The Bloodiest Day
The first day of the Battle of the Somme, in northern France, was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army and one of the most infamous days of World War One.
On 1 July 1916, the British forces suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 fatalities. They gained just three square miles of territory. British and German troops faced each other’s trenches only separated by a few hundred yards of “no-man’s land”.
The British force consisted of soldiers from Britain and Ireland, as well as troops from Newfoundland, South Africa and India.
The British generals staged a massive artillery bombardment and sent 100,000 men over the top to take the German trenches.
They were confident of victory. But the British soldiers were unable to break through the German defences and were mown down in their thousands by machine gun and artillery fire.
This day set a bloody precedent: the Somme campaign wore on for five months and, in all, more than a million soldiers from the British, German and French armies were wounded or killed.