Battle of the Somme

A Sunlit Picture of Hell

The conditions are almost unbelievable. We live in a world of Somme mud. We sleep in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we can't escape it, not even by dying. - Australian soldier Edward Lynch

The first day of the Battle of Sommes is the bloodiest single day in the history of the British Army - of 120,000 Allied troops from the United Kingdom, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Canada nearly 20,000 were killed, most of them in the first hour, and 37,000 were wounded.



Y/M/D Description Place
1915/12/08 At GQG headquarters in Chantilly, Joffre proposes that the Allied armies on the Western Front should coordinate simultaneously attacks on the Central Powers. The Allies met at Chantilly from 8 to 12 December 1915.
1916/03/00 After the Imperial German Army begins their attack on Verdun, French commanders divert many of their divisions intended for the Somme to defend Verdun. Verdun Forts Circuit, Verdun
1916/05/00 On leave in London, Nevill and his fellow Royal 8th East Surrey Regiment officers buy two leather footballs (soccer balls) as a ploy to bolster morale when their troops are under fire.
1916/06/24 Allied Anglo-French armies begin a 5 day, 1.7 million shell, bombardment of German defenses. Allied soldiers are told that the artillery would destroy the Germans, but their deep (more than 30ft in places) bunkers protecting them from shelling.
1916/06/29 Battle of Somme is delayed 3 days due to bad weather.
1916/06/30 No 2 Australian General Hospital sets up on the site of partly completed 5th British Convalescent Depot on the road between Wimereux and Boulogne, the most important base port of the BEF on the direct route of casualties from the Salient.
1916/07/01 British soldiers detonate a mine beneath the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt, a German front-line fortification, west of the village of Beaumont Hamel. The explosion is filmed by Geoffrey Malins for "The Battle of the Somme". Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No 1, Beaumont-Hamel
1916/07/01 The Lochnagar mine south of the village of La Boisselle is detonated by the British, leaving a crater 98 ft (30 m) deep and 330 ft (100 m) wide. It will be captured and held by British troops. Lochnager Crater, Ovillers-la-Boisselle
1916/07/01 At 7:30 am, shrill of whistles single 100,000 British soldiers to climb out of the trenches and charge across no-man's-land against the German 2nd Army of General Fritz von Below.
1916/07/01 Five divisions of the French 6th Army attack at the Somme River, eleven British divisions of the 4th Army north of the Somme to Serre and two divisions of the 3rd Army at Gommecourt.
1916/07/01 Climbing from a trench at Carnoy, Captain Nevill kicks his soccer ball into No Man's land. He had offered a prize to whoever kicks the first ball into a German trench. Within the first minutes of the battle, 7 of his officers are killed.
1916/07/01 Bobby Soames, the other East Surreys officer kicking a football, is shot dead on the German wire.
1916/07/01 Captain Nevill and the East Surreys kick the balls and fight their way to German defenses near the village of Montauban.
1916/07/01 The Newfoundland Regiment are slaughtered by German fire as they move through No Man's land, the communication trenches being already full of wounded. Of the 780 men, only about 110 survived. The unit as a whole suffers a casualty rate of 90 percent. Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel
1916/07/01 No Man's land is a tangled desert. We do not yet seem to have stopped his German machine guns. These are popping off all along our parapet as I write. I trust they will not claim too many of our lads before the day is over. - English Cap Charles May
1916/07/01 Believing that more men would volunteer if they could fight alongside friends and co-workers, the British Army encouraged the formation of "pals battalions". In 30 minutes, 584 of the 720 members of the Accrington Pals Battalion are killed or wounded.
1916/07/01 The 600-man Grimsby Chums sustain more than 500 casualties. As a result of the horrendous losses, the British Army gradually folded the "pals battalions" into other units.
1916/07/01 Thirty-seven sets of British brothers lose their lives during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
1916/07/01 Montauban Alley is captured by the 18th Division, but Captain Wilfred Nevill's is killed by machine gun fire just short of the German wire. Captain Nevill is buried at Carnoy, France. Hauts-de-France, France
1916/07/01 The first day of the Battle is the worst in the British Army's history, 19,240 died. Officers below Major died at a higher rate than private soldiers did, with 60 percent of British officers who were involved on the first day losing their lives. Departement du Somme,
1916/07/01 Bloodiest single day in the history of the British Army - of 120,000 Allied troops from the UK, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Canada nearly 20,000 were killed, most of them in the first hour, and 37,000 were wounded.
1916/07/02 Of the 780 men who advanced the day before, Newfoundland Regiment's 68 remaining soldiers report for roll call. Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel
1916/07/04 The British reopen the tunnel beneath the Hawthorn Ridge crater and reloaded the mine with explosives. Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No 1, Beaumont-Hamel
1916/07/09 The silent film, The Battle of the Somme, filmed between June 25 and July 9, creates controversy by depicting the brutality of war, including scenes of corpses being tossed into communal graves.
1916/07/15 Otto Frank proudly fights for Germany, serving in the infantry as a range-finder in the trenches of the Somme.
1916/07/17 16-17 July, Lt Butterworth leads the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in capturing a series of trenches near Pozieres (traces may still be found in a small wood). Pozieres, Hauts-de-France
1916/07/29 Harold Macmillan is wounded in No Man's Land: "they were entrenched while we were in the open.... Then they (Germans), began throwing bombs at us at random. The first, unluckily, hit l me in the face and back and stunned me for the moment."
1916/08/05 Digging an assault trench named 'Butterworth Trench', the United Kingdom's 23rd Division takes a German communications trench known as Munster Alley, Contalmaison, France.
1916/08/05 During a German counter attack, George Butterworth is shot through the head by a sniper. Pozieres, Hauts-de-France
1916/08/06 Private William Henry Short (Yorkshire Regiment) is severely wounded in the foot, but continues to throw bombs at the enemy. Private Short died in the trench and will be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
1916/08/10 "The Battle of the Somme" premieres in London on 10 August 1916.
1916/08/21 The silent film, The Battle of the Somme, opens in 34 London cinemas.
1916/09/00 Throughout the autumn of 1916, more than 20 million Britons, nearly half the country's population, watch "The Battle of the Somme".
1916/09/15 37-year-old Raymond Asquith, son of sitting British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, is killed after being shot in the chest while leading an attack.
1916/09/15 British deploy 32 Mark I tanks at Flers-Courcelette. Crewed by eight, the armored vehicles moved at 3 mph, suffered mechanical breakdowns, had difficulty maneuvering over the battle terrain and were susceptible to enemy grenades and armor-piercing rifles. Departement du Somme,
1916/10/07 Deployed near Bapaume, France, a British shell explodes outside the List Unit dugout wounding Bavarian corporal Adolf Hitler in the left thigh. He is sent to convalesce in a hospital near Berlin, returning to his old regiment by February 1917.
1916/10/28 From July to October, JRR Tolkien serves as Battalion Signaling Officer to the 11th Battalion of The Lancashire Fusiliers. His unit fights in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge (26-28 Sept 1916) and the capture of Regina Trench (1 Oct to 11 Nov 1916). Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval, Somme
1916/11/00 Casualties top 1 million, including the deaths of more than 300,000. British troops sustained 420,000 casualties-including 125,000 deaths-during the Battle of the Somme. The casualties also included 200,000 French troops and 500,000 German soldiers.
1916/11/13 The British detonate the mine beneath Hawthorn Ridge Crater during an attack on Beaumont-Hamel by the 51st (Highland) Division of V Corps. Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No 1, Beaumont-Hamel
1916/11/14 Taking cover in a shell crater near Beaumont-Hamel, France, Hector Hugh Munro is killed by a German sniper during the Battle of the Ancre. His last words were "Put that bloody cigarette out!" Beaumont-Hamel, Hauts-de-France
1916/11/18 Allied forces launched no fewer than 90 attacks before British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig calls off the Somme offensive on November 18.
1916/11/18 After 141 days, the Battle of the Somme ends. The official number of British dead, missing or wounded during that period is 419, 654. 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died with no known graves are recorded on the British memorial at Thiepval. Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval, Somme
1932/08/01 Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and built between 1928 and 1932, the Thiepval Memorial is unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales. Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval, Somme
2015/00/00 Both of Nevill's footballs were retrieved from the battlefield and preserved by the regiment. One survives at Dover Castle and the other was lost in 2015 during a fire at Clandon Park, home of the Surrey Infantry Museum. Dover Castle, Dover

Data »

Motif: War
Historic Event: World War I

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