Fim da segunda batalha do Somme

Fim da segunda batalha do Somme

Durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial, a Segunda Batalha do Somme, a primeira grande ofensiva alemã em mais de um ano, termina na frente ocidental.

Em 21 de março de 1918, uma grande ofensiva contra as posições aliadas na região do rio Somme, na França, começou com cinco horas de bombardeio de mais de 9.000 peças da artilharia alemã. O mal preparado Quinto Exército britânico foi rapidamente dominado e forçado a recuar. Por uma semana, os alemães avançaram em direção a Paris, bombardeando a cidade a uma distância de 80 milhas com seus canhões “Big Bertha”. No entanto, as tropas alemãs mal fornecidas logo se exauriram e os Aliados pararam o avanço alemão quando a artilharia francesa nocauteou os canhões alemães que sitiavam Paris. Em 2 de abril, o general americano John J. Pershing enviou tropas americanas para as trincheiras para ajudar a defender Paris e repelir a ofensiva alemã. Foi o primeiro grande desdobramento de tropas americanas na Primeira Guerra Mundial. Vários milhares de soldados americanos lutaram ao lado de britânicos e franceses na Segunda Batalha de Somme.

Quando a ofensiva de Somme terminou, em 4 de abril, os alemães haviam avançado quase 40 milhas, infligido cerca de 200.000 baixas e capturado 70.000 prisioneiros e mais de 1.000 armas aliadas. No entanto, os alemães sofreram quase tantas baixas quanto seus inimigos e não tinham as novas reservas e o aumento de abastecimento de que os Aliados desfrutaram após a entrada americana na luta.


John Buchan e seu & # 8216Battle of the Somme & # 8217 (1916)

O final desta semana marca o 100º aniversário do fim da Batalha de Albert (1–13 de julho de 1916), que compreendeu as primeiras duas semanas de operações ofensivas anglo-francesas na Batalha do Somme.

Também conhecida como Ofensiva do Somme, a Batalha do Somme foi uma batalha da Primeira Guerra Mundial entre as forças dos Impérios Britânico e Francês de um lado e o Império Alemão do outro.

Parte do grande Memorial aos Desaparecidos do Somme, em Thiepval, projetado por Sir Edwin Lutyens (GDE 2014).

Ocorreu no curso superior do rio Somme (Picardia, França) em três fases principais e várias batalhas entre julho e novembro de 1916: em Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Fromelles, Delville Wood, Pozières Ridge, Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette , Morval, Transloy Ridge, Thiepval Ridge, Ancre Heights e em Ancre. Durante as batalhas, o uso do poder aéreo mostrou-se importante, e a Ofensiva também viu o primeiro uso do tanque blindado como arma. Ao final do combate no Somme, o Exército Britânico havia perdido mais de 400.000 homens em um avanço de apenas seis milhas. Entre todos os beligerantes, mais de 1.000.000 foram mortos ou feridos.

Página de título de & # 8216A Batalha do Somme & # 8217, de John Buchan, publicado em 1916.

Embora essas perdas tenham sido enormes, em seu trabalho A Batalha do Somme (1916) John Buchan, autor, e mais tarde governador-geral do Canadá (1935-37) e Chanceler da Universidade de Edimburgo (1937-40), descreveu a Ofensiva Somme como tão bem-sucedida que marcou o fim da guerra de trincheiras e do início de uma campanha em aberto.

Buchan foi recrutado pelo War Propaganda Bureau e foi convidado a organizar a publicação de uma história da guerra na forma de uma revista mensal. Incapaz de persuadir outros a ajudá-lo com o projeto, Buchan decidiu enfrentá-lo sozinho, publicando através da Thomas Nelson & amp Sons Ltd. A primeira parcela apareceu em fevereiro de 1915 em Nelson & # 8217s História da Guerra. Os lucros e os próprios royalties de Buchan & # 8217s foram doados a instituições de caridade de guerra.

Página de título do Volume II de & # 8216A Batalha do Somme & # 8217, de John Buchan, publicado em 1916.

Mais tarde, na primavera de 1915, Buchan foi contratado pelo Exército como jornalista e recebeu a responsabilidade de fornecer artigos para Os tempos e a Notícias diárias, e ele cobriu a segunda Batalha de Ypres e a Batalha de Loos. A partir de junho de 1916, ele estava redigindo comunicados para Haig e outros no Estado-Maior da Sede Geral (GHQ), e seu posto também lhe forneceu os documentos necessários para escrever o História da guerra de Nelson e # 8217.

Monumento alemão erguido para soldados caídos depois que eles tomaram Beaumont Hamel, 1914.

O relacionamento próximo de Buchan com os líderes militares britânicos tornou extremamente difícil para ele incluir comentários críticos sobre a forma como a guerra estava sendo travada, e seu História da guerra deu ao público uma impressão completamente falsa do que estava acontecendo na Frente. De fato, em 1915, Buchan estava dizendo a seus leitores que a Alemanha estava à beira da derrota.

Esboce o mapa no livro de Buchan & # 8217 mostrando a mudança de posição da frente alemã logo após a cidade de Albert no Somme.

Uma série de panfletos foi escrita por Buchan e essas & # 8211 obras de propaganda & # 8211 foram publicadas pela Oxford University Press. Ele escreveu: Guerra terrestre da Grã-Bretanha e # 8217 (1915) As conquistas da França (1915) e, A Batalha da Jutlândia (1916). Também publicado em 1916 foi seu trabalho A Batalha do Somme.

Esboce o mapa dos sistemas de trincheiras ao redor de Thiepval, no Somme. Na orla do Bosque Thiepval, hoje está o enorme Memorial aos Desaparecidos do Somme, construído em tijolos, projetado por Sir Edwin Lutyens e inaugurado em 1932.

Em seu trabalho, A Batalha do Somme, Buchan afirmou que a batalha do Somme foi uma vitória dos Aliados e que permitiria à Grã-Bretanha usar sua cavalaria superior. O que Buchan não disse a seus leitores foi que dos 110.000 soldados britânicos fazendo o ataque, mais de 57.000 foram vítimas e 20.000 foram mortos. Como dito antes, ao final do combate, o Exército Britânico sozinho havia perdido mais de 400.000 homens em um avanço de apenas seis milhas, e entre todos os beligerantes, mais de 1.000.000 foram mortos ou feridos.

Parte do pequeno cemitério CWGC em Dernancourt, perto de Albert, no Somme, também projetado por Sir Edwin Lutyens (GDE 2014).

O mapa e o esboço neste post (do livro de Buchan & # 8217s) mostram a área da região de Somme, na França, onde a batalha aconteceu. Alguns dos monumentos mais importantes e alguns dos maiores cemitérios (e muitos mais pequenos) mantidos pela Comissão de Túmulos de Guerra da Comunidade (CWGC) e, claro, Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (VDK) estão localizados nas áreas mostradas: Thiepval Memorial Ulster Memorial Torre a cratera da mina Lochnagar em La Boisselle McRae & # 8217s Batalhão Great War Memorial em Contalmaison Courcelette Memorial, um memorial de guerra canadense (a luta em Flers-Courcelette viu o primeiro uso de tanques no campo de batalha & # 8230 em Somme) e, em cemitérios como como aquele do Cemitério Militar Alemão de Vermandovillers e do Cemitério Militar Alemão de Fricourt, e no pequeno cemitério CWGC em Dernancourt perto de Albert.

Buchan & # 8217s Batalha do Somme, publicado em 1916 por T. Nelson, Londres, pode ser solicitado no Centre for Research Collections, Special Collections e lido na Reading Room lá. Possui marca de prateleira: S.B. .9 (40427) Buc.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Arquivos e Manuscritos do Bibliotecário Assistente, Biblioteca da Universidade de Edimburgo


Conteúdo

Em 15 de agosto de 1918, o marechal de campo Douglas Haig recusou as exigências do marechal Ferdinand Foch para continuar a ofensiva de Amiens, já que o ataque estava vacilando enquanto as tropas ultrapassavam seus suprimentos e artilharia, e as reservas alemãs estavam sendo transferidas para o setor. Em vez disso, Haig começou a planejar uma ofensiva em Albert, que começou em 21 de agosto. O ataque principal foi lançado pelo Terceiro Exército britânico, com o II Corpo de exército dos Estados Unidos anexado.

A segunda batalha começou em 21 de agosto com a abertura da Segunda Batalha de Bapaume ao norte do próprio rio. Isso se desenvolveu em um avanço que empurrou o Segundo Exército Alemão para trás em uma frente de 55 quilômetros, do sul de Douai a La Fère, ao sul de Saint-Quentin, Aisne. Albert foi capturado em 22 de agosto. Em 26 de agosto, o Primeiro Exército britânico ampliou o ataque em mais doze quilômetros, às vezes chamado de Segunda Batalha de Arras. & # 911 & # 93 Bapaume caiu em 29 de agosto. O Australian Corps cruzou o rio Somme na noite de 31 de agosto e quebrou as linhas alemãs na Batalha de Mont St. Quentin e na Batalha de Péronne. O comandante do Quarto Exército britânico, general Henry Rawlinson, descreveu os avanços australianos de 31 de agosto a 4 de setembro como a maior conquista militar da guerra. & # 912 e # 93

Na manhã de 2 de setembro, após uma batalha violenta, o Corpo Canadense assumiu o controle da linha Drocourt-Quéant (representando a borda oeste da Linha Hindenburg). A batalha foi travada pela 1ª Divisão, 4ª Divisão canadense e pela 52ª Divisão britânica. & # 913 & # 93 Pesadas baixas alemãs foram infligidas e os canadenses também capturaram mais de 6.000 prisioneiros ilesos. As perdas do Canadá chegaram a 5.600. & # 914 & # 93 Ao meio-dia daquele dia, o comandante alemão, Erich Ludendorff, decidiu retirar-se para trás do Canal du Nord.

Em 2 de setembro, os alemães foram forçados a voltar para a Linha Hindenburg, de onde lançaram sua ofensiva na primavera.

Em seu caminho para a Linha Hindenburg, em uma batalha feroz, as tropas canadenses, lideradas pelo General Sir Arthur Currie, superaram as obras de terraplenagem do Canal du Nord incompleto durante a Batalha do Canal du Nord. & # 915 e # 93

No final de setembro / início de outubro, uma das batalhas épicas de toda a guerra foi a ruptura da Linha Hindenburg (a Batalha do Canal de St. Quentin) pelas tropas britânicas, australianas e americanas (sob o comando do general australiano John Monash). Logo depois, os canadenses romperam a Linha Hindenburg na Batalha de Cambrai.

Uma parte importante da linha de abastecimento alemã corria paralela à frente. Esta segunda batalha de 1918 em torno do Somme era parte de uma estratégia projetada para empurrar partes da linha alemã para trás desta linha de abastecimento principal, de modo a cortá-la e tornar impossível a manutenção eficiente das forças alemãs na frente. A campanha começou com a batalha de Bapaume e, pouco depois, a batalha de Saint-Mihiel, fora da zona de Somme, com o objetivo de reduzir os salientes antes de usar a fluidez da linha quebrada para avançar para a ferrovia estratégica. Esperava-se que essa fluidez estivesse presente, pois, devido ao avanço alemão na primavera, as forças alemãs estavam bem à frente de suas defesas até então inexpugnáveis ​​e muito bem preparadas na Linha Hindenburg.

Esta política funcionou, mas levou algum trabalho muito determinado no Canal de St. Quentin, entre as defesas preparadas, para alcançar o sucesso.


Na época da Segunda Batalha de Somme, as forças alemãs estavam tentando conquistar a Frente Ocidental - uma área crítica de terra durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial - antes que os americanos chegassem para oferecer aos Aliados os reforços tão necessários.

Esta batalha começou em 21 de março de 1918, quando os alemães atacaram os exércitos britânicos na região francesa do rio Somme com artilharia que disparou mais de 1.000.000 de projéteis em um intervalo de tempo de cinco horas. Os britânicos não estavam preparados para um ataque desse tamanho e foram forçados a recuar. A Alemanha então continuou suas ofensas e se dirigiu para Paris, França.

Em 2 de abril de 1918, milhares de soldados americanos foram enviados a Paris e ajudaram os franceses e britânicos a impedir o avanço da Alemanha. Apenas dois dias depois que os americanos entraram na Segunda Batalha de Somme, os alemães ficaram sem recursos e foram forçados a encerrar suas ofensas.


Segunda Batalha do Somme

A Segunda Batalha do Somme foi uma ofensiva alemã parcialmente bem-sucedida contra as forças Aliadas na Frente Ocidental durante a última parte da Primeira Guerra Mundial. A batalha ocorreu entre 21 de março e 5 de abril de 1918. A Segunda Batalha do Somme também é chamada a Batalha de Saint-Quentin.

Em 3 de março de 1918, a Alemanha e a Rússia assinaram um tratado de paz, pondo fim aos combates entre os dois países. O comandante alemão General Erich Ludendorff queria usar as tropas alemãs libertadas da luta contra os russos para obter uma vitória na Frente Ocidental, antes que as tropas americanas chegassem para reforçar os Aliados. Sua primeira ofensiva foi dirigida contra os fracos exércitos britânicos ao norte do rio Somme. As trincheiras britânicas foram bombardeadas e gaseadas antes de um ataque matinal maciço em meio a uma névoa densa, que pegou os britânicos de surpresa. Sua primeira e segunda linhas caíram rapidamente e, em 22 de março, o destruído Exército britânico estava em retirada e havia perdido contato com os franceses ao sul. Os alemães avançaram rapidamente, na esperança de criar uma cunha permanente entre os franceses e os britânicos, mas em 28 de março os aliados reuniram novas tropas que impediram o avanço alemão.

A ofensiva alemã obteve o maior ganho territorial individual na Frente Ocidental desde os primeiros meses da guerra no final de 1914. Os alemães avançaram quase 40 milhas (64 quilômetros) e fizeram cerca de 70.000 prisioneiros. Apesar desses ganhos, no entanto, as linhas aliadas foram apenas dobradas, não quebradas. A Segunda Batalha do Somme não foi estrategicamente importante para a Alemanha e apenas esgotou os recursos limitados do país.


Segunda batalha do Somme: baixas americanas

A Segunda Batalha do Somme de 1918 foi travada durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial na Frente Ocidental de 8 de agosto a 3 de setembro de 1918, na bacia do rio Somme. Foi parte de uma série de contra-ofensivas bem-sucedidas em resposta à Ofensiva da Primavera alemã.

A característica mais significativa das batalhas de Somme de 1918 foi que, com a primeira Batalha de Somme de 1918 interrompendo o que havia começado como uma opressiva ofensiva alemã, a segunda formava a parte central do avanço dos Aliados para o Armistício em 11 de novembro de 1918 .

A batalha começou com a abertura da Segunda Batalha de Bapaume ao norte do rio. Isso evoluiu para um avanço que empurrou o Segundo Exército alemão para trás dezenas de quilômetros. No início de setembro, os alemães foram forçados a voltar para a Linha Hindenburg. Quando a ofensiva de Somme finalmente terminou em 4 de abril, os alemães avançaram quase 40 milhas, infligiram cerca de 200.000 baixas e capturaram 70.000 prisioneiros e mais de 1.000 armas aliadas. Os alemães sofreram quase o mesmo número de baixas.


Número de vítimas e fatalidades na Batalha do Somme em 1916

A Primeira Batalha do Somme é reconhecida como uma das batalhas mais devastadoras e sangrentas de todos os tempos. A batalha ocorreu durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial, entre as forças aliadas britânicas e francesas e as forças inimigas alemãs, de 1º de julho a 18 de novembro de 1916. Inicialmente, esse ataque deveria ser liderado pelo exército francês, porém seu foco mudou para a Batalha de Verdun, onde foram travados em um impasse mortal contra as forças alemãs, portanto, o papel dos britânicos mudou de apoio para o de liderança. Após uma semana de pesado bombardeio da artilharia britânica, na manhã de 1º de julho de 1916 mais de 100 mil soldados britânicos atacaram as linhas inimigas, naquele que se tornaria o dia mais sangrento da história do Exército britânico. As trincheiras alemãs foram cavadas tão profundamente que o fogo de artilharia não teve o efeito desejado e falhou em limpar suficientemente grande parte do arame farpado, o que significa que as metralhadoras alemãs foram capazes de derrubar milhares de tropas que se aproximavam enquanto tentavam avançar em terra de ninguém. Ao final do dia, as tropas britânicas asseguraram aproximadamente 8 quilômetros quadrados de terreno, ao longo de uma frente que se estendia por 24 quilômetros (uma média de apenas 0,33 km da linha inicial de ataque), a um custo de mais de 57 mil vítimas, incluindo mais de 19 mil fatalidades. Em comparação, os exércitos alemão e francês eram de tamanhos relativamente semelhantes, no entanto, sua taxa de mortalidade era muito menor.

O progresso estava lento
O primeiro dia deu o tom para o restante da batalha. As forças alemãs foram capazes de recuar e cavar novas trincheiras e formar suas defesas mais rápido do que os britânicos e franceses poderiam mobilizar seus ataques, o que significa que o progresso foi lento e custou muitas vidas. A maioria das vítimas das forças britânicas e francesas veio de metralhadoras alemãs. Embora a Batalha do Somme seja justamente considerada o principal exemplo de guerra de trincheiras, também é importante notar que as respectivas forças aéreas desempenharam um grande papel na coleta de informações e na coordenação de ataques, bem como os regimentos de artilharia que forneceram grande parte do o fogo suprimindo e interrompendo as cadeias de abastecimento uns dos outros. 15 de setembro também marcou o primeiro uso de um tanque em batalha, onde os britânicos enviaram uma pequena frota de tanques para o campo, com resultados mistos.

Legado do Somme
No final da batalha, as baixas eram altas. À medida que a batalha avançava, os franceses se envolveram mais fortemente e os soldados alemães começaram a cair mais rapidamente. A batalha terminou em 18 de novembro de 1916, com bem mais de um milhão de baixas e 300 mil mortos. Embora as baixas tenham sido altas para todos os lados, a batalha é lembrada com mais destaque na Grã-Bretanha e na Comunidade Britânica como um exemplo do sacrifício final feito pelos homens que serviram durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial.


A batalha durou 141 dias de 1º de julho a 18 de novembro de 1916.

Os britânicos capturaram apenas três milhas quadradas de território no primeiro dia.

No final das hostilidades, os britânicos avançaram apenas sete milhas e não conseguiram quebrar a defesa alemã

A Grã-Bretanha esperava dar o golpe decisivo contra a Alemanha nas margens do rio Somme, no norte da França, após dois anos de impasse nas trincheiras.

Os generais esperavam poder romper as linhas alemãs e aliviar a pressão sobre os franceses em guerra que estavam envolvidos em uma luta de vida ou morte com a Alemanha em Verdun.

Uma terrível barragem de artilharia de duas semanas teve como objetivo amolecer os alemães e limpar o arame farpado que atravessava a Terra de No Man & # x27s - a área de terra lamacenta entre as trincheiras opostas.

Em 1º de julho de 1916, a ordem chegou ao topo, e centenas de milhares de tropas britânicas e da Commonwealth caminharam pela Terra de No Man & # x27s.


Fundo

Reunindo-se em Chantilly em dezembro de 1915, o alto comando aliado trabalhou para desenvolver planos de guerra para o ano seguinte. Foi acordado que o caminho mais eficaz a seguir seriam ofensivas simultâneas nas frentes oriental, ocidental e italiana. Essa abordagem impediria as Potências Centrais de deslocar as tropas para enfrentar cada uma das ameaças. Na Frente Ocidental, os planejadores britânicos e franceses avançaram e finalmente decidiram montar uma grande ofensiva combinada ao longo do rio Somme. O plano inicial previa que a maior parte das tropas fossem francesas, com o apoio do Quarto Exército britânico no norte. Embora apoiasse o plano, o comandante da Força Expedicionária Britânica, General Sir Douglas Haig, originalmente desejava atacar em Flandres.

Conforme os planos para a ofensiva de Somme eram desenvolvidos, eles logo foram alterados em resposta aos alemães que abriram a Batalha de Verdun no final de fevereiro de 1916. Em vez de desferir um golpe paralisante para os alemães, o objetivo principal da ofensiva de Somme seria agora aliviar a pressão sobre os sitiados defensores franceses em Verdun. Além disso, a composição primária das tropas envolvidas seria britânica, e não francesa.


Fontes primárias

(1) Após a guerra, Sir William Robertson, Chefe do Estado-Maior Imperial, tentou explicar a estratégia na Batalha de Somme.

Lembrando a insatisfação demonstrada pelos ministros no final de 1915 porque as operações não haviam correspondido às expectativas, o Estado-Maior teve a precaução de deixar bem claro de antemão a natureza do sucesso que a campanha de Somme poderia render. A necessidade de aliviar a pressão sobre o exército francês em Verdun permanece, e é mais urgente do que nunca. Este é, portanto, o primeiro objetivo a ser alcançado pela ofensiva combinada britânica e francesa. O segundo objetivo é infligir o máximo de perdas possível aos exércitos alemães.

(2) Sir Douglas Haig, ordens de batalha enviadas pouco antes da Batalha do Somme (maio de 1916)

O Primeiro, o Segundo e o Terceiro Exércitos tomarão medidas para enganar o inimigo quanto à verdadeira frente de ataque, para esgotá-lo e reduzir sua eficiência de combate durante os três dias anteriores ao ataque e durante as operações subsequentes. Os preparativos para enganar o inimigo devem ser feitos sem demora. Isso será efetuado por meio de -

(a) Preparações preliminares, como o avanço de nossas trincheiras e fossos, construção de trincheiras de montagem de manequins, posições de armas, etc.

(b) Corte de fio em intervalos ao longo de toda a frente com o objetivo de induzir o inimigo a guarnecer suas defesas e causar fadiga.

(c) Descargas de gás, quando possível, em locais selecionados ao longo de toda a frente britânica, acompanhadas por uma descarga de fumaça, com o objetivo de fazer com que o inimigo use seus capacetes de gás, induzindo à fadiga e causando baixas.

(d) Barragens de artilharia em comunicações importantes com o objetivo de dificultar os reforços, o socorro e o abastecimento.

(e) Bombardeio noturno de alojamentos de descanso.

(f) Descargas intermitentes de fumaça durante o dia, acompanhadas de disparos de estilhaços nas defesas da frente do inimigo com o objetivo de infligir perdas.

(g) Incursões noturnas, da força de uma companhia e para cima, em escala extensa, no sistema de defesas do inimigo. Devem ser preparados por intensos bombardeios de artilharia e morteiros de trincheira.

(3) George Mallory, foi o comandante da 40ª Bateria de Cerco no Somme. Ele escreveu uma carta para sua esposa, Ruth Mallory, em 2 de julho de 1916.

Nossa parte era manter uma barragem de fogo em certas linhas, & quotlifting & quot após certos tempos fixos de uma para outra mais remota e assim por diante. Claro que não poderíamos saber como as coisas estavam indo por várias horas. Mas então os feridos - malas ambulantes - começaram a passar e bandos de prisioneiros. Ouvimos vários relatos, mas parecia ficar claro que o ataque foi retido em algum lugar por tiros de metralhadora e isso foi confirmado pela natureza de nossas próprias tarefas após o término da & quotbarrage & quot. Para mim, esse resultado, junto com a visão dos feridos, foi dolorosamente doloroso. Passei a maior parte da manhã na sala de mapas à beira da estrada, esperando para ajudar Lithgow (o oficial comandante) a encontrar novos alvos.

(4) Sir Douglas Haig explicou a importância do uso de artilharia pesada na Batalha do Somme em seu livro Despachos, que foi publicado após a guerra.

A posição do inimigo a ser atacado era de um caráter muito formidável, situado em um trecho de terreno alto e ondulado. O primeiro e o segundo sistemas consistiam, cada um, em várias linhas de trincheiras profundas, bem providas de abrigos à prova de bombas e com várias trincheiras de comunicação conectando-os. A frente das trincheiras em cada sistema era protegida por emaranhados de arame, muitos deles em duas correias de quarenta metros de largura, construídas com estacas de ferro, entrelaçadas com arame farpado, muitas vezes quase tão grosso quanto o dedo de um homem. Defesas dessa natureza só podiam ser atacadas com a perspectiva de sucesso após cuidadosa preparação da artilharia.

(5) Philip Gibbs, um jornalista, assistiu à preparação para a grande ofensiva no Somme em julho de 1916.

Antes do amanhecer, na escuridão, eu estava com uma massa de cavalaria em frente a Fricourt. Haig como um homem de cavalaria estava obcecado com a idéia de que quebraria a linha alemã e enviaria a cavalaria. Era uma esperança fantástica, ridicularizada pelo Alto Comando Alemão em seu relatório sobre as Batalhas do Somme, que depois capturamos.

À nossa frente não havia uma linha, mas uma posição de fortaleza, com trinta quilômetros de profundidade, entrincheirada e fortificada, defendida por massas de postes de metralhadoras e milhares de armas em um amplo arco. Sem chance para cavalaria! Mas naquela noite eles estavam concentrados atrás da infantaria. Entre eles estava a cavalaria indiana, cujos rostos escuros eram iluminados de vez em quando por um momento, quando alguém riscava um fósforo para acender um cigarro.

Antes do amanhecer houve um grande silêncio. Nós falávamos em sussurros, se falássemos. Então, de repente, nossas armas dispararam em uma saraivada de fogo de intensidade colossal. Nunca antes, e acho que nunca depois, mesmo na Segunda Guerra Mundial, tantas armas foram colocadas atrás de qualquer frente de batalha. Foi um trovão estrondoso de granadas de fogo, a terra vomitou chamas e o céu se iluminou com explosões de granadas. Parecia que nada poderia viver, nem uma formiga, sob aquela tempestade de artilharia estupenda. Mas os alemães em seus abrigos profundos sobreviveram, e quando nossas ondas de homens passaram, foram recebidos por tiros mortais de metralhadora e morteiro.

Nossos homens não chegaram a lugar nenhum no primeiro dia. Eles haviam sido ceifados como grama por metralhadores alemães que, depois que nossa barragem se dissipou, correram para encontrar nossos homens a céu aberto. Muitos dos melhores batalhões foram quase aniquilados e nossas baixas foram terríveis.

Um médico alemão feito prisioneiro perto de La Boiselle ficou para trás para cuidar de nossos feridos em um abrigo, em vez de ir para um local seguro. Eu o encontrei voltando do campo de batalha na manhã seguinte. Um de nossos homens carregava sua bolsa e conversei com ele. Ele era um homem alto, pesado, de barba preta e falava bem inglês. "Esta guerra!", disse ele. “Continuamos matando uns aos outros sem nenhum propósito. É uma guerra contra a religião e contra a civilização e não vejo fim para ela. & Quot

(6) Declaração emitida pelo Exército Britânico com base em Paris na Ofensiva Somme (3 de julho de 1916)

O primeiro dia de ofensiva é muito satisfatório. O sucesso não é um raio, como já aconteceu antes em operações semelhantes, mas é importante acima de tudo porque é rico em promessas. Já não se trata aqui de tentativas de perfurar como com uma faca. É antes um empurrão lento, contínuo e metódico, poupando vidas, até o dia em que a resistência do inimigo, incessantemente martelada, se desmoronará em algum ponto. A partir de hoje, os primeiros resultados das novas táticas permitem aguardar os desdobramentos com confiança.

(7) O soldado George Morgan, Ist Bradford Pals, participou da Batalha do Somme em 1º de julho de 1916.

Não houve demora sobre quando a hora zero chegou. Nosso oficial de pelotão apitou e foi o primeiro a subir a escada, com o revólver numa das mãos e um cigarro na outra. "Vamos, rapazes", disse ele, e subiu. Subimos atrás dele um de cada vez. Nunca mais vi o oficial. Seu nome está no memorial aos desaparecidos que eles construíram após a guerra em Thiepval. Ele era apenas jovem, mas era um homem muito corajoso.

(8) John Irvine, Expresso Diário (3 de julho de 1916)

Uma diminuição perceptível de nosso fogo logo depois das sete foi a primeira indicação que nos foi dada de que nossos galantes soldados estavam prestes a pular de suas trincheiras e avançar contra o inimigo. Os não combatentes, é claro, não tiveram permissão para testemunhar esse espetáculo, mas fui informado de que o vigor e a ansiedade do primeiro ataque foram dignos das melhores tradições do exército britânico.

Não tivemos que esperar muito pelas notícias, e elas foram totalmente satisfatórias e encorajadoras. A mensagem recebida às dez horas era mais ou menos assim: & quotEm uma frente de vinte milhas ao norte e ao sul do Somme, nós e nossos aliados franceses avançamos e tomamos a primeira linha de trincheiras alemã. Estamos atacando vigorosamente Fricourt, La Boiselle e Mametz. Os prisioneiros alemães estão se rendendo livremente, e muitos já caíram em nossas mãos.

(9) William Beach Thomas, Com os britânicos no Somme (1917)

Nenhuma notícia verdadeira (do primeiro dia da Batalha do Somme) foi conhecida por ninguém por horas. Flashes de esperança, meias-luzes de expectativa, indícios de calamidade apenas penetraram na fumaça e poeira e balas que sufocaram as trincheiras. A tensão era insuportável. Os telefones, os pombos-correio, as suposições dos observadores diretos, os registros dos runers, os vislumbres dos aviadores, tudo combinado dificilmente poderia penetrar na névoa da guerra. Os feridos que lutaram para sair das trincheiras alemãs pouco sabiam.

(10) The Daily Chronicle (3 de julho de 1916)

I de julho de 1916: por volta das 7h30 desta manhã, um ataque vigoroso foi lançado pelo exército britânico. A frente se estende por cerca de 20 milhas ao norte do Somme. O ataque foi precedido por um bombardeio terrível, que durou cerca de uma hora e meia. É muito cedo para dar qualquer coisa além de detalhes básicos, já que a luta está se desenvolvendo em intensidade, mas as tropas britânicas já ocuparam a linha de frente alemã. Muitos prisioneiros já caíram em nossas mãos e, até onde podemos averiguar, nossas baixas não foram pesadas.

(11) Herbert Russell, enviou um telegrama à Reuters sobre a Batalha do Somme (1 ° de julho de 1916)

Bom progresso em território inimigo. Dizem que as tropas britânicas lutaram com muita bravura e nós fizemos muitos prisioneiros. Até agora, o dia está indo bem para a Grã-Bretanha e a França.

(12) George Mallory, foi o comandante da 40ª Bateria de Cerco no Somme. Ele escreveu uma carta para sua esposa, Ruth Mallory, em 15 de agosto de 1916.

Não me oponho a cadáveres, desde que sejam frescos - logo descobri que poderia raciocinar assim com eles. Entre você e eu está toda a diferença entre a vida e a morte. Mas é um fato aceito que homens são mortos e não tenho mais nada a aprender sobre isso de você, e a diferença não é maior do que isso, porque seu queixo cai e sua carne muda de cor ou sangue escorre de suas feridas. Com os feridos é diferente. Sempre me aborrece vê-los.

(13) George Coppard foi um metralhador na Batalha do Somme. No livro dele Com uma metralhadora para Cambrai, ele descreveu o que viu em 2 de julho de 1916.

Na manhã seguinte, nós, artilheiros, examinamos a cena terrível em frente à nossa trincheira. Havia um par de binóculos no kit e, sob a luz de bronze de um dia quente de meio de verão, tudo se revelou austero e claro. O terreno era bastante parecido com o downland de Sussex, com colinas, dobras e vales suaves e crescentes, tornando difícil no início localizar todas as trincheiras inimigas conforme elas se enrolavam e se retorciam nas encostas.

Por fim, ficou claro que a linhagem alemã seguia pontos de eminência, sempre dando uma visão dominante da Terra de Ninguém. Imediatamente na frente, e se espalhando para a esquerda e para a direita até ficarem escondidos da vista, havia uma evidência clara de que o ataque havia sido brutalmente repelido. Centenas de mortos, muitos da 37ª Brigada, foram estendidos como destroços levados até um limite máximo. Muitos morreram no arame inimigo e no solo, como peixes apanhados na rede. Eles ficaram pendurados ali em posturas grotescas. Alguns pareciam estar rezando para morrer de joelhos e o arame os impediu de cair. Pela maneira como os mortos estavam igualmente espalhados, fosse no arame ou deitados na frente dele, ficou claro que não havia lacunas no arame no momento do ataque.

O fogo concentrado de metralhadoras de canhões suficientes para comandar cada centímetro do arame tinha feito seu terrível trabalho. Os alemães devem ter reforçado o fio há meses. Era tão denso que a luz do dia mal podia ser vista através dele. Através dos óculos, parecia uma massa negra. A fé alemã no arame em massa valeu a pena.

Como nossos planejadores imaginaram que Tommies, tendo sobrevivido a todos os outros perigos - e havia muitos em cruzar a Terra de Ninguém - atravessaria o fio alemão? Had they studied the black density of it through their powerful binoculars? Who told them that artillery fire would pound such wire to pieces, making it possible to get through? Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before.

(14) General Rees, commander of 94th Infantry Brigade at the Somme, described how his men went into battle on 1st July, 1916.

They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade, and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine-gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines which advanced in such admirable order melting away under the fire. Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back. I have never seen, I would never have imagined, such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports I have had from the very few survivors of this marvellous advance bear out what I saw with my own eyes, viz, that hardly a man of ours got to the German front line.

(15) German machine-gunner at the Somme.

The officers were in the front. I noticed one of them walking calmly carrying a walking stick. When we started firing we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. You didn't have to aim, we just fired into them.

(16) John Buchan described the first day of the offensive at the Somme in his pamphlet, The Battle of the Somme (1916)

The British moved forward in line after line, dressed as if on parade not a man wavered or broke ranks but minute by minute the ordered lines melted away under the deluge of high explosives, shrapnel, rifle, and machine-gun fire. The splendid troops shed their blood like water for the liberty of the world.

(17) Harold Mellersh was a young platoon commander who took part in the Somme offensive.

Nothing happened at first. We advanced at a slow double. I noticed that it had begun to rain. Then the enemy machine-gunning started, first one gun, then many. They traversed, and every now and then there came the swish of bullets.

It's a bloody death trap, someone said. I told him to shut up. But was he right? We struggled on through the mud and the rain and the shelling. Then came a terrific crack above my head, a jolt in my left shoulder, and at the same time I was watching in an amazed, detached sort of way my right forearm twist upwards of its own volition and then hang limp. I realised that I had been hit.

I was suddenly filled with a surge of happiness. It was a physical feeling almost, consciousness of a reprieve from the shadow of death, no less. That I had just taken part in a failure, that I had really done nothing to help win the war, these things were forgotten - if ever indeed they had entered my consciousness.

(18) Clare Tisdall worked as a nurse at a Casualty Clearing Station during the Battle of the Somme.

During the Somme we practically never stopped. I was up for seventeen nights before I had a night in bed. A lot of the boys had legs blown off, or hastily amputated at the front-line. These boys were the ones who were in the greatest pain, and I very often used to have to hold the stump up in the ambulance for the whole journey, so that it wouldn't bump on the stretcher.

The worse case I saw - and it still haunts me - was of a man being carried past us. It was at night, and in the dim light I thought that his face was covered with a black cloth. But as he came nearer, I was horrified to realize that the whole lower half of his face had been completely blown off and what had appeared to be a black cloth was a huge gaping hole. It was the only time I nearly fainted.

(19) Ford Madox Ford served at Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme. He wrote about his experiences in his book, No Enemy: A Tale of Reconstruction (1929)

I don't think that many of those who were one's comrades did not at times feel a certain hopelessness. And so they would sit in the chairs of the lost and forgotten. You will say this is bitter. It Is. It was bitter to have seen the 38th Division murdered in Mametz Wood - and to guess what underlay that.

(20) In his pamphlet, The Battle of the Somme, John Buchan describes the Allied attack on German lines on 14th July.

The attack failed nowhere. In some parts if was slower than others, where the enemy's defence had been less comprehensively destroyed, but by the afternoon all our tasks had been accomplished. The audacious enterprise had been crowned with unparalleled success. Germans may write on their badges that God is with them, but our lads - they know.

(21) Manchester Guardian (18th September 1916)

The British army has struck the enemy another heavy blow north of the Somme. Attacking shortly after dawn yesterday morning on a front of more than six miles north-east from Combles, it now occupies a new strip of reconquered territory including three fortified villages behind the German third line and many local positions of great strength.

Fighting has continued since without intermission, and the initiative remains with our troops, who made further advances beyond Courcelette, Martinpuich, and Flers to-day. After the first shock yesterday morning, when the enemy surrendered freely, showing signs of demoralisation, there has been stubborn resistance, and much of the ground gained afterwards was only wrested from him by the determination and strength of the British battalions pitted against him. The Bavarian and German divisions have fought well, but nevertheless they have been steadily pushed backwards from the line they took up after their first defeats in the Somme campaign.

British patrols have approached Eaucourt l'Abbaye and Geudecourt, and while no definite information is obtainable to-night regarding the exact extent of our gains they are rather more than the territory described in detail in this despatch. The battle is not over. Famous British regiments are lying in the open to-night holding their position with the greatest heroism. All that the enemy can do in the way of artillery reprisals he is doing to-night. But despite the tenacity with which the reinforced German troops are clinging to their positions everything gained has been maintained. Progress may not be at the same speed as in the first assault yesterday morning, but it is thorough and none the less sure.

The story of the capture of Courcelette and Martinpuich, which were wrested from the Bavarians virtually street by street yesterday, will be as dramatic as any narrative told in this war. They are the chief episodes in the first two days of this offensive, but I can only give a bare summary now of the furious conflict which raged for possession of these obscure ruined villages. There are evidences that the unexpected British offensive disorganised the plans of the German higher command for an important counter-attack to recover the ground lost since July 1. Heavy concentrations of infantry were taking place, and the unusually strong resistance on the British left was due to the presence of an abnormal number of troops behind Martinpuich and Courcelette. In spite of this the divisions taking part in yesterday's attack splendidly achieved their purpose.

Armoured cars working with the infantry were the great surprise of this attack. Sinister, formidable, and industrious, these novel machines pushed boldly into "No Man's Land," astonishing our soldiers no less than they frightened the enemy. Presently I shall relate some strange incidents of their first grand tour in Picardy, of Bavarians bolting before them like rabbits and others surrendering in picturesque attitudes of terror, and the delightful story of the Bavarian colonel who was carted about for hours in the belly of one of them like Jonah in the whale, while his captors slew the men of his broken division.

It is too soon yet to advertise their best points to an interested world. The entire army nevertheless is talking about them, and you might imagine that yesterday's operation was altogether a battle of armed chauffeurs if you listened to the stories of some of the spectators. They inspired confidence and laughter. No other incident of the war has created such amusement in the face of death as their debut before the trenches of Martinpuich and Flers. Their quaintness and seeming air of profound intelligence commended them to a critical audience. It was as though one of Mr. Heath Robinson's jokes had been utilised for a deadly purpose, and one laughed even before the dire effect on the enemy was observed.

Flers fell into British hands comparatively easily. The troops sent against it from the north of Delville Wood, astride of the sunken road leading to its southern extremity, reached the place in three easy laps supported by armoured cars. As a preliminary measure one car planted itself at the north-east corner of the wood before dawn and cleared a small enemy party from two connected trenches. It was not a difficult task for the "boches" promptly surrendered. The first halting-place of the Flers-bound troops was a German switch-trench north-east of Ginchy, part of the so-called third line, which they reached at the time appointed. There was a slight obstacle in the form of a redoubt constructed at the angle of the line where it crossed the Ginchy-Lesboeufs road. Machine-gun fire was well directed from this work, but two armoured cars came up and poured a destructive counter-fire into it, and then one of the many watchful aeroplanes swooped down almost within hailing distance and joined in the battle. The dismayed Bavarians promptly yielded to this strange alliance. Armoured cars and aeroplane went their several ways and the infantry carried on. The redoubt sheltered a dressing station where there were a number of German wounded. The second phase of the Flers advance brought the attackers to the trenches at the end of the village. Little resistance was offered. Here, again, the armoured cars came forward. One of them managed to enfilade the trench both ways, killing nearly everyone in it, and then another car started up the main street, or what was the main street in pre-war days, escorted, as one spectator puts it "by the cheering British army."

It was a magnificent progress. You must imagine this unimaginable engine stalking majestically amid the ruins followed by the men in khaki, drawing the dispossessed Bavarians from their holes in the ground like a magnet and bringing them blinking into the sunlight to stare at their captors, who laughed instead of killing them. Picture its passage from one end of the ruins of Flers to the other, leaving infantry swarming through the dug-outs behind, on out of the northern end of the village, past more odds and ends of defensive positions, up the road to Gneudecourt, halting only at the outskirts. Before turning back it silenced a battery and a half of artillery, captured the gunners, and handed them over to the infantry. Finally, it retraced its foot-steps with equal composure to the old British line at the close of a profitable day. The German officers taken in Flers have not yet assimilated the scene of their capture, the crowded "High Street," and the cheering bomb-throwers marching behind the travelling fort, which displayed on one armoured side the startling placard, "Great Hun Defeat. Extra Special!"

(22) In his pamphlet, The Battle of the Somme: The Second Phase, published in 1917, John Buchan claimed that the battle marked the end of "trench fighting and the beginning of a campaign in the open."

Thenceforth, the campaign entered upon a new stage, and the first stage, which in strict terms we call the Battle of the Somme, had ended in Allied victory. We did what we set out to do step by step we drove our way through the German defences. Our major purpose was attained. It was not the recapture of territory that we sought, but the weakening of the numbers, materiel and moral of the enemy.

(23) In his book, Traveller in News, William Beach Thomas wrote about his reporting of the Battle of the Somme for the Daily Mail e a Espelho diário.

A great part of the information supplied to us by (British Army Intelligence) was utterly wrong and misleading. The dispatches were largely untrue so far as they deal with concrete results. For myself, on the next day and yet more on the day after that, I was thoroughly and deeply ashamed of what I had written, for the very good reason that it was untrue. Almost all the official information was wrong. The vulgarity of enormous headlines and the enormity of one's own name did not lessen the shame.

(24) John Raws was killed at the Battle of the Somme. He wrote a letter to his brother just before he died (12th August 1916)

The glories of the Great Push are great, but the horrors are greater. With all I'd heard by word of mouth, with all I had imagined in my mind, I yet never conceived that war could be so dreadful. The carnage in our little sector was as bad, or worse, than that of Verdun, and yet I never saw a body buried in ten days. And when I came on the scene the whole place, trenches and all, was spread with dead. We had neither time nor space for burials, and the wounded could not be got away. They stayed with us and died, pitifully, with us, and then they rotted. The stench of the battlefield spread for miles around. And the sight of the limbs, the mangled bodies, and stray heads.

We lived with all this for eleven days, ate and drank and fought amid it but no, we did not sleep. Sometimes, we just fell down and became unconscious. You could not call it sleep.

The men who say they believe in war should be hung. And the men who won't come out and help us, now we're in it, are not fit for words. Had we more reinforcements up there many brave men now dead, men who stuck it and stuck it and stuck it till they died, would be alive today. Do you know that I saw with my own eyes a score of men go raving mad! I met three in 'No Man's Land' one night. Of course, we had a bad patch. But it is sad to think that one has to go back to it, and back to it, and back to it, until one is hit.

(25) Charles Hudson, journal entry on the Somme offensive in 1916, quoted in Soldier, Poet, Rebel (2007)

Elaborate and very detailed orders for the coming battle came out, and were altered and revised again and again. Inspections and addresses followed each other in rapid succession whenever we came out of the line. The country, miles ahead of our starting trench, was studied on maps and models. Mouquet Farm, the objective of my company on the first day, will always stand out in my memory as a name, though I was never to see it.

Our battalion was to be the last of the four battalions of our Brigade to go 'over the top'. We were to carry immense loads of stores needed by the leading battalion, when the forward enemy trench system was overrun, and dump our loads before we advanced on Mouquet Farm. In the opening phase therefore, we were reduced to the status of pack mules. We flattered ourselves however that we had been specially selected to carry out the more highly skilled and onerous role of open warfare fighting, when the trench system had been overcome.

Never in history, we were told, had so many guns been concentrated on any front. Our batteries had the greatest difficulty in finding gun positions, and millions of shells were dumped at the gun sites. Had all the guns, we were told, been placed on one continuous line, their wheels would have interlocked. Nothing, we were assured, could live to resist our onslaught.

The first unpleasant hitch in the arrangements occurred when the attack was put off for twenty-four hours. It was later postponed another twenty-four hours. The explanation given was that the French were not ready. Our own non-stop night and day bombardment continued. We were in the front line, with the assaulting battalions behind us in reserve trenches. Apart from the strain of waiting, we found our own shelling exhausting, and received a fair amount counter-shelling and mortaring in reply. We remained in the front line from 27 June until the night of 30 June, when we were withdrawn to allow the assaulting units to take up their positions. As a result of the forty-eight hour postponement the men were not as fresh for the attack as we had hoped, and there was a feeling abroad that a lot of ammunition had been expended which might be badly missed later.

That night, 30 June, we spent in dugouts cut into the side of a high bank. Behind us lay the shell-shattered remains of Authuile Wood, and further back the town of Albert. That night I was asked to attend a party given by the officers of another company. Reluctantly I went. Though no one in the smoke-filled dugout when I arrived was drunk, they were far from being sober and obviously strung up. Their efforts to produce a cheerful atmosphere depressed me. Feeling a wet blanket, I slipped away as soon as I decently could. As I walked back, the gaunt misshapen shell-shattered trees looked like grim tortured El Greco-like figures in the moonlight. I tried to shake off emotion, and though feeling impelled to pray, I deliberately refused myself the outlet, for to do so now, merely because I was frightened, seemed both unfair and unreasonable. Fortunately I could always sleep when the opportunity arose, and I slept normally well that night.

Though my company was not due to move up the communication trench until some time after zero hour, breakfasts were over and the men were all standing by before it was light. At dawn the huge, unbelievably huge, crescendo of the opening barrage began. Thousands and thousands of small calibre shells seemed to be whistling close above our heads to burst on the enemy front line. Larger calibre shells whined their way to seek out targets farther back, and shells from the heavies, like rumbling railway trains, could be heard almost rambling along high above us, to land with mighty detonations way back amongst the enemy strong-points and battery areas behind.

It was not long before the electrifying news came down the line that our assault battalions had overrun the enemy front line and had been seen still going strong close up behind the barrage. The men cheered up. The march to Berlin had begun! I was standing on the top of the bank, and at that moment I felt genuinely sorry for the unfortunate German infantry. I could picture in my mind the agony they were undergoing, for I could see the solid line of bursting shells throwing great clouds of earth high into the air. I thought of the horror of being in the midst of that great belt of explosion. where nothing. I thought, could live. The belt was so thick and deep that the wounded would be hit again and again.

Still there was no reply from the enemy. It looked as if our guns had silenced their batteries before they had got a shot off. I climbed down the bank anxious for more news. When our time came to advance we had to file some way along and under the embankment before turning up the communication trench. A company of the support battalion was to precede us and their men were already on the move gaily cracking ribald jokes as they passed by.

They had not long been gone when the enemy guns opened. This in itself was rather startling. How. I wondered, could any guns have survived? Only a few odd shells fell near us but the shelling farther up seemed very heavy. We were not, then, going to have it all our own way. Impatient, I slipped on ahead of the company to the entrance of the communication trench up which we were to go.

Some wounded were already being carried out and I wondered whether the stretchers would delay our advance. As I neared the trench, I saw the Brigade trench mortar officer, and went to get the latest news from him. To my disgust I found he was not only very drunk but in a terrible state of nerves. With tears running down his face, and smelling powerfully of brandy, he begged me not to take my company forward. The whole attack he shouted was a terrible failure, the trench ahead was a shambles, it was murder up there, he was on his way to tell the Brigadier so.

We found the short length of trench packed tight with wounded. Some begged for help, some to be left alone to die. I told the company sergeant major (CSM) to set about clearing the trench of wounded while I went to tell platoon commanders the alteration in our plan. When I got back the CSM was bending over a severely wounded young officer. He was very heavy and when an attempt was made to move him the pain was so acute that the men making the attempt drew back aghast. The trench was very narrow and as he lay full-length along it we had to move him. As long as I live I shall not forget the horror of lifting that poor boy. He died, a twitching mass of tautened muscles in our arms as we were carrying him. Even my own men looked at me as if I had been the monster I felt myself to be in attempting to move him. Sick with horror, I drove them on, forcing them to throw the dead bodies out of the trench.

At last the way was clear, and I called up the first platoon to go over the narrow end of the trench, two at a time. I was to go first with my two orderlies, and Bartlett, the officer commanding the first platoon, was to follow. I told the CSM to wait and see the company over but he flatly declined, saying his place was with company HO and that he was coming with me. I hadn't the heart to refuse him.

As I ran, wisps of dust seemed to be spitting up all round me, and I found myself trying to skip over them. Then it suddenly dawned on me that we were under fire, and the dust was caused by bullets. I saw someone standing up behind the bank ahead waving wildly. He was shouting something. I threw myself down. It was the second-in-command of the support battalion, an ex-regular regimental sergeant major of the Guards and a huge man. He was shouting. "Keep away, for God's sake, keep away!"

I shouted back, "What's up?"

"We are under fire here," he yelled, "You'll only draw more fire."

I realised that the fire came not only from in front of us but from across the valley to our left and behind us. My plan was hopeless. The young orderly who had had hysterics was hit. He cried out and was almost immediately hit again. I crept close up against his dead body, wondering if a man's body gave any protection. Would that machine gunner never stop blazing at us? In an extremity of fear I pulled a derelict trench mortar barrel between me and the bullets. Suddenly the fire was switched off to some other target.

The CSM had been hit as he had been crawling towards me. I had shouted to him to keep down but he crawled on, his nose close to the ground, his immense behind clearly visible, and a tempting target! It is extraordinary how in action one can be one moment almost gibbering with fright, and the next, when released from immediate physical danger, almost gay. When the CSM let out a loud yell, I shouted: "Are you hit"

"Yes, Sir," he shouted back. "But not badly."

"That will teach you to keep your bottom down," I shouted back, upon which there was a ribald cheer from the men nearby. When I reached the CSM he was quite cheerful and wanted to carry on, but was soon persuaded to return and stop more men leaving the trench.

Bartlett had taken cover in a shell hole and I rolled in to join him as the firing swept over us again. Besides us, the hole was occupied by an elderly private of one of the leading battalions. He was unwounded, quite resigned, and entirely philosophic about the situation. He said no one but a fool would attempt to go forward, as it was obvious that the attack had failed. He pointed out that we were quite safe where we were, and all we had to do was to wait until dark to get back. I asked him what he was doing unwounded in a hole so far behind his battalion. He said he was a regular soldier who had been wounded early in the war, and that he was not going to be wounded again in the sort of fool attacks that the officers sitting in comfortable offices behind the lines planned! (I give of course a paraphrase of his actual discourse.) He said he certainly would not be alive now if he had not had the sense to take cover as soon as possible after going over the top, as he had done at Festubert. Loos, and a series of other battles in which he said he had been engaged. He reckoned that this was the only hope an infantryman had of surviving the war. When the High Command had learned how to conduct a battle which had a reasonable chance of success, he would willingly take part! I told him if he went on in this way, I would put him under arrest for cowardice.

It was a strange interlude in battle, and I realised that my own uncertainty as to what should be done gave rise to it. I was agitated, feeling that inactivity was unforgivable, particularly when the leading battalions must be fighting for their lives, and sorely needing reinforcements. It seemed Useless to attempt to get forward from where we were, even if we could collect enough men to make the attempt. In the end I forced myself to get out of the shell hole and walk along parallel with the enemy line and away from the valley on our left, calling on men of all battalions who were scattered about in shell holes, to be ready to advance when I blew mv whistle.

This effort, in which I was supported by Bartlett, was shortlived. Bullets were flying all round us both from front and flank. One hit my revolver out of my hand, another drove a hole through my water bottle, and more and more fire was being concentrated upon us. Ignominiously I threw myself down. We were no better off.

It was up to me to make a decision. Bartlett quietly but firmly refused to offer any suggestion. I took the only course that seemed open to me, other than giving in altogether as the defeatist private soldier had so phlegmatically advocated, and I so vehemently condemned. We returned to our own front line, crawling all the way and calling on any men we saw to follow us, though few in fact did.

There was no movement in no man's land, though one apparently cheerful man of my own company, a wag, was crawling forward on all fours, a belt of machine gun ammunition swinging under his stomach, shouting. Anyone know the way to Mouquet Farm?

A soldier I did not know was running back screaming at the top of his voice. He was entirely naked and had presumably gone mad, or perhaps he thought he was so clearly disarmed that he would not be shot at! Bartlett and I reached our trench without mishap and began working down it, trying to collect any men we could. The shelling on the front line trench had stopped. At one trench shelter I came on a sergeant who had once been in my company, and at my summons he lurched to the narrow entrance of the tiny shelter. I thought at first he was drunk.

"Come on, Sergeant," I said, "Get your men together and follow me down the trench."

"I'd like to come with you, Sir," he said, "But I can't with this lot."

I looked down and saw to my horror that the lower part of his left leg had been practically severed. He was standing on one leg, holding himself upright by gripping the frame of the entrance.

At the junction of the front line with a communication trench further down the line, I found the staff captain (not the one with the broken nerves). I told him I was collecting the remnants of our men, and asked him if he thought I ought to make another effort to advance. I knew in my heart that I only asked because I hoped he would authorise no further effort, but he said that the last message he had had from Brigade HO was that attempts to break through to the leading battalions must continue to be made at all costs. He told me our colonel and second-in-command had gone over the top to try and carry the men forward, and both had been wounded. I must judge for myself, he said, but there had been no orders to abandon the attack.

I discovered from the staff captain what had happened. The leading battalions had swept over the enemy trenches without opposition, but had not delayed to search the deep dugouts, as this was the job of the supporting battalion. As the supporting battalion had been held up by shellfire, the German machine gunners in the deep dugouts had had time to emerge from their cover and open fire. It seemed clear that, unpleasant as the prospect was, a further effort to advance must be made. There was a slight depression in no man's land further to the right, which would give a narrow column of men, crawling, cover from fire from both flanks and front. I determined to try this, and the staff captain wished me luck.

Bartlett had by now collected about forty men, and standing on the fire step, I told them what had happened. There could not be many enemy in the front line, I said. If we could once penetrate into the enemy trench it would not be difficult to bomb our way along it then we could call forward many of our own men who were pinned to the ground in no man's land. I painted a very rosy picture. One more effort and victory was ours. Hundreds of battles had. I said, been lost for the lack of that one last effort.

We had got a good many men over the parapet when a machine gun opened up. I do not think the fire was actually directed at us but I was just giving a man a hand up when a bullet went straight through the lobe of his ear, splashing blood over both of us. The men in the trench below were very shaken, though not more than I was! The man hit wasted no time in diving into cover, but there was nothing I could do except stay where I was, as the men would never have come on if I were to disappear into the cover I was longing to take. Luckily the enemy machine gunner did not swing his gun back as I had feared.

When all the men were over the parapet, Bartlett and I started to crawl past them up to the top of the column. Not a shot was being fired at us and I told Bartlett to pass the men as they came up, down a line parallel to the enemy trench, while I crawled on a bit to see if the wire opposite us was destroyed. I heard a few enemy talking well away to our left, a machine gun opened up, but it was firing away from us. The wire seemed fairly well destroyed. I slipped back to Bartlett to find that only eight men had reached him, and that no one else seemed to be coming. Eight men were enough to surprise and capture the machine gun or never. I jumped up and feeling rather absurdly dramatic, I ran along our short line of men shouting "Charge!" Bartlett was at my heels and as I turned towards the enemy line some men rose to their feet.

I remember trying to jump some twisted wire, being tripped up and falling headlong into a deep shell hole right on top of a dead man and an astonished corporal. Soon a shower of hand bombs were bursting all round us and the corporal and myself pressed ourselves into the side of the shell hole. When I had recovered my breath I shouted for Bartlett and was relieved to hear a muffled reply from a nearby shell hole.

It was now about eleven o'clock on a very hot day. Bartlett and I managed to dig our way towards each other with bayonets, but we failed to get in touch with any of our men, who had apparently not come as far. The corporal turned out to be badly wounded and in spite of our efforts to help him his pain increased as the day wore on. Whenever we showed any sign of life the enemy lobbed a bomb at us and we soon learned to keep quiet.

That night, except for an occasional flare and a little desultory shelling, was absolutely quiet. In the light of a flare it seemed as if the whole of no man's land was one moving mass of men crawling and dragging themselves or their wounded comrades back to our trenches. Bartlett and I tried to carry the corporal but he was very heavy and in such pain that he begged me to be put down at frequent intervals. There were some stretcher bearers about and I sent Bartlett to find one but he lost his way and I did not see him again until next day.

In the end I crawled under the corporal and managed to get him onto my shoulders. He died in my arms soon after we reached our own front line.

(26) In his autobiography, My War Memories, 1914-1918, Eric Ludendorff wrote about the impact of the Battle of the Somme.

On the Somme the enemy's powerful artillery, assisted by excellent aeroplane observation and fed with enormous supplies of ammunition, had kept down our own fire and destroyed our artillery. The defence of our Infantry had become so flabby that the massed attacks of the enemy always succeeded. Not only did our moral

suffer, but in addition to fearful wastage in killed and wounded, we lost a large number of prisoners and much material.

The most pressing demands of our officers were for an increase of artillery, ammunition, aircraft and balloons, as well as larger and more punctual allotments of fresh divisions and other troops to make possible a better system of reliefs.

The equipment of the Entente armies with war material had been carried out on a scale hitherto unknown. The Battle of the Somme showed us every day how great was the advantage of the enemy in this respect.

When we added to this the hatred and immense determination of the Entente, their starvation-blockade or stranglehold, and their mischievous and lying propaganda, which was so dangerous for us, it was quite obvious that our victory was inconceivable unless Germany and her Allies threw into the scale everything they had, both in manpower and industrial resources, and unless every man who went to the front took with him from home a resolute faith in victory and an unshakable conviction that the German Army must conquer for the sake of the Fatherland. The soldier on the battlefield, who endures the most terrible strain that any man can undergo, stands, in his hour of need, in dire want of this moral reinforcement from home, to enable him to stand firm and hold out at the front.

(27) After the war General Sixt von Armin wrote about what the German Army learnt from the Battle of the Somme.

One of the most important lessons drawn from the Battle of the Somme is that, under heavy, methodical artillery fire, the front line should be only thinly held, but by reliable men and a few machine guns, even when there is always a possibility of a hostile attack. When this was not done, the casualties were so great before the enemy's attack was launched, that the possibility of the front line repulsing the attack by its own unaided efforts was very doubtful. The danger of the front line being rushed when so lightly held must be overcome by placing supports (infantry and machine guns), distributed in groups according to the ground, as close as possible behind the foremost fighting line. Their task is to rush forward to reinforce the front line at the moment the enemy attacks, without waiting for orders from the rear. In all cases where this procedure was adopted, we succeeded in repulsing and inflicting very heavy losses on the enemy, who imagined that he had merely to drop into a trench filled with dead.

(28) Duff Cooper was asked by the Haig family to write Sir Douglas Haig's official biography. The book included an evaluation of Haig's tactics at the Battle of the Somme.

There are still those who argue that the Battle of the Somme should never have been fought and that the gains were not commensurate with the sacrifice. There exists no yardstick for the measurement of such events, there are no returns to prove whether life has been sold at its market value. There are some who from their manner of reasoning would appear to believe that no battle is worth fighting unless it produces an immediately decisive result which is as foolish as it would be to argue that in a prize fight no blow is worth delivering save the one that knocks the opponent out. As to whether it were wise or foolish to give battle on the Somme on the first of July, 1916, there can surely be only one opinion. To have refused to fight then and there would have meant the abandonment of Verdun to its fate and the breakdown of the co-operation with the French.

(29) Frank Percy Crozier, A Brass Hat in No Man's Land (1930)

We receive orders to go into the line on the right of the British Army, near the River Somme. The great battle of 1916 has died down. It is November. The weather has brought the fight to a standstill. `General Winter' is in command. We occupy a line recently taken over from the French. In reality there is no line in the trench sense. The men occupy - hellholes. Six entire villages in the neighbourhood have been destroyed by the shells of both sides. Only a little red rubble remains, and that is mostly brick mud. It freezes hard, then it thaws. Never was there a winter such as the men endured in 1916 and 1917. The last was bad enough this is worse, as accommodation in the line does not exist. Dugouts and communication trenches cannot be constructed during a battle after, it is too late, as the mud and rain prevent the carrying up of material. Latrines there are none. The sanitary arrangements are entirely haphazard and makeshift. Disinfectants help.

We at brigade are comfortable - the French have seen to that. Otherwise the conditions are appalling. The condition known as trench feet is our bugbear but the measures taken last year, if properly carried out, suffice to combat the evil. One battalion, through neglect, loses over a hundred men in four days from this malady. The colonel is at fault, and goes away. This example improves matters.

Little can be done, except keep the sick rate down during the next three trying months. How the men live I do not know. They cannot be reached by day as there are no trenches. Cover there is none. Once this place was a field of corn, now it is a sea of mud. On it the French fought a desperate battle, earlier in the year. My daily route on a duckboard track lies through the Rancourt valley. I count a hundred and two unburied Frenchmen, lying as they fell, to the left of me while opposite there are the corpses of fifty-five German machine-gunners by their guns, the cartridge belts and boxes still being in position. Viewed from the technical and tactical point of view their dead bodies and the machine guns afford a first-rate exposition of modern tactics. Later, when the ground hardens, and we can walk about without fear of drowning or being engulfed, I take officers over the battlefield and point out the lessons to be learnt, having in view the positions of the dead bodies. The stench is awful but then, and only then, are we able to get at the dead for burial. If the times are hard for human beings, on account of the mud and misery which they endure with astounding fortitude, the same may be said of the animals. My heart bleeds for the horses and mules. We are in the wilderness, miles from towns and theatres, the flood of battle having parched the hills and dales of Picardy in its advance against civilization. Like all other floods, it carries disaster in its track, with this addition, being man-made, and ill-founded, as it is, in its primary inception, it lacks the lustre of God-inspired help. God is wrongly claimed as an ally, by both parties, to the detriment of the other whereas the Almighty, benevolent and magnanimous, watches over all and waits the call to enter - but not as a destroyer.

The men in muddy hell need daily supplies. The conditions are so vile that no man can endure more than forty-eight hours at a stretch in the forward puddles and squelch pits. Do those at home in comfort, warmth, and cultured environment realise what they owe to the stout hearts on the western front? No wheeled traffic can approach within three miles of the forward pits for roads which were useful to the pre-war farmers have now disappeared. Everything must be carried up by men or mules. The latter, stripped of harness, or fully dressed, die nightly in the holes and craters, as they bring their loads to the men they serve so faithfully and well, urged on by whips and kindness. But one false step means death by suffocation. Sheer exhaustion claims its quota, for the transport lines themselves are devoid of cover from wind and rain. Such is the animals' war, and could animal lovers see the distress of their dumb friends they would never permit another conflict.


Assista o vídeo: A BATALHA DO DIABO - SOMME 1916 - Viagem na Historia