9/10/1916 Pointless Somme assaults continue

Haig remains convinced that the Germans are about to crack, delivering him a victory that will greatly hasten the war’s end. So the British continue to attack at the Somme. The strain of the battle is telling on the enemy, but the Germans are still hanging on. Their dogged resistance and British failures of artillery and command, together with the mud of autumn, are making it hard for the British (and their Commonwealth allies) to make any great progress. Casualties are ruinous, with many units coming close to elimination by the cumulative losses of the battle.

Some of the British commanders try to deflect blame from themselves by suggesting that the failure to make more progress results from a lack of pluck on the part of the assault troops. In a conversation with Haig, Gough blames the failure of an attack yesterday by Canadian troops he commands on a lack of resolve on their part. He claims that many of them never even left their own trenches, ignoring the fact that many were unable to advance thanks to freshly laid German barbed wire.

Still, it is not all failure for the British. After nearly two weeks of brutal fighting, they have finally managed to secure the Stuff Redoubt, a German fortified position. But any progress made shows the pointless nature of the fighting at the Somme. In many places the British by now have overrun all of the original defensive positions with which the Germans started the battle. However, whenever they do so, they find that the Germans have built more trenches beyond them. Unlike the German assaults at Verdun, the British at the Somme have no vital target to aim for. Any advance just brings them to face more enemy defensive positions. Haig’s hopes of a breakthrough are illusory: the Germans can always dig more trenches faster than the British can advance.

image source:

Canadian troops at the Somme (Legion Magazine)

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