The Battle of the Somme commenced on 1st July 1916 and continued through the Summer and Autumn, finally petering out in November 1916. During that time an estimated 623,907 Allied (British, French and Dominion) troops were either killed, wounded, prisoners or missing. The Germans lost roughly 680,000 men.
The Somme is commonly perceived as being the stereotypical First World War battle, with seemingly battalion after battalion being wastefully thrown at an impenetrable enemy front line. The truth, as always, is more complicated than this viewpoint however. On the Somme the British and Dominion armies learnt how to fight the Germans successfully, which would pay dividends later on in the war. Nevertheless, ask any member of the public who lost a relative in the First World War and they will inevitably say they were killed on the first day of the Somme. There were 57,000 British casualties on the 1st July, of which 19,000 were killed. The Battlefield itself holds a special place in the hearts of the British people and on these tours we will explore the reasons why.
For 2016, the anniversary year of the 1916 Battles of the Somme, we are offering two different tours to the Somme:
The Somme Pals Tour
The Somme Pals Tour focusses on the 1st July 1916 and the attacks made by the Pals battalions. This tour concentrates specifically on the contribution of towns and cities from the North of the United Kingdom and also Ireland. This tour is unashamedly about the Pals Battalions of Kitchener’s New Army, but also tells the story of the battle overall.
For this tour Battleground Tours have teamed up with the author Tim Lynch who has a particular interest in the Pals Battalions, especially from the Yorkshire area. Nigel and Tim will lead this tour together and it promises to be a fascinating exploration of the men and their motivations for joining up to fight for Kitchener and King.
The Somme 1916 tour
This tour tells the story of the battle from the 1st July right through to November and the wider context of involvement from Britain and the Dominions. The focus of this tour will not be focussed specifically on the first day of the battle, but will include the stories of some of the battalions who fought and died on that fateful day.
For both tours our journey takes us to the scenes of the battles of the first day, 1st July, to understand the motivations and actions of the Pals battalions and to witness the massive Lochnagar Crater, gouged out of the German front line and still an awe inspiring spectacle nearly one hundred years later. We also visit the South of the battlefield, where 1st July was actually a success but is now largely forgotten, washed away by conventional myths and stories. We consider the situation of the underage soldier in the First World War, and follow the plight of one such boy on the Somme, visiting his graveside – one of the youngest killed in the British Army on 1st July. We will also consider contemporary discipline in the British Army, by telling the story of one man shot at dawn, and visiting his graveside. Notable landmarks on our journey include the Ulster tower, next to the site of the Schwaben Redoubt, one of the most imposing German strongholds on the Somme, which was taken by the men from Northern Ireland on 1st July. We will visit the preserved trenches at Newfoundland Park where the fledgling nation of Newfoundland gave so many of its young men, and reflect upon the task they faced on 1st July. We also consider how the area was finally taken on 13th November, and what the army did differently to achieve their objectives that day.
In the Somme 1916 tour we spend quite some time at Pozieres. This is a place that is etched on the hearts of all Australians and we visit the Australian memorial to consider the task that faced their forces as they pushed forwards against a resolute and determined German defence. The visit also includes Delville Wood, and the South African War Memorial. This wood was the scene of bitter fighting as the battle moved on over the Summer, particulary for the South African forces. It is now preserved by the nation of South Africa to remember its war dead.
Finally, no visit to the Somme would be complete without seeing the Thiepval memorial, listing the names of 73,000 men who have no known grave on the Somme. This memorial is so vast that nobody can fail to be provoked into thought about the war and its impact upon a generation.
With our Somme battlefield tours, you will learn about the First World War, and the many different aspects to the battle. At Battleground Tours we want to show these to you, to understand why and how it was fought, and its context in the overall history of the First World War. Click here to book your tour of the Somme today.