History of the War: The Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme took place between 1st July 1916 to 18th November 1916. It was fought on the north and south banks of the river Somme, hence the name. The plan was to redirect the German armies from attacking Verdun (which was lower down the Somme), which was a town that was very near Paris, the capital. The Battle had some positive and negative views. The best thing that happened during the battle was that tactics were developed that enabled the British to win the war.

Tactics like the Creeping Barrage and the first use of tanks were developed in the Battle of the Somme. The Creeping Barrage was a tactic that sent a straight line of artillery shells into No Man’s Land, and the spire of smoke coming from it blinded the German machine-gunners and riflemen thus giving oncoming British soldiers cover. It was moved by a set timetable and the infantry was expected to follow closely as possible behind it.

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Also the first use of tanks, generation Mark I, baffled the Germans when it was first used, merely because it was unstoppable by any human means, except by a direct hit from an artillery shell. And most of all, it reached its final aim- it succeeded diverting the Germans from Verdun. However, Generals who commanded the battle (like Douglas Haig) were criticised due to the way the Battle was fought.

Good men were wasted going over the top fruitlessly due to the fact that the heavy artillery fire had not worked and 57,470 men were casualties, and of those 19,240 died. This is the greatest failure in British Military history. Also, the tactics of the Creeping Barrage and the use of tanks only succeeded for a short period of time, as infantrymen found that they sometimes couldn’t keep up with the line of artillery shells, and the tanks often broke down, or got stuck in the mud and the German’s developed tank-piercing bullets shortly afterwards.

The artillery fire had no effect on the German trenches as they had concrete bunkers underground and it only churned up the barbed wire so it made a deadlier mess. When the British sent night raids to cut spaces in the wires, the machine guns concentrated on that area where the British soldiers had gathered to cross the barbed wires, and ‘mowed down’ huge numbers.

I think the Battle of the Somme was a success because, despite the heavy losses, the Anglo-French offensive succeeded in doing what it was supposed to do-relieve pressure at Verdun. But it went on for longer than needed to, because when Verdun went into offensive in October, the battle at the Somme continued until November. Overall, the Allies figured out how to win the Great War, which was the overall objective, and the Battle of the Somme was another step towards success in the end (the development of new tactics).

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