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Why Was The First Day Of The Battle Of The Somme A Failure?

1065 words - 4 pages

The Battle of the Somme was planned by General Sir Douglas Haig. It was fought in an attempt to end the stalemate, and to relieve pressure on the French Army who were fighting at Verdun. The Germans had said they had intended to 'bleed France white' at Verdun. The battle was also fought to make a big push past the German trenches and into Germany. The battle began on 1 July 1916 and ended in November of the same year. The first day on the Somme was a bitter failure: there were 60,000 British casualties, and 20,000 British were dead. By the end of the battle, there were 1.2 million casualties. There were some successes however. On the first day, the 36th Ulster division achieved a remarkable achievement. They achieved their objectives, as did the 30th division in the diversionary attack in the north of the country. They got to the village of Montaubau, and even pursued the fleeing Germans into the Montaubau Valley. General Rawlinson had nearly not included this division in the plans, and was going to replace them. Over the whole war, the British took about 15 miles. These were about the only successes of a very dreadful war, but why was the Somme, in particular the first day, such a failure?There were big problems with the trenches. The German trenches overlooked the British trenches, and so the Germans could see through binoculars everything that was going on in the British trenches. They therefore had weeks and weeks to prepare for the attack (as they could see the masses of artillery being collected), and this contributed to the failure of the first day. There was another problem with being at the bottom of a slope. When they came out of the trenches to attack the Germans, they had to travel uphill, instead of going slightly downhill or on flat ground.There were also major problems with the tactics. Once the mines had exploded, the army were instructed to just walk across No Man's Land, and also to carry everything with them (65-90lb). This was clearly fatal. The Germans were just able to shoot the British down for fun. Haig however had to be right: anyone that disagreed with his plans were just ignored. He also ignored many plans that he was given during the war about the number of casualties. He was even given a report by a few scouts on the night before the attack that the artillery week-long bombardment had been a total failure. It didn't help matters rather that the British had chosen a bad place to attack. Sir Douglas Haig also chose to ignore Rawlinson's plans, which were that originally you take the front line, then the next stage, and so on. Rawlinson was much more experienced in the army, and Haig really should have listened to his plans, instead of disregarding them as rubbish. The British planned to set off seven mines at zero hour (0730). Several of these went off early, including one at 0720, and one at 0728. This gave the Germans plenty of time to prepare and set up their machine guns,...

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