Tank Advance at Courcelette 15 September 1916


Map Code: Ax00457

On 15 September 1916, the British commander-in-chief, Sir Douglas Haig, attempted to end the deadlock in the Battle of the Somme by sending three divisions of the Canadian Corps to destroy the German strongholds in the village of Courcelette and to penetrate the German defensive line. The Canadians were to be supported by Mark 1 tanks. The tanks, a new innovation, were placed under the command of British 4th Army sub-commander, General Henry Rawlinson. Of 49 ordered only 32 reached their starting position north of Pozières. Of these, seven failed to start, leaving 25 ready to attack. The tanks were an effective psychological deterrent, but provided little real support. They were unwieldy and only nine crossed the German line. The rest broke down or became immobilized in the muddy battlefield terrain. Subsequently, design improvements were made, with Haig criticized for using the tanks prematurely.

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