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Ulster PoWs told Germans about planned tank attack by British during World War One, claims historian

Ulster Division prisoners passed crucial information to German captors

The first ever mass tank attack during World War One was compromised by imprisoned soldiers from the 36th (Ulster) Division who passed on vital information to the Germans, according to a new book.

The revelation comes from a new book by historian and author Josh Taylor on the Battle of Cambrai, the Daily Mail reported.

Six soldiers from the unit were captured following a night raid on 18 November 1917 in a section of northern France where the British were preparing for the battle.

The offensive plan had been kept a secret, but when questioned by the Germans, the Ulster Division soldiers divulged details of the attack, including the presence of tanks as well as the planned date and time.

There was no evidence that the information was extracted from the men under duress.

Taylor found that the betrayal was due in part to some of the men’s growing hostility to British rule in Ireland at the time of the Easter Rising.

His assessment was that while the prisoners’ leaking of details was not the only setback, it did change the course of history, as well as having a human cost in that some people were killed and tanks destroyed as a direct result.

In light of the information, the Germans reinforced their defensive positions prior to the British attack on 20 November – the first ever to be spearheaded by hundreds of tanks – and critically stalled it at the hilltop village of Flesquières.

The battle did, however succeed in proving the effectiveness of tanks, which were used for the first time in 1916.

The British authorities were aware at the time that prisoners had passed on information to the Germans but no action was taken against the men, all of whom survived the war.

Men of war: soldiers remove an injured man from the battlefield
Men of war: soldiers remove an injured man from the battlefield
Undated family handout photo of Captain F. J. Roberts with his division, as a newspaper inspired by the historic Wipers Times created by First World War soldiers Captain FJ Roberts and Lieutenant JH Pearson in 1916, has been recreated to mark the centenary of the war. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 4, 2014. The Flanders Fields Post newspaper is published as a one-off today and distributed in London, Glasgow and Manchester, to commemorate 100 years since Britain joined the First World War. See PA story HISTORY Centenary Newspaper. Photo credit should read: Family Handout/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Letters home from the Western Front in the First World War gave a snapshot of the horrendous conditions suffered by Ulster soldiers in the trenches

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