Overview

In the long history of the British Army, the Battle of the Somme was its bloodiest encounter. Between July 1 and mid-November 1916, 432,000 of its soldiers became casualties--about 3,600 for every day of battle. German casualties were far fewer despite British superiority in the air and in lethal artillery.

What went wrong for the British, and who was responsible? Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have examined the entire public archive on the Battle of the Somme to reconstruct the ...

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The Somme

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Overview

In the long history of the British Army, the Battle of the Somme was its bloodiest encounter. Between July 1 and mid-November 1916, 432,000 of its soldiers became casualties--about 3,600 for every day of battle. German casualties were far fewer despite British superiority in the air and in lethal artillery.

What went wrong for the British, and who was responsible? Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have examined the entire public archive on the Battle of the Somme to reconstruct the day-by-day course of the war. The result is the most precise and authentic account of the campaign on record and a book that challenges almost every received view of the battle. The colossal rate of infantry casualties in fact resulted from inadequate fire support; responsibility for tactical mistakes actually belonged to the High Command and the civilian War Committee. Field-Marshall Haig, the records show, was repeatedly deficient in strategy, tactics, command, and organization. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died for a cause that lacked both a coherent military plan and responsible political leadership. Prior and Wilson decisively change our understanding of the history of the Western Front.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Battle of the Somme (1916) epitomizes the immensity of World War I battlefield slaughter. Australian military historians Prior (Sch. of Humanities & Social Sciences, Univ. of New South Wales) and Wilson (history, Sch. of History & Politics, Univ. of Adelaide) provide a day-by-day account of the politics, strategy, and command structure that made this particular debacle possible. They begin by demonstrating the role of civilian leadership in pushing for a great Western offensive, then move on to the planning and operational history of the battle, in the process revealing the fault lines in the British Expeditionary Force's command structure. This book revises the traditional account of British troops being ordered to march shoulder to shoulder to their doom on July 1, replacing it with a picture of poor tactical coherence among the British commanders and faulty battle preparations that left German defenses intact on the day of attack. Fundamentally, the authors posit, the type of offensive tactics the British employed did not really matter; it was the state of enemy defenses that determined the casualties. The failure to destroy German barbed wire, machine gun posts, and artillery concentrations ensured that dozens of army units were decimated prior to reaching the frontlines. Revisionist history at its best; recommended for all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“A major addition to the literature on the military history of the Great War.”—Jay Winter

“These two distinguished Australian military historians have taken a battle layered with controversy, emotional responses, and populist myth and calmly reinterpreted the evidence from scratch.”—Society for Army Historical Research, review of Passchendaele

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300143010
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Robin Prior is head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, Canberra. Trevor Wilson is professor emeritus of history at the University of Adelaide. Together they have written Command in the Western Front and Passchendaele: The Untold Story.
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