The British on the Somme 1916





...another Images of War title from Pen and Sword


Title: The British on the Somme 1916

Author: Bob Carruthers

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47383-781-2

Another addition to the Images of War series

Having visited the Somme last summer, at the time of the 100th anniversary, I did find this an excellent record of what took place there all that time ago.  It is so different from what we see there today it is quite amazing how the area has been able to recover so well.  The desolation shown in the pictures, villages like Beaumont Hamel left nothing more than a pile of rubble and not a tree left standing in view.  Go there today and the villages are back to life communities and the countryside is green once more and the trees regrown..

The battle started on the 1st July 1916 and lasted for some 141 days, having cost the allies casualties of some 600,000 men and huge numbers of horses as well.  As is pointed out in the book, during the battle the most they managed to advance was 6 kilometres, yet the next spring, without any fighting, the Germans withdrew 30km to the Hindenberg Line without any fighting.

The photos show so much of the story it will be interesting for historians, modellers, re-enactors and the battlefield visitor.  A sign of the are is the chalk soil, so when trenches were dug, the white spoil that was thrown up makes them clear on the darker colours of the countryside.  In addition there are pictures which show the extent, and vicious looking nature of the barbed wire entanglements, The depth and elaborate nature of the trenches and the dugouts.  As for the countryside itself, villages are little more than a pile of rubble, and only splintered trunks remain of any trees in sight.  Another common feature throughout the story are the pictures around the topic of artillery.  The British fired over 1.5 million rounds on the first day of the offensive, and many many more were fired by both sides for the remainder of the battle.  The vast piles of empty shell cases, let along the stacks of fresh ammunition is quite staggering to see.  By October, there are shots showing heavy artillery being manhandled in thick, heavy mud, a wonder they could manage to move the dead weight of those heavy guns in the conditions.  As for the men themselves, the desolated battleground also needed to me maintained, so manual labour in maintaining the trenches and carrying wire and stakes to repair the entanglements.  The uniforms and equipment are shown in good detail, which will be popular with modellers and re-enactors especially.  There are casualties, dressing stations, men in the front line and men more relaxed in the rear areas.  I think this is an excellent collection of pictures which illustrate this famous battle, and they are all provided with informative captions.  Another good addition to the Images of War series from author Bob Carruthers.