The 1st of July 2014 marks the 98th anniversary of The Battle of the Somme - the blackest day in history for the British Army.
The Battle was to be the British Army's major offensive on the Western Front. Starting at 7:30am on the 1st of July 1916, the battle raged for another 148 days. There were 57,470 casualties on the first day alone of whom 19,240 died of their wounds.
On the 29th August 1914 the German army arrived on the Somme brushing aside the few French troops in the area. Over the winter of 1914/15 a stable front line was established between the two sides that changed little over the following year and a half. Following their costly offensives during the first six months of 1915 the French looked to the expanding British force to take over part of their front line. A new formation – the British Third Army, formed out of four divisions on 18 July 1915 and took control of a seventeen-mile stretch of the front line north of the River Somme.
British troops and units steadily flowed into this quiet sector over the next months and enjoyed the relatively comfortable conditions, although the British Army did loose over 7,700 casualties on the Somme in 1915.
In March 1916 General Sir Henry Rawlinson’s Fourth Army replaced the Third Army and plans began to be formulated for a new offensive in the area. The main line of assault ran for 25,000 yards, nearly 14 miles. At 7.30am, on a clear midsummer's morning, the British infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines across the grassy expanse of No Man's Land. There they met a hail of machine-gun and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders. Accurate German barrages, immediately added to the pandemonium, as shells engulfed the attackers and wrecked the crowded British assembly trenches. The advancing infantry suffered enormous casualties. The only permanent gains were made at the southernmost end of the battlefield, where in conjunction with the well-conducted French assault, Montauban and Mametz were captured. By evening it gradually became apparent that the day had been a disaster for the British Army.
The Pocket Tours App, available to down load here, guides users along this section of the Western Front from north to south, stopping at all of the significant sites along the way. At each site or stand users will be provided with description of the action and photographs that relate to the events. There are detailed explanations of what went on behind the scenes along with accounts of the heroics that led to the award of 9 Victoria Crosses. Videos help set the scene and the guide leads you to the museums and the attractions that help visitors interpret what happened. The tour has a lot of detail and to go through all of the stands will take around two days. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit. The app serves perfectly as an educational tool also, busrting with facts and figures about everything you need to know about The Battle of the Somme. We have recently updated and re-released the app ready for the 98th anniversary. Download it now to find out all you need to know about the battle and commemorate the battle.