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De Somme 90 jaar geleden

 
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Merlijn



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BerichtGeplaatst: 30 Jun 2006 22:50    Onderwerp: De Somme 90 jaar geleden Reageer met quote

1 juli 1916, een dag aan het Westfront en wat voor een dag.
Die dag zou de bloedigste dag in de Engelse krijgsgeschiedenis worden.

In 1915 wou het Franse opperbevel een groot gezamelijk offensief met de Engelsen en in het volgende jaar in de omgeving waar de twee legers naast elkaar lagen.
Dit was bij de plaats Maricourt.
De slag werd door de Engelsen "de slag aan de Somme" genoemd maar de rivier lag helemaal niet in hun sector de rivier liep door de Franse sector.

Douglas Haig was helemaal niet zo blij met dit offensief bij de Somme.
Maar omdat de Duitsers sinds februari bezig waren Verdun te bestoken en Generaal "papa" Joffre wilde dat de Engelsen hielpen om door een offensief de druk van de ketel te halen bij Verdun.
Haig zag meer in een groot offensief bij Ieper wat later in 1917 ook gebeurde wat later bekend werd als de slag bij Passendale of de 3e slag om Ieper.
Uiteindelijk ging Haig akkoord en vroeg zijn chef-staf Rawlinson om alles voor te bereiden.


Het plan.

De datum was geplanned op 30 juni, maar deze datum werd niet gehaald door problemen in de logistiek en het tegenwerkende weer.

De nieuwe datum was 24 uur later, 1 juli 1916 om 07:30 Am.
Voor het offensief was er een bombardement van 7 dagen aan de gang die bedoeld was om de Duitsers in hun schuilkelders en het prikkeldraad te vernietigen.
Maar de opzet van het bombardement mislukte totaal
Het prikkeldraad was niet kapot en de Duitsers zaten zo diep onder de grond dat ze het overleefd hebben.
Een bijkomend nadeel van het bombardement was dat de grond totaal kapot geschoten was waardoor het moeilijk was om door op te rukken.

Om 10 voor half 8 zweeg het geschut (dit was 5 min te vroeg omdat niet alle de klokken synchroon liepen) en om 5 voor half 8 vlogen er een paar groten mijnen de lucht in.


Hawthorn Ridge mijn op 1 juli om 07:25

Om 07:30 kwamen de mannen uit hun loopgraven en liepen rechtop in rijen naar de Duitse eerste linie.
Er was verteld door hogerhand dat er geen Duitser meer zou leven dus ze hadden niets te vrezen
Maar toen ze uit de loopgraaf kwamen zagen ze dat het prikkeldraad niet was vernield en wat nog erger was, dat de Duitsers nog leefden.


Gordon Highlanders bij Mametz


Soldaten van het Tyneside Irish van de 34ste divisie die aanvallen van af de Tara usna lijn bij La Boisselle

De Duitsers openden natuurlijk het vuur waardoor vrijwel direct de eerste slachtoffers vielen.
Rond 10 uur had het Engelse leger al meer dan 30.000 doden en gewonden en aan het einde van de eerste juli waren dit er 60.000.
De doelen die gesteld waren voor de eerste dag zijn bijna nergens behaald. alleen bij Carnoy en in de Franse waren de doelen bereikt.
Bijvoorbeeld bij Thiepval rukte de Ulsters op naar de Schwaben redout en namen deze ook in maar met veel verliezen maar omdat het bataljon naast hun niet instaat, was op te rukken lag hun rechter flank open waardoor ze moesten terugtrekken.
Dus de winst van terrein waren ze weer kwijt.



Bij Carnoy was er een kapitein die bevel had over een bataljon van zeer jonge "Pals"
The 8 East Surrays
Pals bataljons waren nieuwe rekruten die uit een plaats, stad, fabriek of sportclub kwamen die gelijktijdig dienst genomen hadden na de oproep van Lord kitcherner.


Kapitein W.P. Nevill.

Kapitein W.P. Nevill was bang dat het moraal van zijn jongens in het gedrang zou komen en hij bedacht een plan.
Hij gaf elk bataljon een bal en loofde een prijs uit wie de bal het dichts bij de Duitse loopgraaf kon krijgen.
Hij zelf nam de aftrap en werd vrij wel meteen in zijn hoofd geraakt en met hem vielen ook veel van jongens uit het bataljon.
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=3231


Bernafay Wood juli 1916

De slag aan de Somme duurde nog voort tot november 1916 toen de slag tot stilstand kwam in de modder bij de Butte de Warlencourt.

In 1917 werd pas het hoofddoel van 1916 de stad Bapaume door de Australiërs ingenomen.
De Engelse hadden 200.000 dode en de Duitsers 120.000 doden aan het einde van de slag.


Thiepva

Links:
http://www.unfortunate-region.org/
http://www.fylde.demon.co.uk/tomintro.htm
http://www.worldwar1.com/sfsomme.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme_%281916%29#The_first_day_on_the_Somme


Laatst aangepast door Merlijn op 01 Jul 2006 11:03, in totaal 1 keer bewerkt
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kasper



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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jul 2006 10:22    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

mooi verslag! Wink
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derwisj



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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jul 2006 17:08    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Inderdaad, zeer mooi; misschien iets om in de wiki te plaatsen, want hier raakt het al snel op de achtergond door andere postings...
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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Jul 2006 10:09    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The 1916 Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War, with more than one million casualties. The British and French forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.

The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead - the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.




As horrific as the battle of the Somme is in British & Commonwealth memory, it also had a staggering impact on the German army; one officer famously described it as 'the muddy grave of the German field army'. By the end of the battle, the British had learnt many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses.


Prelude
The Allied war strategy for 1916 was largely formulated during a conference at Chantilly held between 6 December and 8 December 1915, when it was decided that for the next year, simultaneous offensives were to be mounted by the Russians in the East, the Italians (who by now joined the entente) in the Alps and the Anglo-French on the Western Front, thereby assailing the Central Powers from all sides.

Plans for the joint offensive on the Somme had barely begun to take shape before the Germans launched the battle of Verdun on 21 February 1916. As the French committed themselves to defending Verdun, their capacity to carry out their role on the Somme disappeared, and the burden shifted to the British. As the bloodbath at Verdun dragged on, the aim of the Somme offensive changed from delivering a decisive blow against Germany to relieving the pressure on the French army.

In 1916, the British army in France was dangerously lacking experience. The original British regular army, six divisions strong at the start of the war, had been effectively wiped out by the battles of 1914 and 1915. The bulk of the army was now made up of volunteers of the Territorial Force and Lord Kitchener's New Army, which had begun forming in August 1914.

By mid-1916, the Fokker Scourge was over, and the Royal Flying Corps had achieved air supremacy over the Somme battlefield. On the Somme front, the RFC fielded 10 squadrons and 185 aircraft against a German strength of 129 aircraft. The British pursued a vigorous offensive policy that enabled them to perform artillery observation, via aircraft or tethered balloons, while preventing the Germans from doing the same. It was not until September that the introduction of new aircraft would swing the balance in favour of the German Air Service once again.


The first day on the Somme
The first day of the battle was preceded by seven days of preliminary artillery bombardment in which the British fired over 1.5 million shells. Ten mines had also been dug beneath the German front-line trenches and strongpoints; the three largest mines contained about 20 tons (18 tonnes) of explosives each.

Zero hour for the Battle of the Somme was 07:30 on 1 July 1916. Prior to this the mines were detonated. At zero hour there was a brief and unsettling silence as the artillery shifted their aim onto the next line of targets. Then the infantery attack started. The only success came in the south at Mametz and Montauban and on the French sector. North of the Albert-Bapaume road, the advance was almost a complete failure from the outset. In a few places the attackers got into the German front line trench system or even the support line, but invariably their numbers were too few to withstand the German counter-attacks. As the German defensive barrage descended on no man's land, it became impossible for reinforcements to get through or for reports to get back.

Communications were completely inadequate, and commanders were largely ignorant of the progress of the battle. A mistaken report that the 29th Division had succeeded at Beaumont Hamel led to the reserve brigade being ordered forward in support. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment, the only non-British battalion participating on the British front on 1 July, was unable to reach the forward trenches so advanced from the reserve trench. Most of the battalion was wiped out before it crossed the front line, and it suffered 91% casualties, the second worst battalion loss of the day.

British progress astride the Albert-Bapaume road was likewise a failure, despite the explosion of the two mines at La Boisselle. Here another tragic advance was made by the Tyneside Irish Brigade of the 34th Division which started nearly one mile from the German front line, in full view of the defenders' machine guns, and was effectively wiped out before it reached its own friendly forward trench line.

In the sector south of the road, the British and French divisions had greater success. Here the German defences were relatively weak, and the French artillery, which was superior in numbers and experience to the British, was highly effective. From the town of Montauban to the Somme river, all the first day objectives were reached. South of the Somme, the French divisions even surpassed their intended objectives.

Overall, however, the first day on the Somme was a failure. The British had suffered 19,240 dead, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 prisoners for a total loss of 57,470. Initial casualties were especially heavy among officers, who still dressed differently from non-commissioned officers and other ranks, and whose uniforms the Germans had been trained to recognize.

An exact count of German casualties for 1 July is difficult to make, because German units only submitted casualty returns every 10 days. It is estimated that the Germans suffered 8,000 casualties on the British front of which 2,200 were prisoners of war.


Battle of Bazentin Ridge
On 14 July (Bastille Day) the Fourth Army was finally ready to resume the offensive in the southern sector. The attack, known as the battle of Bazentin Ridge, was aimed at capturing the German second defensive position which ran along the crest of the ridge from Pozières, on the Albert–Bapaume road, southeast towards the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy.

There is considerable contrast between the preparation and execution of this attack and that of 1 July. The attack on Bazentin Ridge was made by four divisions on a front of 6,000 yards with the troops going over before dawn at 03:25 after a surprise five minute artillery bombardment. The artillery laid down a creeping barrage, and the attacking waves pushed up close behind it in no man's land, leaving them only a short distance to cross when the barrage lifted from the Germans' front trench.

By mid-morning, the first phase of the attack was a success with nearly all objectives taken, and as on 1 July, a gap was made in the German defences. However, again as on 1 July, the British were unable to successfully exploit it.

The British had a foothold in High Wood and would continue to fight over it as well as Delville Wood, neighbouring Longueval, for many days. Unfortunately for them, the successful opening of the 14 July attack did not mean they had learnt how to conduct trench battles. On the night of 22–23 July, Rawlinson launched an attack using six divisions along the length of the Fourth Army front which failed completely. The Germans were learning; they had begun to move away from the trench-based defences and towards a flexible defence in depth system of strongpoints that was difficult for the supporting artillery to suppress.
Pozières and Mouquet Farm
No significant progress was made in the northern sector in the first few weeks of July. Ovillers, just north of the Albert-Bapaume road, was not captured until 16 July. Its capture, and the foothold the British had obtained in the German second position on 14 July, meant that the chance now existed for the German northern defences to be taken in the flank. The key to this was Pozières.

The village of Pozières lay on the Albert-Bapaume road at the crest of the ridge. Just behind (east) the village ran the trenches of the German second position. The Fourth Army made three attempts to seize the village between 14 July and 17 July before Haig relieved Rawlinson's army of responsibility for its northern flank. The capture of Pozières became a task for Gough's Reserve Army.

Going in shortly after midnight on 23 July, the attack on Pozières was a success, largely thanks to Walker's insistence on careful preparation and an overwhelming supporting bombardment; however, an attempt to capture the neighbouring German second position failed, though two Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross in the attempt. The Germans, recognising the critical importance of the village to their defensive network, made three unsuccessful counter-attacks before beginning a prolonged and methodical bombardment of the village. The final German effort to reclaim Pozières came before dawn on 7 August following a particularly heavy bombardment. The Germans overran the forward Australian defences, but the Australians emerged victorious.

Gough planned to drive north along the ridge towards Mouquet Farm, allowing him to threaten the German bastion of Thiepval from the rear. However, the further the Australians advanced, the deeper was the salient they created such that the German artillery could concentrate on them from three directions.

On 8 August the Australians began pushing north along the ridge with the British II Corps advancing from Ovillers on their left. By 10 August a line had been established just south of the farm, which the Germans had turned into a fortress with deep dugouts and tunnels connecting to distant redoubts. The Australians made numerous attempts to capture the farm between 12 August and 3 September, inching closer with each attempt; however, the German garrison held out. The Australians were relieved by the Canadian Corps, who would briefly capture Mouquet Farm on 16 September, the day after the next major British offensive. The farm was finally overrun on 26 September, and the garrison surrendered the following day.

In the fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm, the three Australian divisions suffered over 23,000 casualties. If the losses from Fromelles on 19 July are included, Australia had sustained more casualties in six weeks in France than they had in the eight months of the Battle of Gallipoli.
Attrition: August and September
By the start of August, Haig had accepted that the prospect of achieving a breakthrough was now unlikely; the Germans had 'recovered to a great extent from the disorganisation' of July. For the next six weeks, the British would engage in a series of small-scale actions in preparation for the next major push. On 29 August the German Chief of the General Staff, Erich Falkenhayn, was replaced by General Paul von Hindenburg, with General Erich Ludendorff as his deputy, but in effect the operational commander. The immediate effect of this change was the introduction of a new defensive doctrine. On 23 September the Germans began constructing the Siegfried Stellung, called the Hindenburg Line by the British.

On the Fourth Army's front, the struggle for High Wood, Delville Wood and the Switch Line dragged on. The boundary between the British and French armies lay southeast of Delville Wood, beyond the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy. Here the British line had not progressed significantly since the first day of the battle, and the two armies were in echelon, making progress impossible until the villages were captured. The first British effort to seize Guillemont on 8 August was a debacle. On 18 August, a larger effort began, involving three British corps as well as the French, but it took until 3 September before Guillemont was in British hands. Attention now turned to Ginchy, which was captured by the 16th (Irish) Division on 9 September. The French had also made progress, and once Ginchy fell, the two armies were linked near Combles.

The British now had an almost straight front line from near Mouquet Farm in the northwest to Combles in the southeast, providing a suitable jumping-off position for another large scale attack. In 1916, a straight front was considered necessary to enable the supporting artillery to lay down an effective creeping barrage behind which the infantry could advance.

This intermediate phase of the Battle of the Somme had been costly for the Fourth Army, despite there being no major offensive. Between 15 July and 14 September (the eve of the next battle), the Fourth Army made around 90 attacks of battalion strength or more with only four being general attacks across the length of the army's 5 miles of front. The result was 82,000 casualties and an advance of approximately 1,000 yards-a performance even worse than 1 July.


Tanks
The last great Allied effort to achieve a breakthrough came on 15 September in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The battle is chiefly remembered today as the debut of the tank. The British had high hopes that this secret weapon would break the deadlock of the trenches. Early tanks were not weapons of mobile warfare - with a top speed of 2 mph (3.2 km/h), they were easily outpaced by the infantry - but were designed for trench warfare. They were untroubled by barbed wire obstacles and impervious to rifle and machine gun fire, though highly vulnerable to artillery. Additionally, the tanks were notoriously unreliable. Mechanical breakdowns were common, and many others became bogged or ditched in the shell holes and trenches of the churned battlefield.

The British made gains across the length of their front, the greatest being in the centre at Flers. They were later joined by the tank D-17, giving rise to the optimistic press report: 'A tank is walking up the High Street of Flers with the British Army cheering behind.'

Finally after two months of fighting, the British captured all of High Wood, though not without another costly struggle. The plan was to use tanks in support of infantry, but the wood was an impassable landscape of shattered stumps and shell holes, and only one tank managed to penetrate any distance. The German defenders were forced to abandon High Wood once British progress on the flanks threatened to encircle them.

The British had managed to advance during Flers-Courcelette, capturing 4,500 yards of the German third position, but fell short of all their objectives, and once again the breakthrough eluded them. The tank had shown promise, but its lack of reliability limited its impact, and the tactics of tank warfare were obviously in their infancy.

The least successful sector on 15 September had been east of Ginchy where the Quadrilateral redoubt had held up the advance towards Morval - the Quadrilateral was not captured until 18 September. Another attack was planned for 25 September with the objectives of the villages of Gueudecourt, Lesbœufs and Morval. Like the 14 July battle of Bazentin Ridge, the limited objectives, concentrated artillery and weak German defences resulted in a successful attack. On this occasion the tanks remained in reserve.
The final phase
On 26 September Gough's Reserve Army launched its first major offensive since the opening day of the battle in an attempt to capture the German fortress of Thiepval. The 18th (Eastern) Division, which had excelled on 1 July, once more demonstrated by capturing most of Thiepval on the first day that careful training, preparation and leadership could overcome the obstacles of trench warfare. Mouquet Farm finally fell to the 11th (Northern) Division, and the Canadians advanced 1,000 yards (1 km) from Courcelette.

There followed a period from 1 October to 11 November, known as the Battle of the Ancre Heights, of grinding attritional fighting for little gain.Meanwhile on the Fourth Army's front, Haig was still under the illusion that a breakthrough was imminent. On 29 September he had outlined p ans for Allenby's Third Army to rejoin the battle in he north around Gommecourt and for the Fourth Army to attack towards Cambrai. The first step required the capture of the German Transloy Line, effectively the German fourth defensive position that ran from the village of Le Transloy in the east to Le Sars on the Albert-Bapaume road.

Opening on 1 October, the Battle of Le Transloy became bogged down as the weather broke, and heavy rain turned the churned battlefield into a quagmire. Le Sars was captured on 7 October, but elsewhere there was little progress and a continual flow of casualties. The final throe came on 5 November with a failed attack on the Butte de Warlencourt. On the Fourth Army's front, major operations in the Battle of the Somme had now ceased.

The final act of the Battle of the Somme was played out between 13–18 November along the Ancre River, north of Thiepval. Haig's purpose for the attack was more political than military - with winter setting in, there was no longer any prospect of a breakthrough. Instead, with another conference at Chantilly starting on 15 November, he hoped to be able to report of success to his French counterparts.

The opening moves were almost a replay of 1 July, even down to another mine being detonated beneath Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt west of Beaumont Hamel. The 31st Division had attacked Serre on 1 July and four and a half months later was called on to do it again; the results were similar. South of Serre the British, with the benefit of their hard-earned experience, succeeded in capturing most of their objectives.

Haig was satisfied with the result, but Gough argued for a final effort which was made on 18 November with an attack on the Munich and Frankfurt Trenches and a push towards Grandcourt. Ninety men were cut-off in Frankfurt Trench where they held out until 21 November when the 45 survivors - 30 of them wounded - surrendered. So ended the Battle of the Ancre and with it the Battle of the Somme.


Conclusion
It is difficult to declare the Battle of the Somme a victory for either side. The British and French did succeed in capturing ground but little more than 5 miles (8 km) at the deepest point of penetration, well short of their original objectives. Taking a long-term view, the Battle of the Somme delivered more benefits for the British than it did for the Germans.

Prior to the battle, Germany had regarded Britain as a naval power and discounted her as a military force to be reckoned with, believing Germany's major enemies were France and Russia. Starting with the Somme, Britain began to gain influence in the coalition, especially following the mutinies in the French army in 1917. In recognition of the growing threat Britain posed, on 31 January Germany adopted the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in an attempt to starve the island nation of supplies, an act that would ultimately bring the United States into the war.

At the start of 1916, the British army had been a largely inexperienced mass of volunteers. The Somme was the first real test of this newly raised 'citizens army'. They had been the first to volunteer and so were often the fittest, most enthusiastic and best educated of the citizen soldiers. For Germany, which had entered the war with a trained force of regulars and reservists, each casualty was sapping the experience and effectiveness of the German army.

The Battle of the Somme damaged the German Army beyond repair, after which it was never able to adequately replace its casualties with the same calibre of soldier that doggedly held its ground during most of the battle. By the end of the battle, the British and German armies were closer to being equally matched; effectively militias.

German commanders did not believe the army could endure continual battles of attrition like the Somme. On 24 February 1917, the German army made a strategic scorched earth withdrawal from the Somme battlefield to the prepared fortifications of the Hindenburg Line, thereby shortening the front line they had to occupy. In the grey area of gains and losses, it is therefore possible to claim that the Entente's territorial gain from the battle was greater than that which existed at the battle's close.


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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jul 2006 7:09    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

First Day of the Somme

Although writers often summarise the fighting as though it was one battle, the first day of the Somme (sometimes called the 'Battle of Albert') involved fighting along a front of 29 kilometres. Different things happened at different places.



Moreover, when you study the different engagements individually, you see that the generally-accepted view of the first day of the battle has been oversimplified and - to a degree - misrepresented.



On the map below, click on the links to see what happened at the different engagements


Myths of the 1st Day of the Somme

The story of the Somme given in most textbooks, is a generalised picture of foolish generals, who - having drilled discipline and 'battlefield morale' into the men - carelessly ordered them to walk into the machine-guns.



This account is typical:

On 1 July an enormous British army began to move slowly across 'no-man's-land' towards the German defences. The soldiers had been told the enemy trenches would be smashed. They had expected shell-shocked soldiers ready to surrender... Everywhere they met a hail of accurate machine-gun fire... A brave volunteer army had marched to its death.

LE Snellgrove, The Modern World Since 1870 (1968)



You are welcome to challenge me on this, but I think, when you read the accounts, you will find that this is a misrepresentation of the truth:

1.

Few British troops went over the top and walked stupidly into a hail of bullets. In many places they used Russian saps, or covered as much ground as possible crawling, or advanced under cover of smoke. It is true that in many places, at first, they did as ordered and went over the top across No Man's Land at a walk. However, when the machine guns opened up, after a short time of surprise, they adopted the rush/hide techniques of the French and many other tactics of trench attack.
2.

Not all Generals sat out the battle in chateau 50 miles behind the lines.
3.

Not all the Generals were careless of the lives of their soldiers, many taking decisions contrary to their orders so they could stop the slaughter of their men.
4.

Not all the casualties were the 'New Army' of Pals Battalions. Three of the 5 worst-hit Divisions (29th, 8th, 4th) were in fact old units of the Regular Army, who showed themselves just as brave as the volunteers of the New Army.



The three major causes of the disaster seem to have been:

1.

Inadequate artillery - particularly using too few HE shells (so that too many German deep dugouts/machine-gun emplacements survived - the key element) and too many shrapnel shells (which failed to cut the wire adequately). Where the artillery had done its job properly, the British attacks were successful.
2.

Poor communications, which led to Battalions advancing too fast, or charging hopeless causes at great loss, and poor coordination of the attacks with the artillery fire.
3.

The failure of the Generals to act on information coming back from the line.

Map en bron:
http://www.johndclare.net/wwi2_FirstDay_map.htm
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