This July 1 marks the 98th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. This battle, estimated to be the second bloodiest in World War I, lasted for five months.
The British suffered from almost 60,000 casualties on the first day of the battle. Of those, almost 20,000 soldiers died alongside 7,000 French and 8,000 German soldiers. Sixty per cent of British officers involved in the first day of fighting were killed.
Despite appalling losses, the battle produced minimal gains for either side. The remainder of the battle quickly devolved into trench warfare, and upwards of 1,000,000 soldiers were killed or wounded.
Below, we have pulled archival images from the archives that show the terror of a battle that started 98 years ago today.
British soldiers stand near their machine guns at the Somme front in 1916.
Battle lines along the Somme front quickly hardened into fortified trenches.
The area between the trenches quickly became a no-man’s land that was destroyed by mines, falling shells, and other forms of artillery.
Here, British troops rush through a chemical attack while attempting to cross through no-man’s land.
Despite the use of modern weapons, World War I continued to be fought using tactics that belonged to an earlier age of warfare. Here, Indian cavalry fighting for the British celebrate after a charge.
Heavy losses meant that manpower was in short supply. German prisoners transport a wounded British soldier in this photo.
Here, soldiers cross the river Ancre in an attempted assault on an entrenched position.
As the battle devolved into pitched trench warfare, soldiers would wait until a signal and then cross into no-man’s land in order to storm enemy positions. Here, British soldiers leave their trench.
Soldiers did have some down time during the conflict, though.
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