Battle of Somme (1 July 1916 – 18 November 1916)

Are you interested knowing facts and realities about history events? What was the First World War? What was the Battle of Somme? Here you find all the details about Somme Battle.

What is Battle of Somme?

The Battle of First World War (1914- 1918) that was continued for almost 141 days, fought on both sides of Somme River, in France against German forces by British and French forces is called Battle of Somme. The battle of the Somme, started from 1st of July 1916 to 18th of November 1916, also known as the Somme Offensive.

Background

Being a part of First World War, the Somme battle was fought between allied powers and central powers to get a victory for the Allies. The Allies of World War 1 includes France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United States were fought and stayed against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and their colonies during the First World War.

In a Chantilly conference, held in December 1915 in France. The French and Britain decided to an offensive on Somme in 1916. The allies were also agreed to a combined offensive against central powers along with Somme Offensive. But the decided plan was changed immediately when Germen forces began the battle of Verdun. Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Henry Rawlinson prepared the plan for Somme attack.

The huge casualties suffered during the Battle of the Somme played a significant part in earning Haig the nickname ‘The Butcher’.

Hence, the Britain were forced to have battle first on 1st of July 1916 after heavy artillery bombardment of the Germans lines for about one week.

In Somme battle, more than three million soldiers fought in the battle out of which about one million soldiers were injured or killed. This was a huge loss and never happened before in the history of Europe. This is the main reason to said it one of the worst battles in human history.

The British Army

The British army fought on the Somme included,

  • The remains of the pre-war army,
  • The Territorial Force and
  • The Kitchener’s Army, a force of wartime volunteers.

Circumstances and events of Somme Battle

The Battle of Somme (1916) was battled in three phases and lasted for about 5 months.

  • First phase 1-17 July 1916
  • Second phase July- September 1916
  • Third phase September- November 1916

First phase 1-17 July 1916: The Day 1 of the Somme battle was very crucial. It started at 7:30am on 1st of July 1916 when corps of the French and the British  armies attacked the German from Foucaucourt to the south of the Somme and the Ancre to Serre and at Gommecourt, 3 km beyond, in the Army area. The goal of the attack was to occupy the German’s defensive positions.

British soldiers moved across no-man’s land on the 1st of July 1916 at 7:30 am in the morning they were soon shot by machine guns, rifle fire and explosive shells as they progressed towards the German line. Allied forces were confident that bombardment would damage German defenses, so that their troops could easily advance. But the barbed wires and deep underground trenches, were stronger than expected. They were failed to get success because of barbed wires and heavily defended trenches. Many of British troops were caught in no man’s land.

On the other side, the French army did well in the south but the British army suffered heavy losses they had suffered about 58,000 casualties with 1/3 of them killed. The first day was very crucial and fatal. This was a great loss and would be remembered always.

The attacks continued between 3 and 13 July which resulted in another heavy loss of 25,000 casualties. During the day- time of 14th of July, four British divisions attacked on Longueval Ridge by an intense artillery bombardment. As a result of this attack, the Germans were caught. In middle of the morning the British had captured the ridge. Counter- attacks continued throughout the summer. 

Second phase July- September 1916:

During this phase the aim of British army was to secure the British right flank and to capture the higher-lying areas of High Wood and Pozières. So that the army fought at Delville Wood and at last, secured the British right flank.

The battle on Guillemont (on the right flank of the British sector, near the boundary ) was considered as the supreme effort of the German army during the battle. Sir Joffre, Haig, Foch, General Sir Henry Rawlinson (commander of the British Fourth Army) and Fayolle were agreed in numerous meetings  to co-ordinate joint attacks by the four armies, all of which broke down. A pause in Anglo-French attacks at the end of August, overlapped with the largest counter-attack by the German army in the Battle of the Somme.

After the end of the Battle of Guillemont, British troops were required to advance to positions for a general attack in mid-September. British attacked Leuze Wood northwards to Ginchy and captured the village and was then forced out by a German counter-attack. The capture of Ginchy and the success enabled both armies to make much bigger attacks. As a result they suffered 130,000 casualties on the German defenders during the month.

Third phase September- November 1916: The third phase started with the battle of Flers–Courcelette, the third and the final offensive by the British Army.  The objective of battle was not achieved but the tactical gains were considerable, they occupied front line 2,500–3,500 yards resulted in many casualties. 

In this phase, the British improved and experimented new techniques in gas war, machine-gun bombardment and tank–infantry. The Britian Improved their tactics and tanks were used for the first time in the attack on Flers- Courcelette. About 1.5miles of area was occupied but still failed to move forward for big success. September became the worst month for casualties for the Germans.

The weather started to deteriorate on 18 November 1916, Haig decided to shut down the offensive. They have captured only 12Km of area with no big success.

Casualities and lossess

  • British loss 420,000 dead
  • German loss 465,000- 600,000 dead and injured.
  • French 200,000

THE BRITISH ARMY GAINED VALUABLE EXPERIENCE

An official Film “The Battle of the Somme”

Watch the official documentary if you want to know about Battle of the Somme. It was produces and directed by the official cinematographers Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell. They made the featured film with the title ‘The Battle of the Somme’ (1916) with full coverage of real scenes of early battle.

If you got an experience of watching this movie you could see the real events of Battle of Somme. The film showed the real scenes and geographics of that film were awesome. The movie was shown in cinemas on 21 August 1916. The film was seen by nearly 20 million people in the UK, almost half the population just because of its real picturization.

The other parts of battle were also filmed and released in 1917. People also liked those parts. Their names were “The Battle of the Ancre” and “the Advance of the Tanks”.

Reasons of Failure

  • The bombardment was inadequate because of the lack of artillery.
  • In-experienced new army recruits.
  • Weakness of their shells in destroying barbed wire.
  • The delay between the bombardment and the attack gave the Germans time to recover to their positions.
  • Haig did not prepare an alternative plan for July the 1st because he did not have faith in the new troops to cope with.

Lessons got through Somme Battle

Although the British army and its allies worked hard for the battle, as a result they suffered so many causalities that could not be forgotten but gained some territories on Somme. Following are some lessons the British army learned from Battle of Somme:

  • How to fight a large-scale war
  • Army and volunteers became more experienced and effective.
  • Developed tactics such as use of tanks and creeping barrages.
  • Allies became more united for future.

Thanks for reading.

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