2/7/1916 The Somme: counting the cost, planning the next steps

The full scale of yesterday’s disaster on the Somme is gradually becoming apparent to the British commanders. The senior commanders are facing an ever-increasing casualty list as the numbers of the dead and injured are being tallied. At this point Haig is still under the impression that British casualties amount to some 30,000: an enormous number, but half the real figure.

Britain’s Western Front commander is relatively unconcerned by the numbers of dead and wounded. To him, 30,000 casualties represents a heavy loss, but even if the real figure is higher he confides to his diary that it “cannot be considered severe in view of the numbers engaged”. Rawlinson is the local commander at the Somme. He too displays a remarkable sang-froid, noting that there are plenty more men to send forward to replace the fallen.

At the Somme itself the killing today does not match the intensity of yesterday. The French make further gains. The British face counter-attacks from German troops seeking to recover lost ground.

British commanders now need to decide how to continue with the battle. Rawlinson favours further attacks along the whole front, but Haig is becoming more interested in reinforcing the southern sector, scene of yesterday’s relative successes. Perhaps pressure there could yield the great breakthrough that haunts his thoughts.

image sources:

Haig at his headquarters (BBC Schools)

map (GCSE Modern World History)

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