Somme

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Somme is a département of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardie region of France.

The north central area of the Somme département was the site of a series of battles through the Great War. Particularly significant was the 1916 Battle of the Somme. As a result of this and other battles fought in the area the department is home to many military cemeteries and several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields.

Battles of the Somme

At the beginning of the First World War, during the September of 1914 Race to the Sea, the Somme became the site of the Battle of Albert. The battle was a five day engagement between the 25th and 29th of September, with the French Tenth Army attacking at Albert and pushing toward Bapaume, and the German Sixth Army counter-attacking back towards Albert. The line settled around the town of Thiepval and remained there until July of 1916, when the Battle of the Somme would be fought on and around the same ground.

That Battle of the Somme was one of the most costly battles of World War I, by the number of troop casualties, as Allied forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme. The Allies had originally intended the Somme to be the site of one of several simultaneous major offensives by Allied powers against the Central Powers in 1916. However, before these offensives could begin, the Germans attacked first, engaging the Allies at the Battle of Verdun. As this battle dragged on, the purpose of the Somme campaign (which was still in the planning stage) shifted from striking a decisive blow against Germany to drawing German forces away from Verdun and relieving the Allied forces there. By its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.

While Verdun would bite deep in the national consciousness of France for generations, the Somme would have the same effect on generations of Britons. The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,420 casualties, including 19,240 dead — the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army to this day. As terrible as the battle was for the British Empire troops who suffered there, it naturally affected the other nationalities as well. One German officer, General D. Swaha, famously described it as "the muddy grave of the German field army." By the end of the battle, the British had learned many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses. British historian Sir James Edmonds stated, "It is not too much to claim that the foundations of the final victory on the Western Front were laid by the Somme offensive of 1916."

For the first time the home front in Britain was exposed to the horrors of modern war with the release of the propaganda film The Battle of the Somme, which used actual footage from the first days of the battle.

The Somme experienced war twice more in the First and Second Battles of the Somme of 1918.

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