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battle of somme

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battle of somme
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The Battle of Somme

The battle of somme was probably the most dramatic battle of world war 1. It was fought in the summer and autumn of 1916. The battle started because the British launched an attack, partly to draw the Germans from Verdun and to partly try and break through the German lines. The casualties were even worse than Verdun. The British planned to attack a 30km stretch of the most heavily guarded German trenches in the whole western front. In turn breaking the German lines and rupturing their attack front.

Ten days before the attack British shell fire had rained down on the German trenches. An unbelievable amount of shells ( 1732873). Made of highly explosive shells killing a lot of Germans and cutting the barbed wire protection.

The battle of Somme was planned as a French and British operation. The original idea came from the commander in chief Joseph Joffre and was accepted by general Sir Douglas Hiag. Although Joffre was concerned with territorial gain it was also an attack to destroy German man power.

At first Joffre intended for to use mainly French soldiers but the German attack on Verdun in February 1916 turned the Somme offensive into a large-scale British diversionary attack. General Sir Douglas Haig now took over responsibility for the operation and with the help of General Sir Henry Rawlinson, came up with his own plan of attack. Haig's strategy was for a eight-day preliminary bombardment that he believed would completely destroy the German forward defences.
Sir Henry Rawlinson was in charge of the main attack and his forth army was to advance towards Bapaume. To the north Edmund Allenby and the British third army was ordered to make a breakthrough with cavalry standing by to exploit the gap that was expected to appear in the German front-line. Further south, General Fayolle was to advance with the French Sixth Army towards Combles. Haig used 750,000 men (27 divisions) against the German front-line (16 divisions). However, the bombardment failed to destroy either the barbed-wire or the concrete bunkers protecting the German soldiers. This meant that the Germans were able to exploit their good defensive positions on higher ground when the British and French troops attacked at 7.30 on the morning of the 1st July. The BEF suffered 58,000 casualties (a third of them killed), therefore making it the worse day in the history of the British Army.
Haig was not disheartened by these heavy losses on the first day and ordered General
Sir Henry Rawlinson to continue making attacks on the German front-line. A night attack on 13th July did achieve a temporary breakthrough but German reinforcements arrived in time to close the gap. Haig believed that the Germans were close to the point of exhaustion and continued to order further attacks expected each one to achieve the necessary breakthrough. Although small victories were achieved, for example, the capture of Pozieres on 23rd July, these gains could not be successfully followed up.

On 15th September General Alfred Micheler and the Tenth Army joined the battle in the south at Flers-Courcelette. Despite using tanks for the first time, Micheler's 12 divisions gained only a few kilometres. Whenever the weather was appropriate, General Sir Douglas Haig ordered further attacks on German positions at the Somme and on the 13th November the BEF captured the fortress at Beaumont Hamel. However, heavy snow forced Haig to abandon his gains
With the winter weather going Haig now brought an end to the Somme offensive. Since the 1st July, the British has suffered 420,000 casualties. The French lost nearly 200,000 and it is estimated that German casualties were in the region of 500,000. Allied forces gained some land but it reached only 12km at its deepest points.