BATTLE OF THE SOMME IN WORLD WAR I
The Battle of the Somme was one of the most significant battles of World War I. In fact, it was one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of the Somme occurred in the summer and fall of 1916 along the trenches of the Western Front in northern France. Today the battle is remembered as one of the most significant from World War I and is viewed as characteristic to the nature of fighting at the time. For instance, during the Battle of the Somme, hundreds of thousands of soldiers for both the Allied and Central Powers were injured and killed. As such, the battle is a seen as an example of the ‘waste of humanity’ that the trenches of the Western Front became known for.
The Battle of the Somme took place from July 1st, 1916 to November 18th, 1916 and is remembered as one of the bloodiest battles in human history. It was a devastating battle that took place along the River Somme in northern France. It was fought between Allied Powers of France and Britain (along with forces from the British Empire) and the Central Power of Germany and was a major conflict on the Western Front. British Empire forces that participated in the Battle of the Somme included: Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa, India, etc. France and Britain both hoped that by starting the Battle of the Somme, they would relieve pressure on French defenders in Verdun during the Battle of Verdun where the French were struggling against the German assault on that region. The Allied strategy at the Battle of the Somme was to draw more German troops away from Verdun and into the Somme in hopes of causing Germany to struggle with managing both large battles at the same time.
The Battle of the Somme in World War I, unfolded in a series of three phases. These phases unfolded at different times throughout the summer and fall of 1916. As well, the phases included many smaller conflicts or battles between the Allied Armies and the German Army, which led to the numerous casualties that each suffered during the course of the Battle of the Somme.
The first phase of the Battle of the Somme is considered to have taken place from July 1st to the 17th in 1916. As such, the first phase included the first day of fighting, which was particularly deadly. For instance, on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the British forces were ordered ‘over the top’ and advanced on the German line of trenches. The attack was a disaster and remains to this day as the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. In fact, the British Army suffered over 38,000 casualties and over 19,000 dead. These terrible losses were also true for the armies from across the British Empire that also participated in the Battle of the Somme. For example, the Newfoundland Regiment famously lost almost all of its fighting force on the first day of the battle.
The first day of fighting was also deadly for the Germans who suffered terrible losses at the hands of the British and French forces that assaulted the Germans defensive positions. For instance, historians estimate that the German defenders suffered between 10,000 to 12,000 casualties on the first day. Other significant conflicts of the first phase included: the Battle of Albert, Battle of Bazentin Ridge and the Battle of Fromelles.
The second phase of the Battle of the Somme is considered to have occurred from July to September in 1916 and involved several significant conflicts. These conflicts included: Battle of Delville Wood, Battle of Pozières, Battle of Guillemont and the Battle of Ginchy. These battles saw intense fighting between the Allied Powers and the German Army, which led to many casualties. In fact, during this time, trench warfare began to take its toll and led to a negative experience for both sides. The trench warfare of the Battle of the Somme continued for the next few weeks, until the British introduced a new weapon into World War I.
The third phase of the Battle of the Somme occurred from September to November of 1916. Similar to the earlier phases it also included several significant smaller conflicts, such as: Battle of Flers–Courcelette, Battle of Morval, Battle of Thiepval Ridge, Battle of the Transloy Ridges, Battle of the Ancre Heights, and the Battle of the Ancre. Several of these battles were very significant. For instance, the Battle of Flers–Courcelette was important because it involved the first introduction of the tank as a weapon.
The British introduced the first tanks ever into the battlefield of the Battle of the Somme on September 15th, 1916. The first use of tanks in battle had mixed results. Many of them failed due to mechanical failure and were largely uncontrollable or became stuck in the thick mud of Northern France. However, they also provided a psychological advantage as the Germans were shocked to see these giant vehicles approaching them across ‘No Man’s Land’.
The Allied forces continued their difficult push forward throughout the third phase of the Battle of the Somme but struggled to gain much ground. The battle finally came to an end on November 18th, 1916 when the change in weather and arrival of snow made fighting even more difficult. Historians consider the Battle of the Somme to be an Allied victory due to British and French gains in the region of the Somme River. For instance, the Allies were able to force the German Army out of Péronne and Bapaume, in northern France. With that said, the Battle of the Somme was a devastating war and led to massive casualties for both sides.
In the end, the Battle of the Somme was one of the deadliest battles of World War I. The total casualty count numbered over 1 million, with the Allied forces having over 620,000 (with approximately 420,000 of them being British and 200,000 of them French) and the German forces having approximately 400,000. The Battle of the Somme is one of the most notable battles of World War I due to it being such a brutal and devastating conflict.
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