The battle of the Somme (1916): Original Footage!

Joris Nieuwint

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War I, and indeed of all time. It was the biggest battle of World War I. It was also one of the longest, lasting from July to November 1916. More than one million were killed and wounded, on both sides.

In December 1915 the British and French made plans to attack the Germans and push them out of France. The Germans were positioned along the Somme, a river in northern France.

The British troops that fought at the Somme were made up of soldiers that had joined the army before the war began, and volunteers. The first day of the battle, July 1, has been called the worst day in the history of the British Army. On that single day, 100,000 men attacked. It suffered 60,000 casualties, mainly between Albert–Bapaume and Gommecourt. Only a few British troops managed to reach the German line. In fact, the Allies only managed to advance six miles into the German-held territory. As little as this was, it was still more ground than had been taken since the Battle of the Marnes in September 1914. The French and British would not have the courage to launch a major attack again until January 1917. This met with more success, though it was until 1918 that the Allies began to turn the Germans back.

Tanks were used for the first time in the Battle of the Somme, and air power played a strong role too.

The footage in the video shows soldiers ‘going over the top’, charging out of their trenches into a hail of fire from rifles, artillery and machine guns. The Somme has been a symbol of the horror and uselessness of war ever since.