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The “Big Push” is…On!
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THE ROAD TO WAR -
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The “Big Push” is…On!
 
Throughout Europe, the killing grounds of France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Austria, Italy and their allies ran like rivers of blood, as ferocious land battles involving tens of thousands of artillery guns pummeled thousands of infantry soldiers into the earth. Many hundreds of thousands of men stepped into no-man’s land advancing into a hurricane of deadly machine - gun fire that cut them down, like a scythe cuts corn.
 
British Soldiers waiting for the news when the “Big Push” would begin!
It finally became a complete stalemate, so the troops dug in, hacking into the rich earth that would soon be their resting place. They dug a vast trench system running from the coast of Belgium right down through France to the Swiss border which zig zagged for 450 miles across the land, deep enough to hopefully protect them from the
enemy artillery bombardment’s that was soon to come. Unknowingly for the new recruits on the front line when these ferocious artillery battles started, was to prove their testing ground in a manner that would either provide each one of them with an ultimatum…whether they would live or to die!
The French found themselves with the vast German Army occupying their land, which they found intolerable, humiliating, and offensive. The bloodthirsty battles in which the French had already fought had torn their army to shreds, by the end of 1915 alone the French casualties had already amounted to 1,900,000, of which one third had been killed.
In the month of December 1915, British General Sir Douglas Haig and Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson, with the full cooperation of General Joffre and his French Generals, discussed and planned a huge offensive, the biggest one so far during this World War, in fact it was to be a straight forward test of strength

Part of the trench system over 450 miles long!
against the Germans, a massive united effort by the two Allied armies in an endeavor to break the state of attrition and stalemate between the opposing forces.
The strategy was to attack and keep on attacking until the Germans had been ousted from France and Belgium, their plans in practice sounded viable, but soon their planning would clearly and unmistakably show it would be impossible to accomplish.
The designated place chosen for this ultimate display of force would be the “Somme”.
This ”Big Push” as it was called, was where the French and British forces joined together and stood side by side, either side of the River Somme. This would be their battleground in victory, or in death.
The British would begin their attack with fourteen divisions of infantry along an 18 mile front, and three infantry divisions would be held in reserve, and use the five cavalry divisions if a breakthrough came, while the French would begin their attack with eight divisions of infantry along an 8 mile front, accompanied by an artillery barrage.
The French Generals had great confidence in the superior power of the British artillery, which they believed would ensure a victory against the Germans, by gaining ground and by killing many of the enemy, thus preserving their own troops from the carnage of sending infantry across to fight, and face the onslaught of the menacing German machine gunners. That’s what they thought!
For it was hoped for by both British and French High Commands that with this massive display of force it would overcome the enemy by sheer strength of numbers, not only with artillery fire but of men, and give them a quick victory, thus the war would come to a swift and decisive end!
Fortunately for the Germans the trench system had been cleverly designed, the tunnels, dugouts and underground bunkers holding the troops were sunk to depths of more than 80feet/ 25mts and much deeper, and shored up with thick timber, there underground bunkers were uniquely fortified and a luxury compared to the British basic underground living conditions. This depth would without doubt give good protection to the soldiers below from the onslaught of British heavy artillery bombardments.
It became a priority to keep the High Command informed of the situation at the front, so all front line trench systems were equipped with communication systems such as telephone lines, these were installed by all the armies fighting at the front.
The wires and telephone cables necessary to operate this communication system ran the full length of the front line trench system, then mile after mile behind it to the support trenches, and back further still to the Command, and High Command posts situated many miles back from the front lines.
Hundreds of miles of cables were used to keep all the posts informed of the conditions prevailing at the front. If this failed or was decimated or cut by shellfire, then “runners” would be ordered to speed through the battle lines on foot and deliver these top priority messages.

(Top) British Soldiers taking a rest before the battle in dugouts.
(Right) British troops waiting for the signal to
“open fire”
The soldiers at the Somme were preparing for the biggest battle in history, huge artillery guns were dragged and towed by horses and trucks and placed into position, huge square slabs of wood were roped around the big wheels to stop them sinking in the mud and massive thick wooden wedges were jammed in the mud behind the wheels to give the massive gun a slower recoil as the shells hurtled out the barrels.
It was to be a frightening spectacle to witness, more so to the Germans it was hoped, when these massive bombardments finally got under-weigh.
Many were light guns 75mm and 18 pounders, but one huge heavy gun was placed, every 60 yards in the British sector, and one heavy gun to every 20 yards in the French sector.
The total amount of ordinance provided to arm these big guns was a massive, 1, 500, 000 shells, all fired within 7 days, this enormous amount of artillery and ammunition now present on the Western Front for this offensive alone, was more than had ever been seen before.
The date was set for the following year…the “Big Push” would start on 1st July 1916.
   
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