4/9/1916 The Somme: bleeding the enemy white

At the Somme the British are attacking, hoping to repeat their successes of yesterday when the village of Guillemont was first surrounded and then stormed. Guillemont is now little more than a pile of rubble but its capture had become something of an obsession for the British. Now the British are trying to evict the Germans from the village of Ginchy and the position known as High Wood. Haig has ordered Rawlinson to capture these so that they will not block the larger offensive he is planning for later in the month, when he hopes the new “tanks” will smash through the German defences.

The British are less successful today. They are staging a succession of small assaults, as opposed to the large scale assault that carried Guillemont. Progress is minimal. However, the British are inflicting considerable numbers of casualties on the enemy, partly through artillery bombardment and partly thanks to the German tendency to try and recapture lost positions no matter what the cost of doing so. In fact, the fighting is so brutal that in the last two days the German forces at the Somme have suffered casualties of some 13% of their strength. This compares to a casualty rate of 10% in the first 10 days of the battle in July.

The battle is therefore showing signs of becoming another Verdun, where each side is trying to bleed the other white. Victory may go to whoever can keep feeding the guns the longest, or to the army whose nerves are able to sustain the horror of the losses it is suffering.

image source:

German dead (National Army Museum)

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