As we approach the 100th anniversary of the worst day in British military history, when the four-month Battle of the Somme began, you may be interested in learning about it.
It was on July 1, 1916 — the first day of the battle — when the British suffered almost 60,000 casualties.
You don’t have to look far on the internet to find lots of websites, photos, and videos about the Battle of the Somme. Here are three documentaries, a website, and a new app that doesn’t require a smart phone.
Image from the WWI documentary, “The Great War: The Somme.”
These documentaries are available on YouTube.
The Somme: From Defeat to Victory (BBC) – 58 minutes
This documentary challenges the traditional view of the battle as a disaster and reveals how it was on the Somme that the British army learned to fight a modern war.
Based on extensive research in British and German archives, the film mixes realistic, historically sourced drama scenes, archive, documentary footage and state of the art computer graphics to bring the extraordinary events of the Somme to life. It has been made with the advice of some of the world’s top military historians. The result is a film that offers a radical new perspective on the Somme, putting the terrible events of July 1, 1916 into their proper historical context.
The Great War: The Somme – 45 minutes
Why was the first day on the Somme such a disaster for the British? World War I, trenches and barbed wire ran across the entire continent of Europe from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. At 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1916, after a devastating artillery bombardment lasting more than a week, 100,000 British soldiers waited in their trenches ready to advance on the German lines. They’d been told to expect minimal resistance, but as they picked their way slowly across no-man’s-land, guns opened fire. Shells burst overhead, and waves of men were machine-gunned down. It was a military catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
Filmed on the battlefield itself, in laboratories and on firing ranges – archaeologists, military historians, and other experts from disciplines as diverse as metallurgy and geology investigate the factors and conduct tests to replicate and understand the factors that turned one terrible day into the bloodiest in the history of the British Army.
The Somme, 1916: Hell on Earth – 60 minutes
At 7.30 a.m. on July 1, 1916 the proud and eager young men of Kitchener’s Army went “over the top” for the first time. The Battle of the Somme had begun. By the end of that first terrible day almost 60,000 of their numbers had become casualties, and one of military history’s greatest disasters had unfolded before the disbelieving eyes of the Allied High Command.
Interactive Somme cemetery app
To further add to your understanding of the devastation of this battle, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has created an interactive Somme cemetery app that you can try here. The good news is there is no fancy app to download and you don’t need a smart phone to see it.
Make sure you click on the box, Learn more about this cemetery. From there, you can click on the Casualty Records and the cemetery plan.
One cemetery that stood out was Beaumont-Hamel. “On 1 July the 29th Division attacked the German-held village of Beaumont-Hamel, but was devastated by machine-gun and artillery fire. Four and half months later, on 13 November, the 51st (Highland) Division stormed the German lines and captured the village. Located within the Newfoundland Memorial Park, Y Ravine Cemetery is the final resting place of nearly 430 servicemen many of whom died in July and November 1916.”
CWGC website — The Somme
While visiting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website, take a look at the tabs about the Somme across the top of the screen or simply click here.