Myth And Memory

The Battle of the Somme dominated 1916 and is still debated today. The heavy casualties, combined with the failure of the British Army to secure the breakthrough desired, mean the Somme campaign is often used as a symbol of the futility of war. A ‘lions led by donkeys’ idea of inept commanders leading British soldiers to the slaughter is how many people view the Somme today.

The Battle of the Somme reinforced the belief that more cooperation would be needed if the Allies were to win the war. After the Somme, it became clear to the BEF that there needed to be closer cooperation between its different branches – infantry, artillery, transport, and Royal Flying Corps. Training would need to improve to incorporate new techniques and new weapons. It also became clear that factories at home would need to provide more arms and ammunition for increasingly industrialized warfare.

While the human cost of the Battle of the Somme cannot be ignored, the operation had been a painful but useful lesson. The British Army of November 1916 was better organised and more effective than the Army of July. The mistakes the Allies made at this battle would help to refine the techniques and tactics that would eventually win them the war.