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WW I July 1, 1916 Battle of the Somme begins - Other History - The Lounge - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 03:02 am
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Steven Cone
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At 7:30 on the morning of July 1, 1916, soldiers from 11 British divisions emerge from their trenches near the Somme River in northwestern France and advance toward the German front lines, marking the beginning of a major new offensive on the Western Front in World War I.

With the bulk of French resources concentrated on holding the fortress city of Verdun, under siege by the Germans since February 21, 1916, it was clear that the main offensive effort on the Western Front that year would have to be made by the British. After months of planning under the leadership of Sir Douglas Haig, commander in chief of the British forces, the attack on the Somme—destined to be the
largest military engagement in history up to that time—was ready. After a full week of bombarding German positions near the Somme— including 1.5 million shells fired from over 1,500 guns—the infantry  advance began on the morning of July 31, along a 25-mile-long front  extending across both banks of the river.

The six German divisions facing the advancing British took little time to pull out their heavy machine guns from where they had stored them during the bombardment. Out of the 110,000 British soldiers approaching through No Man's Land towards the German trenches, some 20,000 were killed & 40,000 wounded that day alone—the single heaviest day of casualties in British military history to that point & today.

This disastrous initial advance was credited variously to lack of foresight on the part of the British command—their failure to conceive that the Germans could build their trenches deep enough to protect their weapons, or bring them up so quickly once the artillery barrage had ended—the total lack of surprise surrounding when the
attack began and the inferior preparation of the British artillery, for which the infantry paid a heavy price.

Between mid-July and mid-September, British forces launched no fewer than 90 attacks—all ill-coordinated, hurried and ineffectual, and all against narrow fronts, with their objective alternating between breakthrough and attrition. Over the course of the next four-and-a-half months, the Allies were able to advance a total of only six
miles in the Somme region, at the cost of 146,000 soldiers killed, before Haig called off the offensive on November 18. The German death toll—at 164,000--was even higher.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, a nemesis of Haig's, later delivered a resounding condemnation of the battle: "It is claimed that the Battle of the Somme destroyed the old German Army by killing off its best officers and men. It killed off far more of our best and of the French best. The Battle of the Somme was fought by the
volunteer armies raised in 1914 and 1915. These contained the choicest and best of our young manhood….Over 400,000 of our men fell in this bullheaded fight and the slaughter amongst our young officers was appalling…Had it not been for the inexplicable stupidity of the Germans in provoking a quarrel with America and bringing that mighty people into the war against them just as they had succeeded in eliminating another powerful foe—Russia—the Somme would not have saved us from the inextricable stalemate."




 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 04:06 pm
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David White
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July 1, is a killer day. The Battlew of Abrittus in Roman times, Dorylaeum in Crusader times, La Noche Triste when the Aztecs drove Cortez and his allies out of Tenochtitlan, the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, Malvern Hill, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, First Battle of El Alamein but the Somme has to be the worst of all.



 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 05:57 pm
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fedreb
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How ones words can come back to bite. Just over a year before the Somme where General Haig sent British troops into the teeth of German machine-guns with such catastrophic results he had written, in April 1915, in a memo to the British War Council, " The machine-gun is a much overated weapon and two per battalion is more than sufficient"
No wonder that we British were labelled with the old Crimea war tag "Lions led by Donkeys"



 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 07:01 pm
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Steven Cone
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I have recently started studying WWI and WWII and  can't  even imagine such carnage.. 

The previous info was sent to me  and i have read that the  front was 12 miles instead of 25  so theres some holes in the info  but non the from july 1 - Nov 13th the British, french and other Alies  lost over 600,000 + the Germans 500.000 in all close to a 1 million and half men  became casualties  in 3 months 13 days.. :(



 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 07:24 pm
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fedreb
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Steven
If it is WW1 history that you like then there is no better source than Lyn Macdonald, her books are classics of the era and highly recommended. Also try Alan Clark's "The Donkeys" which chronicles the British High Command throughout 1915 leading up to the battle of Loos where the 10,000 British troops committed suffered 8,250 casualties, the Germans suffered none. It would have been worse but for the Germans refusing to fire anymore whilst what was left of the Brits retreated.



 Posted: Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 08:05 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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I recently finished 'Mud, Blood, and Poppycock' by Gordon Corrigan, which takes a revisionist look at various criticisms of the war from the approach of officers to the use of the death penalty. About the Somme he tries to argue that there was little alternative to holding a campaign on the Western Front at that time, and the high casualties were mainly due to inexperienced officers and men facing a ferocious attack which the British seldom suffered before.

An interesting book, but I don't really know enough about the Great War to contemplate the points he makes.



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