At 7.30am on 1 July 1916, British soldiers mounted an attack on German army positions in northern France: the biggest battle mounted by Britain since Waterloo.
The 'Big Push' was meant to break the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front, offer relief to the French at Verdun, and get the war moving again. However, the attack plan, a compromise reached by British commander-in-chief Douglas Haig and his army commander Henry Rawlinson, was fatally flawed.
As 60,000 British soldiers went 'over the top' they were met by a devastating barrage of German machine guns and artillery that should by then have been destroyed by the preliminary British barrage.
By the end of the day over 19,240 men were dead, with another 35,493 wounded. A byword for the futility of war, the Somme marked the end of chivalrous notions of combat, and loudly heralded the mechanised slaughter of modern warfare.
At 7.30am on 1 July 1916, British soldiers mounted an attack on German army positions in northern France: the biggest…
- This episode has subtitles available.
The Somme on Channel4.comSee more about The Somme
The story of the Battle of the Somme, told from an eyewitness perspective through the letters, diaries and journals written by the men who fought there