Battle of the Somme

The Somme Becomes a War of Attrition

The British Commander Haig accepted, by the beginning of August, that achieving a breakthrough on the Somme was highly unlikely since the Germans had greatly recovered from the July disorganization. The British would attempt some small-scale actions for the following six weeks preparing for the next significant push on the Somme. On the 29th of August, General Paul von Hindenburg replaced Erich Falkenhayn as the German Chief of the General Staff. His deputy was General Erich Ludendorff who was, in effect, the operational commander at the Somme. This change immediately affected an introduction concerning a new defense doctrine. The Germans, on September 23, started to construct what was called the Hindenburg Line by the British.

The battle for the Switch Line, Delville Wood and High Wood dragged on along the Fourth Army’s front.  Beyond the Ginchy and Guillemont villages, the boundary between the French and British armies lay southeast of Delville Wood. Here the two armies were in line where the British had made little progress since the first day of battle and progress was impossible until they could capture the villages. The first attempt by the British on August 8 to capture Guillemont was a catastrophe. A larger attempt involving the French and three British corps began on August 18, but it wasn’t until September 3 that the British won Guillemont. Focus was now on Ginchy, which was taken on September 9th by the British 16th Division (Irish). The French also progressed and once Ginchy was captured, the two armies linked up close to Combles.

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Providing an equitable jumping-off spot for a subsequent large-scale assault on the Somme, the British now had a near-straight front-line northwest close to Mouquet Farm southwest to Combles. A straight line was imperative in 1916 to allow supporting artillery to perform an effective creeping barrage in front of an advancing infantry.

In spite of having no major offensive, the Battle of the Somme’s intermediate phase cost the Fourth Army dearly. The Fourth Army made approximately ninety battalion attacks or more with just four general attacks along the length of the army’s 8 km (five miles) of front between the 15th of July and 14th of September, which was the evening of the next battle. This resulted in an advance of around 910 m (one thousand yards) and eighty-two thousand casualties, even worse than the casualty count on the 1st of July.



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