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.