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Battle of the Somme: Tactics, Strategy, and Impact

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What was the main objective of the British and French forces during the Battle of the Somme?

To relieve the French at Verdun and to weaken the German army

What was the outcome of the preliminary bombardment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme?

A third of the British shells either failed to explode or did not penetrate the German positions

Who led the British forces during the Battle of the Somme?

General Douglas Haig

What is the Battle of the Somme often associated with?

The horrific casualties and the brutality of trench warfare

When did the Battle of the Somme take place?

July 1 to November 18, 1916

Which of the following was NOT a tactic used by the British and French forces during the Battle of the Somme?

Tunneling under the German lines

What was the result of the German machine gunners emerging from their shelters on the first day of the Battle of the Somme?

The British infantry was mowed down by the German machine gunners

What tactic was employed by both sides to try to ‘protect’ their soldiers when going over the top?

Creeping barrage

What was the approximate number of casualties suffered by the British forces on the first day of the Battle of the Somme?

57,000

What was the outcome of the Battle of the Somme in terms of territory gained?

The British forces seized a strip of territory 6 miles deep by 20 miles long

What was the impact of the casualties on the morale of the British people?

The casualties took a toll on the morale of the British people, but they remained committed to the war effort

What was the significance of the Battle of the Somme in the context of World War I?

It was a brutal and bloody battle that defined the trench warfare of the First World War

What were the German casualties by the end of the Somme campaign?

500,000

How long was the preliminary artillery bombardment of the German trenches?

7 days

General Haig’s strategy has been criticised for…?

Underestimating the strength of the German defences

Study Notes

Battle of the Somme: Tactics, Strategy, Casualties, and Impact

The Battle of the Somme, fought between July 1 and November 18, 1916, is one of the most infamous battles of the First World War. It took place on the Western Front near the River Somme in Northern France and involved the British and French forces against the German army. This battle is often associated with the horrific casualties and the brutality of trench warfare. In this article, we will discuss the tactics and strategy of the battle, the casualties and their impact, the events of the first day, the context, and the outcome.

Tactics and Strategy

The Battle of the Somme was a joint British and French offensive, planned to achieve a decisive victory against the German army. The British forces were led by General Douglas Haig, while the French were commanded by General Robert Nivelle. The plan was to exploit a weak point in the German defenses in the Somme region and push through their lines, aiming to capture the strategically important town of Péronne.

The battle began with a preliminary bombardment, which was intended to cut the German barbed wire and destroy their dugouts. However, the German defenses were strong, and many of the British shells either failed to explode or did not penetrate the German positions. When the barrage lifted, the German machine gunners emerged from their shelters and mowed down the oncoming British infantry.

The British forces used a tactic called "creeping barrage," where artillery fire was used to create a defensive "curtain" behind which the infantry followed closely. Both sides employed this tactic to bypass the problems of trench warfare.

Casualties and Impact

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in history. On the first day alone, the British forces suffered over 57,000 casualties, making it the deadliest day in the British army's history. The French forces also suffered heavy losses, with over 200,000 casualties, and the Germans over 500,000. Over a million men from both sides became casualties in the long and bitter struggle.

The casualties had a profound impact on the soldiers and their families. Many towns and villages were decimated, with "Pals battalions," made up of people from the same area or profession, suffering particularly heavy losses. The losses took a toll on the morale of the British people, but they remained committed to the war effort. The Battle of the Somme was depicted in a feature-length documentary, "The Battle of the Somme," which was released within weeks of the battle and served as propaganda to keep the British public behind the war.

First Day

The first day of the Battle of the Somme was marked by intense fighting and heavy casualties. The British forces made some initial gains, capturing some German positions, but they failed to achieve their main objectives. The German defenses were strong, and the British infantry was met with heavy machine gun fire. The German artillery was also effective, and the British forces suffered significant casualties.

Context

The Battle of the Somme was fought after a stalemate on the Western Front, which had lasted for over a year. The German army had suffered heavy losses at Verdun earlier in the year, and the British and French forces saw an opportunity to exploit this weakness. However, the German forces were well-prepared, and they were able to hold their positions against the Allied offensive.

Outcome

The Battle of the Somme failed to achieve its main objective of breaking through the German defenses and capturing Péronne. The British forces did manage to seize a strip of territory 6 miles deep by 20 miles long, but they were still 3 miles from their further south objective. The Germans were weakened, but the Allies failed to achieve all of their objectives, and the war continued for another two years.

In conclusion, the Battle of the Somme was a brutal and bloody battle that defined the trench warfare of the First World War. Despite the heavy casualties, the British and French forces remained committed to the war effort. The battle demonstrated the importance of tactics and strategy in warfare, as well as the devastating impact of modern weapons on the soldiers and civilians alike.

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