Deborah and the War of the Tanks 1917
'A great achievement. One of the most remarkable treasures of First World War archaeology receives the treatment it deserves in this hugely detailed yet highly readable new history.' Dan Snow
Deborah is a British First World War tank that rose from the grave after taking part in one of the most momentous battles in history. In November 1917 she played a leading role in the first successful massed tank attack at Cambrai.
Eighty years later, in a remarkable feat of archaeology, the tank's buried remains were rediscovered and excavated, and are now preserved as a memorial to the battle and to the men who fought in it. John Taylor's book tells the tale of the tank and her crew and tracks down their descendants to uncover a human story every bit as compelling as the military one.
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John A, Taylor studied history at Cambridge and later worked as a journalist on national newspapers, TV and radio. This is the author's first book and reflects his lifetime interest in the First World War. The publication of this work also marks the culmination of a long running project involving researchers in Britain and France. The author explains in the forward to the book, that D51 Deborah was 'just one of nearly 380 British fighting tanks that attacked the strongly-held German positions before the French town of Cambrai a century ago'. Although one of many on the day D51 Deborah is now 'thought to be the only one of those tanks still in existence, having been buried on the battlefield through a quirk of fate, and reclaimed through a miracle of archaeology'.
Chapter one opens with the author's view of the battlefield as it is today through a car window. It is with the aid of GPS and a laptop 'loaded with the meticulous trench maps of the First World War that the area springs into long forgotten life' By the end of the chapter the reader has been taken back to 1917. The book in general is based on the Tank Corps, the engagements, triumphs and criticisms in the First World War. It centres on D Battalion and D51 Deborah the tank and her crew in particular. Research has been undertaken and conclusions drawn in identifying Deborah's crew. Through chance meetings and a lot of dedication both in Britain and France D51 Deborah now stands 'a mute witness to tragedy' at the Flesquieres cemetery in France.
This book is emotive in the many quotes of sights, sounds and experiences of the soldiers in 1917. The emotion is also reflected in the dedication of the members of the project and residents of Flesquieres, Plans have been made to house Deborah in a dedicated museum 'on a site adjacent to the cemetery in where her crewmen lie buried'.
This is a 300 page hardback book with lot of detail on both the military and personal aspects of the First World War. It would more suitable for a reader with some knowledge on the subject. Maps and photos, with notes are included in the text. Appendices show the Order of Battle with notes, of D Battalion Tank Corps. There are also notes and source sections along with the index at the back of the book. The cover of the book is grey with illustrations of D51 Deborah on the front. The back of the book includes quotes on the book with an illustration of 'A German soldier's view of the fighting at Flesquieres, from the history of 27th Reserve Infantry Regiment'.
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