The battle of the Somme

Essay by chrislloyd8189A-, February 2004

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The battle of the Somme

The battle of the Somme was organised as a joint operation between Britain and France and was accepted by General Sir Douglas Haig who was the BEF commander. It was also an attempt to destroy German manpower.

At first the plan was to use mainly French soldiers but when the Germans attacked Verdun in February 1916 it turned the Somme offensive into a very large British attack. Haig was now in charge of this operation and with help off Sir Henry Rawlinson, came up with his own plan of invasion. Haig hoped to completely destroy the German forward defences in just 8 days.

Sir Henry Rawlinson was put in command of the main attack and his fourth army were expected to advance towards Bapaume. To the North of Rawlinson was the British Third Army and they were ordered to make a breakthrough in a gap that was expected to appear in the German front-line.

Further South, General Fayolle was to advance with the French Sixth Army.

General Haig used 750,000 men attacking the German Front-line. However they failed to even get close because they couldn't break through the barbed wire or the concrete protecting the Germans. This meant that they could make use of their good defence on higher ground when the British and French troops attacked on the 1st July. The British Expeditionary Force suffered 58,000 casualties. This was classed as the worse day in the history of the British army.

Haig was not affected too much about the loss of men on the first day and so he ordered Rawlinson to continue making attacks on the German front-line. There had been one successful attempt where they had broken through but German reinforcements arrived in time to close the gap back up. Haig...