Battle of the Somme, 1916

BATTLE OF THE SOMME – WWI

1 July – 18 November 1916

SUMMARY

The largest battle of WWI, and also the bloodiest with 1 million casualties, the Battle of the Somme was fought in 3 phases over 4 months.  The battle was part of the British offensive to push through the German lines along a 15-mile (27 km) front of the River Somme in northeastern France.  A British force of 1,530,000 making up 50 Divisions, along with 1,440,000 French troops in 48 Divisions, fought against 1,500,000 German soldiers in 50 Divisions. Anglo-French artillery fired 1.6 million shells into the German lines, but their damage was insignificant.  The battle saw the first use of tanks in warfare.

British troops and tank at Somme, https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/the-battle-of-the-somme-in-pictures-1916/-Public Domain

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BACKGROUND

After the Germans established their positions on the Western front after the Battle of Verdun, the British and French Armies devised a plan to launch an offensive to penetrate the German lines and push German forces East away from Somme River.

A German field telephonist relays artillery requests from the front lines, https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/the-battle-of-the-somme-in-pictures-1916/-Public Domain

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LOCATION

Somme River, north-central Somme and

south-eastern Pas-de-Calais Départements, France

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ALLIED POWERS

BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

Led by

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig

Haig, 1916, UK National Portrait Gallery – Public Domain

General Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson

Rawlinson, UK National Portrait Gallery – Public Domain

General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough

Gough, Official British military photograph. First published in “The Great War” Ed. H.W. Wilson, 1917 – Public Domain

Supported by

FRENCH  ARMÉE

Led by

Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre

Joffre, date unknown, http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/firstworldwar/fr-joffre-port.htm – Public Domain

Marshal Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch

Foch, 1921, by Melcy, https://commons.wikimedia.org  – Public Domain

Marshal Marie Émile Fayolle

Fayolle, date unknown, http://histomil.com/viewtopic.php?t=492&start=1010 – Public Domain

General Joseph Alfred Micheler

Michenor and Marchand, Oct, 1915, https://commons.wikimedia.org – Public Domain

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IMPERIAL GERMAN ARMY

Led by

Crown Prinz Rupprecht of Bavaria

Rupprecht, date unknown, Bain Collection, U.S. Library of Congress – Public Domain

General Max Karl Wilhelm von Gallwitz

Gallwitz, 1915, Bain Collection, U.S. Library of Congress – Public Domain

General Fritz von Below

Below, date unknown, https://commons.wikimedia.org – Public Domain
First day of the Battle of the Somme, https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/the-battle-of-the-somme-in-pictures-1916/- Public Domain

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RESULT

A military draw.

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CONSEQUENCE

Allied forces suffered 623,907 casualties with 146,431 killed or missing.  German forces suffered 465,000–600,000 casualties with 164,055 killed or missing.  Nearly 200 Australian soldiers were taken prisoner of war while 38,000 Germans were captured.  When British troops attacked on July 1, they suffered the greatest single-day loss in all of Britain’s history: 60,000 casualties with 10,000 killed in action.  At the end of the battle, the Allies had won just five miles (eight km) of ground, but attrition was high among the German defenders, including a large number of junior officers and NCOs, which would affect their army’s effectiveness during the remaining years of the war.  Lt. Henry Augustus “Harry” Butters, a U.S. citizen serving with the British Army, became the first American casualty of WWI.  Author J. R. R. Tolkien served at the Battle of the Somme and German soldier Adolf Hitler was wounded in the battle.

A British soldier dresses the wounds of a German prisoner near Bernafay Wood. July 19, 1916, https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/the-battle-of-the-somme-in-pictures-1916/-Public Domain

Dramatic documentary of the Battle of the Somme

Documentary with actual footage of the battle

 

Dramatic cinematographic reenactment of the build up and first day of the battle as told from first-hand accounts

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