Saturday, July 1

The Battle of the Somme

Today is the 60's Anniversary of the first day of the First Battle of the Somme. On 1 July 1916 over 19,400 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed The battle was the largest and bloodiest engagement on the Western Front in which a total of 420,000 yong British soldiers wre killed in a fruitless attempt to relieve the French . At the Battle's end only 5 miles were gained from the Germans.
Lest we forget


Anonymous said...

This battle was not a "fruitless attempt to relieve the French" It was a valiant attempt by very brave British AND French troops to drive back and to defeat the German Army in battle conditions we can not imagine today.
By the end of the battle in November 1916, 420,000 British troops, 200,000 French troops and 500,000 German troops were Casualties.
Many new battle techniques were tried for the first time during this battle utilising new, modern equipment like tanks and aircraft, neither of which had been used offensively before. It is my belief that these experiences, once refined, probably reduced the number of casualties in subsequent wars.
Try not to use words like fruitless Peter. The benefit of hindsight is not available to the Generals on the ground at the time. No battle can be seen as fruitless while you are fighting it. Every one has to be fought with the thought that it will be the last and most decisive.
I'm sure your intention was not to belittle the sacrifice made by these brave men and I look forward to your promised posting later today.
By the way, they were not all young men. The oldest casualty of the battle was 57 and many many more were in their thirties, forties and fifties. Such was the determination of the British people at the time that men of all ages volunteered to enlist.
I somehow doubt we could muster anywhere near that same level of deternination today.
We will never forget

Peter Troy said...

My comment is not intended as an adverse reflection of the bravery of the men who fought at the Battle of the Somme, my own Grandfather William Troy (later to be awarded the Military Medal in 1918) was serving as a volunteer in the 62 division in 1916.

The courageous troops under the ultimate command of General Haig had as much control over their destiny as lambs do when being driven to the slaughter. A primary objective of the attack was, in fact, to relieve pressure on the French who prior to the 1 July were taking the bulk of the attack from the Germans.

Haigh was under instructions from Asquith, the Prime Minister, to follow Joffre's (the French Commander) stratigic direction. There was no miltary advantage in attacking at the Somme; it happened to be the place where the French and British armies 'joined hands'. It was a political decision.

A J P Taylor ( a leading authority on the First World War) wrote:

''On 1 July thirteen British divisions went over the top in regular waves. The attack was a total failure.
The slaughter was prolonged for weeks, then for months. It tailed off in November when it floundered in the mud.No strategic gain had been made. The troops were tried almost to the limit of their endurance. Kitchener's army found its graveyard on the Somme.''

Extracted from The Somme - English History 1914 -1945

I agree the British army in France at that time was comprised of many volunteer battalions which was made up largly of middle aged men - however a walk through any of the war cemeteries of the Somme and a sober examination of the tomb stones will confirm that over 90 percent of our glorious dead were still in their youth.

PS My promised but delayed posting will follow.

Joseph Blogs of Clapham said...

In one significant respect, the Battle of the Somme was a major strategic success for the British as on 12 July, in response to the Somme fighting and the situation in the east, Gen Falkenhayn called off the German offensive at Verdun. While the fighting would continue there until December, it would be the French who dictated the course of the battle.

Thus the French were relieved - but at a teric cost to British Empire troops. Peter is probably correct to discribe the Somme attact as fruitless in view of the appling loss of life, even by First World War standards

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that even though i am not as well eductaed as some political and elder people like you, i would like to say how proud i am to be british and of thoose brave soliders who fought in the battle of somme. This may not have any relivance however but i am truly amazed at their regardless bravery and passion for our country which i feel we have so easily lost now. In my class we had a test to see who we believed were proud to be british and can you belive only two people in a class including myself felt this way. Surely those soliders deserve more respect than that. They fought for us. Why dont the children of today appreciate that? Thank you