Haig, Britain’s Western Front commander, is convinced that the morale of the Germans at the Somme has been severely shaken. It will not be long, he believes, before they break, allowing the British to smash through the German defences and advance into open country. To keep the pressure on the enemy he orders the Somme attacks to continue, despite worsening weather that is turning the battlefield into a sea of mud.
Haig is nevertheless frustrated by the slow progress his men are making. He has ordered Rawlinson, the Somme commander, to make sure attacks are properly planned and launched across wide sectors to bring as much force as possible to bear on the enemy. However, he also pushes Rawlinson to stage continuous smaller scale assaults, in order to deny the Germans any respite and bring about the long awaited collapse in their fighting spirit.
Today the British launch a medium strength assault on the Germans near the village of Transloy. Haig has his usual high hopes for the operation, with cavalry units waiting in the rear to exploit the expected breakthrough. But the attack is another failure. Bad weather has meant that the British have had trouble observing the German positions and have not been able to adequately shell them. When the men go forward they suffer terribly from German machine guns located in shell holes or at some distance behind the first line.
The only success enjoyed by the British is at Le Sars, where advancing troops manage to keep pace with a creeping barrage and reach the German positions while the defenders are still in their dug-outs. Elsewhere this is another day of failure.
Yet Haig is undaunted. Today’s attack is merely a prelude for a larger attack tomorrow by British and Canadian forces. This could at last bring about the breakthrough that will end the war.
Mud, near Transloy (Once Upon A Time In War)