The Battle of the Somme
But all that my mind sees
Is a quaking bog in a mist — stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.
Vance Palmer (1885–1959),
‘The Farmer Remembers The Somme’
The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. The aims of the battle, were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were unable to break through German lines. In total, there were millions dead and wounded on all sides.
The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was one of the largest battles of the First World War. Fought between July 1 and November 1, 1916 near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties, and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men.
A truly nightmarish world greeted the New Zealand Division when it joined the Battle of the Somme in mid-September 1916. The division was part of the third big push of the offensive, designed to crack the German lines once and for all. When it was withdrawn from the line a month later, the decisive breakthrough had still not occurred.
Fifteen thousand members of the division went into action. Nearly 6000 men were wounded and 2000 lost their lives. More than half the New Zealand Somme dead have no known grave. They are commemorated on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, near Longueval. One of these men returned home to New Zealand in November 2004; his remains lie in the tomb of the Unknown Warrior outside New Zealand’s National War Memorial.