Tank against Tank

Villers-Bretonneux, 24 April 1918

The British had pioneered the use of Landships and in September 1916 the first tanks had taken part in the battle of the Somme. Initially used piecemeal it was eventually conceded that they had greater potential used en masse in support of infantry.

At the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 over three hundred tanks were used to smash their way through parts of the Hindenberg Line. Bells were rung back in Britain but the success was to be short lived as the infantry failed to maintain the ground that had been won.

Perhaps surprisingly the German Army didn't really seem that interested in the tank as a weapon. They soon realised its shortcomings and adapted artillery to act as anti-tank weapons.

However they did try using some captured British machines and developed a beast of a machine called the A7V. At 38 tons and with a crew of 18 it almost represented a mobile blockhouse rather than a fighting machine in its own right. Only 20 were ever built.

There is a model of the one captured by the Australians in the museum.

The Franco-Australian Museum The Franco-Australian Museum

Just to the south west of Villers-Bretonneux is a small village called Cachy. If you are approaching from the direction of Amiens it is signposted on your right hand side and before you reach the Adelaide Cemetery. Take this road but just before you reach the village you can turn left towards Villers-Bretonneux along the D168.

A few hundred metres on you left hand side you will see a small monument.

The Tank Battle Memorial

The view in front of you towards the village is similar to that had by a section of three British Tanks on the morning of 24 April 1918.

The Germans had been shelling the area with gas and explosives since 03:45 hours in an attempt to dislodge the British and Australian troops who held the town. For once the Germans had been using tanks and a number of their A7Vs had caused considerable damage.

The British tanks started to move towards the town when suddenly from out of the mist and at a range of about 300 metres there appeared an A7V.

Whilst heavily armoured the A7V only had 6 machine guns and a 57mm cannon. Against this two of the British tanks were what were called females equipped only with machine guns whilst the third vehicle was a male armed with 6 pounder cannons.

The two female tanks soon realised that they were not so much out matched as simply ineffectual against the German machine.

It was up to the remaining tank which had continued to close on its adversary whilst it had been preoccupied. Finally getting within effective range it opened fire forcing the German machine to retire.

Light British Whippet tanks were used in the battle for the village and helped stem the tide.

Villers-Bretonneux Villers-Bretonneux

Whilst the town did fall to the Germans for an evening, the following morning was ANZAC Day and the Australian Infantry not only took the town but a thousand prisoners with it. The advance had been broken - Amiens would never fall to the Germans.

The Monument on the left and Villers-Bretonneux in the distance

The Monument on the left and Villers-Bretonneux in the distance