France: the bloody battle of the Somme in the bloody first world war

This video is about the Battle of the Somme.

From Socialist Worker weekly in Britain:

Slaughter at the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, which took place 90 years ago, reveals the horror of the First World War of 1914-18 and the system that created it, writes historian Neil Faulkner

On 1 July 1916, 150,000 British soldiers went “over the top” on the Western Front to attack the German trenches in the Somme region.

The front, along which British and French armies confronted the German army, stretched from Switzerland to the Channel.

For 18 months there had been a stalemate.

The German defences on the Somme were made up of consecutive lines of trenches and dug-outs, thousands of yards deep.

They were defended by riflemen, machine guns, artillery and belts of impenetrable barbed wire.

By the end of the first day, 19,000 British soldiers were dead and a further 38,000 wounded.

This was the bloodiest single day in British history.

There had been no gains at all along most of the front.

The assault waves had been so effectively scythed by machine guns and blasted by artillery that some battalions had lost three quarters of their men within minutes of leaving the trenches.

Sheltering in a shell-hole near the German wire, Corporal Ashurst looked back across no man’s land.

He said, “Hundreds of dead lay about, and wounded men were trying to crawl back to safety.

“As I lay there watching their painful efforts to get back to our line, I watched these poor fellows suddenly try to rise on their feet and then fall in a heap and lie very still. …

For 90 years, in Britain at least, the Somme has symbolised the waste of war.

Recently, however, a new generation of revisionist military historians has challenged this view. Revisionism is very much in vogue.

Revolutions are trivialised, empires are rehabilitated, wars are retrospectively justified and tarnished reputations are polished up.

Revisionist history is an academic wing of neo-liberalism – the past is being recast to conform to a Blairite vision of the world.

The revisionists argue that the standard description of British soldiers in the First World War as “lions led by donkeys” – the donkeys being the generals – is false. …

They [British World War I generals] promised great “breakthroughs”.

They predicted the enemy’s imminent “morale collapse”.

Each year was to be the last year of the war.

They dared not admit that half a million men and 1,500 guns were not enough.

Like US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq, who predicted victory on the cheap with a small specialised army, they probably deluded themselves.

They certainly had to delude others.

The awful truth about the war could not be told – lest support for it collapse.

On the battlefield itself, class snobbery crippled tactical innovation.

The generals were long service professional officers recruited, with few exceptions, from the upper classes, and trained in small scale colonial wars.

They doubted the discipline and fighting skills of the new mass army of working class volunteers.

“Neither our new formations nor the old divisions have the same discipline that obtained in our army of a year ago,” complained General Rawlinson, Haig’s commander on the Somme.

So on the battlefield they were to be kept under tight rein, denied the initiative and flexibility essential to modern infantry tactics.

“The assaulting troops must push forward at a steady pace in successive lines,” intoned Rawlinson.

Men walking in lines can be monitored and controlled – and easily shot down.

The real criticism of Haig and Rawlinson is not, however, that they were bad generals.

Had they been good generals, the casualties might have been fewer, but there would still have been slaughter, destruction and waste on a mindnumbing scale.

The real criticism is that they were leading members of a rapacious ruling class prepared to sacrifice millions in a war for empire and profit.

The battle of the Somme, by any rational assessment, was barbaric and insane.

The politicians, generals and profiteers had produced a world in which millions of soldiers were grappling with death in a blasted landscape of mud, blood and wire.

And millions of workers and peasants were having their lives torn apart by hunger, poverty and disease.

See also here.

Executions of British soldiers in World War I: here.

Horses in World War I: here.

Prostitution in World War I: here.

132 thoughts on “France: the bloody battle of the Somme in the bloody first world war

  1. Pingback: British World War I media censorship | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Wars killing people, 1914-2014 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: David Cameron re-writes World War I history for 21st century war propaganda | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: British pro-social justice campaigns during World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Nurse Edith Cavell, a real World War I heroine | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: World War I dead, Hiroshima dead and British nuclear weapons | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem commemorates World War I dead | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: World War I and poppies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. Pingback: John Berger’s new poetry book | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  10. Pingback: British artists and World War I, exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  11. Pingback: Australians against re-starting Iraq war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  12. Pingback: Wars are madness, Pope Francis says | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  13. Pingback: British Tesco killing of pied wagtail prevented | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  14. Pingback: Poem about World War I, by Attila the Stockbroker | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  15. Pingback: World War I poets on stage | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  16. Pingback: Death penalty for British World War I child soldier | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  17. Pingback: Bush´s wars cost more than Korea, Vietnam, World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  18. Pingback: World War I commemoration and folk music | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  19. Pingback: Australian government’s war propaganda for primary school children and toddlers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  20. Pingback: Ireland, World War I, and capitalism and democracy today | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  21. Pingback: World War I and British railway workers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  22. Pingback: Australian, Japanese militarists celebrate World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  23. Pingback: 1930s art and politics | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  24. Pingback: French National Front fuehrer demands more militarism | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  25. Pingback: Merchants of death’s luxury dinner in Tower of London | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  26. Pingback: Wars and London art exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  27. Pingback: World War I soldiers’ Christmas truce, new evidence | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  28. Pingback: World War I and animals, exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  29. Pingback: Dance, theatre and World War I in Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  30. Pingback: Britons against World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  31. Pingback: British feminist Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-World War I Christmas party | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  32. Pingback: World War I, the Australian government and historians | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  33. Pingback: Doctor Who, British science fiction TV history | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  34. Pingback: Greece, Dijsselbloem, austerity and World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  35. Pingback: War and art 2014-now, exhibition in England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  36. Pingback: ‘Mary Barbour, Scottish anti-World War I activist, deserves a statue’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  37. Pingback: Irish music, war and history | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  38. Pingback: New Zealanders shun governmental World War I propaganda | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  39. Pingback: German professor praises drones, poison gas | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  40. Pingback: New Zealand government abuses World War I centennial for militarist propaganda | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  41. Pingback: Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand schoolboys and World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  42. Pingback: Taiwan does not want Japanese nuclear Fukushima food | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  43. Pingback: New graphic novel about Rosa Luxemburg, interview | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  44. Pingback: French military-industrial complex selling warplanes to war zones | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  45. Pingback: George Grosz exhibition in London | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  46. Pingback: War and imperialism, 1914 till now | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  47. Pingback: World War I and poppies today | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  48. Pingback: British government attacks war graves workers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  49. Pingback: British general unconstitutionally advocates war on Syria, nuclear weapons | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  50. Pingback: British Labourite Keir Hardie, old book, new edition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.