Battle of Somme July 1st 1916 – November 1916 Passchendaele The Battle of Somme is one of the most bloodiest battles—which resulted into the death of 1 million allied troops! Most of the casualties were caused by the machine gum. A weapon General Haig (commander of British and Canadian forces at Somme) said it was over rated. This battle was so horrific that the Germans nick named the battle (the blood bath)! Haig attempted to attack the Germans by bombarding them relentlessly for a week with shells. Following up this massive display of artillery would be twenty-two British and French divisions, passing through the barriers and occupying the trenches filled with stunned German soldiers so that his divisions could head off into the open! The Germans were well prepared for this attended attack. They built trenches with extensive trench lines and deep shell proof bunkers. British intelligence had underestimated the power of the German defenses… By noon on the first day of the battle the British had experienced 60,000 causalities. The NFL Regiment “went over the top” in the third wave that day with 801 men. At role call the next day only 63 remained the rest had been killed or wounded. The Canadians entered the battle near the village of Courcelette. An interesting fact: Canadian soldiers gained a reputation for their bravery and skills. The Canadian soldiers were known as the “storm troops” after this battle. It was also at the Somme where the British used the tank for the first time. When the slaughter ended in November 1916 Haig, the man many soldier’s blamed for the slaughter, was promoted to Field-Marshall. After 141 days of constant fighting the allies had only advanced 11 kilometers. The big push had been a failure and both sides were exhausted. Walking across “no mans land” was a huge mistake— the allies were completely slaughtered! Lloyd George called the battle of the Somme: ‘The most gigantic, tenacious, grim, futile and bloody fight ever waged in the history or war’. In August 1917, while the Canadians had been fighting at Hill 70, Douglas Haig had committed the British Army to capturing the city of Passchendaele in Belgium. Most of the battle field was below sea level. Heavy shelling destroyed drainage ditches and unseasonable heavy rains quickly turned the battlefield into the sea of mud. It was during this battle that the Germans introduced “mustard gas”! One of the most lethal of all the poisonous gases used during the war! Mustard gas was odorless and took twelve hours to take effect. Once in the soil, mustard gas remained active for several weeks. The skin of victims blistering the guys became sore and vomiting occurred. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding. At Passchendaele the Germans occupied the high ground where they constructed a series of concrete machine guns. Such machine guns were called: “pill boxes”. It was extremely painful and most soldiers had to be strapped to their beds. It took four to five weeks to die of mustard gas poisoning. As British casualties continued to mount, Haig turned to Currie and the Canadians to save the situation. In October the Canadians moved into the mud filled trenches. The mud was so thick in some places on the battle field that men and tanks would often simply disappear. Rather than a massive assault Currie’s plan called for a series of smaller attacks that were designed to make achievable gains. After each attack Canadians would rest for days and then the next wave would advance… By mid November the Canadians had been successful taking over the Passchendaele Ridge! The Canadians saved the day! However, the victory had been costly— more then 16,000 had been killed or wounded. Another pointless battle! The Germans successfully reoccupied Passchendaele! The words of John McCrae, a soldier, doctor and poet, are called to mind every year on 11 November. It was his poem, In Flanders Fields, that was the inspiration for the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.