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On This Day… The Bloodiest Day In The History Of The British Army

Written by: George Chittenden : 20 May 2019

It was on this day, 1st July back in 1916 when the British army suffered the worst losses in its history, at the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Over the course of five days, an artillery barrage had supposedly destroyed the barbed wire and thinned out the German defenders. At 7:30 a.m. British officers blew their whistles and tens of thousands of British soldiers climbed out of their trenches into no man’s land and began to make their way towards the German lines opposite. What followed was a bloodbath, as British soldiers marched into machine-gun fire. Unfortunately for the nearly 20,000 British soldiers that died that day, the barbed wire wasn't fully cut and the German defences hadn’t been as devastated from the artillery barrage as first thought. Surprisingly Several truces were negotiated, to recover wounded from no man's land that day.

The British suffered 57,470 casualties of which 19,240 men were killed. The French suffered 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army lost between 10,000–12,000 men that day. The loss of life that day was extreme, however for the British it was even more devastating than the numbers might indicate. At the start of WWI when the British had enlisted as volunteers, they were told that those who enlisted together would serve together. Consequently, huge numbers of people that died on that first day came from the same neighbourhoods. The Battle of the Somme didn’t end on that first day either, and would continue for months. Today we remember all of the poor soldiers who paid the ultimate price that day. Lest we forget.

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