Deborah in the Battle of Cambrai page

Deborah in the Battle of Cambrai

Deborah was in No. 12 Section of the 12th Company. Her Section Commander was Capt.G.Nixon and her Company Commander was Major R.O.C.Ward. No. 12 Company formed the second wave of attack in charge of the capture of the Hindenburg support line in the sector west of Flesquieres.

As the tank Deborah entered the village of Flesquieres, the leading company of the 153rd Brigade which was following the tank had to withdraw in face of sustained enemy fire. The ruins and cellars gave perfect cover to snipers and machine gunners and the tank had difficulty in locating them. After the tank had passed, they re-emerged to try and stop its progress. As D51 left the shelter of the last houses in the street, it came under fire from a field gun, and the tank was put out of action. 2/Lt Frank Heap was awarded the Military Cross for his brave efforts. The citation speaks for itself:

“In Cambrai operations near Flesquieres on November 20th 1917, he fought his tank with great gallantry and skill, leading the infantry on to five objectives. He proceeded through the village and engaged a battery of enemy field guns from which his tank received five direct hits, killing four of his crew. Although then behind the German lines he collected the remainder of his crew and conducted them in good order back to our own lines in spite of heavy machine gun and snipers fire”.

D51 Deborah was not discovered until the next day, when the Scottish infantry found it. The four crew who had been killed, were buried next to the tank. After the war the four bodies were re-interred in the Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery.
The village was not retaken by the Germans until March 1918. Until then the wrecked tank remained in British hands, before being abandoned.
Next: Why and how Deborah was buried

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