The Battle of Somme

The Battle of Somme was a battle in WWI fought by the armies of the British and French against the German Empire. It took place between July 1 and November 18, 1916 and it was by the Somme River. This battle was intended to get the Allies to the Western front. More than 1 million men were injured or killed in this deadly battle compared to the Civil War which only 620,000 were killed or injured. On the first day of the battle the Germans felt serious defeat, they were forced out of their position by the French Sixth Army. The first day the British suffered 56,000 casualties.

The weapons used during this bloody battle were rifles, barbed wire, machine guns, tanks, trenches, airships and the most deadly of all poison gas. The time period this took place in was a time of experimenting and trying new weapons that resulted in millions of casualties. The battle is notable for the importance of air power and the first use of the tank. They also used telephones and buried the lines under the ground to protect them from being cut off.

How did this happen? In early 1916, the French proposed a joint Franco-British offensive by the river Somme. Because of Verdun, the British army assumed the major role of the Somme offensive. Then, on July 1, 1916, the British army attacked north of the Somme while the French attacked the side and south of the Somme with five divisions. In defense, the German army deployed seven divisions. The British attack was planned by Douglas Haig and Henry Rawlinson, GOC Fourth Army.

The War affected the soldiers physically through severe injuries and often left them traumatized with ‘shell shock’ by the things that they had seen. WWI had a very big impact on the families. As most soldiers had gone to fight in the war, women had to replace men in the workforce. This put a lot of pressure upon the older children in the family as they had to take care of the household duties.

After the War ended, Thiepval was chosen as the location for the Memorial to the Missing to commemorate those who died in the Somme sector before the 20th of March 1918 and have no known grave. Those who died in the Somme after 20th March 1918 are commemorated at Pozieres. The Thiepval Memorial is the largest of the Memorials to the Missing. The site for the memorial was purchased in 1920 and unveiled in 1932 by the Prince of Wales. The Memorial is a massive arched structure carved on top of the pillars and towards the top of the memorial. At the time of the unveiling in 1932 there were 73,357 names were commemorated here; the slight decrease to today's number (72,116) represents the identification of the bodies who are no longer "missing".

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