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The Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916.

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Introduction

Freya Ollerearnshaw 10AW The Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916 The Battle of the Somme was a significant event in the First World War as it brought about changes in Military tactics, types of warfare and general views of War. Even today, the Battle remains one of the most horrific tragedies in military history. The overwhelming loss of life left a permanent mark on all the nations involved. The Battle was originally planned by the French commander-in-chief as an attack in which the French played a large and vital role. However, many French troops were drafted to give aid to their comrades at Verdun, so frantic appeals were sent to the new British commander Sir Douglas Haig to hasten the Somme offensive. Because of the increase in numbers of British troops, Britain now had to assume full responsibility. One of the principal objectives of the battle was to relieve pressure on Verdun and on Russia by forcing German troops away from those areas to the Somme. Beyond this there does not seem to be any strategic planning. The only other limited goals were to deflate German morale by killing as many Germans as possible whilst sacrificing few British lives and to destroy German trenches and fortified positions in a massive artillery barrage. ...read more.

Middle

Soldiers sat, weeping on the broken fire steps while doctors and medical workers attended to the wounded and dying. When daylight came, the following morning, the Germans in some parts of the front where casualties were at their heaviest, raised white flags into the air, gesturing an informal and temporary truce. They then aided the British soldiers in attending to the wounded, the sheer butchery of the first day had had a dreadful impact on every soldier present. The first day of the Battle of the Somme remains numerically the worst military disaster ever to have befallen the British army with a record casualty list of 57,470: 19,240 killed, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 taken prisoner. Eighty-four battalions had attacked in the first hour, a total of about 66,000. Of these an estimated 50% were casualties within the first hour! Despite this enormous loss of life General Haig was still convinced the battle would be a success. The day was seen by the commanding generals as a 'setback' rather than a disaster. The Politicians, ever keen to keep up civilian morale, tried to understate the defeat that had been inflicted. Journalists were fed false information to print in their papers on how the day went. A reporter later wrote (when he discovered the truth) ...read more.

Conclusion

His use of the word hopelessly shows that his optimism has quickly drained as the battle has progressed. After the first day alone, soldiers on all sides realised how bad war could get. They had seen their fellow soldiers die horrendously in front of them and as the battle progressed, saw corpses used as parapets and doorsteps. They saw the rotting remains of their friends 'so horrible in their discolour that it called for an act of faith to believe that these were once men' and heard the constant cries of the dying in No Mans Land. With all these horrific images, seen everyday, it is no wonder that the soldier's attitudes to war drastically changed for the worse. The public's views also changed during and after the Somme. Before the Somme, people back in England had no idea of what was really going on on the Western front, all the newspapers and letters sent home had been censored and only included the victories. War was seen as exciting and fun. The Somme changed all this, it was the first battle to have been filmed and when people back home discovered the horrible truth their opinions of war were rapidly altered. The terrible reality of what their fellow countrymen had endured shocked the nation and people were bitter for a long time towards those responsible for covering up the awful truth. Never again would war be seen as a romantic, exciting pursuit. ...read more.

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