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Centenary of the Battle of the Somme

Thiepval MemorialThiepval MemorialOn Friday 1st July, ceremonies across Britain and in France mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1st July 1916. The main event takes place at the Thiepval Memorial in France, where a ceremony is to be attended by descendants of those who fought and many hundreds of schoolchildren. The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest of World War I. More than a million Allied and German soldiers were killed or injured following 141 days of fighting in northern France. The battle began when British and French armies attempted to break through German lines.

Soldiers of the Allied forces go “over the top”.Soldiers of the Allied forces go “over the top”.The Allies bombarded German trenches with artillery shells for seven days and then, on 1st July 1916, sent 100,000 men “over the top” (climbing out of their defensive trenches) to attack the German lines. But the Germans, protected by their own deep trenches, somehow managed to weather the storm. As the British soldiers advanced across “no-mans land”—the few hundred metres of ground between the British and German lines—they were mown down by machine gunfire.

In total, 19,240 British soldiers were killed with a further 38,230 injured. It was the bloodiest day in the history of the British army. The British forces gained less than eight square kilometres (three square miles) of territory. Yet, in spite of these heavy losses, General Douglas Haig decided to press on with more attacks.
British troops in their trenchBritish troops in their trench

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