The D 929 from Albert to Bapaume,
axis of the Battlefield of the Somme.
On both sides of this road and
on both sides of the banks of the river:
The Battle of the Somme
1 July - 18 November 1916.
The view from the top of the Thiepval Memorial reveals
the landscape, across which the tragedy unfolded
between July and November 1916.
The Somme in 1916 marked the junction of the French
and British armies on the Western Front.
The German 2nd Army under General Von Below
digged itself in with 16 divisions, in 3 lines of defense, ...
and in heavily fortified and under tunneled villages and farms.
Joffre and Haig decided to a combined allied offensive...
... to relief the pressure of the French Troops
fighting the Battle of Verdun.
In June the Generals assembled a massive force of troops
in the villages around the destroyed town of Albert.
The town of Albert.
The Basilique of Albert with it's Golden Madonna.
General Rawlinson assembled his 4th Army near villages
like Mailly Maillet, ...
(Pep talk for the troops on 29 June 1916, near Mailly Maillet) ...
... and like Auchonvillers.
They started the offensive with a continious artillery bombardment of 7 days and 7 nights.
After the Bombardment at 7.20 A.M. 17 huge mines were detonated, like the Hawthorn Mine on the Hawthorn Ridge
near Beaumont Hamel...
Or this one near La Boiselle, which caused this Lochnagar Crater.
After the mine explosions at 7.30 a.m. the British infantry ...
... went "over the top".
They came out of their trenches to attack.
The Germans had enough time to crawl out of their shelters
They immediately manned their machine gun posts
and started to fire on the British soldiers.
Most British units had severe numbers of casualties,
and they had to withdraw to their original jump off line.
At the end of the first day the British had some successes, but not much.
They had captured some of their objectives and made 4.000 prisoners.
Mametz and Montauban were captured.
But in Fricourt, La Boiselle, Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel, and Serre only the occasional impact had been made. As night fell, after 14 hours of fighting, these positions were firmly reduced by fierce German counterattacks.
British casualties after the first day of Battle:
1 July 1916, is still considered as the Bloodiest Day in the history of the British Army.
In the southern, French front sector,
General Fayolle's 6th Army reached almost all it's objectives
for the first day of the Battle.
The Battle would continue until 17 November 1916.
Continue to the next chapter: