In 1916, the German army still occupied Belgium and much of northeast France, and had dug themselves deep into four hundred miles of trenches stretching from the North Sea to Switzerland. The British and French armies knew that a huge effort was needed to break through the German lines. The place chosen for the great offensive was the rolling countryside of Picardy around the River Somme. The date: July 1st. The British troops rose from their front-line trenches at 7.30am on a beautiful summer’s day, after a week-long bombardment that was supposed to destroy the German barbed wire and trenches. Before the sun went down, 57,471 of them were casualties on the worst single day in the history of the British Army. Yet the story is not just a depressing one, as there were many inspiring stories of extraordinary courage too.
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