The Somme

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 400 pages
Author: R. Prior & T. Wilson
Year: 2016
ISBN: 9781742235028
Other: b&w photos, maps, bibliog, index
Publisher: NewSouth Books

In the long history of the British Army, the Battle of the Somme was its bloodiest encounter. Between 1 July and Mid-November 1916, 432,000 of its soldiers became casualties - about 3600 for every day of battle. German casualties, it is estimated, were far fewer - probably 230,000 - even though the British possessed superiority in the air and in artillery, the most lethal weapon on the Western Front.

What went wrong for the British, and who was responsible? Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have examined the entire public archive covering the Somme campaign in 1916 and painstakingly reconstruct the day-by-day course of the war. The result is the most precise and authentic account of the campaign on record, and a book which challenges almost every received view of the battle.

The colossal rate of infantry casualties was not the result of defects in the infantry itself, but the inadequacy of the fire support. Responsibility for tactical mistakes was not that of the brigadiers or divisional commanders, but of the High Command and the civilian War Committee. Field-Marshall Haig is shown as repeatedly deficient in strategy, tactics, command and organisation.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers lay down their lives in a campaign which lacked both a coherent military plan and responsible political leadership. The authors decisively change our understanding of the history of the Western Front.

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Introduction to the Updated Edition
1. The Context
2. 'Absolutely Astonishing': The War Committee and the Military
3. Decision-Making: January-February
4. Decision-Making: March-June
5. 'Grasping at the Shadow': Planning for the Somme, February-June
6. 'Favourable Results are not Anticipated': Preparations for Battle, June
7. 'A Short Life': VII and VIII Corps on 1 July
8. 'The Enemy's Fire was so Intense': X Corps on 1 July
9.'Wave After Wave We Were Mown Down': III Corps on 1 July
10. 'Cowering Men in Field Grey': XV and XIII Corps on 1 July
11. Reflections on 1 July
12. 'Ill-Considered Attacks on a Small Front': 2-13 July
13. Çavalry Sharpening Their Swords', 14 July
14. 'We Are a Bit Stuck': 15-31 July
15. 'Something Wanting in the Methods Employed': 1 August-12 September
16. 'A Hell of a Time': Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, July-August
17. Summary: 15 July-12 September
18. The Politicians and the Somme Campaign: July-August
19. One Division's Somme: The First Division, July-September
20. 'An Operation Planned on Bolder Lines': Tanks and the 15 September Plan
21. Lumbering Tanks: The Battle of 15 September
22. 25 September
23. 'The Tragic Hill of Thiepval': 26-30 September
24. 'A Severe Trial of Body and Spirit': The Somme, October
25. 'We Must Keep Going': The Politicians and the Somme Campaign, September-October
26. The Political Battle: Beaumont Hamel, 13-19 November
27. Reflections on the British at the Somme
28. Epilogue: The End of it All, November 1916

"Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have put together a painstakingly detailed analysis of one of the great stuff ups of modern war... Morbidly compelling" - The Age

"If you are looking for an argument for the sheer insanity of war ... 'The Somme' has to be a near-perfect example" - The Sydney Morning Herald

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The Somme


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