At dawn on November 20, 1917, the first full-scale tank battle in history began at Cambrai, when more than four hundred British tanks poured over the Hindenburg Line. In just 24 hours, the Royal Tank Corps and British Third Army made the biggest advance by either side since the trenches were dug in 1914. A fortnight later, however, casualties had reached 50,000, and the armies were back where they’d started.

Although the tanks were ahead of their time, they still relied on cavalry and plodding infantry as backup. The primitive tanks were operated by a crew of eight who endured almost intolerable conditions – with no ventilation, the temperature inside could reach 48°C. The steering alone required three men, each on separate gearboxes, communicating by hand signals through the mechanical din. Maximum speed (6kph) dropped to barely 1kph over rough terrain, and refuelling was necessary every 55km. Of the 179 tanks lost at Cambrai, few were destroyed by the enemy; most broke down and were abandoned by their crews.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Though they may be sniffed at by "real" cylists, e-bikes are opening up serious mountain routes to the more casual pedaller. Andy Turner dons some lycra to find…

27 Oct 2017 • Andy Turner local_activity Special feature
20 seriously weird places around the world

20 seriously weird places around the world

The world is a weird (and wonderful) place. And from a rose-coloured lake to a Japanese island ruled by cats, we've got twenty pictures to prove it. 1. Spotted…

26 Jul 2017 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right