By Tom Dare
INCREDIBLE FOOTAGE from the First World War showing Germans soldiers rushing through trenches and over no man’s land during the Battle of the Somme has resurfaced this week, more than 100 years since the end of one of the bloodiest battles in the history of human conflict.
Video taken in 1916 and used as part of a German war video shows soldiers frantically running across the barren fields of northern France as shells and explosives go off all around them, sending tonnes of earth hurtling into the air.
The men can then be seen darting through trenches in an attempt to get out of the shelling area before the next one hits, with some scampering through shell craters in a desperate attempt to save their own lives.
The Battle of the Somme is widely considered the deadliest battle of the First World War, with some estimates placing the number of casualties at 1,200,000. Starting in July 1916 and lasting over five months, the horrific conditions and death toll experienced during the Battle often make it synonymous with the First World War.
The battle revolved around an allied offensive against the Germans in northern France, where they hoped to break the German line and push them back. However allied tactics were hopelessly outdated, failing to adapt to the machine guns that were being used en-masse by the Germans. It is said that lines upon lines of allied troops, expecting that their five day artillery bombardment had wiped out the German trenches, were simply mown down by German machine guns as they advanced toward the German position, with little or no plan as to what to do next. The Somme was the first-time air power and tanks had been used effectively in battle, driving up the number of casualties significantly.
Around half of all those killed are thought to have been from the German empire, with Britain also suffering its worst ever day militarily on the opening day of the battle, where they sustained over 57,000 casualties. Accounts from soldiers there during the battle were particularly brutal, such as this one from German officer Aspirant Brachat:
“When the English approached our dugout, I yelled [at my men]: ‘Get out! Face the enemy.’ It was standing by the entrance when I was wounded by hand grenades.
“Our dugout caught fire. I stood between the English and the burning dugout where the stocked-up ammunition had exploded. There was a lot of crying out and screaming, as many of my dear comrades suffocated or were burned to death. My only wish was to escape.”
The battle eventually came to an end on November 18 1916 after a British offensive, with both sides choosing to focus on enduring the weather from their current position rather than attempt to push the opposition back further.