The British Army was the first to use tanks, employing a handful of early models during the closing stages of the Battle of the Somme, September 1916. But it was over a year later that the first mass tank attack demonstrated just what a revolutionary weapon this was. On 20 November 1917, just as the bloody slaughter at Passchendaele reached stalemate, the British flung 378 tanks at the German trenches at Cambrai. They overran the whole position in a morning. The victory was so incredible that church bells were sounded throughout the British Isles. However, the subsequent German counter-attack was successful. The British ran out of reserves and the frontline was retaken. Yet Cambrai anticipated the events of 1918: the Germans had no answer to the British Army's new weapon and new artillery tactics. No subsequent British offensive failed to take its objectives.
Bryan Cooper was born in 1932 in Paris. He began his writing career as a journalist, working for the RAF REVIEW magazine during his National Service. On becoming a fulltime writer he wrote books on military history, novels and plays for radio and television. He now lives in Deal.