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Why is the battle of the Somme considered such a great military tragedy?

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Natasha Roberts - History Coursework Why is the battle of the Somme considered such a great military tragedy? Up until world war one Britain had played little part in any major battles or conflicts. It wasn't until occurrences at the Somme that the British population became aware of the realities of war and it was for this reason that some people still consider it the greatest military disaster known to man. The initial intentions of the battle were to relieve the rising tensions within Europe and to reverse the course of the war to an allied triumph.. It was intended as a joint attack with the British and French working together in order to increase the chances of success and to steer attention away from Verdun. Beginning on the 1st July 1916, after an eight-day artillery bombardment, 11 British divisions were ordered over the top. Due to a number of underlying faults within the plan that went undetected until too late the battle was doomed from its very commencement. One of the most costly mistakes was the chosen area to execute the battle. However it was initially seen as an advantage to use ground that was not associated with any past experience of war. The reason for this being that it held no stigma of failure OR of success so as not to dishearten troops or cause them to become conceited. ...read more.


The most they could hope for was that the shells would collapse the walls of the trenches and as a result block off the entrances and suffocate the German troops. The realisation hit home far too late that in order to make any major impact more high-powered explosives were in need. Another reason behind the immense failure of the battle was the fact that the majority of the British troops formed a force known as "Kitchener's Army". This consisted solely of inexperienced volunteers, eager to fight for their country and went to war under the false illusions that they would return safely as heroes and winners. However, the truth soon became common knowledge to the soldiers. It didn't matter to the commanders that there was a lack of experience within the troops as he thought this was compensated for by sheer numbers. However, not only did they lack the accuracy and skill required to use their weapons effectively but the commanders also had little faith in them. Because head officials thought very little of the volunteer soldiers they were placed along the front lines, keeping the small minority of qualified soldiers at the back in order to preserve them for as long as possible. However, this meant that experienced soldiers were been led blindly by unqualified men across the battlefields and as a result men went down in their hundreds. ...read more.


Also, the severe winter weather had begun. Throughout the last few months of the battle the air was thick with fog to such an extent that soldiers found it immensely difficult to shoot accurately in the direction of the enemy. This combined with their already limited accuracy skills meant that the amount of successful shots at the enemy was low. Snow had fallen heavily over the months and mixed with the muddy ground that had been uprooted in places as a result of detonating shells. Daunted and fatigued the soldiers trudged through the mud with diminishing patience and belief in their commanders. The loss of morale in these last few months is another reason as to why the battle of the Somme is considered such a tragedy. There are many reasons as to why the Somme offensive was a disaster but it was the combination of all of these that made it a tragedy. The failure of the bombardment, the lack of 'quality' within the British army, German preparation prior to the battle, inflexibility of British plan and the severe weather conditions all contributed to the death of over 600,000 soldiers from the period of July 1st to November 18th. Why was the Somme considered a tragedy? Well the definition of a tragedy being " a mournful and dreadful event" were the "climax is a catastrophe"1 makes us wonder if it is a definition consumed solely from events that occurred during the battle of the Somme. 1 Webster's English Dictionary p399 ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Natasha Roberts - 11MN ...read more.

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