Originally posted on The History Girls
On the 1st July 1916, the Battle of the Somme began. The plan was for the British and their allies to attack the Germans along a 15 mile line, stretching from Serre, north of the Ancre, to Curlu, north of the Somme. In command was General Haig. His master plan was to weaken the enemy by a week of heavy artillery fire before the attack; so confident was he that this would create complete disarray that, on the first day of the attack, he ordered the British troops to walk slowly towards the enemy lines.
Unfortunately, the plan didn’t quite work. The artillery attack simply served to warn the Germans that an attack was imminent. They just moved underground – their trenches were deeper and better-constructed than the allied ones – and waited for the bombardment to stop. Then they popped up again and manned the machine guns. Imagine their astonishment when they saw the British walking slowly towards them, presenting a perfect target! By the end of the first day – one day – there were 60 000 allied casualties, including 20 000 dead.
There are so many of these terrible statistics for the First World War. The figures are so huge that it’s difficult to take them in – to grasp the stories behind the statistics. A few weeks ago, we were in the Somme area for a few days…