The Somme in 65 Images

Two officers travelling on a T model Ford chassis

The Battle of the Somme was one of the most famous battles from WWI, and also one of the most costly in human life. In an offensive that was meant to end the war early, more than one million men were killed or injured, from a total of over three million combatants.

Allied nations had settled on starting multiple coordinated offensives against the Quadruple Alliance in 1916 to limit the transfer of troops to strengthen areas of attack. It was hoped that using their resources all at once would be more affective than attacking one by one.

Britain and France would partner up in the Somme offensive.

Initially, the French would be the main force in the attack, supported by the British. However, before the Somme could begin, the Germans launched a huge attack at Verdun, causing the French send troops to Verdun, to defend against the attack.

The Western Front showing both the Battle of Verdun and the Somme Offensive.
The Western Front showing both the Battle of Verdun and the Somme Offensive.

The fierce fighting in Verdun meant the French urgently needed the Somme Offensive.

With the French now tied up at Verdun, the British were now the main force, with the French supporting. Instead of an all out assault to devastate German forces, the Somme Offensive would now serve to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun, as Germany would have to divert troops to the Somme, and to inflict as much damage as possible while doing so.

The battle began on 1 July 1916 with the detonation of the Lochnagar Mine, which was filled with 30 tons of explosives and virtually vaporized the German positions above. Reportedly, the explosion was heard from London.

On the very first day of the British suffered almost 60,000 casualties, of which 19,240 were killed, due to attacking a well defended area in an advantageous defensive position. The death toll on this day is the worst ever in the history of the British Army. Other successes were found though, by both the British and French, who crushed German opposition in areas and caused retreats.

The battle lasted until 18 November 1916, where British and French forces had pushed 6 miles into previously occupied territory. It was hard-fought, muddy, violent and bloody, but it was a success.

Allied forces, especially the British, suffered terrible losses in exchange for victory, but this was regarded as acceptable at the time. The British essentially fought a war of attrition against Germany, who couldn’t replace their troops as fast as they lost them. Meanwhile, Britain had allies like France and Russia to support them.

The Somme also saw the first use of tanks, and heavily used air power to give a strategic advantage.

At the time the Somme began, British soldiers were physically great, but were inexperienced and poorly trained. In contrast, German defenders were often well trained and highly experienced. The Somme managed to drain Germany of these hardened soldiers, while giving Allied troops experience at the same time. It also drained Germany of valuable resources and severely reduced national morale.

The Somme is regarded as the battle that was the beginning of the end of WWI.

 

The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees
The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

 

The steps leading down to a huge German underground shelter at Bernafay Wood, near Montauban. The picture gives a good idea of the size and depth of many German dugouts on the Somme
The steps leading down to a huge German underground shelter at Bernafay Wood, near Montauban. The picture gives a good idea of the size and depth of many German dugouts on the Somme

 

Troops of the Sherwood Foresters ()(Nottingham and Derbyshire) Regiment cooking their ‘Pork and Beans’ ration in dixies. Near St. Pierre Divion, November 1916.
Troops of the Sherwood Foresters ()(Nottingham and Derbyshire) Regiment cooking their ‘Pork and Beans’ ration in dixies. Near St. Pierre Divion, November 1916.

 

 

Two soldiers of the 8th (Service) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment examine captured machine guns outside a badly damaged German dugout at Beaucourt-sur-Ancre.
Two soldiers of the 8th (Service) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment examine captured machine guns outside a badly damaged German dugout at Beaucourt-sur-Ancre.

 

Water butts at Ginchy. A British soldier using a shell case as a drinking cup. September 1916.
Water butts at Ginchy. A British soldier using a shell case as a drinking cup. September 1916.

 

A 6 inch howitzer being hauled by manpower on caterpillar tracks through the mud near Pozieres. 1 September 1916
A 6 inch howitzer being hauled by manpower on caterpillar tracks through the mud near Pozieres. 1 September 1916

 

A derelict hansom cab found in Bazentin-le-Grand is renamed ’10 Downing Street’ and filled with grinning British soldiers.
A derelict hansom cab found in Bazentin-le-Grand is renamed ’10 Downing Street’ and filled with grinning British soldiers.

 

A dump of 18 pounder shell cases used in the bomdardment of Fricourt. Extraordinary quantities of ammunition were used in successive bombardments.
A dump of 18 pounder shell cases used in the bomdardment of Fricourt. Extraordinary quantities of ammunition were used in successive bombardments.

 

A German trench occupied by British Soldiers near the Albert-Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.
A German trench occupied by British Soldiers near the Albert-Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

 

A house with a shell hole right through it by a ruined church with an observation balloon visible high in the background. Horses are being watered in the foreground.
A house with a shell hole right through it by a ruined church with an observation balloon visible high in the background. Horses are being watered in the foreground.

 

A Lewis light machine gun in action in a front line trench near Ovillers. Possibly troops of the Worcestershire Regiment of the 48th Division.
A Lewis light machine gun in action in a front line trench near Ovillers. Possibly troops of the Worcestershire Regiment of the 48th Division.

 

A long line of German prisoners being marched into Fricourt.
A long line of German prisoners being marched into Fricourt.

 

A New Zealand signaller sitting on the roof of his dugout using a field telephone.
A New Zealand signaller sitting on the roof of his dugout using a field telephone.

 

A sentry in a trench. Eaucourt l’Abbaye. November 1916.
A sentry in a trench. Eaucourt l’Abbaye. November 1916.

 

A sentry of the 10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders at the junction of two trenches – Gourlay Trench and Gordon Alley. Martinpuich, 28 August 1916.
A sentry of the 10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders at the junction of two trenches – Gourlay Trench and Gordon Alley. Martinpuich, 28 August 1916.

 

A trench running through the ruins of Hamel. November 1916.
A trench running through the ruins of Hamel. November 1916.

 

A Wrecked German trench near Guillemont. September 1916.
A Wrecked German trench near Guillemont. September 1916.

 

Building dummy Tanks, Somme. September 1916
Building dummy Tanks, Somme. September 1916

 

An 8-inch Mk V howitzer in action at Aveluy during the Battle of the Somme.
An 8-inch Mk V howitzer in action at Aveluy during the Battle of the Somme.

 

An abandoned German trench in Delville Wood near Longueval, Somme, France during the Battle of the Somme.
An abandoned German trench in Delville Wood near Longueval, Somme, France during the Battle of the Somme.

 

An empty Field gun Cartridge case dump. Fricourt Road, near Mealte, July 1916.
An empty Field gun Cartridge case dump. Fricourt Road, near Mealte, July 1916.

 

Barbed wire at Beaumont Hamel
Barbed wire at Beaumont Hamel

 

Battle of Guillemont. 3-6 September 1916. Ruins of the railway station at Guillemont.
Battle of Guillemont. 3-6 September 1916. Ruins of the railway station at Guillemont.

 

Battle of Guillemont. 3-6 September 1916. Site of Guillemont.
Battle of Guillemont. 3-6 September 1916. Site of Guillemont.

 

Battle of Morval. A makeshift grave in a shell-hole, marked by an inverted rifle driven into the ground near Combles.
Battle of Morval. A makeshift grave in a shell-hole, marked by an inverted rifle driven into the ground near Combles.

 

British intelligence officers interrogating German prisoners at Fricourt.
British intelligence officers interrogating German prisoners at Fricourt.

 

British soldier helping a wounded German prisoner across open country. Ginchy, 25 September.
British soldier helping a wounded German prisoner across open country. Ginchy, 25 September.

 

British soldier resting in the ruins in Morval. September 1916.
British soldier resting in the ruins in Morval. September 1916.

 

British soldier taking notes on a type of an unexploded German shell found near Mametz, 28 August 1916.
British soldier taking notes on a type of an unexploded German shell found near Mametz, 28 August 1916.

 

British soldiers at the old German Front Line, during World War I. In front of a mound and standing in a network of trenches are groups of soldiers, mostly smiling and laughing.
British soldiers at the old German Front Line, during World War I. In front of a mound and standing in a network of trenches are groups of soldiers, mostly smiling and laughing.

 

British soldiers on the improvised bridge (a fallen tree-trunk) across the Ancre, November 1916.
British soldiers on the improvised bridge (a fallen tree-trunk) across the Ancre, November 1916.

 

British troops awaiting orders to attack with Lewis machine guns and rifles, in reserve trenches surrounded by ruined landscape. Near Ginchy, 25 September 1916.
British troops awaiting orders to attack with Lewis machine guns and rifles, in reserve trenches surrounded by ruined landscape. Near Ginchy, 25 September 1916.

 

British troops drying their laundry on old German barbed wire in front of Mametz, September 1916.
British troops drying their laundry on old German barbed wire in front of Mametz, September 1916.

 

British troops rifles inspected after being relieved from the front line. St Pierre Divion, November 1916.
British troops rifles inspected after being relieved from the front line. St Pierre Divion, November 1916.

 

British wounded receiving tea on their way back from the fighting line at 63rd Field Ambulance, Mametz Wood – Mametz road.
British wounded receiving tea on their way back from the fighting line at 63rd Field Ambulance, Mametz Wood – Mametz road.

 

Conditions of the Somme.
Conditions of the Somme.

 

Deserted trench filled with water. Near Hamel, November 1916.
Deserted trench filled with water. Near Hamel, November 1916.

 

Destroyed cloisters of Ypres Cathedral. November 1916.
Destroyed cloisters of Ypres Cathedral. November 1916.

 

Destroyed German trenches at Ovillers, looking towards Bapaume road, July 1916.
Destroyed German trenches at Ovillers, looking towards Bapaume road, July 1916.

 

Drinking water stored in sandbagged sunken butts off the Albert-Pozieres road. August 1916.
Drinking water stored in sandbagged sunken butts off the Albert-Pozieres road. August 1916.

 

Four Mark I tanks filling with petrol, Chimpanzee Valley, 15 September
Four Mark I tanks filling with petrol, Chimpanzee Valley, 15 September

 

French and British soldiers salvaging German rifles at St. Pierre-Divion, captured on 13th November 1916.
French and British soldiers salvaging German rifles at St. Pierre-Divion, captured on 13th November 1916.

 

General view of the battlefield of Beaumont Hamel showing the blasted land
General view of the battlefield of Beaumont Hamel showing the blasted land

 

general view showing a stack of bombs and other stores which were left behind after the Germans were driven out of St Pierre-Divion by 39th Division on 13 November 1916.
general view showing a stack of bombs and other stores which were left behind after the Germans were driven out of St Pierre-Divion by 39th Division on 13 November 1916.

 

German gun emplacement. Baulkes of timber form the overhead cover. Combles.
German gun emplacement. Baulkes of timber form the overhead cover. Combles.

 

German pony who was found and adopted by troops of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on the Western Front. Albert-Amiens road. September 1916.
German pony who was found and adopted by troops of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on the Western Front. Albert-Amiens road. September 1916.

 

Group of the Royal Garrison Artillery troops and 15 inch shells. The Albert-Amiens road, near Albert.
Group of the Royal Garrison Artillery troops and 15 inch shells. The Albert-Amiens road, near Albert.

 

Hold Caterpillar Tractor sunk in the mud on the Guillemont-Martinpuich road in October 1916.
Hold Caterpillar Tractor sunk in the mud on the Guillemont-Martinpuich road in October 1916.

 

Improvised horse shelter. Near Bazentin, November 1916.
Improvised horse shelter. Near Bazentin, November 1916.

 

Interior of a German underground dugout complete with a brass bed at Fricourt. British troops were astonished at the comfort of German living conditions.
Interior of a German underground dugout complete with a brass bed at Fricourt. British troops were astonished at the comfort of German living conditions.

 

Interior of a Lochnagar mine crater at La Boisselle.
Interior of a Lochnagar mine crater at La Boisselle.

 

Lord Arthur Balfour (First Lord of the Admiralty until December 1916) has cotton wool put in his ears prior to seeing a 9.2-inch howitzer fired.
Lord Arthur Balfour (First Lord of the Admiralty until December 1916) has cotton wool put in his ears prior to seeing a 9.2-inch howitzer fired.

 

Mark I tank (D17) at Flers, 17th September 1916. Flers was taken on the 15th September with the aid of tanks.
Mark I tank (D17) at Flers, 17th September 1916. Flers was taken on the 15th September with the aid of tanks.

 

Mark I tank, C.19 ‘Clan Leslie’, in the Chimpanzee Valley on 15 September 1916, the day tanks first went into action.
Mark I tank, C.19 ‘Clan Leslie’, in the Chimpanzee Valley on 15 September 1916, the day tanks first went into action.

 

Men of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on a dump of 2-inch trench mortar ammunition, Acheux, Somme, France.
Men of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on a dump of 2-inch trench mortar ammunition, Acheux, Somme, France.

 

Men of the Royal Garrison Artillery in Englebelmer Wood moving a 15-inch Howitzer shell by rolling it along a pair of rails.
Men of the Royal Garrison Artillery in Englebelmer Wood moving a 15-inch Howitzer shell by rolling it along a pair of rails.

 

Men resting in sleeping shelters dug into the side of a trench near Contalmaison.
Men resting in sleeping shelters dug into the side of a trench near Contalmaison.

 

Newly hollowed out shelters for the British reserves at Mametz.
Newly hollowed out shelters for the British reserves at Mametz.

 

oyful British troops in captured German dugouts at Mametz.
oyful British troops in captured German dugouts at Mametz.

 

Photograph of British troops carrying 2 inch mortar bombs (‘Toffee Apples’) by hand, Acheux, Somme, France.
Photograph of British troops carrying 2 inch mortar bombs (‘Toffee Apples’) by hand, Acheux, Somme, France.

 

Royal Garrison Artillery gunners digging a position for a 15 inch howitzer at Englebelmer, 22 November 1916.
Royal Garrison Artillery gunners digging a position for a 15 inch howitzer at Englebelmer, 22 November 1916.

 

Scottish troops in the mine crater in High Wood. Sprung in the attack of the 1st Division on 3rd September 1916.
Scottish troops in the mine crater in High Wood. Sprung in the attack of the 1st Division on 3rd September 1916.

 

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Soldiers surround a London coffee stall at Aveluy, November 1916.
Soldiers surround a London coffee stall at Aveluy, November 1916.