756, “Guisley”, 2/Lt. Campling,

G68, ????, 2/Lt. Walker / 2Lt McKenzie, An “E” Battalion tank..

G71, ????, 2/Lt. Peacock / Lt Coustance, A “D” Battalion tank.

G75, 2859, 2/Lt. Maelor Jones. Tank D13.

 

4 Section Capt Chadwick

G3, ????, m(H6), 2/Lt. F.W. McElroy,

G12, 2753, “Galway”, 2/Lt. Day,

G53, 2778, “Gracchus”, 2/Lt. Birchall,

G54, ????, 2Lt Jordon,

G78, ????, 2/Lt. Leek, Tank D6.

 

Reserve Section  Lt Griffiths

G61, ????, "Extirpator", 2/Lt. Elmslie. E Battalion tank possibly E18.

G62, ????, "Envoy", 2/Lt. A.R. Latch. E Battalion tank.

G63, ????, "EarlyBird", 2/Lt. Cook or Lt. G. Cooke. E Battalion tank.

G64, ????, "Elf", 2/Lt. H.P. Budge. E Battalion tank.

G65, ????, "Enchantress II", 2/Lt. J.E. Nightingale, Wireless Carrier. Tank E57.

G66, ????, "Eldorado II", 2/Lt. C.E. Windle. Tank E43.

 

Note:

G Battalion was split into two composite companies of 30 tanks each, some 19 Company tanks (G13  and G14) were probably with the other Composite Company. Eight tanks, two from each section, have crew numbers in the 40-59 range, these crew numbers would normally correspond to tanks with 21 Company.  The tanks numbered G sixty something are listed as being from E Battalion (except G67), the tanks numbered G seventy something are listed as being from D Battalion (except G74 and G76); this corresponds with both "D" and "E" Battalions each providing eight tanks

Serial numbers and tank names for G1, G10, G52, and G53 correct on 19th August 1917 may thus be incorrect on 20th November 1917.

Serial numbers and tank names for G12, G42, G48, and G49 correct on 31st July 1917 may thus be incorrect on 20th November 1917.

Serial numbers and tank names for G75, and G77,correct on 4th October 1917 may thus be incorrect on 20th November 1917.

The D and E battalion tank numbers are crew numbers. On 20th November the tanks in D and E Battlion carried battalion numbers on their rear, these didn't correspond with their crew numbers, hence D6, 2796 appear's in 10 Company's battlegraph and D6 is also used above.

G65 and G66 are called Enchantress and Eldorado on the Battlegraph, but crew members have stated they were “Enchantress II” and  “Eldorado II” (S41.p42) (S41.p69), a photograph of the original “Eldorado” abandoned at 3rd Ypres backs up this statement (X41.p39)

The original “Extirpator” was destroyed on 20 September 1917, her crew, number E18 escaped. Thus G61 may be “Extirpator II” with crew number E18.

The tank which fought with crew G2 on 31st July was called “Grouse”, this vehicle was burnt out. The tank listed above may be “Grouse II”.

The tank which fought with crew (G73) D25 on 27th August was called “Delia”, this vehicle was burnt out. The tank listed above may be “Delia II”.

G75’s D Battalion crew number is from the 23rd November G Battalion Battlegraph.

 

G77 was transferred from 4 to 2 section two hours before zero, presumably to reinforce 2 section as three of their tanks failed to reach the start line.


The reserve section was detailed to support the attack on the Brown line and was not therefore composed of reserve tanks in the true sense. 


 

Orders


The company was to initially support the attack of 187th brigade between the Canal du Nord and Havrincourt, advancing northwards along the Hindenburg line beyond the village to the blue Line (W187b) .


Before reaching the Hindenburg front line the 187th brigade had to cross and secure the outpost line, including several strong-points. (W187b)


The 187th brigade attacked on a two battalion front, 2/5 KOYLI on the left and 2/4 KOYLI  on the right; each battalion was to be preceded by twelve tanks, eight fighting tanks and four wire crushers. This initial wave was to secure the outpost line and e Hindenburg front line running through K26b, K27a, c and d. (W187b)

The map of intended tank routes indicates that sixteen tanks were to attack in line abreast. From left to right these tanks were: 

1 Section: G42, G15, G1, G47; 3 Section: G52, G10, G48, G71; 2 section: G72, G49, G45, G2; 4 section: G54, G53, G12, G3.

The other eight tanks are not on the map and were presumably the wire crushers:

1 Section: G73 and G74; 3 Section: G68 and G75; 2 section: G67 and G76; 4 section: G77 and G78

Jim Allnutt, the Driver of "Gravedigger", (S57.p51f) states that only 1, 3 and 4 sections (18 tanks) attacked in the first wave, 1 to the left, 3 in the centre and 4 to the right. 2 section was allotted Wire Pulling duties (probably Wire Crushers). This appears to be incorrect.


Prior to commencing the main advance at Zero +15 the tanks were to help deal with the strongpoints in the outpost line, crossing the outpost ine at Zero (W187b)


The twelve tanks in front of the 2/5 KOYLI on the left were to drive in line ahead up the road to the left of "Yorkshire Bank" in K32a and K32b, the two leading tanks were to carry on straight ahead and help a bombing squad mop up "etna", the tanks were then to return and form up with the other tanks which would have turned left and deployed to the north of Yorkshire bank (W187b) . Presumably the tanks deployed in four wedges each of two fighting and one wire crushing tank, each wedge leading an infantry platoon.


Four of the twelve tanks [ G3, G12 (X96.p247) and presumably the Wire Crushers G77 and G78 ] in front of the 2/4 KOYLI on the right were to advance on "Boggarts Hole" which the right hand company of infantry were to capture.Two tanks [ presumably G77 and G78 ]  were to meet at B.M.72.7 [ K33b.05.05 ] and lead the right hand half of the company forward. One tank was to advance along the road and silence a MG in K33.b.2.4 (Q.23b.2.4. written, presumably in error) on the way to Boggarts hole; the second tank was to proceed straight to the hole. (W187b)

The left half of the company was to be led by two tanks [ G3 and G12 ] who would crush the wire and then go west up the ravine to the west of Boggart Hole, the two tanks were then to wheel, face northwards and form up north of the Ravine. 

Four tanks were to lead the advance of the left company of the 2/4 KOYLI. (W187b) 2 section: G72, G49, G45 and G2; presumably preceded by G67 and G76 acting as wire crushers  (W96.p247)


The instructions imply that the tanks were to lead the infantry onto the the main enemy line at zero (W187b) . The tanks were presumably deployed in eight wedges, each led by a wire crusher as indicated in Diagram II in the Brigade War Diary which allocates eight fighting and four rover tanks to each battalion (W21d). . The Wire crushers proceeded 200 yards in front of the other 24 tanks which were themselves 100 yards in front of the infantry (W21d)


The twelve tanks on the left (1 and 3 sections as indicated above) were to advance on and help secure the trenches in K26b and K27a. (W187b)


Meanwhile the tanks with the right battalion (2/4 KOYLI) were to advance and deal with the opposition in K27b [ Havrincourt ]:

two tanks [ G12 and G3 ] advancing along Graincourt Road  , 

two tanks [ G43 and G62 ] along the railway from BM109.9 [ K27a.7.5 ] to K27b.1.4 and K27b.4.5, thence NE along the trench. 

two tanks [ G72 and G49 ] along the railway from BM109.9 [ K27a.7.5 ] to right brigade boundary

two tanks [ G53 and G54 ] to deal with the trenches north of the station in K27b.

The four Wire crushers were to move independently and deal with the wire in K27b, then, if needed, assist in the village. (W187b)


Once these objectives had been secured the remaining six tanks (G61 to G66 deploying in numerical order form left to right (X96.p247)) , joined by the survivors of the first wave, were to support the attack of the 2/4 York and Lancasters and the 2/5 York and Lancasters who would pass through the first wave and secure the Blue Line. (W187b)


Once the blue line was secured the tanks were to rally and then support the attack of the 186th brigade on the Brown Line. (W187b)

19 Company was to support the attack between Graincourt and the canal. Whilst 20 and 21 Company headed for Graincourt. (W2/5YL)


Once the Brown line was secured one company was to exploit along with the survivors of Wire Crushing tanks (W21).

 


Account of Action (W21 unless otherwise indicated)


Six of the twelve tanks from 1 and 2 sections assigned to support the 2/5 KOYLI on the left failed to start (W21): G1, G73, G49 and G67 all broke down, G2 bellied on a tree stump , G74 got stuck [ ditched?] (S37.p60) ; 2 section was reinforced with G77 which was detached from 4 section four hours before Zero. G74 was eventually repaired and eventually engaged the enemy on the Blue line and beyond (W21). 


Thus the 2/5 KOYLI was presumably led by seven tanks:  G15, G42, G47, G45, G72, G76 and G77


2/4 KOYLI on the right were led by the eleven tanks, three wire crushers and eight fighting tanks (W2/4KO) presumably 3 and 4 sections less G77. This implies G77 was a wire crusher 


G62 was the only reserve section tank that failed to start. (W21bg) Having bellied on a tree stump (S37.p60) 


On the right the tanks presumably arrived on time, advanced as planned and helped the infantry in clearing "Boggarts Hole" and the ravine prior to the main advance starting at Zero +15. (S44p53) G3 was presumably one of the tanks detailed to attack "Boggarts Hole" as the war History states G3 crossed the wire on the British Front Line at Zero and engaged two enemy MGs in craters before driving into Havrincourt (H7) G10 may have been one of the tanks detailed to attack the ravine as it crept forward before zero hour than sat astride the German front line and cleared the trench with LG fire. The tank then proceeded at speed to the second support line to catch up the barrage.(S57.p51f)


As detailed above on the left five of the twelve tanks failed to arrive, the others apparently started late. The preliminary attack on "etna" does not appear to have been carried out, the infantry advanced at Zero +15, "etna" was then stormed by thee platoons of infantry, two drawn form the right hand battalion. The tanks may have started behind the infantry who were held up by the enemies wire, the tanks passed through and the advance continued. 

G47 was hit and knocked out before reaching the British Front line which caused the OIC and crew to become Casualties, it did not engage the enemy; the remaining tanks all crossed the German front line then G72 was hit and Knocked out (W21bg) this was presumably one of the six tanks Knocked Out by two German 77s in front of Havrincourt (S44.p52). The other five tanks were presumably all from 20 Company as six of their tanks were ordered to advance through Chateau Wood (see narrative) 


Meanwhile the 2/4 KOYLI set off at Zero +15 as planned, led by only eleven tanks as G77 was detached. They came under MG from Havrincourt park and the large pond but they continued to advance

Al the tanks crossed the German front line (W21bg)


The Brigade continued to advance on the blue Line which was reached everywhere by 8.30 (except for some pockets of resistance in Havrincourt) (W21)

On the Blue Line G76 ditched and broke down, it had not fired on the enemy; G12 bellied and its OIC was wounded. (W21bg)

G3 entered Havrincourt and drove along the Main street silenced three enemy MGs with Lewis gun fire and three with 6 pounder fire. The tank was then stopped by a large crater full of water and had the reserve petrol, stored on its roof set alight. The crew extinguished the fire but were forced to evacuate the tank due to the petrol fumes. The enemy made several attempts to capture the tank, all were driven back, mostly by 2Lt. McElroy who reoccupied the tank on his own. Eventually the rest of the crew (less two men who were missing) also reoccupied the tank (H7). The batlegraph states they wee all severely wounded. the tank turned back and rallied (W21bg)


The second wave then leapfrogged through them and reached the Brown line by about 10am (W21) .

 G10 passed through a 50 Yard deep barbed wire entanglement and ended up towing a large ball of wire behind it. The tank stopped in a sunken road to remove the wire, the other tanks in the section also stopped and the infantry continued the advance without them and were cut down by some German strong-points to their front. The wire having been cleared the tanks proceeded onwards and engaged small groups of the fleeing enemy (S57.p51f) . G10 then ditched and broke down on the brown line. (W21bg)

G58 crossed the brown line, was hit, turned back and rallied with shaken crew.  2Lt McKenzie assumed command and attempted to take the tank back into the attack but it broke down.(W21bg)

 

There was a pause whilst the 186th Brigade passed though, at 11am the surviving tanks led 186th Brigades attack on the 3rd and 4th objectives (presumably Hughes Support and Kangeroo Alley as these features are next to Graincourt and Bourlon Wood which were probably the Divisions 3rd and 4th objectives on  the right flank ) (S41.p61),

 

G78 suffered a Direct Hit at the 3rd Objective. The OIC was killed and the entire crew became casualties.(W21bg)

 

G52 developed mechanical trouble on the 3rd objective but was repaired and rallied.(W21bg)

G53 broke down on the 3rd Objective but was repaired and continued. (W21bg)

 

Graincourt was captured by 3.30pm, a patrol of tanks was sent towards Bourlon (S41.p61), this returned and the Division rallied around Graincourt. (W21bg)

 

G74 Ditched prior to starting but was Unditched and attacked. It successfully reached the 4th (and final) objective prior to rallying (W21bg)

 

G15, G42, G45, G48, G53, G54, G71, G75, G77, G61, G63, G64, G65 and G66 all reached the 4th (and final) objective and all except G65 Rallied. G65 was knocked out on the fourth objective (whilst approaching Bourlon Wood), whilst sheltering in a depression its crew shot down a German aircraft (S41.p64ff)

 

A fuller account of G10 “Gravedigger’s” actions, recited by the tanks driver, Sergeant Jim Allnatt, is included in “The Boiler plate war” p.123 to 127. Allnatt is quoted at more length by George Forty (s57.p51f)

 

Summary

Intended: 30

Reserve:

At Start: 30

Started: 25

Engaged enemy: 23

Ditched / Broke Down: 2

Hit and Knocked out: 5

Rallied: 17

 

Six tanks failed to reach the start. 

Rallied total includes G68 which had suffered a direct hit and returned and G52 which broke down but was repaired and rallied.

 

According to the Narrative (W21) 28 G Battalion tanks rallied at Havrincourt on the 21st.

 

Aftermath

G Battalion committed 12 tanks to action on the 21st (H6).

7 tanks: G42, G48, G53, G61, G64, G66, and G71 all fought again on the 21st (W21)

G64 was also in action on the 23rd along with 7 other tanks: G15, G45, G54, G63, G74, G75 and G77

G66 was unfit for action after November 20th, it was later emplaced on a ridge (probably Flesquires Ridge) as a strongpoint (S41.p44)

 

G12 is probably the tank photographed nose up NW of Harcourt on 22 November 1917:  IWM Q 47172, http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205281237


Sources

W7 - G / 7 Tank Battalion War Diary, transcript from Bovington tank Museum.

W21 – 1st Tank Brigade War Diary – Relevant Battlegraph and report PRO WO 95/98

W21d - 1st Tank Brigade War Diary – Diagram of Tank attack formation. Diagram II. PRO WO 95/98

W187b - 187 Infantry Brigade War Diary. Instruction No.1 for the forthcoming offensive dated 12th November 1917

W2/4KO - 2/4 Kings Own Yorkshire light Infantry War Diary

W2/5YKL - 2/5 Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment War Diary

H7 – G / 7 Tank Battalion War History, transcript from Bovington tank Museum.

S30 – The Boiler Plate War, (1963), John Foley

S37 - Following the Tanks, Cambrai. (1999) Jean-Luc Gibot and Phillippe Gorczynski

S41Beyond the Green Fields (2008), Richard Pullen

S44Flesquires, Cambrai (2003), Jack Horsfall and Nigel Cave

S57 - Royal Tank Regiment (1989) George Forty

S96Mapping the First World War (2014) Peter Chasseaud

 

Note

G Battalion’s War diary. Transcription form Bovington Tank Museum. (W5)  does not contain the reports pertinent to this action.


 

1st Brigade 20 November 1917 Map


Cambrai Narratives