The Somme

July - November 1916

Allied soldiers make a huge attack along the Somme River but suffer massive casualties.

Planning for the Somme attack began in 1915. It was hoped that a huge attack would break the deadlock on the Western Front and push the Germans back as far as possible. After the Battle of Verdun began, it was also needed to help the French by forcing the Germans to move soldiers away from Verdun to defend their positions on the Somme.

The soldiers who took part in the Somme attack were from all over the British Empire, as well as some from France.

The attack started in February 1916 and it was a very tough fight. With enormous support from artillery fire, the Germans took one of the main fortresses defending Verdun.

Before the attack, the German trenches are bombarded.

Before the first day of the attack British artillery fired about 1.7 million shells at the German lines. The planners didn't think anyone could survive this and their soldiers would have an easy time. But they were wrong. The Germans were very well protected and most survived the bombardment.

On the 1st July 55,000 men go "over the top"

On July 1st the attack began. Before the soldiers went over the top some mines (big explosives underground) were blown up. The craters from these explosions were supposed to give the soldiers some shelter in No-Man's Land.

At about 7.30am 55,000 soldiers advanced from their trenches along a 16 mile front. The German machine gunners opened fire and 20,000 Allied soldiers were killed just on the first day.

The battle continues until November 1916.

The Somme campaign continued until November 1916 but the Allies weren't able to take very much new territory. The Somme has become a symbol of what is seen as the futility (pointlessness) of World War One.

A mountain of shell casings left over from the bombardment at the Somme.

A signals unit, who send and receive messages about what's happening in the battle, using a captured German dug-out as their base.

A British soldier gives his German prisoner a drink of water from his own flask.

Surrounded by stretchers and bits of bandage, a British medic treats a German soldier's head wound.

See the battle unfold on our animated battle map