King's Own Royal Regiment Museum

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141 Days: The Battle of the Somme

Introduction

Within weeks of the outbreak of the Great War, in August 1914, two vast opposing armies started to dig trenches which ran from the English Channel to the Swiss Border. Stalemate was the order of the day. Neither side was able to overcome the defences of the other.

In January 1916 the British and French decided that an all-out offensive would be launched that summer, some 25 British and 40 French Divisions, were to be deployed north and south of the Somme River.

The plans were shattered on 21st February 1916 when the Germans launched a heavy attack at Verdun. Despite the Germans making some gains and the town nearly falling, the French held on. French losses mounted and it was feared that the Germans may break the line, if they were not diverted elsewhere.

On 1st July 1916, 13 British and 7 French Divisions attacked the German front line over 26 miles. The British Army included many civilian recruits, who were inexperienced in battle and lacked extensive training.

The British Commander, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, saw the attack as a way of relieving the French at Verdun, inflicting losses on the Germans and place the British Army in positions favourable for the final victory he expected in 1917.


Carrying party of the 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on the Somme, 1916.
Accession Number: KONeg1064

Next: 1914-15 The Story So Far

Supported by the Sir John Fisher Foundation and the Army Museums Ogilby Trust

Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

2016 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum