Page 156 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

CHAPTER X
THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME. 1916
"SOMME. 1916."
"ALBERT, '9,6," "BAZENTIN," "DELV1LLE WOOD, " "POlIERES,"
"GINCHY" "FLERS·COURCELETTE," "MORVAL," "THIEPVAL," "LE TRANSLOY,"
"ANCRE HEIGHTS," "ANCRE, '9. 6"
(Maps
I
and 9)
1st, lnd, lnd/5th. 9th, lOth, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th. 18th. 19th and
lOth Battalions
THE ORIGINS, SETTING AND OBJECTS
OF
THE BATTLE
THE reasons why five French and thirteen British divisions attacked
where they did on 1st July, 1916, and how that date came to
be
chosen, are no concern of a regimental history; they are fully set
out in the Official History and in other works dealing with the
strategy and politics of the war, But, if the various phases and
actions of the series of battles extending from 1st July to 18th
November, 1916, are to be understood, it is necessary to touch
briefly on the situation at the time when they began, the nature of
the gTound on which they took place, and their objects ,
From 21st February, 1916, onwards the French Army had
heroically withstood a series of heavy attacks at Verdun which had
bled it nearly white, These attacks continued right through the
summer, and it was hoped that the British attack planned for the
end of June would relieve the pressure. The first half of the year
1916 had, for the British A'rmy, been a period of comparative quiet,
devoted to the completion of the training of the New Armies, first
at home and then in the trenches. From the middle of May onwards
as many divisions as possible spent some time behind the line,
training for a big offensive which was designed to break into the
German positions astride the Somme and to give an opportunity to
the cavalry to go through and make the war mobile once more.
Roads, railways, tramways, water supply and accommodation were
all improved. Large numbers of guns were brought up and gTeat
reserves of ammunition accumulated.
The area of the operations had been the most peaceful part of
the whole line ever since it was first established in September and
October, 1914, during the" race to the sea." When the British
(among them the 2nd and 2nd/5th Battalions) took over the Somme
2ND AND
district from the French in July, 1915, an atmosphere of almost
2N{t / 5 TH
complete calm and charity prevailed; shots and explosions were
NS.
rare, gas was unknown, and one could walk at will by day and by
night provided he did not display himself too provocatively
in
or
K
12 9