Why were 19,240 British soldiers killed on Day 1 of the Somme Battle?

After 7 days of bombardment, the British expected to walk across no man’s land and overrun the Germans without a fight. Instead they were mowed down in their thousands. What went wrong?


On the morning of the 1st July 1916, the British soldiers would climb up their wooden ladders, clamber over the sandbagged parapets of their trenches and then move towards the German lines. The exact instruction as regards their motion was given as walk: not run, not practice fire and movement but walk. The British High Command expected a docile German force dazed and shell-shocked after 7 days of continuous bombardment not to respond at all or if they did, not with alacrity. Amongst many others, this would become a cardinal error of this battle.

Instead, in short order, the British forces were pinned down and massacred.

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