24/6/1916 The Somme guns start firing

For months now the Allies have been preparing to attack the Germans in the Somme valley. Originally this was to be a mainly French affair, with the British supporting, but the Verdun meat-grinder has forced the French to reduce their commitment. The Somme will be an almost entirely British affair, with the French offering only a few divisions to assist their ally.

The British have massed an astonishing quantity of artillery pieces in front of the German Somme positions. Today the guns begin to fire. The British shells target not the German trenches but the barbed wire obstacles in front of them. The guns are to clear the wire so that British troops can move forward. Only in coming days will the shelling lift to hit the enemy trenches.

To make sure the guns have enough time to do the job, the infantry will not attack the enemy until the 29th of June. Such a long bombardment means that any element of surprise will be lost: the Germans will know that the barrage is preparation for an offensive. But the British guns should so devastate the German positions that it will not matter if they know an assault is coming.

image source:

British guns (6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, on the Somme)

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