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The Battle Of The Somme
Dougie Hill

15th Nov 2013

The enormity of the losses and the despicable performance of the military leaders in their contribution towards those losses of over 80,000 British men was emphasised by Dougie Hill in his talk about “The Battle of the Somme ”.

 This harrowing but fascinating talk covered the period of the First World War from 1st July to mid November 1916 during which the battle of the Somme, in Picardy , was fought. Very poor intelligence caused the British Generals to think that their artillery bombardment of the German Lines with inadequate guns and shells would reduce the Germans to a few fighting men. They did not know that the enemy were ensconced in deep trenches that made them almost shell proof and that their barbed wire was of a greater diameter than that of the British and difficult to cut.

 Although over 12,000 tons of shells were fired, mostly inaccurately, only about 900 tons were effective. Consequently, as the Germans had few losses and a large number of MG08 Machine Guns that fired over 300 rounds per minute up to a distance of one mile, the British Infantry were mown down as they advanced to the German Lines.

 On that day 1st July 1916 every town and village in Britain suffered losses and Newfoundland lost a whole generation of men. Over 57000 men were lost: the worst ever suffered by a British fighting force.

 Fighting continued in this area of Picardy until the Germans withdrew in early 1917 to the Hindenburg Line. During the period from July 1916 until Spring 1917 the loss of men was enormous. Britain and the Commonwealth suffered 420,000 casualties, 125,000 of them dead. The French lost over 200,000 and the Germans 600,000.

 The extent of this carnage is represented by the 250 Cemeteries in the area of the Somme .

Managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission these places of rest are visited by many families who lost ancestors during this terrible war.

 In memory of the lives lost in the Somme the War Graves Commission built the Thiepval Memorial to commemorate the 72,000 men who died in the Somme sector. This 150ft high memorial was designed by Edwin Lutyens for the Commission.

 Our next meeting is on Thursday 29th November 2012 at 10-00am in the Otley Methodist Church when John Morgan has the unenviable task of “Revealing China”.     

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