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View series: The first World War, 1914-1918

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The Battle of the Somme

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The first World War, 1914-1918.

 For General Joffre, the offensive planned for the Somme took top priority in 1916.

However, the Battle of Verdun, which had strongly mobilized the French army since February, forced a reduction in the length of the front, as initially planned.

After a preparatory artillery barrage lasting several days, the offensive was launched on 1 July on both sides of the Somme.

In the north, the first assault by the British army was a disaster. In a single day, nearly half the soldiers involved, 60,000 men, were put out of action.

In the south, the French lost fewer men and continued their march towards the Flaucourt plateau, in the direction of Peronne.

However, due to difficulties experienced by the British, this advance ran out of steam around mid‑July, while the Germans had reinforced their defences and transferred some of their men from the front at Verdun to that of the Somme.

From this point on, the battle became a war of attrition, with homicidal combats and very limited territorial gains.

During September, some progress was again made by the Franco‑British troops, but the offensive finally became bogged down in the rain and mud.

Between the beginning of July and mid‑November, the German army was been forced to retreat only a few kilometers. This was a setback for the Allies, and for Joffre, who was replaced by General Nivelle as the head of the French armies.