The Battle of the Somme: 100 years on

It was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 1st July 2016, 12:01 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:36 pm

At 7.30am on July 1, 1916, British and French forces began the fight against the Germans in a brutal battle that would last for five months. On the first day alone the British Army lost 60,000 men, 20,000 of whom were killed.

The joint operation between the Allied Forces intended to win victory over the Germans following continued pressure by the German Army on the French at Verdun throughout 1916..

With the French and British armies calling upon troops from the colonies and the French Foreign Legion, units from 25 nations and 50 countries were involved.

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Soldiers wait to go over the top at the Battle of the Somme

In 141 days of combat, the total number of men killed, wounded and missing reached over one million with entire nations sent into mourning.

The loss was felt back home on British soil.

Many of the soldiers who had signed up were everyday young men from close-knit communities who subsequently suffered horrible losses. They were friends, neighbours and work colleagues who signed up together on the promise they would serve alongside each other.

These brave men fought until mid-November, when the British carried out their last battle on the River Ancre.

By its final conclusion on November 18, 1916, casualties amounted to 420,000 British, 190,000 French and 420,000 German soldiers. The landscape of the north-east of the Somme was left devastated; villages were razed to the ground and craters caused by shelling littered the fields.

A century after these events, the trauma of the battle is still strongly felt.

For the countries involved, the Somme has come to symbolise the violent death of the men who were fighting for their country and for freedom.

And this, the 100th anniversary, provides an opportunity to commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the battle while fighting for their country.

Soldiers wait to go over the top at the Battle of the Somme

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1932, is one of the main points for remembrance in the Somme. The memorial honours 72,195 missing British and South African servicemen, who died between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave.

Each year, a commemorative service is held in remembrance of the men who bravely gave their lives.

To mark the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, a national commemorative event will be held at 12noon (11am GMT) at the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France. This will be led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on behalf of the UK Government and the French Mission du Centenaire de la Premiere Guerre mondiale, on behalf of the French Government, in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Royal British Legion.