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The Battle of the Somme involved the main allied attack on the Western Front in the 1st World War

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Introduction

The Battle of the Somme involved the main allied attack on the Western Front in the 1st World War. It is mainly famous due to the loss of 58,000 British troops on the first day of battle (1st July 1916). The attack ran from 1st July until 18th November and was located upon a 30-kilometre front, from North of the Somme River between Arras and Albert. The offensive was planned earlier in 1915 and was intended to be a joint Franco-Anglo attack. The French Commander in Chief, Joffre, said that the aim was to drain the German forces of reserves, however territorial gain also had some input. Sir Douglas Haig was the Commander in Chief of the BEF who would be conducting the major offensive in 1916. Originally, although the British forces made up the bulk of the offensive forces, the attack was to be predominantly French. However the German siege on Verdun at the beginning of 1916 resulted in the diversion of almost all-French manpower and efforts as Falkenhayn had promised to bleed France white. ...read more.

Middle

Many charges did not go off and much of the British munitions proved to be 'duds'. The first attacking wave of the offensive went over the top from Gommecourt to the French left flank just south of Montauban. The attack was by no means a surprise as it was frequently discussed and served as merely an alert to the German army to the imminent attack. As a consequence of this lack of surprise and the lack of success of the bombardment the BEF made very little progress in the first few weeks at the beginning of the battle. The French forces at the southern end of the line achieved more success, maybe because their advance bombardment was only sprung a few hours before the attack therefore maintaining the element of surprise. This was also helped by the fact that the Germans did not expect the French to attack, due to their heavy losses at Verdun. For the most part the British troops were forced back into their trenches by the German machine gun fire. ...read more.

Conclusion

Joffre was concerned that Haig should keep up the Somme offensive as otherwise German manpower may be diverted back to Verdun to assist the German defence there. Therefore on 13th November a final effort was made by the BEF in the Battle of the Ancre where the field fortress of Beaumont Hamel was captured. The British were finally progressing, but even this was bought to a halt when extremely bad weather caused the Somme offensive to end. The result had been an estimated 420,000 British casualties, a further 200,000 for the French and around 500,000 for the Germans and all for only 12 kilometres of land in Britain and Frances favour. Over 1 million lives were lost in this battle alone and all the Somme offensive was designed for was to divert German attention from the French at Verdun. Some believe this battle acted as a learning curve in the employment of artillery, which contributed to the victory in 1918. In my opinion it shows the severity and pointlessness of war. Hardly anything was achieved apart from the loss of thousands of lives. ...read more.

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