The Modernization of the British Army, The Battle of the Somme, 1916

The Battle of the Somme saw horrendous loss of life and suffering on an unimaginable scale. This World War I battle is particularly seen as a symbol of the futility of war and the huge price that is paid by the people involved. On July 1 1916 the casualties were the highest of any British battle to date. Some 20,000 men were killed and 40,000 wounded on that one day alone.

The stark facts of the Battle of the Somme are difficult to comprehend. In the 141 days of the conflict the Allies advanced a mere 7 miles at the cost of many thousands of lives. Losses were on an unimaginable scale on both sides. The Allies lost 125,000 men. Almost 300,000 were injured. The German Army suffered the loss of even more men than the Allies – some put the figures as high as 680,000 dead and wounded.

These facts are shocking. However, the Battle of the Somme is also seen as a turning point in the modernization of the British Army. It was a huge price to pay, but lessons were learned. Many historians argue that the Battle of the Somme paved the way for the Allied victory in 1918.

One of the most significant changes was in the realization that training of recruits had to be improved and standardized. The push to enlist meant that one million men had joined the Allied forces by Christmas of 1914. At first the army training program was not able to deal efficiently with training such a large number of raw recruits. Training was greatly improved after the Battle of the Somme.

Following the Battle of the Somme it was also recognized that more control to make decisions should be given to the Officers on the ground rather than a centralized command. Communication was slow and a higher command did not always have the ability to make informed decisions about what action the troops should take. Officers on the ground were given more power over decisions of how to act in particular situations.

There were also many advancements in military tactics. The Battle of the Somme was the first conflict in which the technique of the “creeping barrage” was used. This innovative tactic allowed for a more efficient advancement by placing artillery fire just ahead of the infantry, rather than the simpler technique of a long artillery bombardment ahead of the advance.

Other techniques were developed which made it easier to detect the location of the enemy. These included flash spotting which was a technique which involved observing the flash of light from a gun when fired to located the position of the artillery.

The aftermath of the Battle of the Somme also saw a much more efficient organization of supply lines to the troops. Prior to that time the supply line system was disorganized and haphazard. The development of a supply line system greatly enhanced the efficiency of the troops.

Airborne reconnaissance also began to play a much larger part in gathering intelligence for the Allies. A lot of important information was gathered from airborne missions. The different branches of the forces started to communicate and work together much more effectively. The Air Force started to work closely with the artillery and infantry providing them with intelligence and air cover.

The loss of life at the Battle of the Somme can never be forgotten or its impact diminished. However, the men who sacrificed their lives and the families who lost their loved ones did not suffer in vain. The Battle of the Somme ultimately paved the way for the Allied victory in 1918. The lessons that were learned were crucial to the ending the Great War.

The First Amphibious Mission: A New Way to Wage War the Battle of Gallipoli, 1916

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In World War I the Allies had suffered a huge defeat in a naval attack on the strategically significant Ottoman port of Istanbul. Control of the port was crucial as it is at the gateway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Allies suffered a crushing blow when almost one third of their deployed naval fleet of 85 ships was destroyed.

The Allies refused to accept this humiliating defeat and immediately another attack was ordered. The tactic was different this time. An amphibious attack was planned involving 75,000 Allied troops.

Amphibious attacks were an untested military concept. The mission was in many ways doomed from the start – the Allies were given only 5 weeks to plan and execute this new form of attack. This was not long enough to plan an operation of this complexity, but it gave the Ottoman forces a great deal of time to fortify their defenses.

Another problem was one of communication. The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force of some 75,000 men was comprised of troops from many different countries. The glaring issue was that many of them didn’t speak the same language.

The Allies had limited intelligence of Turkish positions and grossly underestimated the resolve of the defenders to maintain their position. The arrogant belief was that the Turks simply didn’t have the strength or motivation to defend their territory. The Allies lacked fundamental necessities and didn’t even have an accurate map of the beaches of the proposed landings. The campaign was one of the most spectacularly inept in the history of modern warfare.

The landings were a disaster for the Allies. Due to the strong winds many of the troops landed some distance from the intended landing zones. Those that did make it onto the beach from the landing craft found it an almost impossible task to scale the incredibly steep cliffs at the landing sites.

The Gallipoli attach was launched on 25 April, but the battle waged on until January 9 1917. Disease was a huge problem – more troops were victims of disease than were killed in combat. Finally, after many months of futile losses, the Allies were ordered to withdraw.

It is thought that 56,000 Allied troops died in battle in the Gallipoli campaign. Almost 200,000 were injured or shipped out of the battle field as a result of illness and disease. Losses on the Turkish side were also very heavy – 86,000 perished in the battle.

In between World War I and World War II the popular belief was that amphibious landings simply could not be successful. However, it soon became clear that in order for the Allies to make advances in World War II they had to consider an amphibious campaign. This was most successfully carried out in the D-Day landings on June 6 1944. The study of the Battle of Gallipoli was an integral part of the planning of the landings in Normandy. The failure of the Gallipoli amphibious landings taught the World a huge lesson.

Joining Forces to End the Great War, D-Day, 1944

D-Day was one of the most significant days in World History. June 6th 1944 saw one of the most carefully planned and executed acts of Allied cooperation ever experienced. It marked a huge step forward in bringing the conflict of World War II to an end, and it saw significant cooperation and planning between the Allied Forces.

The numbers are huge. More than 5,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches on 6th June 1944. By the time that the invasion had finished it is estimated that 875,000 troops had landed on the shores of Northern France. It marked a significant turning point in World War II and paved the way to the end of the conflict. The action was not without significant sacrifice. It is confirmed that 4414 men of the combined Allied forces lost their lives on D-Day.

D-Day was a true example of the Allies joining forces in the common aim of ending World War II. The Allied forces consisted of troops from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Greece, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Norway, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Poland.

There were 5 beaches involved in the Normandy landings and they were all given code names. The American beaches were Omaha and Utah, the others were Gold Beach, Sword and Juno.

Plans for the Normandy landings began in 1943. It required large scale planning of meticulous detail. The weather conditions on June 6th were not idea, but it was decided that it had to go ahead on that day. The weather, tide and the full moon had to be aligned for the attack to have the maximum chance of success.

The first stage of the attack was the air bombardment which began just after midnight. By this stage of the War, the German air force was heavily depleted. The British and the Americans deployed 2,200 aircraft whilst the Germans only had 570 aircraft in Normandy, and only an additional 964 in the rest of Germany. Weather conditions were bad, and bombers were afraid of hitting their own troops, so the air deployment was not as successful as it had been hoped.

The next stage was the minesweepers. The Germans had been anticipating an attack and had heavily fortified the coastal areas, particularly around Northern France. The minesweepers mission was successful and they were able to finish at sunrise without encountering German opposition.

The American beaches of Omaha and Utah were the first to be attacked at 6.30 am. Ahead of this the naval bombardment stated at 5.45, when it was still dark.

The amphibious craft were extremely vulnerable to attack, and as soon as the troops stepped on the beach the dangers multiplied.

The Utah Beach landings were the first to be ordered, and they were a great success. 21,000 troops landed with 197 casualties. This was partly as the weather had made them drift off target – that was unexpected, but fortuitous.

At Point du Hoc 135 men of the Allied forces were killed, Gold Beach 1,000, Juno Beach 961, Sword Beach more than 1,000 were lost.

Omaha Beach was a different story. Strong winds forced the craft off target, and many of the troops had to wade through the water to reach the land. There were 2,000 causalities on this very heavily defended beach. Around 600 mean were able to reach the higher ground.

D-Day was a hugely significant turning point in the battle for the Allies to bring about the end of World War II. The meticulous planning and execution of the mission was the beginning of the end of the War in Europe.