The second battle of 1916 was the Battle of the Somme. In this the British and French armies tried to break through the German defences in the valley of the river Somme. The battle started on the first day of July 1916 as huge guns bombarded the German trenches. Then thousands of troops charged across no-man's land to press home the attack.
The trenches of the British ran for 20 miles from the village of Hebuterne south across the Ancre to the Willow stream by Fricourt, east to the Bois de Maricourt. Two miles to the south lay the left bank of the Somme. Opposite both Rawlinson's and Fayolle's armies lay the second army of General Fritz von Below, depleted by the removal of forces for the attack on Verdun, lacking any appreciable army reserves.
From May to July, both sides prepared their armies, strategically placed their trenches and waited.
Orders were sent to Haig to open fire on June 12th but Joffre urged Haig to change the date to June 25th . On the evening of the 16th Haig got a phone call saying that the 29th June or the 1st July would now be preferable.
Early Sunday morning, July 1st, company guides began to lead their fellows forward across the dark wet ground. The German lines were quiet as the soldiers marched heavily into the foremost trenches weighed down with full marching rifle and ammunition, grenades or bombs, a digging tool and perhaps some other special load. Below ground, the German miners waited, sweating in the heat of the narrow tunnels leading to the mine chambers they had cut under the enemy positions. The warm sun rose dispelling the mist. It was z day. Zero hour approached. The British and French gunfire was intense from the early...