The History of the

4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiments


2017 – The Centenary of the Battle of Cambrai

The Battle of Cambrai Centenary Commemorations 2017.

These events can best be described in three parts: the Regimental Parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Sunday 19th November; the French celebrations at Cambrai from Saturday 18th to Monday 20th November; and the Regimental celebrations from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th November at Cambrai.

The Cenotaph Parade. Field Marshal Montgomery when he was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment (1945-57) , secured for the Regiment the privilege of Marching to the Cenotaph in Whitehall on the Sunday following Remembrance Sunday (which is usually the Sunday closest to the Anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai). This unique privilege has been exercised every year since 1948 and was fully exercised by the Regiment in London on 19th November 2017 with more than the usual spectators and the extraordinary presence on parade of the Tank Museum’s Mk IV replica.

The following nine images give a flavour of the Cenotaph parade.


The French Commemorations. These took the form of a series of events on Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th and Monday 20th of November in Cambrai and Flesquières in the presence of the Mayor of Cambrai, the regional mayors together with officials, veterans and the citizens of Cambrai, Flesquières and the nearby towns, together with representatives of France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Germany and Russia. The prime movers in all of this were the Mayor of Cambrai, Monsieur François-Xavier Villain (a Member of the National Assembly of France representing the Département of Nord); and Monsieur Philippe Gorczynski, a long term friend of the Regiment, historian and curator, honoured by our Colonel-in-Chief with an MBE.  He it was who led the excavation of the damaged D Battalion Mk V tank, “D51 Deborah”, which had lain buried in mud for some ninety years. Its brooding presence in its newly constructed museum alongside the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery epitomised the sacrifices incurred in the battle; it was singular to have some offspring of the original crew present. On the first evening a superb Dinner was held in Vaucelles Abbey. The main events thereafter included battlefield tours and comprehensive exhibitions (some assembled by the students from local schools).  There were ceremonies and wreath-laying at French, Commonwealth and German cemeteries in the presence of many from the French Anciennes des Combattants Association, the Peronne-based Somme Battlefield Pipe Band and Canadian veterans. The following nine images give some idea of these events.


The Royal Tank Regiment centenary commemorations. These began with the Freedom of Cambrai parade rehearsals on Thursday 23rd November. These two images give some idea of the scale of the March and parade that was to follow on the Sunday.


The following images give an idea of the many events which then followed. After the drumhead service at Louverval on the afternoon of Friday 24th November an All Ranks Party was held at the Caves Palace (Palais des Grottes) a large conference venue in the Cambrai public gardens. The aim was to bring the Regimental serving and retired family together within the ethos of the Regiment. This was followed by a spectacular fireworks display.


On Saturday 25th November there were three main events. The first was the formal opening in the afternoon of the new Deborah Museum, the result of major fund-raising and years of planning. It was the brain-child of Philippe Gorczynski and a massive tribute to his determination. The opening was performed by Colonel Mark Lancaster MP, the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, together with the Mayor of Cambrai, Monsieur François-Xavier Villain who is also the member of the National Assembly of France. They are seen here unveiling the plaque together.

Deborah now lies alongside the Commonwealth War Grave at Flesquières in which are buried most of those killed in the battle

General Sir Chris Deverell (late RTR and presently Commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command) explains a technical detail to a young enthusiast.

Left to right The Minister Armed Forces, Philippe Gorczynski. Colonel Geoffrey Vesey Holt (fluent in French and much used as an interpreter throughout the commemorations) and Major General John Patterson (RTR Colonel Commandant)

Monsieur Philippe Gorczynski speaks. To the left stands the Mayor of Cambrai and to the right the UK Minister of the Armed Forces.


That evening there was an RTR Association Evening in the Marché Couvert, Place du Marché…


Also on the Saturday evening there was an officers’ reception in Hotel de Ville.

Lt Gen David Leakey aka Black Rod (Pictured centre) Gen Sir Chris Deverell, Minister UK Armed Forces, Maj Gen John Patterson, Mayor of Cambrai


At 1030 on Sunday 26 Nov the Freedom of Cambrai ceremonies began at the Place de Porte when the Mayor of Cambrai granted the Freedom of Cambrai to the Regiment, handing the Town Gate key to the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Simon. Ridgway MBE.


Thereafter the Regiment marched through the gate into the town. Behind them came the French Standard bearers and a huge crowd.


The Regiment together with the Tank Museum Mark V tank “B 46”; a contingent from the 501e Régiment de Chars de Combat of the French Army which is affiliated to the Royal Tank Regiment; the RTR Association Standards bearers; one hundred and sixteen French Standard bearers, representatives of the French Anciennes des Combattants Association; and a large body of regimental veterans.  All formed on the Town Square in front of the Hotel de Ville faced by two large nine hundred seat stands.


It was then inspected by the UK Minister Armed Forces; Madame Geneviève Darrieussecq the French equivalent to the Secretary of State for Defence; the Mayor of Cambrai; General Sir Chris Deverell; Major General John Patterson: and a small party of senior officials and officers.

Speeches followed and the Parade concluded with the March Past.


The final photographs were taken.


A Vin d’Honneur was then offered by the Mayor in the Hotel de Ville. Thereafter much to the relief of Philippe Gorczynski and the Regimental Colonel, (the principal architects of the entire two weeks), the Centenary celebrations were brought to a memorable conclusion.

Philippe Gorczynski Lt Col Stephen May


After note. The Editor arrived in Cambrai on Friday 18th November for the French Commemorations.  Stupidly he fell fracturing his pelvis and spent the following days languishing in Cambrai Hospital. These descriptions therefore lack first hand authenticity and he apologises for any significant omissions. He would be grateful for additional comments, corrections and changes of emphasis. He acknowledges with gratitude the help he has received, in particular the images which appear by permission of Home Headquarters Royal Tank Regiment and Monsieur Vincent Bertin of Cambrai and to Miles Essex who has acted as web master for this chapter.

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