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The Battle of Somme

The battle of the Somme started in 1st July 1916 and ended in the 18th of November 1916 in the Somme department, France on both banks of river Somme. It is the most dramatic battle conducted during the First World War. To many people the Battle of Somme symbolized the horrors of First World War horrors. The battle involved an offensive by the French and British armies fighting against the German army. This paper will discuss the battle of Somme into detail, explaining the circumstances that led to the fight between Germans and British, the technology used by both the victims and villains. The paper will also discuss who won the battle and the reasons they won, as well as discuss a leading European power involve in the fight.

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During the First World War, 1914 to 1918, many people died, and more nations drew into fighting than it was in any year before. One of the major causes of the war is the rivalry between the main European powers of the time; namely Britain, Germany and France. For instance, the British concern was Germany’s increasing military power and threat to both its stability in Europe and to Britain’s trade and colonial interests around the world. There also existed a long-standing rivalry between Germany and France over the territory of Alsace-Lorraine. In the East, Russia and Austria-Hungary competed for influence in the Balkans. These rivalries later formalized in treaties across the continent: an alliance between Russia and France, an ‘entente’ between France and Britain and an alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany (Storey 91).

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At the beginning of the First World War, Germany had invaded Belgium and France managing to come within a distance of 46 miles from Paris. The French Army with the help of the British army repulsed the Germans at the First Battle of the Marne and managed to stop their march towards Paris. The Germans retreated towards the Aisne River; but still managed to occupy a considerable territory of France, establishing what was to become a static western front for the next three years. On February 21st 1916, the French army attacked the German army at Verdun.

The German responded inflicting severe losses on the French army henceforth. France and Britain engineered the battle of Somme to relieve the French army at Verdun. They managed this by attacking opening another battle front at Somme so that the Germans would be forced to move some personnel from Verdun battlefields to Somme. The other objective was to inflict as heavy losses as possible upon the German army. The battle involved the British and French launching an attack against the Germans simultaneously. The British’ plan was to attack a 30km stretch of trenches that the Germans most heavily guarded in the whole of the Western front. This would in turn break the German lines and rupture their attack front. The battle was a plan of British and French operation, with the original idea coming from, Chief Joseph Joffre, the commander in chief, as accepted by Sir Douglas Hiag, the general (Duffy 2).

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During the war, different weapons were used. Notably it is during this war that the tanks, the first time this technology was used in a battle. This surprised the Germans though the tanks experienced enormous mechanical problems and were bogged down in the treacherous terrains. Out of the forty eight tanks used on September 15th 1916, only four made it to follow the British troops the way forward to the Germans’ trenches. The British rained down shell fire on Germans ten days before the attack. A very large number of highly explosive shells led to the killing of a lot of Germans and cut through the barbed wire protection (King 419). There were 19 divisions of the British troops, accompanied by the aid of five French divisions form the south, during the attack. They began to advance across the No Man’s Land. However, the results from the shellfire were disappointing. In the better part of the line, the German soldiers would wait until the fire stopped, climb from their deep dug outs and engage the attackers. Guns were also extensively employed in the war. The Germans in particular had machine guns that were more advanced than the guns the British and French possessed. Their guns could fire a longer distance, at a faster rate and with increased accuracy compared to those of the French and British armies.

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As the battle began, the Germans were ready to defend their ground. They had reports of the impending attack. They, therefore, dug trenches to fortify themselves. During the first day of battle, the inexperienced British army suffered a serious loss in the hands of the Germans. While the French were able to achieve their targets for day one, the British did not. The British army underestimated the Germans. As a result, the army had a casualty of about 60000 with 20000 dead in one day alone.Within the five months of fighting, the allied forces were able to advance eleven kilometers. The French had only 195,000 casualties while the British forces experienced 420,000 casualties. The German figure of casualties estimates to range from 450,000 to 680,000.

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Though the allies, that is, France and Britain are credited for having won the battle, it is subject to debate. This is because of the number of casualties incurred. The Allied troops advanced eight kilometers only and for every mile advanced against the enemy; 80000 troops were killed. This is attributed to a flowed plan by the Allied Generals, lack of concentration in the artillery bombardment, poor quality ammunition and the fact that the Germans were aware in advance of the impending attack.

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