The first World War brought new innovations to warfare. The U-Boat become the most feared weapon on the open seas, the airplane took the war into the skies and the tank changed land tactics forever.
Early tanks were clumsy machines. A tank crew stood just as much chance of dying from the exhaust and heat produced by the engines as they did by enemy artillery fire. Despite that danger the tank provided a way to get soldiers across No Man’s Land with their armor and provided a mobile artillery platform with their turret. The first tanks were put into battle during the Somme Campaign in 1916 but they did not hold up well. Improvements were quick in coming though.
In November 27, 1917 near Cambrai Allied tanks again faced their German foes manning the Hindenburg Line. Out of five battalions of Allied tanks one tank, a Mark IV D51 called Deborah, advanced further than all of the others until it came near a barn. There German artillery ended Deborah’s career along with the lives of five of her eight crewmen. Following the battle what was left of Deborah was buried by a Chinese labor gang but it not forgotten by the locals.
The Mark IV was the most numerous tank produced during the war with a total of 1,220 being built. Improvements in its armor made it stronger and it was much more maneuverable than previous versions. It was introduced in the spring of 1917 and saw service through the remainder of the war. It carried either three or five machine guns and weighed about 29 tons.
Growing up a young boy named Philippe Gorczynski had scoured the area looking for war relics. He had found bullet casings, helmets and a lot of other relics. He spoke with some of the locals who had lived through the battle and they told him about a tank that was buried but not marked on any maps. Curiosity proved to be too much and he found it buried about 900 yards from the barn where it met its demise. The barn itself still bears the scars of battle to this day. Gorczynski set to work restoring Deborah and opened a small museum in another nearby barn standing on cobblestones from Cambrai. Deborah is treated with a special oil to fight corrosion and it is hoped that the tank can be moved into a more permanent exhibit in the future.
Deborah is a rare find. Most tanks following the war were scrapped and only a handful of World War 1 tanks are known to survive to this day. Deborah it seems was buried with the intention of being used to help fill a hole previously dug by German soldiers. Sometimes you just never know what you’ll find in and around a barn.