Why was the first day of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st of July such a disaster?
On 1st July 1916, the first phase of the allied offensive, took place on the Northern side of the Western front and was known as the Battle of the Somme. The main reason for the battle was to take pressure off the French army, which had been under heavy attack at Verdun since February, and was close to cracking. It was hoped that a major British offensive on the Somme would force the Germans to withdraw troops from Verdun. The other reason was that it had been a stalemate for 2 years and Douglas Haig, the commanding officer of the British army, wanted to get the break through and win the war. Hence at 07:30 hours (zero hour) the allied troops came out of their trenches and charged at the German lines. The Germans within their highly effective trenches mowed down the oncoming troops.It was remembered as the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army when 60,000 men became casualties, of whom 20,000 were killed or died of wounds.
The failure of the artillery bombardment just days before the Somme was a key reason to why the first day of the Somme was a disaster. Firstly, as stated earlier, the German trenches were better than the allied trenches. The Northern area of the battle front was quite vacant (less fighting) giving the Germans a considerable time to improve their defences. Furthermore a German trench, which was made on higher ground, was made to defend. A British trench however was made on lower ground as wasn’t made as good because, as the offensive side, they were meant to move forward, not stay put. The shrapnel shells used by the British, which were more effective on open land, were of little use at destroying the entrenched German infantry. High explosives were needed to produce some real damage to the dugouts, but these were in short supply as a result of the ineffectiveness of British industry to produce them in great numbers. Moreover, some of the...
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