24 Hours at the Somme: 1 July 1916

24 Hours at the Somme: 1 July 1916

by Robert Kershaw


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One hundreds years after Battle of the Somme, Robert Kershaw attempts to understand the carnage, using the voices of the British and German soldiers who lived through that awful day. In the early hours of July 1, 1916, the British General staff placed its faith in patriotism and guts, believing that one "Big Push" would bring on the end of the Great War. By sunset, there were 57,470 men—more than half the size of the present-day British Army—who lay dead, missing or wounded. On that day hope died. Juxtaposing the British trench view against that from the German parapet, Kershaw draws on eyewitness accounts, memories and letters to expose the true horror of that day. Among the mud, gore and stench of death, there are also stories of humanity and resilience, of all-embracing comradeship and gritty patriotic British spirit. However it was this very emotion which ultimately caused thousands of young men to sacrifice themselves on the Somme.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780753555477
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2017
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Robert Kershaw is a former Para, having joined the Parachute Regiment in 1973, commanded 10 Para and left as a full Colonel in 2006. His active service includes tours in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War (during which he was awarded the US Bronze Star) and Bosnia.

He is now a professional writer and has written ten highly praised books of military history. He has been interviewed on numerous TV documentaries and has published articles in the Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express. He recently edited Paradata, an online encyclopaedia covering the living history of British Airborne Forces, which won the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Military category of the 2008 Interactive Media Awards. Kershaw has led site specific battlefield touring groups across the world, including at Waterloo. He has also given lectures at the National Army, Airborne and Tank Museums and aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner.

Full details are available on the author’s website at www.robertjkershaw.com.

Table of Contents

The Somme Time-Line ix

Introduction xiii

The Chain of Command xvii

British and German Ranks xix

Some of the Voices from the Somme xxi

Prologue: 30 June 1916 1

11 pm The Grandstand 1

1 Materialschlacht: Inside the German Bunkers

1 July 1916. Midnight to 4 am

00.10 am Fritz 10

2 pm to 4 pm The Trench Pigs 22

4 pm In the Line. 'Lord God! Just Let Them Come!' 37

2 Boulevard Street to Culver Street: The British Trenches

Midnight to 4.30 am

Midnight to 1 am 'Lord, I Shall Be Very Busy Tins Day …' The March-Out 46

1 am to 4.30 am 'Stumbling in the Dark'. The Trenches 70

3 Château Generals

Midnight to 4.30 am

Midnight to 4.30 am 'With God's Help'. The British 84

Midnight to 4.30 am 'It Requires Everyone to be Firm'. German Châteaux 101

4 'Over the Top'

4.45 to 7.30 am

4.45 to 6.30 am 'The Larks Were Singing' … Hours to Go 114

6.30 to 7.30 am Minutes to Go 124

5 The Race to the Parapet

7.15 to 9.30 am

7.15 to 7.45 am Raus! Raus! Out! Out! 148

7.30 to 9 am The 'Kaiser's Oak'. Gommecourt 161

7.30 to 9.30 am The 'Danger Tree'. North of the Ancre 172

6 Schwerpunkt: Thiepval Plateau

7.40 to 11 am

7.40 to 10 am The 'Devil's Dwelling Place'. The Schwaben Redoubt 194

7.28 to 11 am Sausage and Mash 214

7 Break-In

7.30 am to 1 pm

7.30 am to 1 pm The Shrine. Fricourt to Mametz 236

7.30 am to 1 pm Break-In. Mametz to Montauban 250

8 'Silly Old Devils': Château Decisions

8.30 am to 5 pm

8.30 am to 3 pm 'The Invisible Battle', British Headquarters 266

7.30 am to 5 pm The Direct Order. German Headquarters 282

9 The Lull

Midday to 9.30 pm

Midday to 9 pm The Sun over No Man's Land 296

1 pm to 9.30 pm 'Stop the Rot'. The Schwaben Penetration 315

10 Blood-Red Sunset

9.30 pm to midnight

9.30 to 10.05 pm Merciful Dusk 330

10.05 pm to midnight 'A Good Day' 343

Beyond 24 Hours 363

Bibliography 383

Notes 389

Acknowledgements 409

Index 411

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