The Battle of Flers

The Battle of Flers

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette took place in September 1916 and was a subsidiary attack of the Battle of the Somme.

However, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette was set to have a significant impact on the outcome of World War One and the future of warfare as a whole.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was the first time ever that tanks were used in battle, with an attack on Flers-Courcelette by the 41st Division supported by 49 tanks in total.

Of course, at this stage in military history tanks were so unreliable that only 15 managed to make it to Flers-Courcelette and take part in the battle, with 17 not able to get to the front line at all.

A World War One tank

This perfectly demonstrated the fears of Winston Churchill, who was a huge fan of tanks but felt they were being used too early:


"My poor land battleships have been let off prematurely on a petty scale."


The tanks went into battle for the first time on 15th September, but seven failed to start. However, those that did were greeted with a welcoming reception. A pilot of the Royal Flying Corps saw one of the four remaining tanks out of the ten scheduled to attack as it headed down to main road towards Flers and radioed back:


"A tank is walking down the High Street of Flers with the British Army cheering behind it."


The tanks did have an impact on the Flers-Courcelette, which temporarily undermined German morale in the area as they failed to have any impact with their rifles. Machine gun fire also had little impact. As a result, in the first three days of battle, the Allies managed to advance 2km, and the villages of Flers, Courcelette, Martinpuich and the strategically deseriable High Wood all fell into Allied hands.

However, while the tanks had a big impact on the Germans initially, they were too unreliable and easy to destroy using artillery fire, so the Allies struggled to built on this success.

Nevertheless, Douglas Haig was so impressed he ordered another 1,000 to be built to asset the Allies on the Western Front.

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Battle of Flers". HistoryLearning.com. 2019. Web.