26/6/1916 British and French guns batter the German Somme defences

Preparations for the Anglo-French Somme offensive are continuing. Allied guns have been firing for the last two days. Initially they were targeting the barbed wire obstacles in front of the German trenches but now they lift and begin to blast the enemy positions.

Haig, Britain’s Western Front commander, thinks of the Somme as a breakthrough battle. He hopes that in the first day British troops will smash through the German positions, clearing a way for cavalry to push on and attack distant targets. As a result British shelling is not being concentrated on the German frontline trenches: the bombardment is spread over the whole depth of the enemy trench system. The effect will unfortunately be to dissipate the efforts of the gunners over a wider area.

The British had hoped to use aircraft to observe the effects of the shelling, so that the guns could be redirected to ensure key targets were destroyed. The weather has however taken a turn for the worse. Low cloud cover means that aeroplanes are unable to see what damage is being wrought. Still, so many shells are being fired at the Germans that they surely will not be able to put up much resistance when the infantry go over the top.

image source:

British artillery (Pierre’s Photo Impressions of the Western Front)

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