The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive was one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties (greater than the total combined British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and Korean wars), and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men. Some 150,000 Commonwealth servicemen lie buried in 250 military and 150 civilian cemeteries on the Somme. Six memorials to the missing commemorate by name more than 100,000 whose graves are not known
The Somme offensive lasted a total of 141 days - and men from every part of Britain and across the Empire took part.
Later today some 2,000+ guests are due to gather for a service of Remembrance to mark the 100th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval Memorial in France which holds the names of more than seventy two thousand men who died on the Somme and have no known grave. The final centenary service will be led by Bishop James Newcome, the Royal British Legion's national chaplain, and guests will be welcomed by Britain's ambassador to France, Lord Llewellyn of Steep.
- The battle lasted 141 days, from July 1st to November 18th 1916.
- The battle was preceded by a seven day bombardment firing 1.7m shells at the German trenches.
- 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
- The British captured just three square miles of territory on the first day
- 19,240 British soldiers died on the first day - the bloodiest day in the history of the British army. Officers below Major died at a much higher rate on the Somme than private soldiers did, with 60% of British officers who were involved on the first day losing their lives.
- The Royal Flying Corps, the air army of the British Army, lost 782 aircraft and 576 pilots during the battle.
- The Battle of the Somme was the first battle in WW1 to use tanks, with varied results, many broke down
- The average British fighter carried at least 30kg of equipment with him while going over the trenches in the initial phases of the battle
- Wilfred Owen, Adolph Hitler and JRR Tolkien all took part in the Battle of the Somme.
- At the end of hostilities, the British had advanced just seven miles
- The Battle of the Somme marked the end of the “Pals Battalion” due to the enormous losses. During the first day of battle 584 of the 720 serving in the Accrington Pals were killed or wounded, along with 500 out of 600 who served in the Grimsby Chums.
- In 1916, more than 20 million Britons, nearly half the country’s population, flocked to cinemas to watch “The Battle of the Somme,” the first feature-length war documentary. Incorporating both staged footage and real battle scenes captured between June 25th and July 9th.
- 51 Victoria Crosses were won by British soldiers. 31 won by NCO’s and 20 by officers. Of these 51 medals, 17 were awarded posthumously – 10 to NCO’s and 7 to officers.
Do you know enough about your WWI military ancestors?
War touches many people’s lives. Is your family’s military history waiting to be discovered? Is there a war hero in your family waiting to be remembered? Did any members of your family get awarded medals for their actions in war?
Perhaps they did, but you just haven’t found out about it yet…Why not search the Forces War Records site and take a look at the wealth of records and historic documents the company holds. Let us help you start, or continue your family history quest…
Please post a message of Remembrance for your military ancestor on our NEW Dedication wall.