14 facts on the Battle of the Somme

 In WW1 Time Line

The battle of the Somme kicked off on 1st July 1916 after a massive eight day Allied artillery bombardment, the likes of which had never been seen before. Many of the men who went ‘over the top’ that summer morn were under the impression that the enemy would either be dead, dying or desperate to surrender when they arrived at the German front line trench system. Alas, it was not quite the case. To this day, the first day of the battle remains the darkest day in the British Army’s illustrious history.

Here are 14 facts on the Battle of the Somme:

  1. The Battle of the Somme was originally meant to be a French led offensive with the British in support. It was also initially planned for August 1916
  2. When the German army attacked Verdun in February 1916 it was clear that France would not be able to lead any major offensive in 1916, indeed a British diversionary attack was needed fast to take the pressure of the French and divert German resources away from Verdun. That diversionary attack turned out to be the Battle of the Somme
  3. The preliminary bombardment lasted eight days and saw over 1,600 pieces of British artillery fire 1.73 million shells on to the German lines.
  4. The first infantry attack took place in the early morning of 1st July 1916 – the battle continued until the 18th November
  5. Many of the shells that were fired in that preliminary bombardment were duds and failed to explode. Those that did explode tended to be shrapnel shells which had little effect on barbed wire defences, dugouts and enemy strong points
  6. The average British infantryman carried 30kg of equipment as he went over the top during the first phase of the battle
  7. Britain lost 57,470 casualties (killed and wounded) on the first day of the Battle of the Somme
  8. 19,240 British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle
  9. The oldest British soldier to die during the battle was Lt Henry Webber, 7th South Lancashire Regiment. He was 68 when he died on 27th July 1916
  10. On 15 September 1916 at Flers-Courcelette the tank made its operational debut. Although they scared many of the German soldiers in the front line, a mixture of poor tactics and unreliability meant that overall they failed to make a great impact
  11. During the Battle of the Somme 51 Victoria Crosses were awarded – 17 of them were awarded posthumously
  12. During the battle between July and November 1916, the French and British armies suffered around 625,000 casualties
  13. Germany casualty figures for the battle are estimated at 500,000
  14. The furthest advance of any allied force during the battle was five miles

If you liked these facts, you may like 1001 Fantastic First World War Facts – available on Amazon sites worldwide in either paperback or Kindle version

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Showing 4 comments
  • Alfie


  • claudia

    I’m watching The Passing Bells and wanted to find some facts about the Somme and came to your site. It’s a good series on Hulu.

  • Reece

    Helped Me A load Thanks 🙂

  • jazmine

    thankyou this really helped me with my class project

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