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Interactive Timeline of the First World War

The First World War - 1916

The Battle of the Somme.

The British barrage began on June 24th 1916, going at the German lines for 7 days. The plan was to kill the Germans within an 18-mile front through heavy bombardment of their positions, however they lacked the required explosive guns and had little effect to the German trenches and barbed wire.

On July 1st, 7.00am. The barrage was lifted, the Generals confident that the battle was won. Unfortunately, instead of walking into devastated German trenches, they came face to face with the undamaged German machine guns.

British soldiers manning a machine gun during the Somme Offensive

Soldier upon soldier was killed by the machine gunners. Soon the German artillery joined in. Some of the attacking troops never made it out of the trenches. The 1st Lancashire Fusiliers were shot to pieces half way to the German line. Few people made it to the barbed wire and the German front line. The British had lost 60,000 men on the first day. This makes the event the costliest day in British military history.

General Haig still carried on with the battle though. The French gained a small amount of land on the southern line. On September 25th they tried a new approach, failing again. In November, the British gained Beaumont-Hamel.

By November 28th it was all over. There were 420,000 British casualties, 195,000 of French and 650,000 of Germans.

Further information about the Battle of the Somme, including Source Material, can be found in the review of August 1916.

The Guardian archive contains a contemporary newspaper report about the battle of the Somme.

Listen to a veteran describing his experience of the introduction of tanks into the First World War. A BBC recording.

Blowing up of underground mines was a precarious method of attacking the enemy. Firstworldwar.com have some extremely rare footage of the scene of an explosion. Click here to view the footage. (Requires Quicktime, hosted by Firstworldwar.com)

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