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The Battlefield of the Somme

The Battlefield of the Somme

1st July to 18th November 1916

In today’s world it is impossible to imagine just how awful fighting in the Great War really was.  It brought a new type of conflict in trench warfare which was combined with a new ferocity of firepower.

Men fought and died in a wasteland of mud, barbed wire, shell-fire and machine gun fire which all combined to form a new kind of terror.  Millions were killed and wounded in a war largely of attrition in which life was cheap and terrible injury expected.

The odds were stacked against survival, the fighting resulting in almost wiping out an entire generation.

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About the Battle of the Somme

About the Battle of the Somme

Read about the background to the Battle of the Somme, the leaders and the human story of suffering.

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Battle Of The Somme Memorials

Battle Of The Somme Memorials

Read about some of the memorials to those who lost their lives or were maimed at the Battle of the Somme

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Gommecourt, Hébuterne, Foncquevillers

Gommecourt, Hébuterne, Foncquevillers

Some of the bloodiest fighting of the entire Somme offensive took place around the village of Gommecourt.  On the first day of the battle there were a total of almost 9,000 Allied and German casualties in a single day. 

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Mailly-Maillet, Colincamps, Auchonvillers

Mailly-Maillet, Colincamps, Auchonvillers

Colincamps and "Euston", a road junction a little east of the village, were within the Allied lines before the Somme offensive of July 1916.

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Serre

Serre

Serre is famous because it was here where many of the men of the northern 'Pals' Battalions experienced their first and last taste of war in the first few minutes of the battle.

Beaumont Hamel is inextricably linked with the fate of the Newfoundland Regiment following their huge losses there on 1 July 1916.  Today a large memorial park reminds us of their sacrifice.

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Beaumont-Hamel

Beaumont-Hamel

Beaumont-Hamel is inextricably linked with the fate of the Newfoundland Regiment following their huge losses on 1 July 1916.

Their memorial is the huge Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park where the lines of the trenches can still be discerned.

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Thiepval

Thiepval

Thiepval ridge dominated much of the surrounding area and was generally considered to be the strongest German position in the sector.

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Albert

Albert

Albert was the hub of all Allied activity during the Battle of the Somme.

Albert was heavily bombarded, but superstition had it that while the virgin remained on top of the Basilique’s tower, Albert would not be captured by the Germans.

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Courcelette

Courcelette

Courcelette was the scene of very severe fighting during September and October 1916.

As a part of a larger assault on 15 September 1916, Courcelette was to be attacked by the Canadian Corps of the Reserve Army.  The village and the ground beyond it including the notorious German Regina Trench were to become to the Canadians what Pozières was to the Australians.

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Ovillers, La Boisselle

Ovillers, La Boisselle

Ovillers and La Boisselle are villages spread out on either side of the main road from Albert to Bapaume.

Each has it's own grim story to tell of death and maiming during the Battle of the Somme.

 

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Pozières

Pozières

Pozières is situated 7km northeast of Albert on the D929 Albert to Bapaume road.

The ridge at Pozières commanded a view of a very wide area of the main battlefield.  Its position was strategic in that it was considered that if Pozières could be captured Ovillers would certainly follow.  At the same time the opportunity would be created to attack the fortress at Thiepval from the rear.

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Contalmaison

Contalmaison

Contalmaison is situated 6km north east of Albert, Mametz Wood is situated 1km south east of Contalmaison

At the time of the Battle of the Somme, Contalmaison was defended by a well-wired trench system between the German first and second lines.  Contalmaison commanded the rising ground to the west of Mametz Wood. 

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Fricourt and Mametz

Fricourt and Mametz

On July 1, 1916 Fricourt and Mametz lay just behind German lines in what was a pronounced salient.  Like other villages in the area, they had both been heavily fortified with trenches, strong points and very deep dugouts.  Mametz had excellent observation over the British positions from well-sited trenches and strongpoints. 

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Martinpuich, Bazentin,  High Wood, Longueval

Martinpuich, Bazentin, High Wood, Longueval

Delville Wood is noted for some of the fiercest and most bloody fighting of the entire Battle of the Somme and is most associated with the South Africans.  Repeated attack followed by counter-attack meant it took six weeks for Delville Wood to be captured in its entirety.  Of the 121 officers and 3,032 men of the South African Brigade who launched the initial attack, only 29 officers and 751 men survived.  The losses sustained by the South Africans were one of the greatest sacrifices of the war.

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Carnoy, Maricourt, Suzanne

Carnoy, Maricourt, Suzanne

This area represents the southern extremity of the British Sector of the Somme front line.  Stretching from Maricourt in the north to the River Somme itself, the fighting was neither so concentrated or so vicious. Having said that, the cemeteries still tell their gruesome story of death and maiming in numbers.

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Guedecourt, Flers, Lesboeufs, Morval, Ginchy, Guillemont, Combles

Guedecourt, Flers, Lesboeufs, Morval, Ginchy, Guillemont, Combles

This area represents the furthest the Allied troops advanced during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme.  By this time, 'tanks' had entered the fray, but the weather got in the way of further progress.  The 'battle' effectively petered out as neither side could move forwards in the wet and muddy conditions that began to prevail.

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