Why Was the First Day of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916) Such A Disaster?
The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st of July 1916 just north of Somme. This was over a month earlier than planned but the British needed to attack early in order to draw out the German troops from Verdun and save the French army. The battle was intended to create a rupture in the German line which could then be exploited so the Allies could get deep into the enemy lines. But the first day was a disaster and it was the worst day in British military history as 20,000 were killed and 40,000 were injured.
The first problem was that the Germans had established their positions first and had made deep trenches out of steel and concrete. The Allied intelligence had under estimated the German defences. They were 30 feet wide and had shell proof underground bunkers. The Germans had also placed their trenches in the best land which was the ridges so it was even harder for the Allied infantry to get to them.
The next problem was that there was no element of surprise in the Allied attack. The German reconnaissance spotted a mass build up of Allied soldiers. The attack was also given away by the weeklong bombardment. It was obvious that when the shells stopped there would be a flood of Allied soldiers attacking the German trenches.
The third problem was that the bombardment completely failed. The shells couldn’t get to the underground German bunkers because they were too well dug in. Over a third of the shells fired didn’t actually explode. Another reason why the bombardment failed is that the Allies fired shrapnel shells instead of more explosive shells which didn’t do that much damage to the German defences. The bombardment was also supposed to destroy the wire, but it ended up just tangling it further making it more dangerous. Despite this General Douglas Haig and the other Generals sent the army into battle.
An additional problem was that the British Army was mostly made up...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document