The Battle of the Somme (French: Bataille de la Somme), also known as the Somme Offensive, fought from 1 July to 18 November 1916, was among the largest battles of the First World War. With more than 1.5 million casualties, it is also one of the bloodiest military operations recorded. The Allied forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 12-mile (19 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the Battle of Verdun; however, by its end, the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun. By the end of the war, the Allied losses proved replaceable, the German losses less so.
Verdun was a symbol that would affect the national consciousness of France for generations, and the Somme would have the same effect on generations of British people. The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 deadâ€”the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. For the first time, the home front in the United Kingdom was exposed to the horrors of modern war with the release in August of the propaganda film The Battle of the Somme, which used footage from the first days of the battle. Future leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, participated in the battle.
General Sir Douglas Haig was appointed the new British forces commander on 10 December 1915. He was 54 years old and had already had a very long, successful military career. Haig's plan was for the Battle of the Somme to take pressure off the allied French at Verdun. Although the British were successful in their objective, Haig was given the epithet 'Butcher of the Somme' out of the belief that he was culpable for the enormous toll of the battle.
|Part of the Western Front of World War I
Men of the 11th Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment,
near La Boisselle, July 1916