Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Recommended: Battle of the Somme Video

This 2014 documentary on the Somme presents a fairly conventional interpretation of the battle, but it has a number of unique features. Most important is the great selection the producers made for the film's expert "talking heads."  The host, Royal Marine Major General Julian Thompson commanded a British brigade in the Falklands War and does an outstanding job of describing the strategic situation and providing a smooth transition to experts on the geology of the Somme, artillery fuses, machine gunnery, pigeon communications, mining operations, and a host other specialties.  More than the story of the Battle of the Somme, this documentary is an introduction to the realities of battle on the Western Front, circa 1916.

Thanks to Paul Albright  for recommending this video.


  1. Somehow I had missed this documentary before, and now I found it riveting and fascinating. Thank you!

  2. A very interesting video. As a life long reader of military history, I have found, especially in the case of World War II writing, I can tell a work authored by a British historian by its tone and conclusions. The British won it! It appears to me that the the tragedy of the Somme was the result of a huge British intelligence failure - the assumption that the week long bombardment by the British would destroy the German lines and incapacitate the German defenders. It did not, and the result was the slaughter of July 1. A couple of other points I would dispute - yes, the Somme did relieve the French at Verdun, but then so did the Brusilov Offensive of the Russians starting in June, 1916 that gutted the Austrian army and forced the Germans to transfer troops from the west to the east, and causing them to stop their offensive against French forces at Verdun. Lastly, is the assertion that the British army won the war in 1918, without mention of the French and American allies that were also fighting offensives along the western front at the same time and keeping the Germans from reinforcing their forces fighting the British.