Battle of Somme
Why did the British decide to launch an offensive on the Somme? The French were fighting the Germans alone at Verdun, in an attempt to retain control of the historic fortress town. The French Commander in Chief, Joffre, asked the British to mount an offensive on the nearby Somme, to deflect the Germans. The offensive was planned by the British Commander, Douglas Haig. What was the Plan?
The plan was to launch a week long bombardment of the German trenches This would be followed by an infantry and cavalry attack along the sixteen mile long front. It was expected that not many of the Germans would survive the bombardment, and that the allies would encounter little resistance. Why did the plan not work?
The bombardment failed to destroy the German trenches, which were deep and well-fortified. At the end of the bombardment, the Germans came out of their dugouts and took their positions. Most German soldiers had survived.
The first day of battle – 1st July 1916
On the first day of the battle, the weeklong bombardment stopped. The first over the top were slaughtered in huge numbers, by German snipers and machine guns. The men were ordered to walk towards the German front lines. 752 men from the Newfoundland Regiment left the trenches- 684 were either killed or wounded. The 36th Ulster Division did manage to reach their targets, but were pushed back later as they did not have enough support, and their support was cut down by German machine guns. They suffered badly, losing 6,000 men in the first day.
The German front line soldiers fired rockets into the air to tell their artillery to open fire. Many divisions suffered similar casualties.
On the first day, 20,000 British soldiers were killed and 35,000 wounded.
How did the generals react to the losses on the first day?
Despite the terrible losses on the first day of the battle, General Haig did not want to change his methods. More attacks were ordered but failed each time....
Please join StudyMode to read the full document