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Andy A

Battle of the Somme. When did this officialy start?

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Andy A

HI, can anyone confirm when is the official start date of the battle of the Somme? Was it on the 24th June on the start of the barrage or when the troops went over the top on the 1st of July 1916?Which time should we consider?

 

 

Andy

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PaddyO
Posted (edited)

I understand 1st July 1916 to be official start date with the artillery bombardment being preliminary to the main assault starting. If you look at the definition of preliminary:

 

 preceding or done in preparation for something fuller or more important

 

which again connotes the commencement of the battle as the first.

Edited by PaddyO
typo

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phil andrade

Officially 1st July 1916....by British reckoning, at least.

 

It kicks off well with the first day of the month, especially being exactly half way through the calendar year !

 

In my opinion, we’re kidding ourselves a bit....the big bombardment was surely of sufficient significance to warrant the battle’s start as of 24th June.

 

Much the same might be said of Third Ypres’ official commencement on 31st July 1917.  I’m sure the Germans who endured the British bombardment that was unleashed in mid July would prefer the date of the battle’s start being moved back as a testimony to their experience.

 

Phil

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Andy A
3 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Officially 1st July 1916....by British reckoning, at least.

 

It kicks off well with the first day of the month, especially being exactly half way through the calendar year !

 

In my opinion, we’re kidding ourselves a bit....the big bombardment was surely of sufficient significance to warrant the battle’s start as of 24th June.

 

Much the same might be said of Third Ypres’ official commencement on 31st July 1917.  I’m sure the Germans who endured the British bombardment that was unleashed in mid July would prefer the date of the battle’s start being moved back as a testimony to their experience.

 

Phil

 

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Andy A

This was my way of thinking Phil, and Paddy O, i am well educated enough to understand what you were saying but I too would have though that the bombardment itself would have constituted part of the battle, it was certainly planned for and in the overall battleplan. Maybe historians should consider this.

 

Andy

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charlie2

The Germans did consider the battle to have started on the 24th.

 

Charlie

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KIRKY

Always thought it ended on a strange date in view of the ongoing battles into March 1917.

Tony

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phil andrade

From Falkenhayn's memoirs, The Campaign of 1916, page 261 :

 

We left the French theatre of war at the point  when before Verdun the great German success of the 23rd of June against Thiaumont had been won.  On the following day the long-expected and hoped-for enemy offensive was begun in front of the 2nd Army.....on both sides of the Somme.....

 

Phil

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Perth Digger

I believe there was an official "Nomenclature of Battles Committee" that decided the names of the different battles. Did they decide the dates too?

 

Mike

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phil andrade

Struggling to understand the tables of the sanitatsbericht - the German medical history of the Great War - I think I might be able to throw some light on the question of how the fighting on the Somme developed between the bombardment in late June and the going over the top moment of 1 July 1916.

 

The German records featured ten day returns , and for the period 21 to 30 June, they give a total of 6,960 battle  casualties, of whom 1,189 were confirmed killed in action, 4,482 wounded and 1,289 missing.

 

For the first ten days of July, there were 46,319 casualties, of whom 5,786 were confirmed killed in action, 22,095 wounded and 18,438 missing.

 

The loss in the period of the bombardment is obviously trivial compared with that of the  first ten days of July;  but it’s sufficiently appreciable to merit inclusion in the overall battle.

 

As for the British experience, the CWGC database will reveal the relative cost of the last week of June 1916.

 

Phil

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PhilB

I suppose that, in a sense, the battle actually started from the moment of conception and start of planning though the N of B committee determined dates of actual infantry (but not artillery) action. 

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Alan24
16 hours ago, PhilB said:

I suppose that, in a sense, the battle actually started from the moment of conception and start of planning though the N of B committee determined dates of actual infantry (but not artillery) action. 

 

My great grandfather wrote in his personal diary at the time;

 

Sunday 25th June 1916

Commencement of grt. push.

 

He served with 125 Heavy Battery, who by the looks of it, came into action the day after some other batteries on the 24th.

 

Research has found the location was described as “...midway between Meaulte and Albert and close to the road connecting the two places.”
I have taken this to be possibly Map Reference: Sheet: 62D NE2 Ref: E.11.c.14

 

Regards

 

Alan.

 

 

 

 

 

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spof
21 hours ago, Perth Digger said:

I believe there was an official "Nomenclature of Battles Committee" that decided the names of the different battles. Did they decide the dates too?

 

On 25/06/2019 at 00:41, phil andrade said:

In my opinion, we’re kidding ourselves a bit....the big bombardment was surely of sufficient significance to warrant the battle’s start as of 24th June.

 

From one of the Battles Nomenclature Committee reports (TNA Ref WO32/5921)

 

IMG_0428a.JPG

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MaxD

Just an observation - the start definition seems clear enough but I wonder how the end of the period of consolidation was arrived at, seems just as "how long is a piece of string" as the preparatory phase.

 

Max

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PhilB

It seems somewhat unfair that, say, an allied artilleryman killed during the preparatory barrage is not considered to be officially a Somme battle casualty?

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phil andrade
Posted (edited)

British gunners - and infantrymen - were bound to be vulnerable as they were deployed in the forward zones prior to Z Day .

 

The Germans must have availed themselves of every chance to inflict damage, whether by counter battery fire, or direct concentration against assembling troops.

 

I’m sure there is plenty of evidence of such activity, not least in the registers of the CWGC in the final week of June, 1916.

 

editing now: I sought verification of my point that the Germans were active in retaliation through Ralph Whitehead’s The Other Side of the Wire, first volume culminating in the final days of June 1916 , north of the Somme. The briefest glance was enough.

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

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Don Regiano
23 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

British gunners - and infantrymen - were bound to be vulnerable as they were deployed in the forward zones prior to Z Day .

 

The Germans must have availed themselves of every chance to inflict damage, whether by counter battery fire, or direct concentration against assembling troops.

 

I’m sure there is plenty of evidence of such activity, not least in the registers of the CWGC in the final week of June, 1916.

 

Phil

 

Yes, one need only refer to the state of the trenches at Mansel Copse forcing the Devonshires to commence their attack from some distance back on 1 July.  I researched a soldier for a friend of my wife.  He was with 10 Lancs Fusiliers who were brought into those trenches on 23 June and were relieved on 28 June.  The soldier concerned died on 27 June and is buried at Citadel.  The war diary reports heavy shelling and MG fire.

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phil andrade

Too many men packed into the frontline : a tendency that was to cost the BEF such awful casualties.  I think that the Germans remarked on this: more than that , they turned it to account and exacted a stiff price for it.

 

Hazarding a guess, I reckon that the British in the sector of their imminent attack  suffered the better part of ten thousand casualties in the final week of June 1916.

 

The Germans did not just sit back and wait.

 

Phil

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Chris_Baker

I have a deal of sympathy for the ‘Battles Nomenclature Committee’, tasked with defining the dates, extent and names of periods of fighting. The battle on the Western Front was continuous. The battles, phases, actions etc that they defined are periods of increased activity, some greatly so, and do not have clear starts and ends. They were at least consistent in not incorporating pre-attack artillery work into a defined battle. How far do you go? Transport bringing extra ammunition so the artillery could fire that bombardment? 

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phil andrade

There’s nothing like the blowing of the whistle, is there ?

 

Phil

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MaxD

A most wise observation Chris.  I recall a documentary a couple of years ago in which a well known historian (so well known I've forgotten who it was!) who argued persuasively that the Battle of the Somme 1916 didn't finish until well into 1917 by rolling into the argument the time it took each side to recover from the totality of the major engagements.

 

Max

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Ron Clifton

It is clear that discussions between Haig and Joffre envisaged four possible "start dates" - 1 July, 15 July, 1 August, 15 August. In the conventions of the day, as adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee in the extract quoted above, the first day of an action was that designated as "Z-day", the date of the infantry assault. No-one seriously disputes that "D-day" was 6 June 1944, but it is only a convention, for convenience, when all is said and done.

 

Ron

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phil andrade
50 minutes ago, Ron Clifton said:

 a convention, for convenience

 

Ron

 

 

Do you mind if I borrow that phrase, Ron ?   It really works !

 

Phil

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Ron Clifton

By all means, Phil!

 

Ron

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