West Country Regiments on the Somme

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The fighting ended with the Reserve Army taking the plateau north and east of the village, overlooking the fortified village of Thiepval from the rear. The Battle of Guillemont was an attack on the village which was captured by the Fourth Army on the first day. Guillemont was on the right flank of the British sector, near the boundary with the French Sixth Army.

German defences ringed the British salient at Delville Wood to the north and had observation over the French Sixth Army area to the south towards the Somme river. The German defence in the area was based on the second line and numerous fortified villages and farms north from Maurepas at Combles, Guillemont, Falfemont Farm, Delville Wood and High Wood, which were mutually supporting. The battle for Guillemont was considered by some observers to be the supreme effort of the German army during the battle.

Numerous meetings were held by Joffre, Haig, Foch, General Sir Henry Rawlinson commander of the British Fourth Army and Fayolle to co-ordinate joint attacks by the four armies, all of which broke down. A pause in Anglo-French attacks at the end of August, coincided with the largest counter-attack by the German army in the Battle of the Somme. In the Battle of Ginchy the 16th Division captured the German-held village. Ginchy was 1. After the end of the Battle of Guillemont , British troops were required to advance to positions which would give observation over the German third position, ready for a general attack in mid-September.

British attacks from Leuze Wood northwards to Ginchy had begun on 3 September, when the 7th Division captured the village and was then forced out by a German counter-attack. The capture of Ginchy and the success of the French Sixth Army on 12 September, in its biggest attack of the battle of the Somme, enabled both armies to make much bigger attacks, sequenced with the Tenth and Reserve armies, which captured much more ground and inflicted c. The attack was postponed to combine with attacks by the French Sixth Army on Combles , south of Morval and because of rain.

The combined attack was also intended to deprive the German defenders further west, near Thiepval of reinforcements, before an attack by the Reserve Army, due on 26 September. Combles, Morval, Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt were captured and a small number of tanks joined in the battle later in the afternoon. Many casualties were inflicted on the Germans but the French made slower progress. The Fourth Army advance on 25 September was its deepest since 14 July and left the Germans in severe difficulties, particularly in a salient near Combles.

The Battle of Thiepval Ridge was the first large offensive mounted by the Reserve Army of Lieutenant General Hubert Gough and was intended to benefit from the Fourth Army attack at Morval by starting 24 hours afterwards. Thiepval Ridge was well fortified and the German defenders fought with great determination, while the British co-ordination of infantry and artillery declined after the first day, due to confused fighting in the maze of trenches, dug-outs and shell-craters.

Organisational difficulties and deteriorating weather frustrated Joffre's intention to proceed by vigorous co-ordinated attacks by the Anglo-French armies, which became disjointed and declined in effectiveness during late September, at the same time as a revival occurred in the German defence. The British experimented with new techniques in gas warfare, machine-gun bombardment and tank—infantry co-operation, as the Germans struggled to withstand the preponderance of men and material fielded by the Anglo-French, despite reorganisation and substantial reinforcements of troops, artillery and aircraft from Verdun.

September became the worst month for casualties for the Germans. Pauses were made from 8—11 October due to rain and 13—18 October to allow time for a methodical bombardment, when it became clear that the German defence had recovered from earlier defeats. Haig consulted with the army commanders and on 17 October reduced the scope of operations by cancelling the Third Army plans and reducing the Reserve Army and Fourth Army attacks to limited operations, in co-operation with the French Sixth Army. Larger operations resumed in January The Marine Brigade from Flanders and fresh German divisions brought from quiet fronts counter-attacked frequently and the British objectives were not secured until 11 November.

The Battle of the Ancre was the last big British operation of the year. The Fifth formerly Reserve Army attacked into the Ancre valley to exploit German exhaustion after the Battle of the Ancre Heights and gain ground ready for a resumption of the offensive in Political calculation, concern for Allied morale and Joffre's pressure for a continuation of attacks in France, to prevent German troop transfers to Russia and Italy also influenced Haig.

The attack on Serre failed, although a brigade of the 31st Division, which had attacked in the disaster of 1 July, took its objectives before being withdrawn later.

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West Country regiments on the Somme

South of the Ancre, St. Until January a lull occurred, as both sides concentrated on enduring the weather. At the start of , most of the British Army was an inexperienced and patchily trained mass of volunteers. The British volunteers were often the fittest, most enthusiastic, and best educated citizens, but were also inexperienced soldiers, and it has been claimed that their loss was of lesser military significance than the losses of the remaining peacetime-trained officers and men of the Imperial German Army.

British survivors of the battle had gained experience, and the BEF learned how to conduct the mass industrial warfare which the continental armies had been fighting since Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria wrote, "What remained of the old first-class peace-trained German infantry had been expended on the battlefield". A school of thought holds that the Battle of the Somme placed unprecedented strain on the German army and that after the battle it was unable to replace casualties like-for-like, which reduced it to a militia.

The destruction of German units in battle was made worse by lack of rest. British and French aircraft and long-range guns reached well behind the front-line, where trench-digging and other work meant that troops returned to the line exhausted. In , the German army in the west survived the large British and French offensives of the Nivelle Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres , though at great cost.

Falkenhayn was sacked and replaced by Hindenburg and Ludendorff at the end of August At a conference at Cambrai on 5 September, a decision was taken to build a new defensive line well behind the Somme front. The Siegfriedstellung was to be built from Arras to St. These lines were intended to limit any Allied breakthrough and to allow the German army to withdraw if attacked; work began on the Siegfriedstellung Hindenburg Line at the end of September.

Withdrawing to the new line was not an easy decision and the German high command struggled over it during the winter of — Some members wanted to take a shorter step back, to a line between Arras and Sailly, while the First and Second army commanders wanted to stay on the Somme. Generalleutnant von Fuchs on 20 January said that,. Enemy superiority is so great that we are not in a position either to fix their forces in position or to prevent them from launching an offensive elsewhere. We just do not have the troops We cannot prevail in a second battle of the Somme with our men; they cannot achieve that any more.

After the loss of a considerable amount of ground around the Ancre valley to the British Fifth Army in February , the German armies on the Somme were ordered on 14 February, to withdraw to reserve lines closer to Bapaume. A further retirement to the Hindenburg Line Siegfriedstellung in Operation Alberich began on 16 March , despite the new line being unfinished and poorly sited in some places. Winston Churchill had objected to the way the battle was being fought in August , Lloyd George when Prime Minister criticised attrition warfare frequently and condemned the battle in his post-war memoirs.

In the s a new orthodoxy of "mud, blood and futility" emerged and gained more emphasis in the s when the 50th anniversaries of the Great War battles were commemorated. Until , transport arrangements for the BEF were based on an assumption that the war of movement would soon resume and make it pointless to build infrastructure , since it would be left behind.

The British relied on motor transport from railheads which was insufficient where large masses of men and guns were concentrated. When the Fourth Army advance resumed in August, the wisdom of not building light railways which would be left behind was argued by some, in favour of building standard gauge lines. Experience of crossing the beaten zone showed that such lines or metalled roads could not be built quickly enough to sustain an advance, and that pausing while communications caught up allowed the defenders to recover. A comprehensive system of transport was needed, which required a much greater diversion of personnel and equipment than had been expected.

The original Allied estimate of casualties on the Somme, made at the Chantilly Conference on 15 November , was , British and French casualties and , German. As one German officer wrote,.

"The Somme" ... "Gallipoli" ... "Paschendale" (1932)

In , Wendt published a comparison of German and British-French casualties which showed an average of 30 percent more Allied casualties than German losses on the Somme. Edmonds wrote that comparisons of casualties were inexact, because of different methods of calculation by the belligerents but that British casualties were ,, from total British casualties in France in the period of ,, French Somme casualties were , and German casualties were c.

The addition by Edmonds of c. Williams in McRandle and Quirk in cast doubt on the Edmonds calculations but counted , German casualties on the Western Front from July to December against , by Churchill, concluding that German losses were fewer than Anglo-French casualties but the ability of the German army to inflict disproportionate losses had been eroded by attrition. In , Churchill wrote that the Germans had suffered , casualties against the French, between February and June and , between July and the end of the year see statistical tables in Appendix J of Churchill's World Crisis with , casualties at Verdun.

In turn German forces inflicted , casualties on the Entente. In a commentary on the debate about Somme casualties, Philpott used Miles's figures of , British casualties and the French official figures of , Sixth Army losses and 48, Tenth Army casualties. German losses were described as "disputed", ranging from ,—, Churchill's claims were a "snapshot" of July and not representative of the rest of the battle.

Philpott called the "blood test" a crude measure compared to manpower reserves, industrial capacity, farm productivity and financial resources and that intangible factors were more influential on the course of the war. The German army was exhausted by the end of , with loss of morale and the cumulative effects of attrition and frequent defeats causing it to collapse in , a process which began on the Somme, echoing Churchill that the German soldiery was never the same again.

After the Battle of the Ancre 13—18 November , British attacks on the Somme front were stopped by the weather and military operations by both sides were mostly restricted to survival in the rain, snow, fog, mud fields, waterlogged trenches and shell-holes. As preparations for the offensive at Arras continued, the British attempted to keep German attention on the Somme front. The Germans then withdrew from much of the R. I Stellung to the R. II Stellung on 11 March, forestalling a British attack, which was not noticed by the British until dark on 12 March; the main German withdrawal from the Noyon salient to the Hindenburg Line Operation Alberich commenced on schedule on 16 March.

Defensive positions held by the German army on the Somme after November were in poor condition; the garrisons were exhausted and censors of correspondence reported tiredness and low morale in front-line soldiers. The situation left the German command doubtful that the army could withstand a resumption of the battle. The German defence of the Ancre began to collapse under British attacks, which on 28 January caused Rupprecht to urge that the retirement to the Siegfriedstellung Hindenburg Line begin. Ludendorff rejected the proposal the next day, but British attacks on the First Army — particularly the Action of Miraumont also known as the Battle of Boom Ravine, 17—18 February — caused Rupprecht on the night of 22 February to order a preliminary withdrawal of c.


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I Stellung R. I Position. On 24 February the Germans withdrew, protected by rear guards , over roads in relatively good condition, which were then destroyed. The German withdrawal was helped by a thaw, which turned roads behind the British front into bogs and by disruption to the railways which supplied the Somme front. On the night of 12 March, the Germans withdrew from the R. II Stellung R. II Position on 13 March. The British Legion and others commemorate the battle on 1 July. At the start of the silence, the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery fired a gun every four seconds for one hundred seconds and a whistle was blown to end it.

The silence was announced during a speech by the Prime Minister David Cameron who said, "There will be a national two-minute silence on Friday morning. I will be attending a service at the Thiepval Memorial near the battlefield, and it's right that the whole country pauses to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and lost their lives in that conflict. Heaton Park was the site of a large army training camp during the war. Each took on temporarily the identity of a British soldier who died on the first day of the Somme, and handed out information cards about that soldier.

They did not talk, except for occasionally singing " We're here because we're here " to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. The Battle of the Somme has been called the beginning of modern all-arms warfare, during which Kitchener's Army learned to fight the mass-industrial war in which the continental armies had been engaged for two years.

This view sees the British contribution to the battle as part of a coalition war and part of a process, which took the strategic initiative from the German Army and caused it irreparable damage, leading to its collapse in late Haig and General Rawlinson have been criticised ever since for the human cost of the battle and for failing to achieve their territorial objectives. On 1 August Winston Churchill criticised the British Army's conduct of the offensive to the British Cabinet, claiming that though the battle had forced the Germans to end their offensive at Verdun, attrition was damaging the British armies more than the German armies.

Though Churchill was unable to suggest an alternative, a critical view of the British on the Somme has been influential in English-language writing ever since. As recently as , historian Peter Barton argued in a series of three television programmes that the Battle of the Somme should be regarded as a German defensive victory. This school of thought sets the battle in a context of a general Allied offensive in and notes that German and French writing on the battle puts it in a continental perspective.

Little German and French writing on this topic has been translated, leaving much of the continental perspective and detail of German and French military operations inaccessible to the English-speaking world. In current secondary education , the Battle of the Somme is barely mentioned in German school curricula , while it features prominently in the United Kingdom. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For the battle fought in , see Second Battle of the Somme. For the film, see The Battle of the Somme film. Battle of the Somme. Western Front. The Western Front — Main article: Battle of Verdun. Main article: Brusilov Offensive. Map of the Valley of the Somme. See also: Mines on the first day of the Somme. Main article: First day on the Somme. Main article: Battle of Albert Main article: Battle of Bazentin Ridge. Main article: Battle of Fromelles.

Main article: Battle of Delville Wood. Main article: Battle of Guillemont. Main article: Battle of Ginchy. Main article: Battle of Flers—Courcelette. Main article: Battle of Morval. Main article: Battle of Thiepval Ridge. Main article: Battle of Le Transloy. Main article: Battle of the Ancre Heights. Main article: Battle of the Ancre. Progress of the Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 18 November. Main article: World War I casualties. Main article: Operations on the Ancre, January—March Main article: Operation Alberich.

West Country regiments on the Somme | Imperial War Museums

See also: Thiepval Memorial. Thiepval Memorial to the British Missing of the Somme. World War I portal. Retrieved 9 August The Atlantic. Retrieved 1 September The Independent. Retrieved 1 July Journal of Military History. London: Little Brown. War in History. Defense Studies. Retrieved 26 February Retrieved 1 August Books Bond, B. London: CUP. Boraston, J. Sir Douglas Haig's Despatches repr. London: Dent. Churchill, W. The World Crisis Odhams ed. London: Thornton Butterworth. Chickering, R.

Imperial Germany and the Great War, — 2nd ed. Doughty, R. Dowling, T. The Brusilov Offensive. Duffy, C. Edmonds, J. London: Macmillan.


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Falls, C. London: HMSO. Foley, R. Cambridge: CUP. Harris, J. Douglas Haig and the First World War repr. Hart, P. The Somme. London: Cassell. Henniker, A. Transportation on the Western Front — Herwig, H. London: Bloomsbury Academic. McCarthy, C. London: Weidenfeld Military. Miles, W. Philpott, W. London: Little, Brown. Prior, R. Yale University Press. Sheffield, G. Battle Story: Cambrai Chris McNab. Somme Gerald Gliddon. The Kaiser's Battle. Martin Middlebrook. British Infantryman vs German Infantryman.

Peter Dennis. Most Unfavourable Ground. Niall Cherry. Philip Warner. First Ypres David Lomas. Pillars of Fire. Ian Passingham. Caen Ken Ford. Vimy Ridge and Arras. Peter Barton. Jerry Murland. James McWilliams. Martin Evans. Challenge of Battle. Adrian Gilbert. Gentlemen, We Will Stand and Fight. Antony Bird. Passchendaele John Sheen. The Last Battle. Somewhere in Blood Soaked France.

Alasdair Sutherland. Mons Hamel: Somme. Peter Pederson Dr. The Somme. Martin Gilbert. British Army Andrew Rawson. The Road to Dunkirk. Charles More. Adrian Stewart. The Gas Attacks. John Lee. Raiding on the Western Front. Anthony Saunders. Colonel John Buchan. Delville Wood. Nigel Cave. Fire and Movement. Villers Bretonneux. Dr Peter Pedersen. The War in France and Flanders.

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Ian Daglish. Retreat and Rearguard Patrick Takle. The Battle for Flanders. Chris Baker. Kitchener's Men. John Hutton. Pendulum of Battle. Chris Dunphie. Le Cateau. The Last Days. Will Davies. The Battle of the Bellicourt Tunnel. Dale Blair. Amiens Loos - Hill French Flanders. Khaki Jack. Scott Addington. Paul Reed. Fromelles: French Flanders. Flesquieres - Hindenburg Line. Jack Horsfall. The Cambrai Campaign Slaughter on the Somme. John Grehan. The Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Geoff Bridger. Peter Rostron. Ypres Langemarck. Monty's Northern Legions.

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