The Battles of the Somme 1916

1 July - 18 November 1916

The political and strategic background to the Somme

The tactical planning of the opening of the offensive

The logistical preparations necessary before the Somme

The artillery bombardment before the Somme

Phase: the Battle of Albert, 1 - 13 July 1916

In this opening phase, the British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive complexes on the Somme. Success on the first day in the area between Montauban and Mametz led to a redirection of effort to that area, for the initial attack was defeated with huge losses north of Mametz. There was a stiff fight for Trones Wood and costly, hastily planned and piecemeal attacks that eventually took La Boisselle, Contalmaison and Mametz Wood.

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
8th Division
12th (Eastern) Division
19th (Western) Division, which captured La Boisselle on 4 July
23rd Division, which captured Contalmaison on 9 July
34th Division.
VIII Corps (Hunter-Weston) (transferred to Reserve Army on 4 July)
4th Division
29th Division
31st Division
48th (South Midland) Division.
X Corps (Morland) (transferred to Reserve Army on 4 July)
12th (Eastern) Division
25th Division
32nd Division
36th (Ulster) Division
49th (West Riding) Division.
XIII Corps (Congreve)
3rd Division
9th (Scottish) Division
18th (Eastern) Division
30th Division, which captured Montauban on 1 July
35th Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
7th Division, which captured Mametz on 1 July
17th (Northern) Division, which captured Fricourt on 2 July
21st Division
33rd Division
38th (Welsh) Division.

Reserve Army (Gough)
Took over VIII and X Corps on 4 July

Detail: the fight for Montauban and Trones Wood
Detail: the fight for Mametz

Subsidiary: the attack on the Gommecourt salient, 1 July 1916

Third Army (Allenby)
VII Corps (Snow)
37th Division
46th (North Midland) Division
56th (1st London) Division.

Phase: the Battle of Bazentin (or the Bazentin Ridge), 14 - 17 July 1916

By 13 July the British advance had taken it to a point where it was now facing the second German defensive complex. A well planned and novel night attack on 14 July took British troops through that line but they now ran into stiffening enemy defence at Guillemont, Delville Wood and Longueval, High Wood and Pozieres. Attack and counter attack ground relentlessly on as the British edged forward.

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
2nd Indian Cavalry Division
II Corps (Jacobs)
1st Division
23rd Division
34th Division.
XIII Corps (Congreve)
3rd Division, which captured Longueval
9th (Scottish) Division, which also captured Longueval on 18 July
18th (Eastern) Division, which captured Trones Wood on 14 July.
XV Corps (Watts)
7th Division
21st Division
33rd Division.

Reserve Army (Gough)
X Corps (Morland)
25th Division
32nd Division
48th (South Midland) Division, which captured Ovillers on 16 July
49th (West Riding) Division.

Subsidiary: the attack at Fromelles, 19 July 1916

The untried 5th Australian and 61st (2nd South Midland) Divisions were launched into an ill-planned subsidiary attack in Flanders. It achieved nothing and cost thousands of casualties.

First Army (Monro)
XI Corps (Haking)
61st (2nd South Midland) Division
5th Australian Division.

Article: was the Australian Official History more truthful than the British? An essay on Fromelles by Chris Baker

Subsequent: the attacks on High Wood, 20 - 25 July 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
XIII Corps (Congreve)
19th (Western) Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
5th Division
7th Division
33rd Division
51st (Highland) Division.

Phase: the Battle of Delville Wood, 15 July - 3 September 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
XIII Corps (Congreve) (relieved by XIV Corps at night 16-17 August)
2nd Division
3rd Division
9th (Scottish) Division
24th Division
53rd Brigade of 18th (Eastern) Division.
XIV Corps (Cavan) (relieved XIII Corps at night 16-17 August)
20th (Light) Division
24th Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
7th Division
14th (Light) Division.

Phase: the Battle of Pozieres, 23 July - 3 September 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
15th (Scottish) Division
19th (Western) Division
23rd Division
34th Division.

Reserve Army (Gough)
Note: all below except 49th (West Riding) Division took part in fighting for Mouquet Farm
II Corps (Jacobs)
12th (Eastern) Division
25th Division
48th (South Midland) Division
49th (West Riding) Division.
I ANZAC Corps (Birdwood)
1st Australian Division
2nd Australian Division
4th Australian Division.

Phase: the Battle of Guillemont, 3 - 6 September 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
XIV Corps (Cavan)
5th Division
16th (Irish) Division
20th (Light) Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
7th Division
24th Division
55th (West Lancashire) Division.

Phase: the Battle of Ginchy, 9 September 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
XIV Corps (Cavan)
16th (Irish) Division
56th (1st London) Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
55th (West Lancashire) Division.

Phase: the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15 - 22 September 1916

A renewal of the offensive finally broke through the area that had proved to be so difficult since 14 July. using a small number of tanks for the first time in history, the British Army finally captured High Wood and pressed on through Flers and up the Bapaume road to Courcelette .

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
1st Cavalry Division
2nd Indian Cavalry Division
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
15th (Scottish) Division, which captured Martinpuich
23rd Division
47th (2nd London) Division
50th (Northumbrian) Division
103rd Brigade of 34th Division.
XIV Corps (Cavan)
Guards Division
5th Division
6th Division
20th (Light) Division
56th (1st London) Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
14th (Light) Division
21st Division
41st Division
55th (West Lancashire) Division
New Zealand Division.

Reserve Army (Gough)
II Corps (Jacobs)
11th (Northern) Division
49th (West Riding) Division.
Canadian Corps (Byng)
1st Canadian Division
2nd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division.

Tanks

Phase: the Battle of Morval, 25 - 28 September 1916

Having broken through the prepared lines of German defence, the British now faced a new set of challenges as it approached the slopes of the Transloy ridges. Fighting was, as before, severe but gradually the British chipped away and pushed forward. The weather began to turn autumnal, bringing rain, making the battlefield increasingly difficult and stretching men to limits of their physical endurance.

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
III Corps (Pulteney)
1st Division
23rd Division
50th (Northumbrian) Division.
XIV Corps (Cavan)
Guards Division, which captured Lesboeufs
5th Division
6th Division, which also captured Lesboeufs
20th (Light) Division
56th (1st London) Division, which captured Combles.
XV Corps (Watts)
21st Division, which captured Geudecourt
55th (West Lancashire) Division
New Zealand Division.

Phase: the Battle of Thiepval, 26 - 28 September 1916

Thiepval had been one of the strong points in the German first line that had proved so impossible for the British attack on 1 July. Now outflanked to the east, Thiepval and the heights on which it sat fell to an efficiently executed attack.

Reserve Army (Gough)
II Corps (Jacobs)
11th (Northern) Division
18th (Eastern) Division.
V Corps (Fanshawe)
39th Division.
Canadian Corps (Byng)
1st Canadian Division
2nd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division.

Phase: the Battle of Le Transloy, 1 - 18 October 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
III Corps (Pulteney)
9th (Scottish) Division
15th (Scottish) Division
23rd Division, which captured Le Sars
47th (2nd London) Division, which captured Eaucourt L'Abbaye
50th (Northumbrian) Division.
Note: all above except 50th (Northumbrian) Division took part in attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt during this Phase; 48th and 50th attacked that feature at a later date.
XIV Corps (Cavan)
Guards Division
4th Division
6th Division
20th (Light) Division
56th (1st London) Division.
XV Corps (Watts)
12th (Eastern) Division
21st Division
30th Division
41st Division
55th (West Lancashire) Division
New Zealand Division
88th Brigade of 29th Division.

Reserve Army (Gough)
Canadian Corps (Byng)
1st Canadian Division
2nd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division
4th Canadian Division.

Phase: the Battle of the Ancre Heights, 1 October - 11 November 1916

Left alone since the failure of 1 July, the slopes of the area on either side of the River Ancre were attacked once again, in foggy and wintry conditions, with Beaumont Hamel finally falling into British hands.

Reserve Army (Gough)
II Corps (Jacobs)
18th (Eastern) Division, which captured the Schwaben Redoubt
19th (Western) Division
25th Division, which captured Stuff Redoubt
39th Division (transferred from V Corps on 4 October), which also captured the Schwaben Redoubt
4th Canadian Division (transferred from Canadian Corps on 4 October).
Note: all above except 19th (Western) Division played a part in the capture of Regina Trench
V Corps (Fanshawe)
39th Division (transferred to II Corps on 4 October).
Canadian Corps (Byng) (withdrawn 17 October)
1st Canadian Division
2nd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division
4th Canadian Division (transferred to II Corps on 17 October).

Phase: the Battle of the Ancre, 13 - 18 November 1916

Fourth Army (Rawlinson)
III Corps (Pulteney)
48th (South Midland) Division.

Fifth Army (Gough) (retitled from reserve Army)
II Corps (Jacobs)
18th (Eastern) Division
19th (Western) Division
39th Division
4th Canadian Division.
V Corps (Fanshawe)
2nd Division
3rd Division
32nd Division
37th Division
51st (Highland) Division, which captured Beaumont Hamel
63rd (Royal Naval) Division.
XIII Corps (Congreve)
31st Division
120th Brigade of 40th Division.

By the end of the Somme and believing it could not face another sustained assault such as this, the German Army was preparing to make a strategic withdrawal to the prepared Hindenburg Line many miles east.