The Battle of the Somme was a battle involving the British Army in a sector of the Western Front between the town Arras and the Somme River. The battle started on 1st July 1916 after a seven day artillery bombardment on a scale never before seen in warfare. The battle to take ground from the German Second Army continued for four and a half months officially drawing to a close 19th November 1916. The Allies only took about 7 miles of ground at a cost of thousands of casualties killed or wounded. The German defense was well organized also suffered heavy casualties into the thousands.
The first day of the battle on 1st July saw the infantry assault against the German front line as a diversionary attack at Gommecourt, by two divisions of the British Third Army. The main of the British Somme offensive was between the villages of Serre and Maricourt; this was carried out by 12 divisions of the British Fourth Army, with over 100,000 men. Two corps of the French Sixth Army also in the attack moved along the river Somme on the British right wing.
In the first hour of the attack the German army caused heavy casualties to the British attacking force, therefore the British were unable to reach their objectives for the first day of the battle. The German defenses had been opened up by the earlier preparatory bombardment; the effect of the British artillery on the barbed wire defenses of the German Front Line was varied. A big defensive feature in this part of the Western Front that withstood the hail of shells was the mined bunkers and tunnels dug under the chalk Somme landscape, after months of construction on this relatively quiet battlefront during 1915. With strongpoints and machine-gun positions on high ground, positioned and fortified the Intermediate, Second and Third Lines of defense, giving the German Second Army a strong defense. The British bombardment disrupted German supply routes and the mental attitude of the German troops being subjected to its noise and fear of death
As the British advanced, the German troops who survived caved-in bunkers at the time of the bombardment climbed from the protection of their bunkers to man the trenches and machine gun positions. This had devastating consequences for most of the British battalions advancing towards them.
On the right wing of the attack the 18th and 30th British divisions, achieved success by passing through the German front line of defense which by now was disorganized, low in morale and were successfully pushed out of its forward positions.
The situation most for the divisions attacking north of Mametz village was a day of disappointment and loss. Small parties did reach some of their objectives beyond the German front line, the loss of thousands of British troops within the first hours of the attack limited the support and reinforcing of these gains by the end of day on 1st July.
The British offensive against the German lines on the Somme battlefront would continue in phases from 2nd July. The task this time was of limited objectives in a move forward and hold operation. The fighting continued the following weeks which became months, the battle finally came to a close on 18th November 1916. The ground gained by the British Fourth Army at the end of the battle moved the British front line forward just a few miles further of its original position. The injured and dead on both sides added to many thousands. The situation would be that within 14 months this small advance won at great cost to the British Army, following the Spring Offensive of March and April 1918 would be back under control of the German Army.