Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

90 Years Ago Today... Well, This Morning Actually


"...aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the man and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find as much use for the horse - the well-bred horse - as you have ever done in the past."

General Sir Douglas (I can't find my ass with both hands) Haig. 1926 (!!!)


At six AM on this date, 1917, the first successful, tactical use of tanks took place at Cambrai.
The great man quoted above, during his disastrous Somme Offensive, got greedy and snapped up the few tanks available at the time. They were the stone-age Mark I's and, although they were largely successful, the general feeling was that they had given away the secret.
Doug used them a year later at Passchendaele, another of his brain-waves/debacles where they sank into the mud, as expected.
But, Praise the Name of the Lord, there were other folks also doing the thinking for the Brits.The decision was made to test-drive the whole tank concept with an attack at Cambrai where the ground was solid and sparsely wooded, perfect for tanks.
374 fighting tanks went forward - minus the customary artillery bombardment (No pointless churning of the ground plus no tip-off to the Germans)- onto the Hindenburg Line.
The aforementioned line was a heavily reinforced trench system that the Germans had withdrawn to earlier, thus shortening their line. It was notorious for reinforced pillboxes and extensive belts of barbed wire.
With the only artillery support being a screening barrage behind the German lines the tanks jumped in and were insanely successful, taking miles of territory.
The tactics were brand new, meant to match the the defenses of the impregnable H. Line where trenches were reputed to be up to 12 feet deep and eighteen feet wide.
Each tank carried a "fascine" of two tons of brushwood, chained together into a bundle. The plan was that this lump of firewood would be dropped into a trench to facilitate the movement of the 28 ton Mark IV over the obstacle.
See the tactics illustration for the plan.
It worked! Big time.

But, as in many other situations, there's a good-news,bad-news aspect.
All the ground gained, with the exception of a small section of the H.Line, was soon retaken by the Germans. It's the problem one faces when one drives a salient into the bad-guys territory without a followup plan.
But, the die was cast. Tanks were the shit. Sorry, Doug.
Now some tank pics just 'cause I like them.

It's like looking at the ass-end of a chicken - no prizewinner for beauty - but that's where the eggs come from.

Alas, poor, sweet Hyacinth (Brit tanks were named for their unit affiliations - "Hyacinth = "H" Battalion) has got her ass in a jam...

6 comments:

Assrot said...

You know I have to say that this is one of the gotdam most interesting blogs I have run across in a long time. Keep up the good work. I love this stuff.

If your interested in old guns, might I recommend the following blog. She's just a youngun' but she knows her guns.

http://cosmolineandrust.blogspot.com/

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

If you have any more stereo photos like that, please post them. I can still un-collimate my eyes enough to see the image. That one of the trench with the tank in the background is very impressive in 3-D.

Stephen Renico said...

assrot,

I've been reading this blog since its start, and you're right: it's one of the most interesting out there.

Scroll back through his earlier stuff and you'll find more goods.

Pte Harry Lamin said...

Passchendaele wasn't the following year. It had already happened just before. From August to November 1917. there were tanks used but, as you say they sank into the mud. (I was there!) Cambrai - over at the Somme end was a chalk based terrain and so drained better and was more suitable for the tanks.

Haig wouldn't have known about the mud as he never visited the front line. (Different age -zeitgeist")

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Pte Harry,
You're right of course. I wasn't being clear.
What I meant was that P. daele happened the year after Doug's brainwave on the Somme.
So you were there. Did it stink as bad as all the reports?

Pte Harry Lamin said...

The smell was unbearable. Rotting body parts were everywhere and the latrines just weren't used.

But, when some bastard is likely to drop a 100 or sounds of high explosive on you at any moment and you're being eaten alive by lice - "Did you have lice?" "No, the buggers had me." - then the smell doesn't feature as a major Health and Safety issue.

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