Battle of the Somme Ends
The 18th of November 1916 AD
The Anglo-French push in the Somme which began on July 1 1916 (albeit preceded by a huge barrage lasting a week) ended on November 18 1916. Two miles of territory had been gained for the loss of more than 400,000 British and Commonwealth troops, 200,000 French, and half a million Germans.
Almost to the end Haig seems to have been convinced that one more push would create a breakthrough, contrary to all the evidence of months of attritional fighting. Haig drank champagne every night he spent in France; he never visited the front once; he was prepared to regard thousands upon thousands of soldiers as expendable. For the last week of the battle, however, his motive in continuing the attack was cynical beyond belief: he wished to present a picture of success to the conference of the allied commanders which was to commence on November 15 at Chantilly.
Arguments have raged ever since the end of the battle about its impact on the war. Did it begin to break the German army? Did it increase the say of Britain in the allied coalition? Did it change the mindset of the politicians on both sides, preparing the allies for years of attrition whilst sowing the seed of despair in the German leadership? Or was it a bloody and pointless mess from start to finish?
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