20/7/1916 The Somme: Britain and France go their own way

It is easy to think of the Somme as being an entirely British show, but it would be wrong. The battle was initially conceived as a joint Anglo-French battle, with the French playing the leading role. The demands of Verdun have obliged the French to reduce their contribution to the battle, so that now the main role is being played by the British. But the French are still here and have had more successes in the fighting than their ally, largely thanks to their better artillery and more realistic goals.

Since the first day of the battle the French have continued with their own assaults on the Germans, nibbling away at the enemy lines. Their attacks are mostly uncoordinated with those of the British. There is no unified command for the Allies at the Somme (or over the whole of the Western Front), so each ally attacks when they like, sometimes bothering to tell the other in advance and sometimes not.

Today there was meant to have been a rare simultaneous attack by both Allied armies, but yesterday Rawlinson revealed to Foch, the French commander, that his men would not be ready in time. Foch decides to attack anyway, but his troops do not make any great progress. Now he proposes a new joint attack on the 23rd. Rawlinson accepts and begins to prepare for a new assault on Delville Wood and the village of Longueval.

image source:

French artillerymen at the Somme (France 24)

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