The Somme is one of the best-known battles in history. It was fought during World War One and was one of that war’s bloodiest battles. At the battle, the Anglo-French armies attacked the German lines. After some fierce fighting, the British with the help of the French did manage to push back the Germans and seized some strategic ground. However, the casualties were huge and many viewed the battle as unnecessary and even a failure. Many historians argue that the battle inflicted heavy losses on the Germans and in the long run this forced them to surrender.
The first day of the battle cost the British army alone almost 60,00 casualties. The Germans and the French also suffered many casualties.
The British had bombarded the German lines for some five days. They shelled the German Divisions with hundreds of thousands of shells. It was the heaviest artillery barrage in history until that battle. The British believed that the artillery shelling would destroy the German lines but this was to prove incorrect.
The Germans had dug new trench networks and had established a third line of defense in preparation for the expected British offensive. These defenses proved very effective at delaying and repulsing the British and French attacks.
The British Generals ordered that the British soldiers walk across no man’s land. This allowed the Germans to mow down many with their machine guns.
Adolf Hitler fought at the Somme. He was nearly killed here and he suffered a serious leg wound. He later recalled that the Somme ‘was not war, but hell’.
The son of the British Prime Minister Asquith was killed on the first day of the Battle. Several British MPs also were killed at this battle. The future British Prime Minister MacMillian was also wounded during the battle.
The Battle of the Somme was the first major battle where tanks and airplanes played a significant part in the fighting. The British developed the tank and they expected it to help them to defeat the Germans. However, the tanks proved mechanically unreliable. The enemy also employed artillery to destroy the tanks. In general, the tanks did not really help the British to achieve their aims.
The Battle of the Somme took place from July to November. the battle was only stopped by the approach of winter. The rain in November turned the battlefield into a mire and not even tanks could move in these conditions.
The British launched the offensive to help the French at Verdun. The French were badly in need of help and this meant that the British High Command had to rush the planning of the war. This was one of the reasons why the Somme was at best only a partial success and was not an outright victory.
The exact casualty figures for the battle are not known. It is estimated that the British and the French suffered some 600,000 casualties. This figure includes the dead and the wounded. The German death toll was around 500,000 to 600,000. This meant that the Battle of the Somme saw the deaths or wounding of at least one million men.