Battles of the Somme: Introduction
The Great War Arrives in Picardy
By 22 September 1914, following the First Battle of the Marne (6–12 September 1914) and the First Battle of the Aisne (12–21 September 1914), the French and German armies began fighting a series of battles side-stepping one another through northern France in an attempt to outflank the other. These outflanking manoeuvres would take them in a north-westerly direction from the Aisne region towards the French coast. This period of fighting became known as “The Race to the Sea”. When the fighting of the First World War arrived in the Somme and Picardy region in September 1914 the British Expeditionary Force was not involved in the first battles of the Somme at that time.
Somme Battles 1914
- First Battle of Picardy
The fighting of the First World War arrived in the sector north and south of the River Somme in late September 1914. The French Army held a defensive line and the German Army “dug in”, establishing a strong line of defence incorporating vantage points on high ground, large mined bunkers in the chalky soil, and villages as strong points.
- First Battle of Albert
- Battle of Hébuterne (la bataille d'Hébuterne)
A diversionary attack by regiments of the French Second Army on La Toutvent Farm, between Hebuterne and Serre villages. The Germans had had heavily fortified the farm in their Front Line over the winter of 1914 and spring of 1915.
Somme Battles 1916
- Battles of the Somme 1916
A large-scale Allied offensive was launched on 1 July against the German Front Line astride the Somme River; the British Army attacked north of the river, the French Army attacked south of the river. The battles lasted for a gruelling four months and were carried out in several phases with many thousands of casualties on both sides of the wire.
Somme Battles 1918
- First Battles of the Somme 1918
The German Army launched a major offensive against the Allied Front Line on 21 March 1918. After a successful advance of several miles into Allied-held territory the German attackers became exhausted after several days without relief, they were experiencing difficulties of supply to the forward lines and German Supreme Command terminated the offensive on 5 April.
- Battle of Le Hamel 1918
A combined arms attack by the Australian Corps and American troops between Villers Bretonneux and Le Hamel.
- Second Battles of the Somme 1918
The Allied forces gradually pushed the German Army out of its defensive positions in the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line (named the Siegfriedstellung by the German Army) during the Second Battle of the Somme, beginning with the first phase as the Battle of Amiens from 8 August 1918.
There are a number of sites on the Somme battlefield to visit where battlefield remains can be seen.