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PoWs of Cambrai

It was the winter of 1917 and, having survived one of the most significant battles of the First World War, the officers of various British regiments lined up for a group photograph.

Yet, despite having just taken part in the historic Battle of Cambrai – the first tank battle in history – their names were lost to posterity and to this day remain unknown.

Only one of their number has ever been identified; Captain Thomas Box, of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. The other 30, whose photograph was taken by a young German photographer following their capture during the battle, remain anonymous.

Now historians have appealed to the public to help them name the men and track down their surviving descendants.

Identifying the men would, they say, allow them to be properly commemorated on what is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the end of the Great War.

The Battle of Cambrai marked the first use of the new technology of armoured tanks in mass formation against enemy troops. But after some initial British success on the first day, the Mark IV tanks they deployed began to break down, with others falling to German artillery and infantry defences. However it did point the way forwards in breaking the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front.

The British suffered 47,596, casualties, of whom 9,000 were taken prisoner , with the Germans suffering a total of  41,000 casualties.

The photograph, showing the men lining up for the camera outside a sturdy brick building which may have doubled as their prison quarters, was taken on November 30, 1917, by Walter Heinsen, 17 year old who served on the Western Front as a German Army photographer.

Read the article in full here.

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