First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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World War II

Battle of the Somme

Latest hand-picked First World War news. See also: See also 'Historical Tours', 'Living History: Reenactors', 'Battle of Ypres', 'WW1 Leaders, Generals'.

Three Armies on the Somme: The First Battle of the Twentieth Century by William Philpott (book review)
The Somme gave its name to 4 battles during the First World War. The second and greatest lasted 4 months and is still a scene of national mourning. The 1916 battle, which involved 3 armies and 3 empires, "scarred the British national psyche" and is still not properly understood. William Philpott, who lectures on military history at King's College in London, argues that although these Somme battles illustrated the futility of trench warfare at a time when the tank and machine gun were introduced the tactics learned in these man-to-man struggles enabled the Allies to prevail in future wars.

Photographs, rescued from dump, reveal black British Tommy at the Somme
At first sight, there may seem to be nothing unusual about this photo, saved from a rubbish skip in France. Look, though, at the British soldier on the left. He is black: a very rare example of an image of a black "Tommy" from World War I. The picture is one of nearly 400 snaps of British soldiers on the eve of, and during, the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The photographs, all preserved on glass plates, lay forgotten in the attic of a barn 10 miles behind the Somme battlefields for 90 years. When the barn changed owners in 2007, they were tossed away. Passers-by collected a few and eventually the historical value of the plates was recognized.

New air route from Leeds to the battlefields of Somme
A new air route, which will enable people to visit the site of a WWI battlefield, is to operate from Leeds Bradford Airport. From spring 2009, Budget airline Jet2 will start flights between Leeds and Albert-Picardie (close to the Somme battlefield). The service will run twice weekly between April and June. Ian Doubtfire, Jet2 managing director, explained: "Battlefield breaks are becoming tremendously popular within the tourism industry and we anticipate the vast majority of passengers flying to Albert will be travelling there to see the sights and experience the history of key events during WWI."

The Somme - The Darkest Hour on the Western Front by Peter Hart
Many of us today see the First World War as "senseless slaughter." But Peter Hart, the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum in London, offers a different view in "The Somme." While not flinching from the horrors of trench warfare, he argues that the carnage was not senseless. In his view, attempts by Winston Churchill and other strategists to find a shortcut to winning the war were flawed. The soldiers sent to Gallipoli, Salonika and Mesopotamia would have been better employed in attacking German defenses on the Western Front - the only place where the kaiser could have been defeated.

My family's dark Somme secret, by TV historian Dan Snow
TV historian Dan Snow belongs to one of Britain's best known broadcasting families. When he began investigating the past of an ancestor, however, he was shocked to uncover an uneasy family secret. Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow was a general at the Battle of the Somme who sent thousands of men to their deaths. Dan came close to tears as he stood in the graveyards of France, pondering his great-grandfather's role in the biggest disaster in British military history. So he took the BBC's offer to take part in My Family at War, a series in which celebrities trace ancestors linked to World War I to mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice.

Forgotten Voices of the Somme by Joshua Levine, reveals sex history of Somme
The young soldier entered into the bedroom. It was the first time he had gone to a prostitute and he felt uneasy. This type of recollection from an unnamed World War I veteran is rarely revealed in the histories. It is among newly discovered accounts which bring to life a hidden history of young men who, facing death daily in the trenches, sought sexual release where they could. They came to light when historian Joshua Levine browsed the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum for his book, Forgotten Voices of the Somme. The archive contains 56,000 hours of taped interviews - and along with memories of battle, some WWI veterans were amazingly open about sex.

Film of Somme to be shown - First World War footage
Archive footage of Manchester soldiers during the Battle of the Somme is being shown at a one-off screening in the Imperial War Museum. The 80-min film features the Manchester Regiment in a seized German trench as well as Lancashire Fusiliers under heavy gunfire. Released in 1916 the film has been digitally remastered. Experts think that the footage is the earliest in existence showing soldiers being killed in battle. Screening will be set against a background of WWI collections and live music. The footage will run alongside portraits of 125 fallen soldiers and a stop-frame propaganda film made for British Home Front audiences.

Tribute to Pals killed on Somme - Coach trip to the battlefields on The Western Front
WWI historian Steve Williams, co-founder of the Chorley Pals Memorial Appeal, is preparing a coach trip to the Somme battlefield. The 5-day trip is aspiring to raise 55,000 for a bronze statue to the men from Chorley who fought as Y Company of the Accrington Pals' battalion. The tour will visit the main sites on the Somme battlefield, like the Accrington Pals' trenches facing the village of Serre, the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, and a wreath will be laid at the Chorley Pals plaque. This will be the 4th coach trip that Steve has organised to the battlefields on The Western Front, and it will leave on July 10.

Forgotten diary captures horror of the Somme in 1916
A British soldier's pocket diary of life in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme have been made public for the first time. Pte Walter Hutchinson's, 10th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, record of the battle includes an account of the first day during which 62,000 comrades died. His account gives a story of his own survival as wave after wave of soldiers went "over the top" only to be cut down by German fire. He had to scramble over the bodies of 3 soldiers he knew, lying with their heads blown apart. They had to "dig in" to trenches overnight, and they went 3 days without food while living in trenches with water up to their waists.

Battle of the Somme - Watch exclusive Great War short film
Filled with shocking scenes of soldiers cheering on their way to die in combat, it was the most watched film of its day. The soldiers behind The Battle of the Somme lived on to tell the tale. But did they tell it honestly? -- Click here to watch exclusive short film of the Great War, filmed by Geoffrey Malins in 1917. It depicts at close range the destruction of a German gun emplacement. -- What was the most popular film ever shown in Britain? The answer is probably The Battle of the Somme: made and shown in 1916, while the battle itself was still raging. A silent movie with captions it was filmed on the western front within sight and shell-range of the German guns.

Somme Mud -- A memoir of the trenches of the Western Front
Bruce Scates of the Army History Unit wrote that 20,000 Australian soldiers of the Great War are still "missing", a euphemism for the fact that their bodies "sank in the mud, withered in the sun or were simply blown to pieces." The book Somme Mud is a memoir of the trenches of the Western Front by an infantryman, Private Edward Lynch. "Fritz" might be the official enemy but the mud is a far more evil character. "We live in a world of Somme mud. We sleep in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we can't escape it, not even by dying."

Indian army: first and only cavalry charge of the Somme battle
As the Battle of the Somme is marked, the Indian army also has good reason for remembrance. Two Indian regiments took part in the first and only cavalry charge of the battle but were forced to retreat under heavy fire. "This probably reinforced the increasing realisation among British generals that cavalry charges using horses were a thing of the past," says Imperial War Museum historian Nigel Steel. The cavalry charge on 14 July was conducted by two regiments, the 20th Deccan Horse and the British Seventh Dragoon Guards, who were supported by another Indian regiment, the 34th Poona Horse.

Battle of the Somme - Storming toward the German trenches   (Article no longer available from the original source)
On July 1, 1916 at 7:30 am, tens of thousands of soldiers stormed toward the German trenches in northern France. The charge, along a 25-mile front, was intended as a quick push. It ended up lasting over four months and killing more than 320,000 soldiers. The army brass under Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig was convinced that a week of intensive artillery bombardment would destroy the German positions. They miscalculated badly: The German trenches were better constructed than the British ones. Thousands of men were cut to pieces as they crossed no-man's land, walking towards the trenches, following orders. In September the first tanks saw action.

Memorial to honour Leeds Pals WW1 sacrifice
The Leeds Pals who saw 750 of their 900 members killed, wounded or captured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, are to be honoured in France. A memorial will be unveiled in the town of Bus les Artois on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the first day of the World War I battle. Members of the Great War Society, dressed in full uniform, will also travel to France for the ceremony.

World War I battlefield Somme crosses reunited in display
Three wooden crosses erected at the Somme in memory of County Durham soldiers have been reunited. In 1916 the memorials were placed on the ancient burial mound which overlooks the World War I battlefield in France. Ten years later they were given to three County Durham churches. they have been brought together at Durham Light Infantry Museum and Durham Art Gallery for exhibition called The Somme Remembered, marking the 90th anniversary of the battle including trench maps, sketches and original letters, runs until Sunday 16 July.

Man walking from London to France for the Battle of Somme
A fundraiser Ian Squire is walking from London to France to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. He will arrive on 1 July for a ceremony marking the first day of the battle in which thousands of soldiers died. The 1916 Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of World War I, with more than one million casualties. It is remembered for its first day when the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 who died.

Revisiting the Somme - 90th anniversary of devastating battle
The Somme in late May was a place of calm compared with some parts of the first world war Western Front, for example Verdun. But this apparent peace was deceptive. Preparations for a an attack against the German enemy on July 1 were well under way - 1.5m shells were being assembled and thousands of troops were training for the "big push". But the breakthrough did not happen. The first day of the Somme was to prove a disaster, leaving 20,000 British soldiers dead. More than 1.2 million would die on both sides before the battle ended. The Somme has entered history as the epitome of folly and suffering. [Links to maps, pictures and other educational sources]

Painting and drawing combat - Britain's bloodiest battle   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Amid the carnage of the Battle of the Somme, a handful of British soldiers were on a mission as new as the warfare they were witnessing: they were painting and drawing combat. An exhibition will open commemorating the 1916 battle, which claimed 310,000 lives and left more than a million wounded. The First World War battle was the first in which officially-sanctioned artists were sent by the UK to record a campaign. The Battle of the Somme brought home for the first time the full horror of mechanised warfare and the lethal power of the machine-gun. The opening day was the bloodiest in the history of the British Army, claiming 19,240 lives.

The Somme - French connection   (Article no longer available from the original source)
We are standing on a grassy rounded hill overlooking a small French village. It is a picture of bucolic peace. Yet 88 years ago, the village was in ruins, the fields were churned-up mud, scarred with trenches and strewn with barbed wire and shells. The German army commanded the ridge while below in the darkness the Australian infantry, supported by Americans who were fighting there for the first time, lay waiting. A hill at Le Hamel: Here was the scene of one of Australia's greatest military victories. The panoramic panels that surround this hilltop monument tell the story of Le Hamel, a brilliantly fought battle and a turning point in WWI.

Somme: Australia's bloodiest battle is overshadowed by Gallipoli
It was July 23, 1916, and Australian soldiers were in hand-to-hand combat in the ruins of the French village of Pozieres. It was an inferno of machine-gun fire, shouts and falling shells. Australians were throwing bombs into holes, bayoneting Germans, taking others prisoner. In just six weeks at Pozieres, Australia suffered 23,000 casualties, including 6000 to 8000 deaths. By contrast, 8500 died in the whole eight months of the Gallipoli campaign. An Australian Government website says 23,000 Australians died in the 1916 and 1918 campaigns on the Somme, half of all those who died in France.

Order welcomes Somme stamp plans
The Orange Order has welcomed plans by the Irish postal service to launch a commemorative stamp to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. An Post revealed its intention to mark one of the bloodiest battles of World War I in a letter to the Order's Grand Lodge. Both the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought in the battle between 1 July and 13 November 1916. By the end of the battle, the British suffered about 420,000 casualties, the French 195,000 and the Germans about 650,000.

A Death at the Battle of the Somme, 1916
The Battle of the Somme was one of the costliest of the WW1. At Verdun French and German troops were bogged down in a battle of attrition. The objective of the Somme offensive was to relieve the pressure on Verdun and to push the British line forward. Among the French troops waiting to assault the German trenches on July 1 was an American named Alan Seeger. He kept a diary of his experiences in the French Foreign Legion. This, along with his letters, was published in 1917. His final letter was written to a friend as he waited along with his company to be called up to join the opening attack of the Battle of the Somme.

Sacred land of Ulster's brave
The government has given the Somme Association a grant to buy Thiepval Wood in France. The site is where members of the 36th Ulster Division fought during the Battle of the Somme. So why does this land mean so much to people from Northern Ireland? Thiepval Wood is sacred land and when you walk into this small forest you quickly get a sense of what life was like in 1916. This was home to the 36th Ulster Division and in eight decades it has remained largely untouched. Grenades, unexploded shells and bodies lie buried, hidden away. The trenches are visible - dozens of them criss-cross the forest floor.

Veterans hail 'end of Somme airport'
UK war veterans have welcomed signs the French government has dropped plans to build a third Paris airport on the site of a World War battleground. The French transport minister has cancelled an order banning private construction on land chosen by the previous government for a new airport on the battlefields of the Somme. The part of the graveyard under threat from the proposal related to the 1918 spring offensive by the Germans.

Somme 1916 - A Battlefield Companion
A gripping and definitive reference for one of history's epic battles. Somme 1916, Gerald Gliddon's lavishly illustrated topographical survey of the Somme battlefield, first published in 1987 to critical acclaim, has become a classic reference for all those interested in this most horrific of First World War battles, which caused over a million casualties. Also included in Somme 1916 is a full history of the current cemeteries and memorials, thumbnail biographies of all the senior officers to fall, as well as the winners of the Victoria Cross and those who were 'shot at dawn'.

The Somme: Bloodiest offensive in the history of the British Army
The first day of the Somme offensive was the bloodiest in the history of the British Army. More than 20,000 were killed and 60,000 injured. 60% of all the officers were also killed on the first day. The offensive, which took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916, was intended as a decisive breakthrough. Instead it became a slow battle of attrition which led to more than a million casualties. After an eight-day preliminary bombardment, in which 1.7 million shells were fired at German positions, the allies attacked. But the shells were often of poor quality and failed to destroy German dugouts.

See also

'Historical Tours'

'Living History: Reenactors'

'Battle of Ypres'

'WW1 Leaders, Generals'.