EACH month archivist Steve Berridge transcribes the war diary and regimental chronicle of the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

This month he is focusing on the involvement of county soldiers in the First World War Battle of Cambrai in 1917, in which tanks played a significant part in the fighting for the first time.

A volunteer at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, he often travels to war memorial sites in France.

A former corporal in the Royal Green Jackets, Mr Berridge's interest in the regiment started when he began researching the life story of his great-grandfather Corporal George Berridge, who served in the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion during the First World War.

The 53-year-old said his great-grandfather, also a corporal, joined up in 1902 and was allowed home before the actual Battle of the Somme in 1916 because of his age and length of service.

He died in 1956 at the age of 72 following a long illness that may have been related to being gassed during the First World War.

Earlier this year the archivist's research focused on the Battle of Arras, then the Battle of Passchendaele – also known as the third Battle of Ypres – and now he has taken a close look at the Battle of Cambrai in France, in which tanks played a significant part for the first time, and which began 100 years ago today.

Mr Berridge said: "The tank had first made its appearance on the battlefield in September 1916 on the Somme, with mixed fortunes and in 1917 at Arras they again had performed quite poorly, so much so that Australian troops had refused to work with them.

"During the third Battle of Ypres they had some success but had major problems coping with the lunar landscape of shell holes and liquid mud that that battlefield is remembered for."

Mr Berridge said in the first two weeks of November 1917 the third Battle of Ypres finally gained a foothold on the high ground of the Passchendaele Ridge and the village of Passchendaele itself was captured by the Canadian Corps.

This was the end of the British Expeditionary Force's third major offensive of the year, and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had six of its battalions engaged in the third Battle of Ypres.

The six battalions of the Ox and Bucks regiment had casualties amounting to 80 officers and more than 2,000 other ranks during its time in the Ypres offensive.

Mr Berridge said the tank 'had its day' at Cambrai, operating in greater numbers with more reliable Mark IV machines.

He added: "With closer co-operation with the artillery, as well as infantry this was to be the forerunner of the modern 'all arms' battle which would be perfected in July and August 1918 with the addition of close support air power.

"Even as third Ypres was 'closing down' plans were afoot for a fourth major British offensive, this time further south and to the east of the old Somme battlefields towards the town of Cambrai."

Archivist Mr Berridge said in the 20th (Light) Division there were troops from the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

They had been withdrawn from the battlefield of Third Ypres with the rest of the 20th (Light) Division on October 1 1917 and travelled south to Bapaume. Here it remained until mid November when it was withdrawn to practice attacks in cooperation with tanks.

On November 20, 1917 the battalion was to take part in the successful first day of the Battle of Cambrai, taking all of its objectives.

Mr Berridge said: "At 6.20am on November 20, on the signal to advance, and in a fog thickened by a smoke barrage nearly 400 tanks moved forward, cutting lanes in the enemy's wire, disposing of his machine-gun nests, and enfilading his trenches.

"The infantry followed the tanks to complete the consolidation of the German lines, while the artillery opened an intense bombardment on the German rear area.

"The Germans were taken completely by surprise and began to evacuate their main frontline and reserve lines.

"By the end of the first day in places an advance of five miles had been made across a six-mile front, the biggest British advance of the war so far on a single day.

"When news of this success reached Britain church bells were rung in celebration, but the celebrations were not to last."

Numerous casualties were sustained and The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Ox & Bucks would continue to be involved in the fighting until early on December 3 when it left the battle zone for a well-earned rest.

Despite the introduction of tanks to the battlefield, many soldiers on both sides died at Cambrai, which ended on December 6, 1917.

About 40,000 casualties were sustained on both sides in this last major offensive of 1917.