WWI Battle of Cambrai – Deborah D51 Tank – Flesquieres

Scots Piper in 1917 uniform Many stories have been told of the epic battles occurring during the 1914-18 war but one that is close to the hearts of the British is the Battle of Cambrai. Beginning on the 20th November 1917 close to the Hindenburg Line the 51st (Highland) Division, supported by 476 tanks advanced deep into German held territory. During the battle, the British took the village of Flesquieres but it was subsequently won back by the Germans until being finally regained by the allied forces on the 27th September 1918. Although the sight of over 400 tanks must have been a formidable sight to the Germans It is estimated that 100,000 men from both sides lost their lives in the battle and the tanks were destroyed. However, this is the amazing story of Deborah, a British Mark lV female tank, one of the tanks that took part in the battle, which has been found and renovated.

Philippe Gorcznski, a Frenchman, had always been interested in the area. As a child, his Grandmother gave him the parts enabling him to build a model of a British WWI tank. Deborah - Mk IV British Tank Years later Philippe reading a book, telling of the Battle of Cambrai, saw it contained pictures of tanks, the same as his model. He developed an interest in the battle and in 1977 attended the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai, meeting some of the veterans. His interest developed further and over the next 6 years collected numerous items and artefacts relating to the war and its tanks. Later, in 1997, Philippe met a villager who told him of how she had seen German soldiers burying a tank in the village of Flesquieres. Curiosity aroused, Philippe set about finding the buried tank. He obtained further books and other reading matter on the battle, acquired the assistance of aerial photography and recognisance, and intensified his research. Finally, on the 23rd November 1998, his years of meticulous research were rewarded, the tank, named Deborah by her crew, was located and so began the long operation of excavation.

Damon - replica tank Having been buried for so many years the metal parts were badly corroded and had to be treated with extreme care but finally the excavation was completed. The next obstacle was where to store it so the restoration could be carried out. The answer was, after several locations, a barn named ‘Forenville’ in the village of Flesquieres, an area in the heart of where the Battle of Cambrai took place. Finally, after years of dedicated work Deborah, now renovated, has been moved to her final resting place, the purpose built Cambrai Tank 1917, where she has pride of place, located alongside the Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery, the final resting place of 590 personnel from the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia who died during the war.

Louveral British Cemetery There are many British Cemeteries in the area reminding visitors of the conflict that took place. The Cambrai Memorial situated on an elevated position with views across the now quiet French countryside, has recorded the names of over 7,000 British and South African servicemen who died and have no known resting place, there are others, smaller, dotted on the landscape to remind you of the enormity of this battle and the cost to human life.

Sunday 19th November 2017, a cold but sunny morning, one hundred years on from the event saw me join the parade of ‘Following the Tank’ as men in uniform of the time together with a multitude of supporters, historians, enthusiasts and journalists walked behind ‘Damon ll’ a replica tank to the ‘Monument of Nations’ where the flags fluttered in the breeze against a clear blue sky.Cross of Sacrifice Flesqueres British Cemetery A time to bow your head and perhaps shed a tear. I for one consider it an honour and a privilege to have walked with that tank.

This is an area of France that everyone should visit, young and old alike, indeed, every year thousands attend the battlefields, they come from the 4 quarters of the globe, they all have their reasons. Appreciate the enormity of the battles and the final cost of freedom. Millions gave their young lives so we could enjoy the freedom we have today and they should never be forgotten. It’s when you see row after row of white head stones without names but just the inscription ‘Known Unto God’ it hits home.

We Will Remember Them.

My thanks to





You May Also Be Interested In:

156 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Alan Fairfax

Travel writer & cruise journalist

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Ambassador offers unique ways to focus on health and wellness while enjoying the beauty of the sea….
Who can resist an invitation to a birthday party in Paris? Gillian Thornton celebrates 40 years of Riviera Travel, the…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.