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Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France
First Name: Albert Alexander Last Name: BENFORD
Date of Death: 27/11/1917 Lived/Born In: Kensal Green
Rank: Private Unit: Grenadier Guards3
Memorial Site: 1. Kensal Rise, St Martin 2. Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France

Current Information:

Age-24

44, St Margaret's Road, Kensal Green

 

The Battle of Cambrai

This was a major British offensive on the Western Front that was launched on 20th November, 1917 and lasted through to the beginning of December. As the name suggests it was an attack towards the city of Cambrai and the important German railhead there, which it was hoped would be captured. The battle was notable for two things: the massed use of tanks for the first time and the success of the first day’s fighting when the formidable Hindenburg Line was breached and gains of five miles were made in places. In celebration the church bells throughout Britain were rung. However this success was short lived. The tanks were not reliable and the German defence stiffened as the fighting progressed and when they counter attacked in force on 30th November, the British came under so much pressure that they were forced to withdraw from many of the positions they had captured earlier on. Both sides suffered around 45,000 casualties during the course of the fighting.

By 27th November the Guards Division had moved up to the front line and were ready to add their weight to the attack on the Bourlon ridge in the northern part of the battlefield. 2 Guards Brigade attacked with 3rd Grenadier Guards, 1st Coldstream Guards and 2nd Irish Guards against the village of Fontaine and the north-east part of Bourlon Wood.. Things did not begin well when two companies of 3rd Grenadier Guards, moving south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road, were practically wiped out by machine-gun fire from La Folie Wood. Only one sergeant and six men managed to reach Fontaine church. The other two companies suffered heavily as well but they passed through the village and secured their first objective by 7.15am. However, they had not cleared the cellars and houses behind them, an omission that would cause problems later.  At this stage, the reserve battalion, 1st Scots Guards, sent a company up the sunken road leading from Cantaing to link up with 3rd Grenadier Guards but suffered nearly eighty casualties and were unable to make the contact. Meanwhile, 1st Coldstream had reached their objective after some heavy fighting and at 7.45am, along with  3rd Grenadier,  they advanced on the final objective. This they took but effective occupation was not possible with large gaps between companies and the Germans still active behind them as a result of not clearing the the cellars in Fontaine. 2nd Irish Guards went straight through the north-east corner of Bourlon Wood to their final objective but suffered too many casualties to be able to maintain their position there for long. 4th Grenadier Guards and 1st Welsh Guards from 3 Guards Brigade, were sent up as reinforcements but even their arrival was unable to fight off a very strong enemy counter-attack and all Guards battalions were forced to withdraw, relinquishing Fontaine as they did so. This attack, which achieved almost nothing, cost many lives, one of whom was Albert Benford of 3rd Grenadier Guards.

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