Somme Battlefields - History and Facts | History Hit

Somme Battlefields

Peronne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy, France

The Somme battlefields in France are a series of sites where the Battle of the Somme was fought during World War I.

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About Somme Battlefields

The Circuit of Remembrance is a route touring the Somme battlefields in France. The Battle of the Somme was an infamous First World War battle from July to November 1916, renowned for the controversial tactics employed by British forces and the exceptional number of casualties borne by the Allied forces.

Somme battlefields history

In 1916, with the Allied and German forces in France deadlocked in trenches, British commanders planned to break the stalemate by destroying the German trenches and then having the British soldiers slowly walk across no-man’s land to capture them.

This plan proved disastrous. Firstly, both the British troops and the French forces were already massively weakened by previous battles. This meant fewer French soldiers along the front line and that the remaining British soldiers were inexperienced volunteers, brought in to repopulate the depleted army.

Secondly, the plan was inextricably flawed. Not only did the extensive preparation by the British and the ongoing bombardment alert German forces to the upcoming attack, but the bombing raids and shelling barely dented the German fortifications.

Therefore, when the soldiers started making their way across France’s muddy plains to the enemy lines, the Germans were prepared. Those who managed to make their way to the German trenches were then forced to try and return, unable to scale the barbed wire.

105 years ago the battle of the Somme raged on into its second day. 60,000 British casualties we recorded on its first day and by its close in November 1916 over a million men had been killed or wounded. It is the bloodiest battle in British military history and in Germany, the battle was described as the bloody field grave of the German army. It has become a byword for futile slaughter; but is that reputation deserved? In this archive episode, Paul Reed a military historian, author and battlefield guide joins the podcast. Paul has immense knowledge of both the First and Second World Wars and guides Dan through the opening day of the battle on the 1 July and the following bloody weeks and months of conflict.
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Somme battlefields today

A forty mile route, the Circuit of Remembrance or Somme battlefields tour starts from either the town of Albert or that of Peronne, winding through numerous battle sites, memorials and museums. This Somme battlefields tour explores the individual battles as well as going through individual towns occupied by different forces with signs along the way.

Those who wish to embark on this route of Somme battlefields can download audio guides to the route for free from various sources, including from the website of the Historial de la Grande Guerre museum.

Many of the routes of the Somme battlefields are carried out by taxi and the taxi firms in the area have prepared itineraries for different routes. You can also walk the route (guided or not), do it by cart, by plane or by train, the latter route being the same as that used to carry supplies to the soldiers. The trip can take anything from half a day to a full day or more, depending on your level of interest.

Getting to Somme battlefields

The Remembrance Circuit is a blazed trail from Péronne to Albert. Visitors have a number of ways they can travel to and along the trail. One can drive to the various sites and trenches along the trail or discover the Remembrance Trail by foot with walks and hiking trails in the Haute-Somme and the Poppy Country.

There is also a Cycle Trail of Remembrance, between Arras and Amiens, which offers cyclists a bike ride combining nature and history, with a focus on the sites of remembrance of the Great War.

There is free parking at all the major sites along this trail.

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