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Somme 1916

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erman n an r man
Stephen Bull

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Somme 1916

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Stephen Bull

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INTRODUCTION 4
THE OPPOSING SIDES 10
Origins and recruitment • Training, weapons and tactics • Leadership
Morale, motivation and logistics

SERRE 29
1 July 1916

GUILLEMONT 41
30 July 1916

THIEPVAL 57
26-27 September 1916

ANALVSIS & CONCLUSION 72


Lessons learned: the British • Lessons learned: the Germans

UNIT ORGANIZATIONS 76

ORDERS OF BATTLE 77
BIBLIOGRAPHV 78
INDEX 80

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The 18-pdr field gun, standard The idea for a major Franco-British offensive in 1916 dated back to Dece1nber
weapon of the British field 1915. General Sir Douglas Haig took comn1and of the British Expeditionary
artillery Capable of a dozen
rounds a minute. it was ideal Force on 19 Decen1ber, and follo,ving authorization from the prime 1ninister
for firing air-bursting shrapnel he began planning with the French, v1ho1n it was originally intended should
shells against targets in the play the biggest part. By early in the Ne,v Year it was decided that the attack
open lt could also tire high would be astride the River Son1me, witl1 a provisional start date of 1 August.
explosive but was of marginal
Ali this was suddenly upset, when, on 21 February the German Army chief of
use against bunkers and
obstacle zones. staff, General der Infanterie Erich von Falkenhayn, opened the major Gennan
offensive against the French at Verdun. In the face of initial German success
Haig was forced to assume responsibility for planning the attack on the
Somme, while French participation was scaled back, and there were calls for
the date to be brought forward.
Finally, a scheme emerged in which the opening of the main attack would
comprise 13 British divisions to the north and 11 French to the south. For
the British, the 'first objective' ,vas the Pozieres Ridge, followed by either a
turn to the north to roll up the enemy line, or outright breakthrough,
exploited by cavalry. By way of diversion, the village of Gommecourt would
also be attacked. Huge mines ,vould blow out criticai points in the enemy
line, but cornerstone to ali ,vas the artillery bombardment planned by
Maj-Gen Noel Birch, originally intended to last five days, but extended ovving
to bad weather. This was to use 1,537 guns o n the British front alone to work
over ene1ny trenches, billets, batteries and communications, as well as to cut

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