The Somme Centennial
Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme in World War I. It was the largest battle on the Western Front in World War I and, with more than one million men wounded or killed, it is also one of the bloodiest battles in the history of man.
The week prior to the attack, British and French forces began an intensive artillery barrage in which approximately 1.7 million shells were fired at the German positions opposite the British front line – a third of which failed to explode. Relying on the expected success of the artillery campaign, the attack plan envisaged the major objectives being achieved in hours. There was no plan B.
As a result, the offensive began with Allied forces being mowed down by the Germans in the worst day in British military history – with 57,470 British casualties, 19,240 of whom were killed. At the end,
- the Allies incurred 623,907 casualties (with 146,431 killed); and
- the Germans incurred 465,000 (with 164,055 killed).
All for a gain of six-miles into German held territory in France.