• Archives

  • Topics

  • Meta

  • The Boogeyman - Working Vacation
  • Coming Home
  • Quest To the North
  • Via Serica
  • Tales of the Minivandians
  • Join the NRA

    Join the NRA!

100 Years On – Somme

On the morning of July 1, 1916, French and British forces stepped off on their part of what was supposed to be a coordinated effort by the Allied armies to attack the Central Powers on all fronts.  French forces, however, had been drained by efforts to stave off the Germans at Verdun.  The British changed the plan so that they would take on a heavier load on the Western Front, principally along the Somme River.

After a lengthy artillery bombardment, 13 British divisions, including what was left of the Regular Army, the Territorials, and the new divisions of the Kitchener Army, left their trenches and advanced in good order. They, along with 11 French divisions, ground into the German lines.  British losses on the first day alone came to 57,470 men, with 19,240 killed.

In 141 days, the British and French pushed German lines back  six miles along a front of sixteen miles.  This was the largest Allied advance since the beginning of the war.

141 days later, over one million men, French, German, and British, were either dead, wounded, or captured.

16 miles by 6 miles is 96 square miles.

146,431 dead Allied soldiers (95,675 British and 50,756 French) divided by 96 square miles comes to about 1525 dead men for each mile gained.  In contrast, the Union side of the American Civil War lost 140,414 men to combat over four years. This was war on a destructive level never before seen.

While British leadership was criticized for the cost of the battle both during and after the war, later historians point to the horrific scale of casualties absorbed by Britain’s French and Russian allies throughout the war and assert that the Somme was Britain’s introduction to truly modern warfare.  Whether the Somme, with its gains, were worth the number of dead and injured, is open to interpretation.

The Battle of the Somme did, however, cause great harm to the German army.  Losses of 465,000 dead, wounded, or missing could not be absorbed without having an impact on the ability of the Germans to continue to defend their gains in France and Belgium. In 1917, they would withdraw to better designed fortifications along the Hindenburg Line.

1 Comment

  1. A generation lost to three countries… Horrific and the damage done changed the face of warfare for ever…

%d bloggers like this: