The Battle of the Somme

Basic info of Somme, and Haig

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  • Created on: 29-05-10 09:41
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The Battle of the Somme
Why did the British launch an attack along the Somme?
British and French forces planned to attack the Germans along the River Somme in the summer of 1916, when the land
would be dry but in February 1916 the Germans attacked the French fortress of Verdun. Verdun was extremely
important to the French as it was the last line of defence before Paris. This meant the French rushed to defend it, but
urged the English to launch their attack along the river Somme early. Therefore at the end of June 1916, the British with
little aid from the French launched their offensive at the River Somme in order to relieve Verdun.
The battle began with a five day bombardment of the German trenches, then on the 1st July General Haig ordered the
advance to begin presuming the German troops could not have survived the bombardment. However the German
troops hid in deep dugouts therefore were protected from the bombardment, so as soon as it stopped they prepared
for the attack. As one German soldier recounts "Our men at once clambered up the steep shafts leading from the
dug-outs and ran for the nearest shell craters. The machine guns were hurriedly placed in position. A series of
extended lines of British Infantry was seen moving from the British trenches. The first line appeared to continue
without end to right and left. It was quickly followed by a second line then a third and fourth. They came on at a steady,
easy pace as if expecting to find nothing alive in our front trenches." They were then simply ploughed down by machine
gun fire.
Death
57 740 British men died or were severely injured on the first day alone
Haig did not change his tactics even after the disastrous first day
Killer Machines
Tanks
First properly introduced at the Somme
Initially successful, as the Germans were terrified
Used before fully developed, so slow and unreliable
Appalling conditions inside
During the war it was improved remarkably
Flamethrowers
German invention
Used to flush out the allies from the western trenches
Only had short range making the user susceptible to attack
The British had 4 flamethrowers for the Somme offensive
Idea was soon scrapped by the British
Machine Guns
Invented by Hiram Maxim
Idea presented to British but refused however the Germans took an
interest in it

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Machine guns revolutionised warfare, as cavalry and infantry charges were no match for a machine gun.…read more

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