Across France, the UK and the Commonwealth we all remember the sacrifice given by allied soldiers on the first and subsequent days of the Battle of the Somme.Also known as the Somme Offensive, it took place between the 1st of July and the 18th of November 1916 along a large part of the Somme River in France. It was the largest battle during the First World War, with more than one million men either killed or wounded.

The first day, worst day of the British Army

The first day of the battle (1st July) saw a massive defeat for the German Second Army at the hands of the French Sixth Army at Foucaucourt-en-Santerre.

However, it was to become the worst day in the history of the British Army. 57,470 casualties were suffered, mainly between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt.

The battle has often been the subject of much controversy due to the huge casualties sustained. It is often seen as a battle that was ordered and carried out by either incompetent or inexperienced upper-class officers. Yet, despite this, one must take into account what compromised of the British forces along the Somme. Soldiers that made up the regular Army that existed on the outbreak of war had for the most part all been killed, therefore, the Somme front was primarily manned by the Territorial Army and Kitchener’s Army.

Introducing the Kitcherner's Army -- Pals battalions

The participation of soldiers from the so-called Kitchener’s Army is especially poignant since they comprised of Pals battalions. These Pals battalions were made up of volunteers who all came from the same town or village. Therefore, during the battle, whole towns lost their young men.

A phenomenon that would become common before the end of the war.

What makes the battle famous is the important use of air power and the first use of the tank. Additionally, its strategic significance, as it helped to relieve the French forces who were desperately holding Verdun. Also, the result of the battle, an advance of 6 miles (9.7km) into German-occupied territory was the largest gain since the Battle of the Marne in 1914.

Reflecting on the loss of so many

Today, representatives of the UK, France, Germany and the Commonwealth. Dignitaries included UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, French President, Francois Hollande, former German President, Horst Köhler, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.

It is important that we remember events such as this in order to ensure that it never happens again. The First World War was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, second only to the Second World War and the Taiping Rebellion. A total of 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians were killed.

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