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A major new history of the most infamous battle of the First World War, as described by the men who fought it.
On 1 July 1916, Douglas Haig’s army launched the ‘Big Push’ that was supposed finally to bring an end to the stalemate on the Western Front. What happened next was a human catastrophe: scrambling over the top into the face of the German machine guns and artillery fire, almost 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed that day alone, and twice as many wounded – the greatest loss in a single day ever sustained by the British Army. The battle did not stop there, however. It dragged on for another 4 months, leaving the battlefield strewn with literally hundreds of thousands of bodies.
The Somme has remained a byword for the futility of war ever since. In this major new history, Peter Hart describes how the battle looked from the point of view of those who fought it. Using never-before-seen eyewitness testimonies, he shows us this epic conflict from all angles. We see what it was like to crawl across No Man’s Land in the face of the German guns, what it was like for those who stayed behind in the trenches – the padres, the artillerymen, the doctors. We also see what the battle looked like from the air, as the RFC battled to keep control of the skies above the battlefield. All this is put in the context of the background to the battle, and Haig’s overall strategy for the Western Front, making this the most comprehensive history of the battle since Lyn MacDonald’s bestselling work over 20 years ago.