History of the Battle of Somme

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History of the Battle of Somme

Post  RAF_C.K.Benge on Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:39 pm

The Somme Campaign or "Big Push" as it was known was fought from the end of June 1916 until the middle of November of 1916.

It was initially meant as a means of breaking the stalemate of the trenches that had gripped France and Belgium since the end of the "Race to the Sea" in October of 1914. The campaign had been in the planning stages from December of 1915. The battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos provided much of the necessary intel and staging information that lead to what would transpire on July 1st, 1916. This was the morning the artillery stopped firing and the first British and French Units made thier way out of the trenches across no man's land to German lines.

Initially the Battle was planned for August of 1916, but due to the unexpected assault by the Germans in the Verdun Sector in February. It became imperitive to relieve the French who were bleeding themselves dry along with the German Army in the Sedan Valley.

General's Haig and Rawlinson actually felt that Somme would be an easy sector due to its lack of activity for the first year and 1/2 of the war. According to much of the intelligence many of the German units who had been in the Somme had been pulled south to stop the latest regains by the French around Verdun.

What Rawlinson failed to take into account was that the troops who were now in the trenches across from them had been fortiflying thier positions, and were also very battle hardened and experienced.

Anyways before the first day was over 50,000 British soldiers would be dead or wounded. Entire villages lost all thier young men in the first 24 hrs of a battle that would rage the next 4 months and gain very little yet change the course of the whole war.

Now for the Aerial Battle over Somme.

The aerial battle over Somme, would change the face of both sides on how they approached aerial warfare. IT was the first time that Aerial operations talked of air supremacy. For example No. 24 Squadron flew 740 combat missions during the battle of Somme and accounted for some 70 kills. No. 24 Squadron represented the future of air combat for the rest of the war. It was the first squadron to be totally compromised of single seat scouts, and was definitely in its ascendency as a first rate squadron. Its future commander Captain Lanoe Hawker was currently serving with No. 6 Squadron, the ranking fighting squadron, but it was in decline as such..Equipped with Martynside G6s, FE2b160s, and Bristol Scouts it was representative of the fighter squadrons of both the French and British Airforces. A mix of single and two seaters.

The British and French Airforces in the Spring of 1916 were catching up with the Germans, in development of fighters and technology. Both the British and the French had perfected the interuptor gears. The Nieuport 16 and 17 as well as the Bristol Scout D were all equipped with the gear. Pusher planes such as the FE2b 160 and the DH 2 were turning the tide agains the Fokker Scourge. In fact before the Battle of the Somme would end, 3 early great pioneers of Aerial combat would be dead. Maxmillian Immelmann, Lanoe Hawker, and Oswald Boelcke.

Now we are at July 1916, and a great turning point is about to take place. The Brits and the French would mass thier air power and work in an attempt to annihiliate the German Air Service. British and French planes would duel it out with the best of the German Air Force. Unfortunately the German Air Service organization does not lend itself to fighting against this new strategy of the Brits and the French.

The Germans Squadrons are not arranged in the familiar Jastas we come to know. No scouts and two seaters are part of the same units. Scouts more often then not escort the bombers and reconniansance planes. Especially after the exploits of Lanoe Hawker and Jean Navarre and others who were shooting down two and three two seaters a day in 1915 and early 1916.

The German Air Service over Arras, Lille, and the Somme were overwhelmed by these new tactics of the British. Oswald Boelcke was so impressed with them that in late July he helped to reorganize the German Air Service scouts into the "Hunter Groups" JagSchwaders and Jastas we come to know.

The first of 10 of these Jastas were introduced on August 10, 1916, the men that served in them names like Richtofen, Udet, Almenroeder, and Voss would terrorize the skies of France taking what they learned in those terrrible months of June and July and vowing to never let it happen again.

So now imagine yourselves British, French, German, or Bavarian you are now at the cusp of history. YOu will either be relieving or rewriting what took place on the fateful days of July 1916
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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  RAF_C.K.Benge on Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:40 am

THe picture in the title was taken over the battlefield near Givenchy by an observation balloon


The following are some more Somme Aerial Photos.


This is probably near Thievpal notice how the line is bent, also notice how deep the German lines run



While I doubt the voracity and authenticity of this picture..It shows how the British were experimenting with close in air support of thier infantry during the Battle of the Somme. The planes appear to be AWFK 8s
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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  RAF_C.K.Benge on Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:06 am

Summary of our Reenactment in accordance with the Time Line

Well, our battle ended pretty close to how the real aerial/land campaign worked out for July of 1916. The British and French Air Forces decimated the German Air Force over the Somme region that summer. The German High Command so feared for the lives of such pilots as Oswald Boelcke they pulled him from front line service until the "new" German Air Service could be organized. Today what we call the Jadgstaffels or Jastas.

On the ground much like in 1916 we ended in a stalemate. No gains no breakthroughs only more death. 1.5 Million by November.

As far as dominance of aircraft...The DH 2 was beginning to prove itself, the Nieuport 16/17 were the killers that summer...they proved that the Halberstadt DII had been a poor choice over Albatross' new fighter.

The Summer of "Blood" also put the final nail in the coffin of the "Einie" and also for the day of the two seater was over. No more would either range the skies, without fear of the "Scout". No longer would German two seaters fly off from thier British and French predators. At the same time nor would hunter groups of FE2b 160s prowl the skies looking for other two seaters to eat.

By the winter of 1916 nearly all the first aces would be dead..Immelmann, Boelcke, and Hawker. All dead on the fields of Somme. Only French Aces Navarre,Nungusser, and Guynemer remained and the last his life would be over within a year.. This Battle produced new aces...Albert Ball , Manfred Richtofen, Werner Voss, Karl Almenroeder, Billy Bishop, Mick Mannock...all would be products of this summer.
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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  lederhosen on Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:30 am

nice analog. To bad about the poor turn out, but it proves once again that many prefer the arcade mode, pitty realy
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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  Slick on Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:23 am

Excellent write up C.K.

I will second Leder's thoughts. To me this sort of event/battle is better, hands down, than "games" like RBWL. With the more realistic flight and damage models, you have to fight your aircraft as much if not more than the enemy. The one life rule keeps people from making fool hardy mistakes. Realistic and historical missions and goals are certainly a draw to history buffs like myself and requires the leadership to employ strategy and planning more so than in any other RB event. And finally, the authentic, as much as can be, execution of the event, no map icon, no comms or chat, and filing of reports for credit, is one of the game's greatest challenges.

My thanks to the creators of FAW, the bedrock of this event, and hats off to you CK for organizing it and actually pulling it off.

S!
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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  RAC_BigBertha on Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:18 pm

S!

I'm in total agreement with Slick.
Thanks for the opportunity to fly.

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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  BH_Hptm.Schultze on Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:24 pm

Yes it was a good event, I hope Benge that you are thinking of doing more things like this in the future. (Email me when you have a chance) I didn't know the turn out was bad everywhere, I would have 3 more guys in Fa2b except both Von Hipple and Von Weyer had to work and Bzzz has been out for past 2 or 3 months trying to recover from a stroke that he has suffered from. I'm sure he would appreciate a prayer or just a thought from you folks to help him get his life and his flying back to normal again.

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Re: History of the Battle of Somme

Post  RAF_C.K.Benge on Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:55 am

Yeah it was a bit disappoininting on the turn out...We did have 30+ different pilots over the 2 days...I suspect there was a lot of behind the scene politics by at least two squadrons who were invited to come, when you have the CO of one of the groups ask is the following pilots gonna fly?, and the other one feels that this type of event is beneath their status as a "competitive" squadron...thats why neither one participated...though the one had at least one pilot sign up on his own. In the end they cancelled each other out by not participating.
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