You are on page 1of 4

Why Was 1st July 1916 A

Disaster For The British


Army?
On the 1st july 1916 the British Army went into
the Battle of the Somme. The battle ended on
November 18th of the same year. The allied
forces tried to break through the german
defences and by the end of the battle they had
gained about six miles. The British used the
tank for the first time ever in the battle, but
with little effect. Although the German army
was severely damaged, the our army still
suffered its largest ever loss (in a single day).
The British planned to attack the 15 mile front
between Serre and Curlu. Five French divisions
would also attack an eight mile front between
Curlu and Peronne. Trying ot ensure a rapid
advance, artillery was fired at the German lines
for a week before the Battle, firing 1.6 million
shells altogether. British generals were then so
confident they ordered their troops to walk
slowly across no-mans land. Once the German
lines had been seized, calvalry would pour
through to capture fleeing Germans.
However, the bombing the week before gave
the Germans warning to the start of the attack.
Many of the British shells failed to explode and
the German trenches remained heavily
fortified. The Germans simply moved
underground and waited. When the whistles
were blown at 7:30 am on 1st July, the
Germans left their bunkers and set up their
postitions.
As the British divisions walked towards the
enemy, their machine guns started and the
British were slaughtered. Although a few
divisions made it through to German territory,
without back-up they were driven back. Many
'Pals Battalions' were involved on the Battle
and they suffered catastrophic losses. For
weeks after the newspapers of Britain would be
filled with names of the deceased, injured or
missing.
There was a lot of poor leaders at the Battle of
the Somme. General Sir Douglas Haig knew his
men would not be ready for the date on which
the French wanted to strike, but let himself be
pressured into bringing the date forward. The
Genral also stopped artillery fire five minutes
before ordering men over the top. This gave
the Germans time to prepare as it only took
them five minutes to set up their machine
guns, which means Haig allowed his troops to
be shot down while walking across the
battlefield. If Haig had made some more
effective decisions and stood up to the French,
allowing the soldiers time to prepare things
may have turned out better.
There were many factors that caused the
disasterous first day of battle, main among
them poor leadership and failing technology.
The Germans slaughtered the British that day
with their total deaths coming to: 19,240;
injuries coming to: 35,493 and 2,159 missing in
action. 585 had also been taken prisoner
resulting in the British Army losing roughly
57,470 good men. The press back in England
reported the day as a great success but those
soldiers who survived described it as more a
'horrible nightmare, knowing it can end in
nothing but disaster'.
To conclude the first of July was nothing short
of disaster; technology failed, thoughtless
orders were given and the British Army
suffered record losses. The Germans were
under-estimated leading to many needless
deaths and casualties. This could all have been
avoided had Haig ordered more equipment and
bullets, taken time over his decisions and not
brought the date forward, giving him time to
prepare. The army would be well advised to
give more effective, thoughtful people the role
of leadership in the future.