of the Somme was an attempt by Allied
forces in World War I
to take back territory
along the Somme River
and to eliminate
a big chunk of German
soldiers. The Battle of the Somme lasted for approximately
half a year
, as both sides continually poured soldiers
into their lines to try to break the stalemate
. The Battle of the Somme made it painfully obvious
that the victors of the war would be those who could master
of war of attrition
. By the time the battle ended, the total amount
of casualties exceeded one million
The Somme offensive was the brainchild of the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army at the time, Joseph Joffre. His army had been seriously lacking in numbers for a long time, so he requested and received aid from the British Expeditionary Force, led by General Douglas Haig. The original plan for the Battle of the Somme was a week's worth of artillery fire on the German bunkers and trenches, followed with a rush by troops. General Henry Rawlinson's army would be responsible for the main charge against the German forces; as the German forces would concentrate on Rawlinson's offensive, another British army would attack the north part of the line and a French army would attack the south part.
The bombardment by the artillery divisions was not as successful as the Allied powers had hoped. Bunkers remained intact, and the trenches were in good shape. Undaunted, the Allied forces charged forward. The German forces took advantage of their supreme territorial position on higher ground and promptly dispatched a great number of British and French troops.
Little by little, the Allied troops gained ground. Though thousands of troops on both sides died each day, neither side decided to yield. The battle raged back and forth and it was clear that each army wanted to kill as many enemy troops as possible, while territorial gain became a secondary factor. The fighting continued throughout the summer, and the fall, and part of the winter. The bodies piled up day after day, but there was no significant gain or loss of land.
At the end of the battle, the Germans had suffered more than 500,000 casualties. The British had approximately 400,000 casualties, and the French had 200,000. The attitude during this battle essentially was, whichever side runs out of men first, loses. The manner in which this battle was fought is very representative of World War I as a whole.
For more military history, see the Jane's Military History Nodes metanode.