Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme during World War 1

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and the French Third Republic against the German Empire. 

It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. 

The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the war’s Western Front. 

More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. 

The French and British had committed themselves to an offensive on the Somme during Allied discussions at Chantilly, Oise, in December 1915. 

The Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916, by the French, Russian, British and Italian armies, with the Somme offensive as the Franco-British contribution. 

Initial plans called for the French army to undertake the main part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

When the Imperial German Army began the Battle of Verdun on the Meuse on 21 February 1916, French commanders diverted many of the divisions intended for the Somme and the “supporting” attack by the British became the principal effort.

The British troops on the Somme comprised a mixture of the remains of the pre-war regular army; the Territorial Force; and Kitchener’s Army, a force of volunteer recruits including many Pals’ Battalions, recruited from the same places and occupations.

The first day on the Somme (1 July) saw a serious defeat for the German Second Army, which was forced out of its first position by the French Sixth Army, from Foucaucourt-en-Santerre south of the Somme to Maricourt on the north bank, and by the Fourth Army from Maricourt to the vicinity of the Albert–Bapaume road.

The first day on the Somme was, in terms of casualties, also the worst day in the history of the British Army, which suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 killed in action.

These occurred mainly on the front between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt, where the attack was defeated and few British troops reached the German front line.

The battle became notable for the importance of airpower and the first use of the tank in September.

Tanks were still in the stages of development and were prone to breaking down.

At the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated 10 km (6 mi) into German-occupied territory.

This was their largest territorial gain since the Battle of the Marne in 1914. 

However, the key objectives of the Anglo-French armies were unfulfilled, as they failed to capture Péronne and halted 5 km (3 mi) from Bapaume, where the German armies maintained their positions over the winter.

British attacks in the Ancre valley resumed in January 1917 and forced the Germans into local withdrawals to reserve lines in February, before the scheduled retirement to the Siegfried Stellung (Hindenburg Line) began in March.

Debate continues over the necessity, significance, and effect of the battle.

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Battle of Verdun

The Battle of Verdun during World War 1

The Battle of Verdun (French: Bataille de Verdun [bataj də vɛʁdœ̃]; German: Schlacht um Verdun [ʃlaxt ʔʊm ˈvɛɐ̯dœ̃]), was fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916 on the Western Front.

The battle was the longest of the First World War and took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France.

The German 5th Army attacked the defences of the Fortified Region of Verdun (RFV, Région Fortifiée de Verdun) and those of the French Second Army on the right (east) bank of the Meuse.

Using the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915, the Germans planned to capture the Meuse Heights, an excellent defensive position with good observation for artillery-fire on Verdun.

The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses, at little cost to the Germans.

Poor weather delayed the beginning of the attack until 21 February but the Germans captured Fort Douaumont in the first three days.

The advance slowed for several days, despite inflicting many French casualties. By 6 March, ​20 1⁄2

French divisions were in the RVF and a more extensive defence in depth had been constructed. Pétain ordered no retreat and that the Germans were to be counter-attacked, despite this exposing French infantry to German artillery fire.

By 29 March, French guns on the west bank had begun a constant bombardment of Germans on the east bank, causing many infantry casualties.

The German offensive was extended to the left (west) bank of the Meuse, to gain observation and eliminate the French artillery firing over the river but the attacks failed to reach their objectives.

In early May, the Germans changed tactics again and made local attacks and counter-attacks;

The French recaptured part of Fort Douaumont but a German counter-attack ejected the French and took many prisoners.

The Germans resorted to alternating attacks on either side of the Meuse and in June captured Fort Vaux.

The Germans advanced towards the last geographical objectives of the original plan, at Fleury-Devant-Douaumont and Fort Souville, driving a salient into the French defences.

Fleury was captured and the Germans came within 4 km (2.5 mi) of the Verdun citadel but in July, the offensive was cut back to reinforce the Somme front. From 23 June to 17 August,

Fleury changed hands sixteen times and an attack on Fort Souville failed. The offensive was reduced further but deceptions were tried to keep French reinforcements away from the Somme. In August and December, French counter-offensives recaptured much ground on the east bank and recovered Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux.

The battle lasted for 303 days, the longest and one of the most costly in human history. In 2000,

Hannes Heer and K. Naumann calculated that the French suffered 377,231 casualties and the Germans 337,000, a total of 714,231 and an average of 70,000 a month. In 2014.

William Philpott wrote of 976,000 casualties in 1916 and 1,250,000 suffered around the city during the war. In France, the battle came to symbolise the determination of the French Army and the destructiveness of the war.

First Battle of the Marne

First Battle of the Marne during World War 1

The First Battle of the Marne (French: Première bataille de la Marne, also known as the Miracle of the Marne, Le Miracle de la Marne) was a World War I battle fought from 6–12 September 1914.

It resulted in an Allied victory against the German armies in the west. The battle was the culmination of the German advance into France and pursuit of the Allied armies which followed the Battle of the Frontiers in August and had reached the eastern outskirts of Paris.

A counter-attack by six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along the Marne River forced the Imperial German Army to retreat northwest, leading to the First Battle of the Aisne and the Race to the Sea.

The battle was a victory for the Allied Powers but led to four years of trench warfare stalemate on the Western Front.

The battle of the Marne was a turning point of World War I.

By the end of August 1914, the whole Allied army on the Western Front had been forced into a general retreat back towards Paris.

Meanwhile, the two main German armies continued through France.

It seemed that Paris would be taken as both the French and the British fell back towards the Marne River.

The war became a stalemate when the Allied Powers won the Battle of the Marne.

It was the first major clash on the Western Front and one of the most important events in the war. The German retreat left the Schlieffen Plan in ruins and Germany had no hope of a quick victory in France.

Its army was left to fight a long war on two fronts.

Field Marshal Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), began to plan for a full British retreat to port cities on the English Channel for an immediate evacuation.

The military governor of Paris, Joseph Simon Gallieni, wanted to organise the French and British armies to counter the weight of the German army’s advance.

Gallieni’s plan was simple. All Allied units would counter-attack the Germans along the Marne River, thus halting the German advance. 

As this was going on, Allied reserves would be thrown in to restore the ranks and attack the German flanks.

On 5 September, in the mid-afternoon, battle commenced when the French Sixth Army stumbled into the forward guard of the German First Army.

By 9 September, it looked as though the German First and Second Armies would be totally encircled and destroyed.

General von Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown upon hearing of the danger to his two armies.

His subordinates took over and ordered a general retreat to the Aisne River in order to regroup.

The retreating armies were pursued by the French and British, although the pace of the Allied advance was slow – a mere 19 km (12 miles) in one day. 

The German armies ceased their retreat after 65 km (40 miles) at a point north of the Aisne River, where they dug in, preparing trenches that were to last for several years.

The German retreat between 9 September and 13 September marked the abandonment of the Schlieffen Plan.

Moltke is said to have reported to the Kaiser:

“Your Majesty, we have lost the war.” In the aftermath of the battle, both sides dug in and four years of stalemate ensued.

Trench Warefare

Trench Warfare During World War 1

Trench warfare will always be regarded as a needless waste of human life as many brave soldiers lost their lives in appalling conditions in World war I.

Figures suggest Somewhere in the region of 20,000 British causalities during the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and the British army regarded this as the worst day in its history regarding losses as well as soldiers suffered appalling conditions during The months ahead.

Fighting paused in the Autumn of 1916 and it is led to believe the forces involved in the battle suffered in the region of 600,000 to one million human casualties.

Trench Warfare started on the Western Front on September 16th, 1914 through to spring 1918 until the Germans launched their spring offensive.

The Western Front became a complete deadlock with all involved sustaining very heavy casualties.

During the very early days of trench warfare, it has been documented that the trenches were cramped with men fighting shoulder to shoulder leading to many casualties due to heavy artillery fire with the trenches protected with heavy Barbed wire.