Sunday 22 January 2012

Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters 18 - the Somme

On Saturday, 1 July, 1916, British, British Empire and French soldiers launched a huge offensive on the Somme.    By the end of that day, nearly 20,000 British soldiers were dead, and 36,000 wounded – the worst toll for a single day in the history of the British Army.

When rotten weather and cloying mud finally brought an end to the Battle of the Somme in November, Britain and the British Empire had suffered an almost unimaginable 400,000 casualties, the French had lost about 200,000, and the Germans perhaps 450,000.

Of all the disasters featured in this series, this is the only one sometimes claimed as a victory.   It is said that this bloody attrition fatally drained German resources and paved the way for the Allies to finally win the war two years later.

The ground gained was negligible.   Nowhere did the Allied line advance more than six miles, and many objectives due to be taken on the first day were never captured, nor did the Allies liberate a single town or gain a single strategically significant point.

For the full story, see Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters from the Roman Conquest to the Fall of Singapore.

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