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To the north, German artillery and machine guns were responsible for the worst

day of casualties in the history of the British army, 57,470, of whom 19,240 died,

greater than the combined total of British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and

Korean wars. On the Somme and to its south the French, attacking on a narrower

front with a greater artillery support, had more success.

At the start of the Somme offensive the objectives of the British army were not

fully resolved.The Commander, Sir Douglas Haig, hoped for a breakthrough

(although its overall direction varied in the course of the fighting), and his

subordinate army commander, Sir Henry Rawlinson, hoped for more limited

gains.This division in views resulted in compromise, but success in either would

have been enough to deliver on the original overall allied intention, to pull

German reserves simultaneously from one front to another. By the end of the

Somme, three results had been achieved: to relieveVerdun, to tie the Germans

down on theWestern Front and to wear down their strength.These have

remained the principal rationales for the Somme ever since.

Over the next four and a half months villages and areas with names which are

still familiar a century later were fought over:

Albert, with its famous stooping Madonna, was the principal town for

activity behind the British lines in the area of the Somme,

Bazentin Ridge, scene of an Indian Army cavalry charge and where most

of the objective was captured and the German defence put under great


Fromelles which was the début of the Australian Imperial Force on the

Western Front and “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”,

DelvilleWood from July to September when the offensive evolved into

the capture of fortified villages, woods and terrain that offered

observation for artillery fire and jumping-off points for more attacks.

The fighting eventually secured the British right flank and marked the

Western Front début of the South African 1st Infantry Brigade,

Pozières Ridge where the plateau north and east of the village was taken,

overlooking the fortified village of Thiepval,

Guillemont which marked the supreme effort of the German army

during the battle,