Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916 to 18th November 1916)
was one of the largest battles of the First World War, with
more than one million casualties. The Allied forces attempted
to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km)
front north and south of the River Somme in northern France.
The main purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away
from the battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses
on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.
original British regular army, six divisions strong at the
start of the war, had been effectively wiped out by the battles
of 1914 and 1915. The bulk of the army was now made up of
volunteers of the Territorial Force and Lord Kitchener's New
Army, which had begun forming in August 1914.
battle is best remembered for its first day, 1st July 1916,
on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including
19,240 dead, the bloodiest day in the history of the British
Army. As terrible as the battle was for the British Empire
troops who suffered there, it naturally impacted the other
nationalities as well. One German officer famously described
it as "the muddy grave of the German field army".
By the end of the battle, the British had learnt many lessons
in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable
losses. British official historian Sir James Edmonds stated,
"It is not too much to claim that the foundations of
the final victory on the Western Front were laid by the Somme
offensive of 1916."
German Army were confronted with men from the United Kingdom,
France, Canada, India, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa
and Australia. Every region and county in the United Kingdom
lost men at the Somme and Cambridgeshire was no different.
The casualty figures for the Allied Forces was 419,654 from
Britain and the Dominions and 204,253 French, a total of 623,907
of which 146,431 were killed or listed as missing; 100 tanks
(this was the first Battle in which these had been used) and
782 Royal Flying Corps aircraft were destroyed. The German
casualties were between 465,000 and 600,000 of which 164,055
were killed or listed as missing. The Battle covered the areas
of Albert, Bazentin, Fromelles, Pozières, Mouquet Farm,
Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Thiepval Ridge,
Le Transloy, Ancre Heights and Ancre.