Battle of the Somme

Battle of Somme

July 1916

Allied Casualties

Day 1 – 57,000 casualites British (19,000 KIA)

Day 1 – 7,000 Casualties French


Next 4 Months of the Battle

British 430,000 Casualties

French 200,000 Casualties



German Casualties

Day 1 – 12,000 Casualties


Next 4 Months of the Battle

German 450,000 Casualties


July 1, 1916

Battle of Somme Begins

Intense Allied Artillery

July 1, 1916
July 1, 1916

Battle of Albert

July 1, 1916
July 2, 1916

Capture of Fricourt

July 2, 1916
July 6, 1916

Capture of La Boiselle

July 6, 1916
July 13, 1916

Capture of Mametz Wood and Contalmaison

July 13, 1916
July 12, 1916

Germans Suspend operations at Verdun

July 12, 1916
July 17, 1916

Battle of Bazentin Ridge

July 17, 1916
November 1, 1916

Battle of Somme concludes

November 1, 1916

I find writing anything about the Battle of the Somme to be difficult. No other battle seems to represent mans cruelty towards man more than this battle.

In order to relieve German pressure on Verdun, British forces begin an extensive attack in the Somme. The attack was due to take place later but was moved up to help relieve the French.

The British attack is north and south of the River Somme. British commander General Sir Douglas Haig plans and executes the British offensive. The Somme had been a relatively quiet part of the front line and this had allowed the Germans plenty of time to build up extensive defensive positions. The Germans had 2 completed trench systems with interconnecting passageways and were in the process of building a third trench line. To say this was a heavily fortified German area would be an understatement. In addition most of the German units are well trained and veterans.

The Briths attack was lead by the British 4th Army, commanded by General Sir Henry Rawlinson and the British 3rd Army. The attack had no element of surprise to it. Prior to the infantry attacking there was a week long artillery barrage designed to break up German trenches and barbed wire. The barrage did not achieve this goal and also served to notify the Germans where an offensive was to take place. The British felt that such an extensive artillery barrage must surely create a situation in which British soldiers would face minimal resistance. This view was flawed and ignorant. German lines and defenses were only disrupted in minor ways.

The plan on the day of the British attack is to have a rolling barrage infront of the advancing infantry. On 1 July 1916 at 730 AM the attack began. The attack began in full daylight so the artillery could observe their fire. Either it never occurred to leaders that their own troops would be easily seen in the light or the idea was dismissed.

Shortly before the attack several things are learned by British leaders. The discover that the Germans are fully aware of when and exactly where the attack will take place. With this information the attack went ahead. Ultimately this battle of attrition did help lead to Germany losing the war, I cannot help but feel that there is a deep criminal element to the battle and choices made by British leaders.

At 7 AM the days British Artillery stops firing. At 730 AM British infantry begin their attack. Because the German defensive line is not disrupted in a serious way, the well prepared Germans are easily able to fire upon the British walking in the open with ease. British infantry are mowed down in vast numbers. Entire units simply disappear. As they advance on the Germans they bunch up to pass through the few gaps in the barbed wire created by the Artillery. This bunching up simply creates even easier targets for the Germans. The British do not die in the hundreds. They die in the thousands, the tens of thousands. Fortunately, British Generals are safe, far to the rear looking at maps and making plans.

Because the British infantry advanced slower than expected due to the strong German defenses, the rolling British artillery barrage eventually moves too far forward and helps the Germans fight to their best ability, ensuring the destruction of so many British units.

While the Battle for the Somme will continue for months with huge numbers lost on all sides. Nothing compares to that first day. It is the single bloodiest day for the British Army in history. Even to this day there is a general distaste and anger over the events on 1 July 1916. When viewing events like the Battle of Somme, it is easy to understand why so many people of that generation were desperate for another world war to never happen. At least one entire generation of men simply evaporated and became extinct in the four years of war. So many men on all sides died in the Battle of the Somme that the truth is no one really knows the exact numbers of the dead. Soldiers just sometimes disapeared. Events like this lead to the Creation of Memorial Day and Tombs of the Unknown soldier. The Battle of the Somme along with Verdun are death and destruction on such a vast and gruesome scale that is be difficult for most people to comprehend. The scars of this Battle linger today.

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