Somme Battles, 1 July - 18 November 1916

1 - 13 July: the Battle of Albert

In the days that followed the launch of the offensive on 1 July up to 13 July the limited gains of ground captured on the first day of the battle south of the Albert-Bapaume road were progressed in the German forward areas. The following fortified villages were captured by British forces:

Battles from 14 July - 18 November

Following the tragedy of the first day of the battle on 1 July, with its heavy British losses and limited gains in captured ground, the attempt to push the Germans back from their well-defended Somme Front was continued. From this time, however, a large-scale attack with many divisions and thousands of men was not an option, following the severe loss of strength in casualties to the British Fourth Army. The British commanders were now only in a position to regroup the units still available to them and narrow their objectives to take strategic locations in the German defences one by one.

Battles continued into the following weeks as the British tried to break the German defence in a series of phased battles with limited objectives in a “bite and hold” type of operation. The names of villages and woods on the Somme battlefields have become synonymous with the desperate fighting and tragic loss of both the British and German Armies during the four and a half months of these battles: Gommecourt, Serre, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers, La Boisselle, Courcelette, Fricourt, Contalmaison, Mametz, Montauban, Bazentin, Longueval, Delville Wood, Martinpuich, High Wood, Flers, Guillemont.

The Battle of the Somme officially finally came to a close on 18 November 1916 as the weather worsened. The ground gained by the British Fourth Army by the end of the fighting of almost five months moved the British Front Line to just a few miles further north-east of its original position. Casualties of injured and dead on both sides amounted to many thousands. The dreadful irony of the situation would be that within 14 months the ground won at such great cost to the British Army in 1916 would be swept back under control of the German Army in the Spring Offensive of March and April 1918.

Virtual Battle of the Somme Exhibitions

Battle of the Somme 1916 (CWGC)

An interactive exhibition about the Battle of the Somme 1 July - 18 November 1916 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The exhibition includes descriptions for each of the 12 battles, campaign maps, Army structure and military terminology.

Website: Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme 1916 (National Army Museum)

An interactive exhibition about the Battle of the Somme 1 July - 18 November 1916 by the National Army Museum (London). The exhibition includes sections on Context, Battle, Impact and Legacy.

Website: Somme

Next >> Battles of the Somme 1918: German Spring Offensive


A Record of the Battles and Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders, 1914-1918, by Captain E A James. Originally published in 1924 by Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot. Republished in 1990 by The London Stamp Exchange Ltd.