Battle of the Somme

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British troops moving up to the attack during the Battle of Morval, 25 September 1916.

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the Somme, a river in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history.


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  • The outcome of the war depends on the Second Army being victorious on the Somme.... The enemy must be made to pick his way forward over corpses.
  • Enemy superiority is so great that we are not in a position either to fix their forces in position or to prevent them from launching an offensive elsewhere. We just do not have the troops.... We cannot prevail in a second battle of the Somme with our men; they cannot achieve that any more.
  • I always remember my disappointment the next morning when I found that my hand was still on because I thought, well, if I lost my hand I'm all right, I shall live, they can't send me out without a hand again. I was 20 then, it's not altogether a right thought for a young man to hope that he's been maimed for life.
  • Then five minutes to go. And then zero hour, and all hell lets loose. There's our barrage, the Germans' barrage, and over the top we go. As soon as you get over the top, fear has left you, and its terror. You don't ... look, you see. You don't hear, you listen. Your nose is filled with fumes and death. You taste the top of your mouth. Your weapon and you are one. A hunter, you're back to the jungle. The veneer of civilization has dropped away. And you see the line of men, the flare of the shells and the mist of dawn, November dawn. And the fumes from the shells coming out of the bursting shell, which gives it a dirty orange colour. Then you see this line. Then a gap, closing, and go on.
    • Richard Henry Tobin, describing his experiences at the Battle of the Somme, in the documentary The Great War
  • From 1789 to late in 1791 the French Revolution was an orderly process, and from the summer of 1794 the Republic was an orderly and victorious state. The Terror was not the work of the whole country, but of the town mob which owed its existence and its savagery to the misrule, and social injustice of the ancient regime...More lives were wasted by the British generals alone on the opening day of what is known as the Somme offensive of July, 1916 than in the whole French Revolution from start to finish.
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