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Layman's guide to The Battle of the Somme
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Layman's guide to The Battle of the Somme

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A simplified account of the Battle of the Somme, for those who don't know too much about it.

A simplified account of the Battle of the Somme, for those who don't know too much about it.

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  • 1. The Battle of the Somme: A Layman’s Guide.Scott Addington
  • 2. For many people The Battle of the Somme is synonymous withmilitary blundering and unnecessary slaughter.Picture: IWM Q65442
  • 3. It is true that the first day of the battle is still theblackest moment in British military history…
  • 4. … but the battle was more than just one day.
  • 5. And the story starts way before July 1st 1916.1914
  • 6. Field Marshall Earl Kitchener of Khartoum became Minister ofWar on 5th August 1914 and immediately put together plans toexpand the British Army.
  • 7. He did not think the war would be over by Christmas. Instead heforesaw a long drawn out conflict that would require many moremen than the BEF currently had.
  • 8. Kitchener didn’t want to rely on the Territorial Army for theexpansion because they could opt-out and avoid overseas service.Shoulder badge of the 10th Btn. Royal Scots. Territorial Army
  • 9. Instead he went about building an army of volunteers. The ‘Call toArms’ went out and the country listened…
  • 10. … two weeks later 100,000 men had joined up.Kitchener had his first Army: K1.
  • 11. To help the recruitment effort men were encouragedto join up with friends and work colleagues into whatbecame known as ‘Pals’ Battalions.
  • 12. By the end of Sept 1914 over 50 towns had formedone or more Pals Battalions. K2 was born.
  • 13. By March 1915 enough men had volunteered to make five newArmies and a sixth was well on its way.
  • 14. Almost 600,000 men had answered Kitchener’s call in 6 months.A quite remarkable achievement.
  • 15. Over the following months the issues of training and equippingthese new recruits were slowly solved…
  • 16. … and by the beginning of 1916 the Kitchener’s men were itchingto give ‘The Hun’ a good kicking.
  • 17. It had long been decided that the main Allied assault on theWestern Front in 1916 would be in the Somme region.
  • 18. It was originally planned to be a French assault with British support.
  • 19. The objective was simple: To smash the German Army and depletetheir reserves of men and equipment.
  • 20. As it was going to be their show, it was France who decidedto attack across the Somme region.
  • 21. Haig didn’t agree. He preferred an attack in the north of Belgium,but was forced to agree with his French friends.
  • 22. Eventually it was all agreed.The ‘Big Push’ was penciled in for August 1916.
  • 23. Germany however ruined all of that planning when they decidedto attack Verdun at the beginning of 1916.
  • 24. Suddenly it was France on the receiving end of a beating.
  • 25. It quickly became apparent that France was going to struggle tolead any kind of major offensive in the summer.
  • 26. In fact, it was touch and go as to whetherthey would survive at all.
  • 27. France needed help. Fast.
  • 28. The ‘Big Push’ was now going to be a large scaleBritish diversionary attack to relieve the pressure on Verdun.
  • 29. Also, instead of being August, it was moved forward to 1st July.1st July 1916
  • 30. Haig’s plan was simple...
  • 31. Use more guns than have ever been used before…
  • 32. … to fire more shells than have ever been fired before…
  • 33. … for longer than had ever been done before.
  • 34. The German defenses would stand no chance.They would be totally smashed to pieces.
  • 35. Once the artillery had done their worst, the infantry(750,000 men, many from Kitchener’s Armies)would advance and consolidate.
  • 36. The British guns smashed the German lines for 8 daysprior to the infantry advance.
  • 37. However, due to a mixture of poor quality ammunition and worldclass German defenses the bombardment failed.
  • 38. German wire was not destroyed, their defences were still intactand morale was not broken.
  • 39. 2 minutes before ‘Zero’ several huge mines were detonatedunderneath the German lines.
  • 40. However, when the British infantry advanced the Germanmachine gunners were ready and waiting.
  • 41. The advancing infantry were either cut down in No Man’s Landor forced back to their own lines.Any success was isolated and temporary.
  • 42. The result was carnage.The British Army suffered 57,470 casualties that day.A third of that number were killed.
  • 43. It still stands as the blackest day in the history of the British Army.
  • 44. Despite this, Haig continued to press the offensive over thefollowing days and weeks.
  • 45. On 11th July the first line of the German defense system wassecured.Soldiers of 11th Btn. Cheshire Regiment occupy a captured German trench. July 1916 (IWM Q3990)
  • 46. That same day Germany moved significant men from Verdun tothe Somme area, doubling the amount of men available.
  • 47. The fighting continued throughout the summer, each side trying tosmash the other into submission, but to no avail.
  • 48. On 15th September 1916 the British attacked again in the Battle ofFlers-Courcellete. It was here that the tank made its operationaldebut.
  • 49. Although the tanks scared the hell out of the Germans,poor reliability and tactics meant these ‘land ships’failed to make a real impact in the fighting.
  • 50. The fighting continued until the snow of November forced thesuspension of operation. The Allies had gained a slither oftortured land 8 miles across at its deepest point.
  • 51. Britain and her Empire lost 419,654 men (wounded and killed)during the Battle of the Somme.
  • 52. Germany took a beating too, with casualties of around 500,000.Fricourt German Cemetery. Photo from www.ww1battlefields.co.uk
  • 53. Germany was also forced to stop attacking Verdun,allowing the French to rest and regroup.
  • 54. So, even though the tactics of the battle remain controversial,Haig could be forgiven for saying ‘job done’.
  • 55. This slideshare was inspired by the e-bookWorld War One: A Layman’s GuideAvailable on Kindle for less than the price of acup of coffee.Amazon.co.ukhttp://tinyurl.com/mksc329Amazon.comhttp://tinyurl.com/lvbe4d2
  • 56. Lest we forget.

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