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The Battle Of The Somme Explained

The Battle of the Somme will forever be synonymous with mud, blood, and futility. Infamous for being one of the most brutal battles in human...

The Battle of the Somme will forever be synonymous with mud, blood, and futility. 

Infamous for being one of the most brutal battles in human history, it took place over four and a half months in northern France - fought between the armies of the British and French empires and those of the German empire.

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By the end of the battle, which had also seen the first ever use of a tank, more than a million men had been killed or wounded.

All for the British and French gain of just 6 miles of previously German-occupied territory.

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME: IN NUMBERS
 
How long did the battle last? For four and a half months (141 days), from July 1st to November 18th, 1916. 
 
How wide was the front? Fifteen miles wide. 
 
How many casualties were there? More than 1 million – the first day of the battle, July 1st, was the bloodiest day ever for the British Army, seeing 57,470 casualties. The Germans suffered around 8,000 on this day, and the French a few thousand.
 
What about animal casualties? 95% of all horses used by the British Army during the war were killed.
 
How many shells were used to prepare for the battle? The British and French softened the Germans up with a week-long artillery barrage, sending over 1,738,000 shells before the battle even began. 224,000 shells were fired between 6:30 and 7:30 am before the attack commenced on July 1st. However, most of these shells were fired by the British, and 30 per cent of them were duds, leaving much of the German barbed wire uncut, and their dugouts intact. When the guns opened up on June 24th, windows rattled in London 160 miles away.
 
How many mines were used? On the first day, 19 mines were detonated underneath the German line before the attack commenced. The joint explosion of these mines rank among the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, and they, like the artillery barrage proceeding them, were also heard in London. The largest two mines were at La Boisselle and Beaumont-Hamel, and used 40,000lbs and 40,600lbs of explosives. These mines were surpassed in size and power by mines used at Messines Ridge in 1917.