7 shocking Somme facts every historian should know


15 June 2016
Thiepval_Memorial_to_the_missing-82569.jpg By Chris Hartford from London, UK (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
We've all heard of the horrors of the Somme - but do you know these facts?

We all know of the tragedy and the horrendous fact that 57,470 British soldiers were injured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, 19,240 of whom died. This battle was Britain’s bloodiest battle in history and the other facts and figures surrounding it are equally vast. This was a conflict that affected a million soldiers on the Allied side, not to mention their families and friends, or the German forces too.

Here are seven shocking facts that help to illustrate just how enormous this battle was:

  1. More than one and a half million rounds of shells (1,700,000) were fired by the Allies in the week before the battle began.
  2. The Lochnagar Crater is 91 metres wide and 21 metres deep, and it was made when tunnellers of the Royal Engineers laid a vast mine under the German fortifications at the Somme. It was reported that the explosion could be heard 196 miles away in London.
  3. The First Somme Offensive lasted for 141 days, July to November 1916.
  4. Over this period 420,000 Allied servicemen were killed in action or wounded.
  5. The length of the Front at the Somme was about 14 miles. The entire Western Front measured (at its longest) 440 miles.
  6. 50,000 unknown soldiers are buried in cemeteries in the Somme area (they died 1914-1918, not just during the First Somme Offensive). There are tens of thousands of further soldiers named on memorials whose bodies were never found and have no known grave.
  7. These are just a few brief figures and any research into the Battle of the Somme brings forth further unimaginable facts about the conflict that many of our ancestors fought in.

Don't miss our expert guide 'How to research your ancestor at the Somme' in the July issue of Family Tree, on sale 8 June-5 July 2016. Download the issue now or subscribe and save.

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