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The Battle of the Somme

The History and Legacy of World War I’s Biggest Battle
Narrated by: Jim D Johnston
Length: 2 hrs and 14 mins

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Publisher's Summary

"Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word." - Friedrich Steinbrecher, a German officer.

World War I, also known in its time as the “Great War” or the “War to End all Wars”, was an unprecedented holocaust in terms of its sheer scale. It saw millions of soldiers do battle in brutal assaults of attrition which dragged on for months with little to no respite. Tens of millions of artillery shells and untold hundreds of millions of rifle and machine gun bullets were fired in a conflict that demonstrated man’s capacity to kill each other on a heretofore unprecedented scale, and as always, such a war brought about technological innovation at a rate that made the boom of the Industrial Revolution seem stagnant.

The enduring image of World War I is of men stuck in muddy trenches, and of vast armies deadlocked in a fight neither could win. It was a war of barbed wire, poison gas, and horrific losses as officers led their troops on mass charges across No Man’s Land and into a hail of bullets. While these impressions are all too true, they hide the fact that trench warfare was dynamic and constantly evolving throughout the war as all armies struggled to find a way to break through the opposing lines.

There had been extensive use of trenches during the later stages of the American Civil War (1864-1865), and trench warfare was constant during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). These conflicts showed that modern firepower combined with entrenched positions gave a decisive advantage to the defender, yet European observers failed to learn any lessons from these conflicts, and the scale of trench warfare in World War I far eclipsed anything seen before or since, especially on the Western Front.

The Battle of the Somme is still controversial for the British to this day. On July 1, 1916, the first day of fighting, more British soldiers were killed or wounded than at any time before or since, including D-Day in World War II. The commander, General Douglas Haig, was revered for most of his lifetime, then dubbed the Butcher of the Somme, and now is viewed as a skilled man in a very difficult position who made a number of avoidable mistakes. British schoolchildren are still taught about the devastating battle, which saw over 3 million soldiers participate and over 1 million killed, wounded, or captured, and its effects on the rest of the war. 

The Battle of the Somme: The History and Legacy of World War I’s Biggest Battle analyzes one of the Great War’s most important conflicts, and how it was emblematic of the stalemate that came from new technology and trench warfare. You will learn about the Battle of the Somme like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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