THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME
The Battle of the Somme started in July 1st1916. It lasted until November 1916. The region the Battle of Somme took place in was near Peronne, France. The Battle of Somme took place on July 1, 1916 the British Fourth Army was fighting against the German Army. WHEN AND WHERE
NATURE OF THE BATTLE • German aerial reconnaissance noted the beginning of Allied preparations. These weren't taken seriously due to the Germans poor opinion of British fighting abilities. • The Germans had up to 16 divisions which were divided between the front line and reserve line trenches. The Germans were well positioned. They had located their trenches n high ground and built their concrete lined dugouts up to nine metres below ground level. • Prior to sending troops over the top in 1916, allied troops began a five day massive artillery barrage on German barbed wire and dugouts. Due to bad weather the bombardment lasted seven days , when the attack began, troops would also explode 10 mines that they had installed under the German trenches. • On the 1st of July 1916 , 13 British infantry divisions and 11 divisions of French infantry went over the top. Many of them had to carry 30-40 kg packs laden with trench repair equipment, allowing them to successfully defend German trenches they captured.
CONTINUED • A British mine had exploded 10 minutes early, alerting the Germans to the imminent attack. • Artillery bombardment failed to destroy all German defences with many shells missing or failing to explode. • The Germans heavily fortified trenches protected them from the bombardment. • Allied soldiers advanced into the churned up ground of no mans land into a non stop barrage of German machine gun fire and became easy targets as attempts to pass through barbed wire only entangled them in it. The Allies didn’t have adequate machine gun power to respond to the attack. • Haig sanctioned the use of new tactics including that of the creeping barrage, which did not alert the enemy. In theory, the infantry could take an enemy trench before the enemy had time to react.
GOALS AND TACTICS • General Joseph Joffre had initially planned an attack in the Somme as a French offensive with British support. The strategy of engaging central powers in virtually simultaneous battles on all fronts. • The demands of the French at Verdun changed this. General Haig took over the manning and manning of the battle, with French troops in a comparatively small role. In addition to British forces, allied forces at the Somme included French troops and troops from Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa. The main aim of the campaign was creating a reason to force Germans to withdraw from Verdun and was achieved by a mixture of tactics such as frontal assaults and attrition .
SIGNIFICANCE • Captain Von Hentig described the battle of the Somme as ‘ the muddy grave of the German field army’. Military historian , Gary Sheffield, argued in his book ‘ The Somme’ that the battle actually cost the Germans the war. • Critics of General Haig see him as a foolhardy commander who was slow to adopt new ideas including battle tactics. They also claim that he had poor understanding of the nature of trench warfare and had little respect for his men .
CASUALTIES The result of The Battle of the Somme regarding ‘casualties’ (deaths) resulted with: - French : 7,000 casualties - British: 57,000 casualties - 30% of British casualties on July 1 were sustained as they moved up behind their own front line Conflicting statistics: - British were determined to show that there had been more German than allied casualties - 485,000 allied (British and French) Germany 630,000 casualties The accepted figures: - Allied 620,000 in comparison to Germany with 500,000 casualties.
TECHNOLOGY • - In August & September 1916, British introduced a new weapon of warfare, being the tank • - The idea of the tank came from a development of farming vehicle that could cross difficult land with ease by using caterpillar tanks • - It did a great deal to end the horrors of trench warfare • - The tank was first used at the little known battle of the ‘Flers’. • - The tank showed success during the battle of the Somme.
IMPORTANT INDIVIDUALS Important people at the time: Ex-soldiers who published his diary out into the public ruined General Haig’s reputation. Despite this he was seen as a great man and was respected by the public.