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Battle of the Somme Facts

The Battle of the Somme (also known as the Somme Offensive) was one of the longest and most remembered battles of World War 1. Summer 2016 marks the 100th Anniversary of the battle, and will be commemorated in many parts of the world. At the battl esite of the Somme, 10,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on July 1st.

Here are key facts about Battle of the Somme:

  • Spanning 141 days (July 1, 1916 - November 18 1916), the Battle of the Somme occurred on the banks of the Somme River in France 
  • The battle was between the Allies (British Empire and French) vs. German troops
  • It was the first great offensive of World War I for the British
  • Fought between trenches, troops on both sides were living in squalied, extreme conditions
  • One of the bloodiest known battles in history, on the first day alone 100,000 Allied members were sent over the trenches, resulting in 60,000 casualties and around 20,000 deaths
  • In total there were over 1,000,000 casualties, and over 300,000 men were killed or declared missing
  • The goal of the battle was for the Allied forces to take control of the 24 km stretch of the River Somme from the Germans
  • Many historians argue this was an ill thought out battle strategy, particularly as the Germans had the advantage of deeply dug, established trenches
  • Many of the shells thrown by the Allied forces in the preliminary battle were duds and failed to explode or went off but missed the target completely
  • The Battle of the Somme was the first battle in WW1 to use tanks, with varied results, many broke down and when working were only able to go at a maximum speed of 4 miles per hour
  • The furthest advance of any allied force during the battle was just 5 miles
  • The average British fighter carried at least 30kg of equipment with him while going over the trenches in the initial phases of the battle
  • The British War Office made a film "The Battle of the Somme" and was released by 10 August 2016, it was watched by 20 million people - nearly half of the British population
  • On 19 November 1916 the battle was suspended, mainly due to the harsh winter weather and dwindling supplies. Some historians argue that if the Allies had continued a few weeks they could have broken through German lines while others claim they never had a realistic chance.